On Monday, August 3rd at 9 a.m. the chorus met at Labette Baptist Church to head home to our beloved Hutchinson, Kansas. We drove for two hours and stopped in Augusta for ice cream cones that Brian and Cynthia Shenk so kindly paid for. After that leisurely stop, we boarded the bus and continued onward to Cedar Crest Church where all our loved ones were eagerly awaiting our arrival. Before we arrived at our destination, we discussed how tour went this year and there were many pleasant responses and loving words. After our hash time, Andrew and Arlyn so graciously serenaded us with a song they had written. The song consisted of twelve verses. Each verse stating a short highlight that happened in every state we stayed in. And if you would like to hear their song, feel free to go to the Kansas Youth Chorus facebook page. After their song, the chorus people sang the traditional “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” Within two miles of arriving at Cedar Crest, the whole bus was pleasantly surprised to see familiar faces standing by the highway waving to us from afar! And thus, tour 2015 ended with happy smiles and good cheer.
Marsha Ropp and Kendra Shetler, for KYC
Sunday, August 2, 2015 there were two programs on the schedule. We had a 9 AM call time at Shady Lawn Mennonite Church. People did not observe the call time once again, so we eventually warmed up. Aaron had prep time in which he talked about being prepared or not being ready. James preached a short sermon about Peter’s personality. The concert was in classic morning style with loads of energy and cracking voices. Everything went smoothly with the average number of testimonies, some of which were serious and others more humorous. The ensemble song was a hit with the congregation because there was a special request to re-sing it. There may have been a standing ovation after the final chord died away. We ate lunch in a rushed fashion because of needing to be on the road by 12:45 PM. The meal consisted of a pasta and chicken dish with salad and bread. As good as the main course sounds, it was in no way the best part of the meal. The desert table consisted of ice cream and toppings with brownies.
The road trip to Labette Baptist Church began at approximately 1 PM. The first twenty minutes of the journey was rather talkative but then a hush fell over the bus as people began to sleep. That particular silence lasted about two hours and fifteen minutes. As individuals rubbed the nap residue from their eyes, talking and games started to dot the bus-scape. Another note of interest might be that this was a nonstop ride, so restroom breaks were limited to the . . . . Kevin Nisly had prep time on the bus talking about personal change. At some point in the mix Norma Miller and Lillian Eash gave their fair well speeches. This unusual development came about because they along with Heidi King had a destination in mind that was about one thousand miles away. We arrived at the destination at approximately 6:10 PM, and were dressed and warming up by 6:30 PM.
7 PM found the choir prepared and ready to sing for a packed house. The concert went as well as expected. We did have some difficulties with exiting and entering the stage area. There was an increase in testimonies in this concert probably because it was the last one on tour. During the skit break Nathan Yutzy was fist bumping the entire choir. After the program concluded there was a fellowship meal in which the line moved very slowly that allowed the entire choir group to finish before the line went through. After the meal we found out who the host and guest groups were. Then we all disappeared.
Crystal Nisly and Loren Nisly, for KYC
We started our morning by loading the bus at 7:50 (or 8 o’clock) in Macon, Mississippi. Wesley had devotions on the bus. He talked about the song Do Not I Love Thee and challenged us to not only say we devote all to Christ, but to actually do just that. We then had 30 minutes of quiet time, followed by about 6 hours of not so quiet time. Lunch was fast food, with McDonald’s, Taco Bell, KFC, and Long John Silver’s being the options. It was good for the most part, although Tony’s lemonade tasted like the lemons used were a bit past their prime. At about 3 o’clock, we stopped in at Shady Lawn Mennonite Church to change into our program clothes (blue shirts/black dresses). We all got ready in about 20 minutes, then all got on the bus again (except James, Janet, Jared, and Travis, who went to the Emergency Room to get Jared’s ailing foot checked out. Praise God it is only an ankle sprain, but keep him in your prayers as he recovers). Once everyone was on the bus, we took off for the prison, and after about an hour of driving, we arrived. After checking in and waiting for a good part of an hour, we delivered about a 40 minute program, including the skit. The inmates really seemed to enjoy the program, especially the skit. Then, we drove back to Shady Lawn, where our host families had gathered to take us to their respective homes, where we ate supper. Then everyone slept fitfully. The end.
- Tonight, we finally got Andrew and Arlyn separated for the night. They had spent the previous 3 nights together, and had some rough nights apparently, because somewhere along the line, they decided that they were ducks, which has made bus life interesting. It’s safe to say that “Quack Quack” has been the most used phrase in the last several days. Please keep us in your prayers.
