Saturday, August 10, 2013 – Marvin, Kerri, Christy
Thanks to our late arrival home Friday evening/Saturday morning, we were allowed to stay at home on Saturday until 5:40 p.m., which was our call time at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility (central location). Security went quickly and we then gathered to warm up (pun intended) in the break room.
They escorted us upstairs to a large auditorium, where we were greeted by the loud roar of fans (the metal kind, not the human kind). They were trying to cool the place down, which was nice, but it ruined the otherwise great acoustics. After some more warm-ups and discussion, we decided to turn off most of the fans, which allowed us to actually hear each other.
The program itself went really well. The men were responsive and the message really seemed to resonate with them. Afterwards, one of the men said he thought it was angelic—he just closed his eyes and imagined he was hearing angels. God definitely was present.
After that, most of the people went home while the rest went to the Ave A park to sing under the bridge. A band was singing in the nearby pavilion, so we waited to sing until they were finished. The moral of the story is that we did sing under the bridge and had a great time. After that, the more lively people enjoyed themselves at nearby restaurants.
Note from the blog editor: this is not quite the end of our concerts, but the rest are in our home churches; therefore, we will call the journal entries for KYC 2013 complete.
Friday, August 9, 2013 – Kenneth, Lillian, and Louise
The day dawned bright and early, although most of us were still in blissful repose since call time wasn’t until 9:00. It rained most of the night and was still raining lightly in the morning, which made packing of luggage a great joy.
Our first activity of the day was to entertain the residents at Hillcrest Home, beginning at 9:30. We blessed them with the skit from our program, juggling by Tim and Jon, and some impromptu singing, while Stephen made balloon creations for the residents. One of the resident women clearly remembered going to school with the man who made the balloons, although she was pretty sure it wasn’t in Kansas. A good time was had by all who enjoyed it.
Stephen’s balloon-making didn’t stop when he got on the bus. He first made a fantastic hat for Willard, then created a beautiful red rose of apology for “Thing 1” to give to “Thing 2.”
We stopped at Lambert’s Café for lunch and were informed that we would have an hour and ten minute wait. Thus we proceeded to do some window shopping and cheese tasting at local shops while we waited. Interestingly, they were ready for us in about 45 minutes and we were called from all the four corners to quickly take our places. The food was excellent, including the big white rolls that were thrown to us from across the room. The décor largely consisted of old license plates, including an old one from Kansas that said “UKNOWIT,” which we felt was fitting.
We arrived in Parsons at 4:30 for a 6:30 program. It was a meaningful program for many in the choir, and it seemed to resonate with the audience as well. It was a pleasure singing at our “home church away from home,” as John so aptly put it. They served us a wonderful supper of haystacks with a wonderful selection of desserts after the program. Unfortunately, we could not spend the night with the dear people there, and we couldn’t even socialize long because our bus driver was running out of legal driving time.
There was some talk of hijacking the bus and simply making the tour longer because we suddenly realized that the bus tour is pretty much over. So we are doing our best to enjoy each other during the last few hours on the bus.
Thursday, August 8, 2013 – Tim, Susanna, and Melanie
A leisurely call time had we. 10:00 found some of us busily loading our luggage. Others came soon thereafter and we headed out on our short trek to Harrison.
We have a custom of having a bit of quiet time on most bus rides, much to the chagrin of certain chorus members (especially on short runs). Today we were assigned twenty minutes of quiet time right before arrival in Harrison. “Thing 1” was rather vocal about his disapproval of this instigation. His seatmates were gently chiding him and encouraging him to greater heights of maturity. Several minutes before the quiet time was about to start, “Thing 1” was still making lots of noise and proclaiming loudly that we “STILL HAVE TWO MINUTES!” In the midst of his joviality, “Thing 1” plopped a bottle of tea on the window ledge, not realizing that he had indeed not replaced the cap. Hence, tea was splashed all over the seat and Miss “Thing 2” sitting across from him. “Thing 2,” thinking it was intentional, wadded a paper towel and fired it in return. Thus, “Thing 1” was properly humbled and loud laughter and mopping directly preceded our quiet time.
