The Blessing of Wales
Reflections of the Heart

by Livi Cate Osborne

“Why are we here?”

John Robinson, the missionary who has been serving in Wales for more than 25 years, asked this to about twenty high schoolers at 7:00 a.m. one morning of our Chapel Choir Mission Tour. We sat in silence, waiting for John Robinson, also known as JR, to answer his own deeply theological and philosophical question.

“We are here,” he continued, “to share the Gospel to people who have never heard it. This is the only thing we cannot do when we get to Heaven.” This phrase motivated more than 150 students and adults as we traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to Caernarfon, Wales, from June 16—23. Our goal was to share the Gospel by serving with Chapels and organizations that have already established relationships in Wales.

Preparation for Mission Tour 2023 began in August of 2022. While we may have not known where we were preparing to serve, we knew we needed to be ready to work as a team chorally, spiritually, and culturally wherever Mission Tour would take us. With a repertoire of thirteen songs, we were ready to face crowds of children, adults, and tourists on street corners. After learning we would be heading to Wales for Mission Tour, one of the most difficult aspects of preparation was learning to sing in Welsh.

JR is the director of Linguæ Christi, an organization that seeks to share the Gospel with minority language people groups in Europe. So naturally, we translated our favorite song, the song and prayer we end all of our rehearsals and concerts with, into Welsh. This song is called “A Blessing,” and we learned to sing it in Welsh so that we could sing it in, what JR calls, the “heart-language” of the Welsh people. A heart-language is the language in which the Lord speaks to a person, and having the opportunity to sing such a special song and prayer to the Welsh people in their heart-language was the propelling factor that allowed us to overcome the challenge of singing in such a foreign language.

Next, we prepared for Mission Tour spiritually by praying to the Lord and asking that He would already be working in the hearts of the people we would be serving in Wales, specifically through the missionaries already on the ground there. We prepared our hearts to serve the Lord by pouring into our Bible studies, Student Ministry activities, and
Sunday morning worship. Finally, we prepared culturally for Mission Tour with JR, who went above and beyond in preparing our choir to serve in Wales. He made a series of videos that thoroughly explained the history of Wales and the Welsh language, and we were able to understand how we would be serving on a much deeper level than we had previously imagined.

On Sunday, June 18, we had an orientation meeting with JR where he condensed the week-long training sessions he gives to his college students into an hour and a half lecture. This proved to be incredibly impactful, as it was the first time many of us fully understood the “why” of Mission Tour this year.

This Mission Tour was different from every other mission trip Dawson has taken recently because it was a musical mission trip. Most mission trips will go into a city or country and provide a service to them, like cleaning schools, picking up trash, serving a local church, or providing medical needs. This mission trip was quite different. To the Welsh people, music is a means of communication, connection, and cultural exchange. We were able to communicate the Gospel with people who had never heard the good news because the difference between a mission trip in Wales and America is that many people in Wales have never heard the Gospel before in their life, whereas in America, and especially the South, many people have heard the Gospel many, many times in their life. We were also able to connect with local Chapels and showcase some American choral music alongside our final song of all concerts, “A Blessing,” but in the Welsh language.

During this trip, we had numerous opportunities to meet, share the Gospel, and sing for the Welsh people. But, it was the unplanned opportunities that the Lord chose to work the most through. On Monday, June 19, we walked to the top of Twthill, a large hill that overlooked the whole town of Caernarfon. We were going to have a personal time of prayer for the people of Caernarfon, but the Lord used this time differently than we had expected.

While 157 students and volunteers hiked the hill, we came across three Welsh teenagers that were spiritually lost but longing to be found. Our Student Minister and Associate Student Minister, Bryan Howard and Aubrey Johnston, along with some students, had the opportunity to speak with the group of teenagers extensively. They explained why our group from Alabama was there, and had the opportunity to share the Gospel with them. After we finished our time of prayer on the hill, we invited the teenagers to our concert for the community on Wednesday night and hoped to see them again.

Little did we know, God wanted us to see them again, but sooner than expected. The very next day, we had a time of games and recreation at a local park, hoping to share the Gospel with kids and families in the area. During this time, two of the three teenagers randomly showed up at the park. They said that they never hang out at this park, but they happened to be here today. We knew it was the Lord working to put these teenagers on our path again, and once again we had the opportunity to show the love of the Lord. Finally, Wednesday night at our concert, one of the teenagers attended and heard our full repertoire of songs along with the Gospel once more. All of these interactions proved that the Lord works in mysterious ways and that He always has a plan despite our own agenda.

