Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Cop Out?

This tour has kept me very busy so far.  Too busy to write a post here, unfortunately.  David Pierce, the leader and lead singer of the band, No Longer Music, that I'm touring with, writes a blog and currently has two posts up that tell about their arrival in Istanbul and the two concerts we've had so far.  Please take a look.  He has better pictures than I do.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Going Home and Leaving Home

Arriving in Istanbul has definitely changed for me.  The first time I showed up here, I was full of wonder and suspicion.  My eyes were huge as I tried to take everything in.  My curiosity was overwhelming.  I also had some fear of the unknown.  Over the next few trips my suspicion and fear subsided.  My wonder remained.  In preparing to return I got excited, like a kid on Christmas morning.  I couldn't sleep well before the flight.  Every new experience was like a gift to unwrap.   But now... now the experience is like walking into a different room in my own house.  It's still home, but it's just different. 

I arrived on Friday, got settled in a picked up a few things, like cookies, that I needed to get back into the house when I return to New York.  Saturday was a little more of the same until the band showed up.  This tour is with a band called "No Longer Music."  I've heard about them because they come to Turkey quite often, but this is my first chance to work with them.  I've used a few different term to try to describe what kind of music they perform, but until I hear more of it over the next 9 days I can't really describe it well.  It's edgy, intense and comes with quite a stage show. It's been good getting to know them.

Our first concert was scheduled to be here in Istanbul, but as with all things in Turkey it wasn't definite.  Since Sunday was election day, getting permission to do a large event was difficult.  Sometimes riots break out.  The people here are actively passionate about politics in a way Americans can only dream about.  As of Half an hour ago our concert is back on after having been cancelled.  This is a result of perseverance and prayer, lots of prayer.

So we're about to go into our first concert with a band of people I don't know well, and a bunch of gear that the band doesn't know well.  A lot is going to depend on grace, patience and professionalism, and everything is going to depend on God.

Monday, July 21, 2014

So, How Was Your Trip?

This is a question I love, and dread.  I love chances to talk about what's happened.  I love letting people who are interested get a glimpse into what I've seen and how God was working.  I dread the awkwardness of going into details and then realizing someone was asking to be polite.  In either case there's never enough time to go into all the details and I have to guess what that person is interested in.  It's like me saying, "What's in this picture?"

Some people will say, "It looks like some sort of shop."  Others might be drawn to speculate about what the men are talking about.  Even still others may have their eyes drawn to the lamps,  or tea sets.  No matter what you do though, unless you're talking for an hour, you will miss a detail.  If it takes that long to just describe one picture, how can I describe over two weeks worth of experiences?  Nevertheless, I try.  I try to guess what gets people excited, or at least what keeps people interested. Someone once said, "When you speak be inspirational.  If you can't be inspirational, be funny.  If you can't be funny, keep it short."

Monday, July 14, 2014

"1, 2, 5." "Three, sir."

Last time I told you we were going into the "home stretch" with 5 concerts left to go.  Well, we did 3 and that was enough.  Saturday afternoon, around 3, we went to set up our late night performance.  To get there we walked 10 minutes to a ferry, from the ferry it was another 5 minute walk to a train in a tunnel, then on to a trolley.  A short walk down the street and up a flight of stairs that took us to and elevator.  Up the elevator, then up another flight of stair and ta-da!  There you are.  Easy peasy.  So we set up and sound checked.  Once we were ready there we raced out the door at about 7pm to go perform at a dinner that was 50 minutes away by car.  We get to that diner with 5 minutes to sound check before we get on stage.  All goes well we get to eat and head back to the first venue via a car ride that would be an entire post unto itself.  10:30pm comes and we are ready to start our second performance of the day.  When the day was all said and done it was 3am that I went to bed knowing that I needed to get up in 3 1/2 hours to repack the truck and drive 7 hours the next day.

I don't lay all of this out there to complain, but just to let you know the realities of what I've signed up for.  If this were just for work, there's no way I would keep that schedule, but because of the eternal motivation that I have, I press on.

Our final concert was in the city that was historically known as Troy.  My mixing board was set up right under the nose of the Trojan Horse they used in the 2004 movie.  By the time we had finished our sound check we had over 100 people watching us.  We made announcements about the upcoming concert that night, and a few people connected with individuals who had gathered.  We had a couple hours before the concert, so we just played recorded music for a while.  In that down time more people connected with kids, tourists, and anyone passing by who wondered what was going on.  We even had an Indian family stop by with some Bollywood music they wanted us to play so they could dance to it.  By concert time we had a crowd of over 400 people ready to see what this crew from Chicago had to offer.

The crowd grew over the course of the performance and was very receptive of our music and message.  At the end of the concert I did all I could to restrain my urge to pack up and leave.  It's always the practice to pack it up and get out at my normal gigs.  In fact I pride myself at timing the truck pack and setting new records.  But these shows are different.  I needed to remind myself that we are here for conversations and relationships.  I am so glad I did.

I got to see a believer that I had met 3 years ago on a previous tour.  I got to meet some members of the local church and I got to meet some believers who were seeking refuge in Turkey.  I won't go into too many details about these men here, for the sake of their privacy.  Suffice it to say they had good reason not to return to their home countries.  They were overjoyed to be at such and openly Christian event out in public.  They were thrilled that we were there, and I was honored that we could serve these men in any way.  If the whole trip was just to set up and sing just for these men, I would have made the journey ten times over.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Pushing Through

Since my last post we've performed twice.  Once in Antalya and once in Manavgat.  Our Antalya performance had some "glitches" that we as a team had to work out.  The result of us working things out was a much better performance the next day.  each day we received dozens of survey forms that were filled out and a lot of good contacts.  Yesterday we drove from Manavgat to Istanbul, a 15 hour drive after all of our stops.