Nathan Yutzy and Darren Shetler, for KYC
Friday morning dawned bright and beautiful, though the Alabama heat sank deep into our bones the moment we stepped outside our hotel door. For most of us, the hour was not early, due to the long-awaited free morning. We drifted out in clumps to forage for breakfast. Some made the long trek to Steak’n’Shake, and according to reports, it was well worth the journey. Others paid a visit to the ever-popular Starbucks, while others slipped across the parking lot to good ol’ faithful Mickey Dees. Still more dined cozily in the hotel lobby where they enjoyed much laughter and an education in Southern etiquette.
The bus departed at eleven o’clock (more or less) for a survival run to Walmart – the drinks were running low. After its return, we loaded the luggage, and those who sought bargains at the We Care Thrift Store jumped aboard. It was a satisfying experience, perusing the many volumes of literature as well as combing racks for suitable apparel. Of note-worthy interest, Stephan invested in a brand-new drinking contraption, which he donned before the bus even left the parking lot. He reported it was purchased at the bargain price of four dollars. During this time, another group of adventurers (wealthier?J) ambled into the Bass Pro Shop. They browsed many items of great interest, including a moose and mountain goat battle, a shooting range that ate Kristi’s money, and lots of fake taxidermy.
At a little after one, the bus was once again full of people, and we began a small journey to Macon, Mississippi. We had no potty stops (which some felt quite deeply), but jolly times ensued. Activities ranged from conversation on matters of nutrition to very noisy games of Spot-it in the back. Travel within the bus proved quite challenging; the traffic jams abounded.
We arrived with about forty-five minutes to iron our raiment and prepare ourselves for the evening program. Some of us fought riser wobbliness perhaps due to fatigue, heat, and lack of adequate sustenance. The audience expressed their appreciation with gracious Southern hospitality, and choir members enjoyed socializing with the multitude of adorable children. Our hosts took us to the school where they fed us delicious food and true Southern sweet tea. Much to the delight of various choir members, the local youth group set up volleyball nets, and the games began. . . until an unfortunate event occurred in which our very own Jared fell upon his ankle and crumpled to the floor. A somber cloud descended over the crowd as we gathered round his pallid form. They carried him off the court, iced his ankle, and wrapped him in blankets. The decision was made to wait until the next day to seek further medical attention. Games resumed, and the day ended as we drove between the moonlit catfish ponds and wearily flopped into bed.
Norma Miller and Christy Miller, for KYC
It was a muggy morning in northern Alabama as a sleepy group of young people ambled out of their hotel. Still trying to digest the hotel’s synthetic breakfast, they quickly posed for a group picture. They headed for Bibb County Correctional Facility. Once there, they organized themselves in a very straight line and entered the prison. They were placed in the amen corner of the nice sanctuary and waited while the prisoners filed in. A number of inmates performed some intense praise and worship/jazz/soul, it was stretching for the Mennonite young folks to see a different style of worship. Then the youth chorus awkwardly warmed up in front of the group. Finally, it was time to sing. It was a hard transition from the very loud praise and worship to the soft chorus sound. The inmates enjoyed it and seemed to engage with the message of the songs. One fellow was a little irreverent when he requested a song by an older rock band. But, the program was a success and the young folks headed out encouraged.
They were very hungry by the time they came to the motel. The young folks quickly jay-walked across the high-way and found restaurants filled with goodies. However, some struggled with the strong southern accents the employees had. One fellow just said “Yes” to her questions because he didn’t want to ask for a clarification. That afternoon, the Mennonites spread out, some went to a Bass Pro Shop, some relaxed at a coffee shop, and some slept. Since it was national cheese cake day, several ladies bought cheesecake cupcakes to celebrate.
Around five, they filled the bus up again and headed to Staton Correctional Facility. They just missed an afternoon rainstorm. After security did pat-downs on everyone, they made their way to the church. The sanctuary was packed and the air was filled with energy. The chaplain practically defined the south, strong accent, very engaging, and dressed to a tee. After a rousing song by their worship team, KYC was on. The men whooped and cheered after each song. It seems there was a large core of very strong believers in this prison. This program seemed like a gift from God to the tired chorus. They left with emotions running high. They were singing, “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” as the bus pulled out of the prison drive. Since KYC was working under WeCare, they wanted to take everyone to SteakNShake for shakes. The place was packed but everyone got enough to eat. Back at the hotel , various activities broke out including spike-ball, jamming- which didn’t produce any actual jam, and walks. Eventually the tired young people all went to bed and slept quite well.
Written by Arlyn Miller and Nathan Peters, for KYC
On Tuesday night, when our call time was announced as being 7:15 once again, various groanings of dismay reflected how we felt. This may have contributed to the not so timely departure time Wednesday morning. Aaron encouraged us with, “We’re only as fast as our slowest person.”
We had a delightful time in South Carolina, although far too short for me with my sisters, Lisa and Laurie, and their families. We said our farewells, boarded the bus, and after everyone was settled in, we proceeded with a short devotional by Nathan Peters. He reminded us of God’s promises, specifically in our songs. This was followed by a very welcome 30 plus minute quiet time. Some of us tried to make up for the lack of sleep the night before!
