There are a few times in my life when I have felt like a celebrity. Definitely not many, but a few. One of the first I remember was when I was a freshman in college at PLU. I was asked by the Central Washington DARE director (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) to write the theme song for their annual education program. The theme was the catchy phrase, “Be Smart Don’t Start.” What a great song title, right? Well, my creative juices started to flow and out came a song that I was asked to record and take on tour all across the greater Yakima Valley! So my dear friend Jennifer Licht (now Alexander) and I toured the elementary school circuit over Spring break of our freshman year. We sang at school assemblies, gave a music and recording presentation to our former high school choir, and even signed a few autographs. Wow! Autographs! We made it to the big time. We were swarmed by 7 to 10 year old boys and girls who had us autograph homework assignments, paper towels from the restroom, and cafeteria napkins. Jennifer and I had arrived and enjoyed the feeling of celebrity status in the eyes of the children who knew us as the “Be Smart Don’t Start” duo. What a great moment!
I’ve had a few other celebrity moments, like a front-page article in the Yakima Herald Republic Entertainment section. I’m still proud of my high school band Twenty 7 and boast that there are two tattoos in the world of our logo on the arms of one band member, and one loyal fan! It’s pretty cool to say your high school band recorded in LA. Definite Rock Star status!
I used to think making it on you-tube was cause for celebrity status, but if you’ve searched you-tube lately you would probably agree that I can’t add that to the list of celebrity moments.
So now I live in another small town in a remote part of the world and the farthest I can travel from my home in a car is about 100 miles. Yet the last few weeks I walk the paths of the YWAM base and feel like a celebrity once again…and once again I carry this status with the under 10 age group. How did I attain this lovely status you might ask. Well, in September my wife and biggest fan volunteered me to write a song for The Learning Centre. This is the brand new school that Jacob is attending this year. There are about 15 students in 1st and 2nd grade. The leaders of the school thought it would be great for the kids to sing a song at the 50th anniversary celebration for YWAM at the end of November. The theme for the celebration is, “The Flame Goes Forward.”
Now I had just returned from a three-month outreach in Cambodia and was ready for a couple days at the beach. I was not ready to think about the 50th celebration, and certainly not ready to write a song for it. I do my best writing the day before a performance, but that wouldn’t fly for this particular event. However, as a celebrity I could not let down my biggest fans. My #1 fan and now manager Ronda had already signed the contract. My #2, #3, and #4 fans would definitely be disappointed if they didn’t get the chance to sing daddy’s song! So the week before Ronda and I were set to take a week’s vacation I went to work. Hmm, “One flame, burning bright has run all through the night.” Oh, I like that! “The flame goes forward, to the nations…young and old will catch on fire!” Yes! I love anytime I can write about setting things on fire! And the day before Ronda and I left town for a week I handed in a very rough demo to The Learning Centre’s leader. My job was finished. All we committed to was writing a song, and I held up my end of the bargain. My fans could rest at ease.
Well, in typical YWAM fashion my little commitment began to grow. What started as a song for 15 kids that might get used began multiplying. First we added the pre-school, “Oh, that will be cute…why not?” Then the ICS and Foundations School joined in…now this wouldn’t always mean huge numbers, but here in Kona this quarter we have the largest number of students in history. Therefore, our 15 voice children’s choir added a zero to the end and increased to a little singing ensemble of 150 voices!
This was no longer something I could handle alone. I could probably manage 15 children for a handful of rehearsals, but definitely not 150 children from ages 3 to 17! “Help me Ronda, help, help me Ronda!” Every other husband that “married up” in the world can appreciate your wife saving your life a hundred times! Ronda came in to save the day with teaching skills, hand motion skills, discipline skills, organization skills, communication skills, political skills, planning skills, creative skills, and a whole lot of other skills that I wasn’t bringing to the table. Umm…let’s see…I brought song-writing skills. The list isn’t very proportionate if you know what I mean. So now, due to my wife’s expansive list of skills I have been sky-rocketed to celebrity status!
We held some rehearsals, emailed out a few recordings and now I have theme music that follows me everywhere I go on the YWAM base. I hear “The Flame Goes Forward” sung by 15 year olds who sing it kind of mockingly as I walk by. I hear 7 year olds sing out, “climbing mountains, crossing seas,” as if they’re auditioning for the lead role in a play I’m directing. Just today a 4 year old ran by me saying, “Hey, you’re the one flame guy!” I can’t walk anywhere on campus without being high fived by some 6 year old or whispered about by some group of 8 year olds. Wow! Life is good!
And to top it off tonight I watched the video footage that has been placed behind the soundtrack. 50 years of mission’s footage from YWAM’s history has been restored and edited to play right alongside this tune. I sat in my room with tears in my eyes as I watched Loren Cunningham preach to young person after young person challenging them to go into all the world and preach the Gospel!
The flame is going forward! I am here in Hawaii right now with over 2000 people who are here to celebrate not only where the Gospel has gone, but where it is going! There are still hundreds of unreached people groups that need to hear of the greatness of our God! I believe that many of the 150 voices that will sing this song tomorrow will not only sing the words, they will live the words. It is so thrilling to be able to stand with the next generation of missionaries and sing out in front of 2000 people about taking the Gospel to the least, the lost, and the last. I would rather be a celebrity to these 150 kids and take a stand for Jesus, than have my name in lights for any crowd of raving fans because I have a great image!
On December 1st at 7:20 p.m. I am going to proudly stand with the best choir I have ever led and declare that the Gospel is going forward to every tribe and tongue! Their voices are going to ring out, their faces are going to shine, and their hand motions are going to tell the story! We are not going to stop until we finish the task!
Will you join us? Will you keep the flame going forward? Go with us, pray with us, and partner with us to see lives changed by the unfailing love of Jesus Christ all around the world!
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)
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