We are now in what I feel is the home stretch.  I have to take that perspective because I need to know when I will get to rest.  The next five days are scheduled with late nights, early mornings, five performances (some are not full 90 minute concerts) two 7 hour drives, debriefing, last minute souvenir shopping (because you can never have enough scarves), an early morning drive to the airport and a 13 hour flight home.  Hopefully you'll understand if I don't get a chance to write another post soon.  As it is I expected to be asleep now, but I woke up early.

"...[W]e rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope."  There comes a time in most tours where I think, "I'm exhausted, but it's only a few more days.  I can make it."  I haven't hit the point of exhaustion yet, and hopefully I won't have to.  My "sufferings" are nothing compared to what Paul was referring to when he wrote that quote in Romans.  This just means the development of my endurance, character, and hope are also nothing when compared to Paul's.  But, even so, I cherish it.  I'm praying that God will help me not just to endure, but to finish well.  It's not enough to just survive through these next few days.  I need to flourish.  I came here to serve this team, and there have been times when I haven't done that well.  My patience has worn thin on occasion, or a request comes up and I'm just feeling lazy.  Granted it's 100degrees and 80% humidity, but that's no excuse to slouch when you've come halfway around the world to tell people how much God loves them.

All this to say pray for us.  Pray for our endurance, character, and hope, Pray for the effectiveness of our communication in word and works, Pray that we will finish well, and Pray that nothing else gets cancelled.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Did Paul ever pray for things to go smoothly?

At this point we've performed 2 nights on the street and once on a stage.  All of this was in Istanbul.  The times on the street were both really good.  The musicians performed for about 15 minutes and by the time they were done there was a pretty decent crowd (15-50 people) clapping and interacting with the songs.  When they are done with the 15 minute set, then we get to interact on a personal level with the people who've come to see who this group of foreigners is and why we are here and ask them to fill out surveys.

The stage performance was for a hip-hop festival.  We walked into a mall, went down 3 flights of stairs and there before us was a theater with a couple hundred people all up against the stage.  They were all enjoying themselves while a Turkish rapper was going to town on the stage.  The short version of the rest of the story is that our first full stage, full set-list performance went off without a hitch.  Of course we had our surveys with us and we got many back from our newest fans.  It went smoothly.

Now, after two days on the road, we are in Antalya.  I just woke up and went for a walk along the rocky shoreline of the Mediterranean Sea and prayed.  I praised God for what He's done and prayed for things to go smoothly.  Then I stopped.  I realized that is a selfish prayer.  What if something needs to go "wrong"  for the sake of God's plan?

How often do we pray for the easy way out?  We pray for nice weather for an outdoor activity.  We pray for a sickness or pain to go away.  We pray for "travel mercies" and expect that God will protect us from flat tires and accidents.  We pray for a concert to go smoothly. But God....

God works in the things we see as inconvenience.  When there is an obstacle in our way God is glorified in the solution or the strength to persevere.  It's in those times that we can respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit.  So how should we pray?  I decided to pray that God would keep me aware of His plan.  That no matter what happens, whether I think it's good or not, that I will have His perspective to see the opportunities He is placing before us.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Being a Good Neighbor

The past two days we've been rehearsing with a hip hop band in a church in Kadiköy, İstanbul.  We started at 10 and went until 5ish each day.  To start the whole thing off there was some discussion of whether we could use the sanctuary or if we had to go down to the basement because they were getting a new air conditioner installed.  It was settled that we would set up in the half of the room that was away from where the A/C installers would be working.  We were all set and chugging happily along.  Beats were dropping and lyrics flying.  Then we got told to turn it down.  I was disappointed, especially since I hadn't hit the volume yet that we would be using for performances.  I had barely touched the subwoofers (the big speakers that thump).  Right then and there I turned the subs off.

For those techies out there who are interested, the offending system is 4 QSC K12 mains, a home grown pair of EAW FR250z knockoffs powered be a QSC  ex4000 at 720w per side, a Mackie SRM450 monitor.   All told what to do by a Yamaha 01v96 v2.  (I know, but it works)

After turning it down I had to find out why.  Turns out the neighbors were complaining, enthusiastically complaining.  My worldly gut reaction was, "Well forget that!  If they're going to be grumpy about it anyway, let's just crank it and give them something to be grumpy about."  That thought lasted long enough for me to smirk and imagine plaster falling off the walls as I let the subs get some exercise.  After a little chuckle my mind went back to wanting to be a good neighbor and an example of grace and mercy.  I would accommodate them as much as I could and just turn things up enough for the performers to be able to hear themselves, but not enough to get an idea of what a full concert would feel like.

Then I found out more.  This new air conditioner that was being installed as we practiced could only be run for 5 hours on Sunday for the same reason that we had to turn down.  The neighbors don't like the sound of the air conditioner outside their window.  Because of this every other meeting that happens in this church building will not have A/C.  It was 95 and humid yesterday.

This irked me and now I'm trying to figure out, in the cultural context of İstanbul Turkey, where do you draw the line?  Within the context of a biblical worldview is there even a line to be drawn?   I want to say that at some point the Christian needs to stand up and assert themselves to illustrate their own self worth.  However since that self worth is based on Christ, the assertion must involve service to Christ.  If this is the case we would have been justified in practicing at a proper volume.  This is something I'll be thinking about over a cup of tea.