The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) and its founder and president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, will welcome one of North America’s largest African-American Christian groups and Bishop Marvin Sapp on an unprecedented trip to Israel this month, as part of The Fellowship’s bridge-building between black people and Jewish people!
Twenty-two leaders of the Bahamas-based Global United Fellowship (GUF) led by GUF Presiding Prelate Bishop Neil C. Ellis of Nassau, the Bahamas, will be visiting Israel Sept. 19-26, touring ancient Christian and Jewish holy sites from the Galilee to Jerusalem. Among their stops will be the Mount of Beatitudes and the Sea of Galilee, the Wailing Wall and the Old City of Jerusalem, and archeological sites such as Caesarea, Mount Tabor, and Megiddo. The church group will also visit Fellowship projects that support Ethiopian-Israeli immigrants and the elderly and visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, and the Holocaust History Museum. (Can you imagine seeing this places in person? Jelly! (jealous) )
“We are grateful and blessed to be hosting this incredible group of African-American church leaders,” said Eckstein. “Together we will see Israel up close, to be moved and inspired and to gain a new understanding of our shared histories.”
Among the first-timers to Israel will be multiple Grammy nominated and award-winning Gospel and R&B artist, Bishop MarvinSapp, of Ada, Mich., whose record-breaking albums include “I Win,” “Here I Am” and “Thirsty.” Among his hits are “Best In Me” and “Never Would Have Made It,” which remained #1 on Gospel and R&B radio for over a year in 2007 and sold more than 2 million cellphone ring-tones. In addition to being an award-winning musical artist and author, Sapp is also an active philanthropist who founded the Grand Rapids Ellington Academy of Arts and Technology, the first such charter school in West Michigan.
For the past few years The Fellowship has been building bridges with African-American Christians, fostering new ties based on historic relationships forged in the Civil Rights era. In recent months The Fellowship and black church leaders have worked together to vigorously advocate for Israel against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, and jointly protested instances of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity. The 125,000-member GUF, with over 600 churches in the U.S. and around the world, is the fourth major African-American church group to visit Israel over the past year with The Fellowship, which previously hosted the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), the Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC) – the movement of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. – and the National Baptist Convention of America (NBCA).
Other participants on the GUF trip will include: Bishop Jonathan Alvarado of Conyers, Ga.; Bishop Deanza Cunningham, Dr. Kenneth Romer, Bishop Ellis and Lady Patrice Ellis of Nassau, the Bahamas; Rev. Dr. DeeDee Coleman of Oak Park, Mich.; Ms. Michelle S. Duffie of Old Hickory, Tenn.; Archbishop Jesse Delano “J.D.” Ellis II of Munson Township, Ohio;Bishop Kevin Gresham of Lothian, Md.; Bishop Craig Johnson of Corona, Calif.; Bishop Sheldon McCarter of Winston Salem, N.C.; Bishop Rudolph McKissickJr., Lady Kimberly McKissick, and Pastor John Newman, of Jacksonville, Fla.; Bishop Theodore Noble of Cape Town, South Africa; Bishop Matthew OdumSr. of Pooler, Ga.; Bishop Jeffrey Reaves of Chester, Va.; Dr. Kenneth Robertson of Sykesville, Md.; Bishop Sapp of Ada, Mich.; Bishop John “J.J.” WilkinsJr. of Raleigh, N.C.; Bishop Donald Wright and Mrs. Nakia Wright of Bowie, Md.
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (The Fellowship) was founded in 1983 to promote better understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews, and build broad support for Israel. Today it is one of the leading forces in helping Israel and Jews in need worldwide – and is the largest channel of Christian support for Israel. Led by its founder and president, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, The Fellowship now raises more than $140 million per year, mostly from Christians, to assist Israel and the Jewish people. Since its founding, The Fellowship has raised more than $1.3 billion for this work. The organization has offices in Jerusalem, Chicago, Miami, Toronto, Seoul, and Sao Paulo. For more information, visit www.ifcj.org.