We arrived at Hillcrest Home in time for a 1:00 lunch and a 2:00 casual mini-program for the residents. As a finishing touch, “Garment of the Plains” sang “Come Get a Drink from the Well.” The residents loved it. After they finished, one of the ladies kept repeating “Come to the well!” and cackling loudly. It was a joy.
We had several hours of free time before eating supper at 4:30 and heading over to First Presbyterian Church for the evening’s program. The church has a large sanctuary with beautiful acoustics. John described it afterwards as “a conductor’s heaven,” noting that “you can hear every stinking thing up there.” It was one of the most fun programs musically.
Afterwards, our hosts took us all back to Hillcrest to get our luggage before heading home. From the reports this morning, most of the people had a really good time with their hosts.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013 – Aaron, Loren, Crystal
Most of the group was pleased with the late call time, although Loren didn’t think it was anything extra special. Instead of burning up the miles on the road all day, we hung out in a cave—namely, Blanchard Spring Caverns. We were told the cave was millions and millions of years old. We learned through a song that Father Time and Mother Nature made the cave and named it Blanchard Cave. Truthfully, though, the cave is made up of calcium bicarbonate and various minerals and water. Lots of dripping happens.
The cave really is impressive. Its size and beauty and sheer awesomeness really amazed us. We got to sing “We Thank Thee Lord,” “Freedom is Coming,” “Prayer of the Children,” and “Christ We Do All Adore Thee.” A group behind us in the cave got to hear the singing. We met one of the ladies from the group while we were at the springs, and she testified to being very blessed by the music as she heard it. “We just stopped and listened until you were done. It was wonderful.” She is going to try to convince the rest of her group to come to our concert this evening.
Elsie Mast packed a very peaceful and awesome lunch for us. She is sort of an aunt to everybody. We ate at a pavilion and even convinced our bus driver, John, to eat with us. Pre-lunch activities were watching some of the guys hauling around on the grass throwing water jug lids around as Frisbees. Maximum Desperate.
After lunch we all ended up eventually at the springs and frolicked awhile in the cold water. It really was quite nice. Stephen got really wet. We had a rendition (while at the springs) of “Come Get a Drink from the Well.” Oren struck up a conversation with random strangers. Euni tore her dress. Kerri got a cut on her foot. Aaron hated the cold water and wondered why he had ever stuck his feet in it.
Currently we are on the bus and John is flirting with Crystal. Just a little bit ago he was going around and examining all the stuffed animals and making sure they are friends with Zeke. Most everybody else is just resuming general swim. Some quotes from today so far:
“Look, a baby stop sign.” – John
“Facebook really doesn’t understand real life” – Aaron
Jewel to Frieda: “Like the old man said to his wife, I told you ‘I love you’ when I married you; if that changes, I’ll let you know.” David to Jewel: “If you’re going to be like that, I’m not going to marry you very quickly.” Oren to David: “Take your time.”
We got back in time to have 2+ hours of solo and “getting ready” time before meeting at church for prep time.
The program this evening was the first one in which Caleb finally found his big long testimony. The program really was a good one, and as a choir we felt God’s presence both in our lives and in the audience. By the way, the program was at the Shady Lawn Church near Mountain View, AR. This church has had much heartache in the past number of years and we trust they were blessed by the songs. We were all tremendously encouraged by the testimony of our brother Leslie. He is mentally handicapped, but really has a friendly manner about him and loves interacting with people. Jared felt a real kinship with him.
Myron Stoltzfus came up to Caleb after the program, patted his belly, and told him that it looks like marriage has been doing good things for him. After some talk, Myron assured Caleb that it looks good on him…
During the meal after the program, in which they served a potato bar (I guess they knew that was a KYC thing), Marvin managed to spill his water three times. Crystal kicked it over the first time, so his second cup he carefully placed under the chair. Then he promptly sat down and kicked it over. The third time he was holding the cup of water in his hand, and then while he was talking to a girl he got so distracted that he just poured it out onto the ground. At least I think that’s how I heard the story…
Tuesday, August 6 – Stephen, Mindy, and Anja
The day dawned bright and muggy as we, the surprisingly enthusiastic choir members, scurried to make the 6:45 call time. Random note: Stephen’s host was kind enough to offer an early morning raft trip to the place of meeting. He gracefully declined.
