HSI is fortunate to have consultants who are so well versed in their fields. Paul Neeley is one such person who keeps us informed and outfitted in the realm of ethnomusicology. He recently returned from a month in West Africa encouraging emerging composers in culturally relevant worship. Here are some highlights from his reports: "We ended our first week by recording 50 Scripture songs in 7 languages. Most of the songs fit with Bible stories that are being used to plant 30+ village churches in this Muslim-majority country of Sierra Leone. What a privilege to serve this part of the Body of Christ by facilitating the composition and recording of all these Scripture songs, equipping them to reach their ethnic groups in the area.
Our second week was spent working with Women of Hope International, a ministry for women with disabilities. It was a vivid contrast to our first week of working with Christians. The average life expectancy for a woman here is only 42 years old. When you look at the women with disabilities, who are often beggars, in the poorest country of the world, ravaged by an unspeakably brutal civil war for a decade, victims of abuse and sexual violence... you start to understand why hopelessness is prevalent. Yet even here, the Good News is proclaimed and lived out in effective ways. Christ is walking among the poor, the crippled, the deaf, the blind, the lame, and giving hope.
We worked all week with two dozen of these women who composed 26 songs in two major languages. Few of these women are firm followers of Christ ... yet ... but songs like these help them along that journey of faith. Most are not literate so the use of culturally-relevant songs, media, and storytelling Is essential to spiritual growth.
After another 3 days of travel by car, bus, plane and boat, we arrived in northern Ghana. Our goal was to record Scripture songs for the Dagomba people (approx. 800,000, with 97% Muslim). Two men had each composed well over 60 songs, and we recorded over an hour’s CD of songs from each group. The recordings will help people (majority non-literate) memorize Bible passages. One 10-minute song included Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (sung genealogies of very important people are part of Dagomba culture).
God has blessed some people here with extravagant talent, but since they are quite poor, they are often not able to get their Scripture songs into wide use where they can have a big impact on spiritual depth, especially in these communities where many don’t read. One such pastor and composer is Moses who converted from Islam to Christianity as a young man and endured much persecution. Despite the odds, he has continued strong and equips the next generation of Dagomba Christians with Bible teaching and song composition skills. We recorded a younger composer that he trained in making culturally appropriate Scripture songs. From one generation to the next, God’s Word goes forth into the Muslim majority community in a way that best communicates – with the local language and local music.
Accompanying me were two interns, Stephanie B. and Elena A, who did a huge amount of work and even went on to complete additional workshops and recordings among the Deg and Akyode people. Altogether we will have recorded approximately 150 indigenous Scripture songs in 10 languages during our month long expedition, many of them newly composed at our events. Please pray that God’s Spirit will anoint these songs to be good seed, and anoint the hearts of all who hear to be good soil."
You can find more from Paul and hear some of these new songs at his blog: http://globalworship.tumblr.com/
If you're interested in joining an HSI trip like this, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erica Logan Managing Director Heart Sounds InternationalConnecting with HSI: For more information be sure to visit our website at www.heart-sounds.org or contact us at info@heart- sounds.org. We welcome you to join HSI’s growing network! Watch HSI YouTube videos here. To learn more about the world of ethnodoxology, click here: www.worldofworship.org.