One of my favorite actors Golden Globe nominee David Oyelowo of “Selma” (check out my interview with him HERE) and the beautiful Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o will share the silver screen in the new movie “Queen of Katwe,” which will debut on September 23!
For 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi (Madina Nalwanga) and her family, life in the impoverished slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle. Her mother, Harriet (Nyong’o), is fiercely determined to take care of her family and works tirelessly selling vegetables in the market to make sure her children are fed and have a roof over their heads. When Phiona meets Robert Katende (Oyelowo), a soccer player turned missionary who teaches local children chess, she is captivated. Chess requires a good deal of concentration, strategic thinking and risk taking, all skills which are applicable in everyday life, and Katende hopes to empower youth with the game. Phiona is impressed by the intelligence and wit the game requires and immediately shows potential. Recognizing Phiona’s natural aptitude for chess and the fighting spirit she’s inherited from her mother, Katende begins to mentor her, but Harriet is reluctant to provide any encouragement, not wanting to see her daughter disappointed. As Phiona begins to succeed in local chess competitions, Katende teaches her to read and write in order to pursue schooling. She quickly advances through the ranks in tournaments, but breaks away from her family to focus on her own life. Her mother eventually realizes that Phiona has a chance to excel and teams up with Katende to help her fulfill her extraordinary potential, escape a life of poverty and save her family.
Oscar (TM) winner Lupita Nyong’o and newcomer Madina Nalwanga in Disney’s QUEEN OF KATWE, the vibrant true story of a young girl from the streets of rural Uganda whose world rapidly changes when she is introduced to the game of chess. The powerful film, which also stars David Oyelowo and is directed by Mira Nair, will be released in U.S. theaters in September.
Directed by Mira Nair (“Monsoon Wedding”) from a screenplay by William Wheeler (“The Hoax”) based on the book by Tim Crothers, “Queen of Katwe” is produced by Lydia Dean Pilcher (“The Darjeeling Limited”) and John Carls (“Where the Wild Things Are”) with Will Weiske and Troy Buder serving as executive producers.
Today’ s post is the third installment of my 7-month interview series entitled “Resilience & the Bible” which is about how Scriptures can be used to bounce back from the trials we all have to go through from time to time. Once a month, I feature someone who has used Bible verses to bounce back! If you know of someone who has bounced back using Scriptures and would like to be featured on my blog, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to bounce back from losing your voice is the focus of this month’s “Resilience & the Bible” blog post. At this time of the year, more than any other, music, whether Christmas carols, traditional hymns or funny ditties, can be heard everywhere! Those who are blessed with the gift of music, particularly singers, must really revel in this season…But what about those singers who have lost their voices? That is exactly what Linda Brown, who had grown up singing, faced in 2010. In fact, Linda taught choral music at Westinghouse High School and at the Pittsburgh Creative & Performing Arts High School. During her last year at the Performing Arts High School, the school was the site of the G-9 Summit, attended by world leaders. Linda wrote a song for the seminal event and was blessed to perform with First Lady Michelle Obama in the audience, accompanied by world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma.
Linda relied on many Scriptures, but these three helped her the most as she went through this trial.
How did you lose your voice? When did this happen?
I’ve been singing all of my life. I started as a little child singing so singing and playing the piano was something that I always did. Even as an adult, that continued. Even humming a lot. Even without thinking about it, I go through the house humming. So this started in 2007 and at that time, I had started a singing group “Voices for Christ.” There were four of us. And I also decided I would join the Pittsburgh Bach Choir for one year. At the end of that year, I had already been experiencing trouble with the singing group, I was becoming hoarse often and my throat was getting tired very quickly. And then it progressed – not just discomfort but pain. So then I had to drop out of the Bach Choir, and eventually, I had to stop singing with the group “Voices for Christ.” And I was also teaching choral music so I needed my voice to demonstrate to students, and even there, I had to start using a microphone. I was often hoarse and sometimes I would lose my voice altogether. I didn’t have a cold though. That continued so then I started seeking out doctors. I went to some of the best laryngologists, voice specialists, in the country, and they didn’t know what the problem was. They ran tests. They gave me medicine. They weren’t sure what it was. They had me taking voice therapy so I would go to voice therapy for many months at a time.