Notable activities on the bus included bus surfing (made difficult by the driver), games of True Colors and Phase 10, singing old KYC songs (which included standing on seats to see music provided by one laptop), story time with Uncle Caleb, and several numbers from a lively quartet. In contrast with all the activity, we had several refreshingly long spells of intentional quiet time. At lunch time, several girls found it necessary to jaywalk, or rather run, across a busy highway toward Burger King for the purpose of pinching their pennies. Others had less exciting times trying out a new restaurant, David’s Burgers, where their slogan was, “Pleased to meet you and meat to please you.”
After a leisurely prep time at the Shady Lawn Church, we left for the prison at 3:45. At the prison, we had plenty of waiting around and chill time as we went through security and prepared for the program.
The program was an intense as well as rewarding experience for many of us. Because of the warnings from people who had been in the prison before, we were surprised by the attentiveness of the audience. There seemed to be a number of Christians within the group. Others in the group seemed to identify with certain parts of the program. The skit especially seemed to resonate with various folks.
We met our hosts back at the church and were quite pleased by the long night that stretched ahead of us.
Monday, August 5 – Caleb, Sherilyn, and Kendra
Quite positive. That’s how I’d describe tour thus far on its inaugural bus day. Tour members have a friendly and uncomplaining spirit. Our bus driver, John Rusk, is capable, professional, and personable. John (director, not driver) led hash time for our Saturday and Sunday programs, and we had lots of favorable comments and perspectives. The church where we’re giving our program tonight is VERY nice (albeit a tad warm in this humid, nearly triple-digit weather), and we’ve had a relaxing afternoon of solitude in its various nooks and crannies.
A few firsts for this evening’s program—we sang all the songs instead of just a selection, it was our first Mennonite church program, and we used our mixed arrangement instead of singing with our parts clustered together. It went quite well, all things considered. We had a lot of time to warm up, which helped us focus and feel more prepared. Our body temperatures also warmed up while we stood and gave the program. Whew! The AC in the church was not, shall we say, running at full speed. I (Sherilyn) held my arms out a bit from my sides and tried swinging them surreptitiously so as to gain a little bit of wind speed.
We experienced good hospitality from the people in Perkins, with our hosts feeding us bedtime snacks before we fell into bed for a brief respite until our alarms went off around 5:30 a.m.
Sunday, August 4 – Jewel and Anthony
Sunday morning found us braving the driving downpour to meet at Center at 4:50 A. M. Some of us considered building an ark to reach the Ellsworth Correctional Facility, but we realized we had started too late. We got there almost an hour late, and they tried to rush us through, but there were other people trying to get in and not an overabundance of staff. We only started the concert twenty minutes late, and our patient audience seemed to enjoy the concert.
Although some inmates seemed withdrawn or skeptical, as a whole they were fairly responsive, offering affirming words after the testimonies and during the skit. Tim engagingly asked them if they clean up before taking a shower. Then he said, “That’s the point of the shower!” And they laughed and agreed. Tim went on to say that we don’t need to clean up before coming to God, but that we’ll get clean when we come to Him and let Him work in our lives. When Frieda gave her testimony, someone behind Oren and Jo said, “Very well stated, sister!” And whenever the signs were turned during the skit, from their hurts and sins to ‘healed’ or ‘forgiven,’ they murmured their assent.
We went from the Central Unit to the East Unit for our second program, and had about as little preparation as the first program. We sang in a pretty sweet little chapel (emphasis on ‘little’); there were possibly ten inmates in the audience, with room for only about half of us to sit down.
Chaplain Herbie, from the Central Unit, introduced us at the second place because the chaplain from that unit wasn’t there. He said that we were from three different churches, and added, “That’s amazing. I never knew three churches who got along!” One of the inmates yelled out, “Yeah, these chaplains don’t even get along!” They hadn’t known that we were coming because of some miscommunication.
We found it harder at the second program to know if we were connecting, especially because of the brilliant spotlights trained on us. They were less verbally responsive, but we wondered if these guys are the core of the church there, since we didn’t seem to have drawn a crowd. Still, it was a good program, and they seemed to be encouraged.
We had a potluck afterwards at Center, which we were very ready for after a hard day’s work. Getting up at 4:00 really helps in working up an appetite. After cleaning our plates, we headed home to rest and pack for the trip the next day.