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May232014

Thousands respond during Master’Singers tour

Thousands of Ukrainians attended Master’Singers concerts during their recent visit to the country.Jessica Vanderpool
Arkansas Baptist News

MORE THAN 4,400 people made decisions to “become serious followers of Christ” during the Arkansas Master’Singers choir tour in western Ukraine, which took place April 21-May 2.

“I’ve been in ministry since I was 18 years old, and this is by far the most powerful thing I’ve ever gotten to be a part of,” said Larry Grayson, Arkansas Baptist State Convention evangelism and church health team member. 

Grayson, who serves as Master’Singers director, noted that “the intensity, the excitement, the feelings … cannot be recreated with words.”

The choir performed in eight evangelistic concerts, where the choir sang and international evangelist Michael Gott preached. In addition, Master’Singers members sang as part of three local church worship services.

More than 9,000 people attended the various events. Venues were so full that people often had to stand, Grayson said. He said some church members would invite people to the concerts, but they themselves would go to their churches to pray for audience members, which allowed them to leave more seats available for others to attend. One lady personally invited more than 200 people.

Gott also noted the turnout. 

“We looked out to see crowded aisles and people standing in stairwells and along the walls, and we prayed for three things: that God would keep out the devil and the fire marshal! But, of course, we prayed that the Lord would be among us to empower our witness,” Gott said.

Each word sung was translated and displayed on a large screen so audience members would understand the songs’ messages. Grayson said local Ukrainian pastors estimate that 50-60 percent of those in attendance were nonbelievers. Local pastors are following up with people who made decisions.

“I never asked them to become a Christian – to them that means little more than continuing to be religious. I asked them to come to realize that Jesus Christ was their only hope and for their relationship with Christ to be personal.  I invited them to become a serious follower of Christ for life,” said Gott. 

Grayson“There’s no way to know how many of those (decisions) were first-time salvations, but there’s great confidence in many being that,” said Grayson. “I’m confident that there will be thousands who are going to be in heaven with us now because of this.”

“I have never before been a part of such a powerful movement of God’s Spirit in the hearts of so many people,” said Doug Moore, instrumental director for the Master’Singers and worship pastor at First Baptist Church, Jacksonville. “I am humbled that God would allow me to be used in this mission endeavor. I pray that I will never get over this experience.”

Plans for the trip underwent a shift in March when pastors from eastern Ukraine notified Grayson that, due to the political situation, it would be best for the group not to come to that part of the country. Just a few days later, pastors from western Ukraine invited the group to tour in their area instead.

The entire trip was re-planned in about six weeks and went “flawlessly,” Grayson said. 

“It was as though that’s where we had been planning to go all along, which bottom line is it’s exactly where God wanted us – there is no doubt,” he said.

He noted that the Ukrainian people thanked them for bringing encouragement and bringing God to Ukraine and for “risking” coming at this time in the nation’s history.

“In my mind, I thought, ‘We … did not risk anything. We have not felt any risk in what we’ve done,’” said Grayson, noting they never felt any danger or threat the whole time they were in Ukraine.

But it was not just the Ukrainian people who were affected by the trip.

“I love it that worship leaders here in the state will never be the same, and I believe that to be true,” Grayson said, noting team members’ responses regarding the trip.

“Since my return to the U.S., I have been overwhelmed by what we just experienced,” wrote Tim Gunter, pastor of worship and discipleship at First Baptist Church, Camden, in an email to Grayson. “Several times during each day, tears will flood my eyes with the joy of the Lord, as they are now as I type. I think I have shed more tears in the past two-plus weeks than in all my life combined. My quiet times have been much more powerful. Our Sunday (morning) service was much more meaningful and worshipful, at least for me. I find myself running out of words to describe recent events. ‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow!’”

Other team members shared their reflections as well. 

Carleen Powers – whose husband, Phil Powers, serves as associate pastor of worship and education at Marshall Road Baptist Church, Jacksonville – served in a nonmusical role. She described how her life was touched through her experience as part of the prayer team. 

“Night after night we cried out to God for the lost people of Ukraine. On one of the nights, someone had written ‘mother and father’ needed the Lord. When I read that, I sobbed and my heart broke for these families,” wrote Powers.

She said God burdened her to “pray for the people of Ukraine.”

“I would find myself praying as we drove from place to place, as I walked through the halls and churches, when I was awake and when I was asleep. The Lord would wake me up praying for the people. I now know what it means to ‘pray without ceasing,’” she wrote. “For me, some of the most remarkable worship took place in the prayer room. … God has given me a greater desire to pray for the lost people around me.”

Clay Doss, worship pastor at Cullendale First Baptist Church, Camden, shared his thoughts as well.

“God has used us to get the message of the gospel to the hearts of the Ukrainians,” he wrote. “I praise God for using us and allowing us to be a small part of reaching Ukraine for Christ. I pray that God will take the changed lives and the seeds that have been planted in hearts and multiply them over and over again.”

He concluded by quoting the lyrics to “Praise His Holy Name,” the final song sung at each concert: “To God be the glory, now and forever, praise His holy name!”

Contact Jessica Vanderpool at jessica@arkansasbaptist.org.