One of the first activities of the day was a punishment session from the cleaning ladies for people who had left stray items on the bus. First the items had to be claimed and then the guilty were required to come to the front of the bus with their water bottles. Jessica, Stephen, Nate Yutzy, and Jonny got to gargle the song Jesus Loves Me into a mic so that all of us could enjoy their efforts. It was highly enjoyable for the rest of us and they didn’t seem too traumatized by the experience—actually, they were really good sports.:)
After that, Arlyn, Nate, and Nathan Peters had a jolly little jam session in the back of the bus. Lots of other people joined them in singing all kinds of songs for quite a long time. Other people chilled in other parts of the bus, sleeping, talking, eating, and doing whatever. Since we had gotten a bit of a late start, we didn’t have time to stop for lunch, so Cindy and Daniel ordered pizza and had it delivered to the church where we were headed for orientation. As we devoured our pizza in the sanctuary of the church, Don Metzler, from We Care gave a little presentation on their ministry. When he was finished, a prison chaplain gave us CHAPLAINCY TRAINING LEVEL 1 (that sounds very official, doesn’t it) and PREA training. We enjoyed his dry sense of humor and also appreciated that he did the training in a concise 45 minutes, instead of the 1-4 hours we had been told to expect. After orientation, we had a nice hour and a half for rest, relaxation, and recreation.
We changed at the church, and then headed to Limestone Correctional Facility. We had a first—they fed us Subway Subs, chips, cookies, and punch. I don’t remember ever being fed at a prison before! It was really neat how the chaplain, the guards, and staff (some of the prisoners served the food and cleaned up after us) took care of us and really seemed to appreciate that we had come. They were incredibly accommodating and welcoming. We then experienced our warmest and perhaps most physically challenging program on tour. We were in a large gym with no air conditioning, really loud fans, and a pretty terrible sound system. The sound system at least kept our sound from being completely lost, but it was a bit echoing and awful part of the time. The men there seemed pretty sad and discouraged, and someone mentioned that most of them are there for a long time. Like Jon said it was a tough program, and yet at least some people really enjoyed it, and Jonny said it was his favorite program. We pray that our songs and skit could have been an encouragement to them, and we know that God can take our feeble efforts and use them for His glory.
We had close to two hours to our motel that night. On the way there, a group of girls came up with 80—“you’re my….to my…” Example: “You’re the spice to my chai” and “You’re the cilantro to my salsa.” That provided entertainment for quite awhile. Other people played games and slept. Most of us were fairly exhausted and ready for bed, but a few noble ladies washed our stinky and sweaty uniforms at a local laundromat. Another energetic group went to Hardees for shakes and fries. Eventually everybody made it to bed—our marvelously comfortable beds—and enjoyed a blessed night of rest!
VIcky and Melanie, for KYC
After being recipients of some great southern hospitality from the people of Franklin Mennonite Church in Kentucky, we were completely refreshed and incredibly pleased to see each other (yes?) at 7:15 (or shortly after). Once we did roll call, we were once again on the road.
About ten minutes into our travels we stopped at a Walmart. This was a stop of necessity, not just for pleasure’s sake. The drink committee bought drinks to restock the ice chest. So everybody was happy!
Hash time about the trip so far and about the program from the night before commenced once we were loaded again. It was encouraging to hear different perspectives and how others have been blessed!
Next Jonny gave us a devotional on positive thinking, using the verse that talks about a sound mind, power, and love, instead of fear. It was very up building, and definitely influenced our day positively.
During our peaceful quiet time, John, our bus driver suddenly hit the brakes. We were in heavy traffic and came upon a stationary car, who had hit a packaged grill on the road. John merged to the left to avoid the problem and then said breathlessly, “Excuse me, while I start my heart again!” Needless to say, it did disrupt our quiet time slightly.
After some more bus time, a rest stop, and some more bus time, we stopped for lunch.
One story from lunch time: A group had gone to McDonalds, and after they were done eating, Vicky met a Christian lady in the restroom, who asked her some questions about who we are and what we are doing. Vicky then explained who we are and mentioned that we would appreciate prayers. The lady then said she would pray for us, and proceeded to pray for her right away!
The afternoon was filled with bus time, which was a time to relax or roam about in search of activities. One activity that entertained a group of people was a jolly time of reading children’s stories.
Then we arrived at Foothills Fellowship in Westminster, South Carolina, which is a beautiful place with lots of trees and curves. They fed us an amazing supper of subs. We had prep-time, and then we gave the program. At the beginning, we were a mixture of anticipation and apprehension. But as we focused on God, we and the audience were blessed in worship! Stephen shared an exceptionally touching testimony about his nephew before the song, “Like a Child”. Overall it was a wonderful program.
They then connected us to our hosts, and we immensely enjoyed our night with them.
Lillian and Anita, for KYC