How did your Scriptures help you to cope?
There were times when I started to wonder, “Well, Lord, how long,” and I would start losing my peace so Isaiah 26:3 helped. With Psalm 34:19, we’re just gonna go through trials and tribulations, but we have that assurance that God will bring us through. He will deliver us. And for me, obviously, this was not the first trial so as you go through trials, we do get stronger and stronger. So I knew. God has a track record with me! I know what He had brought me through in the past so this time with losing my voice, as difficult as it was, I still had faith that He would sustain me and bring me through. According to Psalm 107:20, he is Jehovah Rapha. He is still in the healing business so I trusted Him to heal me. But there were times, I have to say, when I started to doubt that I would ever get through this.
What was the turning point?
This went on for three years, and finally one of the voice therapists said, ‘How long have you been dealing with this?’ I told her three years, and she said, ‘Three years is just too long. You need to just sing. Just start singing.’ It was something about that, and I had tried before but something about when she said that, I said ‘I’m just gonna start.’ And that’s how it began. Maybe it was something about the number 3. It’s a rebirth. God rose in three days. The number three is in different passages of the Bible that we can look at and certainly God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity. And my voice ended up being stronger than it was before that three-year period. Not all of a sudden, gradually.
So I started singing, but I was still hoarse. It still hurt. And I was singing softly. That went on for a while, but my voice got stronger and stronger until I was able to sing enough to hear myself here in the house. And I will say this also, during that time of having no voice, my brother passed. And for the first time, I wrote a gospel song, and it was in memory of my brother. I had done some arranging before but for different kinds of music for my school choir but never gospel even though I was singing only gospel or classical music. I wrote the song for him knowing I couldn’t sing it. I had a friend who would come in from New York every so often. She is an excellent singer, and she happens to be a lyric soprano. So I wrote the song knowing it was for her voice. She is a soloist for Abyssinian Baptist Church, a paid singer there. She didn’t even realize I was writing a song for her to sing, but during one of her trips here, I mentioned it to her. I could play the piano still, and I would hear the song in my head but that was it.
How did your CD “Bread of Heaven” happen with the loss of your voice?
So toward the end of that three-year period, God started putting songs in my spirit like five or six in a month. So I would sing them softly and put them on a recorder. I go back to listen to them sometime, and I’m like, ‘Oh my.’ My voice was so breathy and prior to that time, it was always clear. So some of those songs He gave me are on my album “Bread of Heaven.” And on that album, the song that I wrote for my brother is on there too. It’s called ‘Together In the Morning,’ and that particular song, the melody is much higher than all of the others because it was originally written for someone else to sing. I was thinking I’m writing songs and eventually they are going to go on a CD, and I know that I can’t sing on the CD so I’ll have to find someone to record these songs. Not my friend in New York because I only had that one song for her because that wasn’t the style I wanted for the whole CD. I kept thinking about who could sing the songs. But I wasn’t able to find anyone or God didn’t just put anyone in my path. So then it was, ‘I guess I’ll do it myself.’ And then I had to find a producer and that took another two or three years to find a producer. But then I did find someone through ‘word of mouth’ in Memphis, Tennessee although I live in Pittsburgh.
So I ended up going to Memphis, and I was really concerned that my voice would not hold up for the recording. And I think if I had known the extent of the recording, I would probably not have even tried it, but God knew I needed to do it. Because I love singing background and always have, I decided I would do the background for the recordings as well for all of them except for one. And recording background music in this case means I had to record the soprano four times, sing the alto four times, the tenor part four times and more times if you mess up so I didn’t know I would have to do that much singing – it’s called stacking the background – and of course, do the lead.