The local Chapel we served with was Caersalem Chapel. On Sunday, June 18, we sang alongside them, in Welsh and in English, during their time of worship. The service was in Welsh, but Pastor David was able to use an audio translation device and shared what was said during the announcement portion of the service with us that night. He explained to us that they had announced that their pastor would be taking an extended leave due to medical needs. This news came as a surprise to the congregation. It would mean that they would be going through a lot of changes and some rough patches for the next few months. After hearing this from Pastor David, I realized the incredible impact we potentially had on the congregation of Caersalem this specific Sunday morning.

We had the opportunity to sing “Orphans of God,” with soloists Maddie Bembry and Ella Jayne Hyde, and violinist Mae Martin. This is a semi-popular song in America, but not as well-known in Wales, so I wondered what made John choose this song.
I realized that this Chapel is so secluded and seemingly alone in this town, and it is one of the few Chapels that actively lives out the Gospel and looks to grow the kingdom of God in this area. It is easy for the congregation of this Chapel to get discouraged and to think God has abandoned them, especially since entering a time of transition and change after hearing their pastor is taking an extended leave. But, as the words of the song say,

There are no strangers, there are no outcasts
There are no orphans of God
We all have fallen, but Hallelujah
There are no orphans of God.

We were singing these words to the body of Christ before us, and encouraging and lifting up a group of believers to remind them that they, and their small Chapel of fifty members, have not been abandoned by God.

On a personal note, this trip gave me invaluable knowledge and preparation for my future career on the mission field.
A shocking statistic that JR shared was that the United States has 95% of all Christian resources in the world. This encouraged me to consider foreign missions more faithfully, because so many people in the United States have heard the Gospel on multiple occasions, and there are still people out there who have never heard the good news of the Gospel. I was inspired to share the Gospel more intentionally through this mission trip. On multiple occasions, I listened to John Woods beautifully share the Gospel to hundreds of children and adults at various concerts.

Finally, this trip broadened my understanding of the Welsh people, which is very important because they are a group of people that desperately want to be understood. Their language, history, and culture is so much different than that of England, which they are so commonly compared to, and it meant so much to them that 123 American teenagers
would take the time to understand. Overall, Mission Tour aided in my aspirations to be a missionary and broadened my cultural understanding.

Naturally, there were some challenges and setbacks during this trip. One of the most difficult challenge was the difference in cultures. The Welsh people are very proud of their culture and their language, which causes them to be wary of potentially insensitive tourists. Our choir took the time to learn about Welsh culture and understand why the Welsh language was so important to them. Then, the cultural gap was quickly closed once we had the opportunity to sing “A Blessing” in Welsh for them. They understood that the song we sang for them was so important to us that we wanted to share it with them in their heart-language. The hand of the Lord was with us through all the difficult moments in preparation and execution of this mission trip.

The repertoire we performed was riddled with the Gospel and other biblical notes. We had multiple songs that could be categorized as “Southern Gospel” songs, which allowed us to share some of our own culture from the United States. Songs like “He Never Failed Me, Yet” and “I’ve Got My Foot on the Rock” were quicker and livelier songs that would captivate a younger crowd on the occasions that we sang in school buildings for children. John Woods introduced the songs in a way that introduced the Gospel. The song “When I Think About the Lord” was the song that laid out the Gospel most fluently, and before we sang it, John would make sure the audience knew that this song is the basis of our beliefs. Thanks to his forethought, the audience, no matter how old or young they were, heard and experienced the Gospel.

Music played a larger role in Mission Tour this year than past years due to the vast choral history and appreciation in the country of Wales, and our directors, John Woods, Brent Coleman, Dan Mullis, and Dr. Brent Reeves wholly prepared us for success.

I will never forget being in an area where almost every person I encountered had never heard the Gospel, and that the Lord had placed our choir on their path to plant that seed for the first time. I cannot wait to bring the Gospel to more people who have never heard the good news, and to work on a mission field as selflessly as JR while serving the Welsh people. This trip has helped me realize and understand more about the calling the Lord has put on my heart to help fulfill the Great Commission through international missions. I will also take away a more profound sense of respect for the way music can spread the Gospel.

Chapel Choir Mission Tour to Wales was a transformative experience for both the people we served in Caernarfon, Wales, and for every member of Chapel Choir.

Livi Cate Osborne is a recent graduate from Vestavia Hills High School and will attend Mississippi College in the fall. She has hopes of becoming a missionary after college. She has been an active member at Dawson and has enjoyed being involved in Chapel Choir and the Dawson Student Ministry.