For about a week, I have been on a tour as a singer and periodic guitarist and percussionist in Young Isaac. This is my first real experience touring as a musician, and I am thrilled to be taking this journey with my new acoustic/rock band!
We are all part of a Summer Project, which is a missions trip through an organization called Keynote. Our ministry this summer is mainly in correctional facilities in Florida. We play a set list of secular songs which have affecting and introspective lyrics, and share the Gospel through personal testimony. We have witnessed over 80 lives be transformed by Christ so far, and each one of us has been shaped by him during these past several days as well.
Here are 7 tips from my travels.
- During long rides in the tour bus, make sure to enjoy the view. Maybe I’m geeky for loving this, but I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of staring out the window while riding in the bus. The views so far have been fantastic, especially the wide open fields with grazing horses and cattle, expanses of trees and mountains, shantytowns, and farmlands. Also, make sure to spend time playing fun games with fellow passengers. I highly recommend Telephone Pictionary and Mad Libs (themed words and readings in funny accents are especially amusing).
- Yes, baggy, relatively formless clothes are necessary prison attire. But no, they don’t have to be totally un-cute. I soon realized all the Young Isaac girls had good-looking-but-not-overly-attractive clothes prepared, though I was ready to throw away my regard for self-dignity in that area. The upside is that I haven’t been receiving any inappropriate male attention. It also helps that I don’t wear makeup out of habit, and I happen to not be singing any of the romantic songs in our set. I enjoy my hair-flipping, belting rock songs, thank you very much!
- Make sure not to stand too close to the electric fences that outline the facilities. One of our singers, Holly, did this by accident, and got electrocuted while we were loading gear for our first show. Although she has toured in prisons for many years, she’d never experienced that before. Thankfully, she wasn’t hurt.
- Read as many of the comment cards as possible (these are handed out to the attendees to share their thoughts on the concert). It’s wonderful to hear how individual people were moved in their own words, because often you can’t tell how engaged they were during the show (although we do sometimes see them singing along, crying, or bowing their heads). It is a precious gift to read the ways they felt infused by hope and touched by God.
- If you ever get the privilege of being in a convict-lead Bible study, be honored. A handful of men ran a Bible study for us after we had a sweet jam session together, and it was the first study they had ever tried with outsiders. They reminded us that we would be shocked to hear the things they did to end up in prison, but that their changed lives were a testament to the power of Christ in their lives. It was amazing to sit together as brothers and sisters in Christ, a ragamuffin group unified as one body.
- Get ready to see more smiles than you have probably ever seen in your life. Although many may conceptualize prisoners to be a frightening group of hardened people, this is just not true. They are so grateful to have visitors come, and they love to shake your hand, look into your eyes, and thank you for coming. Just your presence means so much, because they have such a lack of joy. These men crave interaction, hope, and things God can funnel through us to them that they don't get much of otherwise, and we are excited to give it.
- You will be challenged to question the importance of music - this is one of the biggest lessons I have learned thus far, especially as a music major in college. Although music is one of the most powerful things I have experienced in life, it keeps being more eclipsed by the power of God, especially when he is invited to work through music, the force that he himself created. I realize the temporary and fleeting meaning of music in relation to the creator of life, the weight of eternity, and the way Christ changes lives. I'll never look at music quite the same way again.