There was a difficulty in one of the recordings. I got sick all of a sudden one time and we had to record later in the day. But all through this, when I look back on it, the loss of my voice, the attacks we had in the recording, some of the equipment that the producer had never had problems with started having problems. I say it now, it was an attack, a spiritual attack. God was in control, but the enemy did not want to see this come to pass. But through prayer, and I had prayer partners praying for me back in Pittsburgh and leaning on my Scriptures, God saw me through the recording.
“Bread of Heaven” came out in 2013, and but this year, I remixed “He’s Faithful,” one of the songs on the CD. (Below is the remixed “He’s Faithful.” )
Why do you think God allowed you to lose your voice? What caused it?
I really can’t say. I don’t know what caused it. It wasn’t from using poor voice technique because I know about teaching voice and using the voice. These were questions that I would ask myself even when I was going through this three-year-period of having no voice. It was like, ‘God, what do you want me to learn from this?’ And I think one of the things was trusting Him to build more faith in Him and even patience. And at the same time, He gave me these songs which were and are to encourage people. And the feedback I get from this CD, it’s just amazing. Also, before I lost my voice, I usually sang background, but once God pushed me in this direction, He took away my desire to go back to the group I started. I always thought once I got my voice back I would go back to the group although they continue to sing today, but He pushed me into solo ministry.
Also, I eventually left teaching altogether at the end of the school year in 2010 because God put into my spirit that I was to do missions. And that was a powerful year because that was the year that the First Lady came to my school, but in the middle of that, God put in my spirit to do missions. And my husband was already pressing me, ‘Let’s go to Haiti.’ But I said, ‘I don’t want to go to Haiti.’ But two days after I left the school district, we were in Haiti. And he left his job three months before I left my job. And after we started doing missions, I saw the greater need. And I saw this CD could help fund some of the projects that we wanted to do and support other mission organizations. We then started our own non-profit organization Mercy Acts International. We go to different countries and see what the need is, come back here and raise money for the needs. I use money for the proceeds from my CD. Most of it goes to the mission field. I say most of it because my producer, who made a substantial contribution in the beginning of this project because he knew it was going to missions, I make sure that he is covered in terms of what comes in. That’s why I say most of it, but all of my proceeds go to missions.
Also, the first time we went to Haiti, I started a choir which had almost a 100 students that I worked with by the end of our time there. I used my voice without amplification. That’s God!
Below are three principles Linda used to go through this trial.
Serve God regardless even when you are going through trials yourself. I could encourage others. I could still help a child or a family in need.
Look at the areas where God is moving in my life, where God is blessing me. They outnumber what I’m going through regardless of how bad it can be. You can still look at areas where He is blessing you and be thankful. I thank God for my husband during that time who was so supportive. That didn’t have to be. I could have been going through it on every side.
Recognize that God is still working it altogether for your good like in Romans 8:28. I said, ‘Lord I can’t see the good in this, but I trust you to work this out. Even if I don’t sing again, you have still blessed me greatly and I believe you still have work for me to do in other areas.’ Maybe God is blessing is other gifts that need to be developed. I already played the piano, but I started playing the piano more so I still had a connection with music.
Linda Ross Brown, a singer-songwriter and five-time Rhythm of Gospel Award nominee, received a bachelors of Creative Arts at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and two masters degrees, one in Music Education and one in Secondary Education, both from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. Blending contemporary and traditional sounds, her debut CD Bread of Heaven, which is available on Amazon, provides something for every music lover. Most of all, there is an uplifting message on each and every track. Her Christmas album Linda Ross Brown At Christmas is also available on Amazon.
Linda and her husband, Rev. James E. Brown started Mercy Acts International in 2012. A non-profit organization 501(c)(3), the mission of Mercy Acts is based on the Gospel and compassionate acts of Jesus Christ. The goal is to provide nutritional food service programs, clean water initiatives, educational programs, and medical support to help foster the spiritual, physical, and intellectual needs of families. The organization shares the love of God by spreading the gospel and making available humanitarian services to individuals throughout the world including the United States and the countries of Liberia, Haiti and Zimbabwe.