Music, Mud and Ministry

KatieMudCampby Katie Roth, BBI Missionary

ERGLI, Latvia – At the beginning of July I found myself making music in a tent with ten kids. We were up to our knees in thick, squelchy mud! This was part of the recent orphan camp run by BBI team members at Eagle’s Wings camp. As the soggy campers and I made music together, I realised again just how powerful the expressive arts can be. Nearly a quarter of the campers chose to come to the music workshop from a choice of activities such as shooting, swimming, bracelet making, woodwork, manicure and football. Even the shyest Russian speaking girl, reluctant to communicate verbally, was able to play percussion instruments in a way that expressed something of herself. This allowed the rest of us to reflect back what we heard, demonstrating acceptance and appreciation of her contribution to the group.

In the afternoon, even though the music workshop was not officially on offer, individual kids found their way into the tent. They quietly asked if they could play the piano or drums. One boy, also not very talkative, allowed me to engage him in an improvised musical dialogue at the keyboard, resulting in many smiles and moments of shared understanding. Another girl asked me to show her how to play a basic beat on the drum kit and then practised diligently while I supported her with a constant, steady rhythm on the guitar. Someone else joined us on the djembe drum and the three of us experienced the powerful, joyful sense of connection a shared rhythm can give.

During free time, I talked with a girl who was forced to give up the guitar five years ago because her caregiver thought music was becoming too all consuming in her life. Now she has no particular hobby or passion. I asked her if she would like to share with me a favourite song stored in her phone and she responded in disbelief, “Seriously?! You want to listen to MY music?” She then played me an incredible song, full of extreme contrast between exquisite beauty and almost hellish ugliness. After camp, I looked up the lyrics of the song and found they reflect the struggle of so many orphans:

If I let you in, you’d just want out.
If I tell you the truth, you’d vie for a lie.
If I spilt my guts, it would make a mess we can’t clean up.
If you follow me, you will only get lost.
If you try to get closer, we’ll only lose touch.
Don’t go, I can’t do this on my own.
Don’t go, I can’t do this on my own.
Save me from the ones that haunt me in the night.
I can’t live with myself, so stay with me tonight.
Don’t go, I can’t do this on my own.
(“Don’t Go” by Bring Me the Horizon)

I have engaged with her since then in a Facebook conversation about music that reflects similar feelings and how it affects me. I have also begun to think deeply about how I might use music to bring healing and restoration to children in the orphanages around Ērgļi, where I live.

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