Comforting a nation: Biola Chorale ministers to South Korea through song

The Biola Chorale uses music to minister to the people grieving South Korea.

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Tomber Su/THE CHIMES

Jenna Schmidt, Writer

Junior Anna Keitzman poses with schoolchildren after a concert and information session at the Jeongmyung Girls Middle School. | Tomber Su/THE CHIMES

 

Heads bowed and respectfully clothed in black, the students of the Biola Chorale walked towards the Salvation Army tent on Paengmok-hang Harbor on the night of Sunday, April 27, to attend a service for the families of the victims of the “Sewol” ferry incident. There they took an hour of respectful silence before sharing songs of comfort with the families. Within the next couple of days, the chorale’s presence at the service had gone viral on national Korean news.

The Biola Kings Men Josh Alacron, sophmore and seniors Nate Brown, Jordan Weaver and Bradley Naden, sing "ill fly away" at Keisung High School. | Tomber Su/THE CHIMES

 

BIOLA CHORALE IN SOUTH KOREA 

“The hymn Amazing Grace reverberates through the Paengmok-hang Harbor,” reporter Seo Misorang of Korea Today said in an April 29 newscast. “When the students sang Amazing Grace at the end of the service, victims’ families, government personnel and volunteer workers alike were deeply moved and tearfully joined in singing the well-known hymn.”

The trip continued the ministry that Corey and the King’s Men began in South Korea in October 2012, but also uniquely ministered to the families affected by the recent ferry disaster.

“Most of [the students] haven’t been to Asia, and they’re getting to see the global church at work,” said Corey. “They’ve had a chance to form a strong community with each other and to have a huge impact on the people of South Korea. Being able to minister to the people at Jindo Island was special for everyone. Biola cares deeply, loves deeply and is praying deeply for the people of South Korea.”

A GRIEVING COUNTRY 

Ministry in a foreign country, while exhilarating, presents challenges. But ministry in a grieving country has given these students a very unique experience. Only two weeks after the ferry “Sewol” capsized off the coast of Jindo Island, resulting in hundreds of fatalities, the students witnessed firsthand the work of God among the South Korean people.

“This trip specifically affected the people of the chorale because of the ferry accident that happened about two weeks ago,” said senior music education major and chorale president Brianna Beard in an email. “We have been in mourning with these people and went to the site of the accident to grieve with them.”

The group prays for Brianna Beard before she performs her solo in "Saaya Saaya, a Korean folk song" before the concert in Mokpo Cultural Center. | Tomber Su/THE CHIMES

 

After their visit to the Jindo Island docks, several national Korean news stations and websites broadcasted reports of the chorale. The experience proved special for both the South Korean people and the Biola students.

“We spent a full hour in silence aside from our singing as we walked to the site and sang an arrangement of Psalm 23 in Korean,” said freshman music in worship major Justin Sinclair in an email. “We all finished by singing ‘Amazing Grace’ as a congregation, singing each in our own native language. We all recognize that it was a once in a lifetime experience. We were given the opportunity to represent Biola, America and the Lord as we wept with those who weep.”

In the aftermath of the incident, members of the chorale found themselves in a unique position to share the love of Christ. They also found themselves being generously loved in return.

According to senior music education major Jordan Weaver, the chorale has been profoundly impacted by the passion of the South Korean people even in this difficult time.
“We are here to minister, and it feels like a majority of this time, we are the ones being ministered to,” Weaver said. “Just taking from the passion, the hospitality, of the Korean people and the love that is being bestowed upon us … I hope that we may be able to take that back to America, that we may be able to reflect that while we’re here and that we may be able to love on others as we are being loved on.”

President Barry Corey talks about his meetings in Korea and his children while students raise hands for coffee orders. | Tomber Su/THE CHIMES

 

The chorale’s director, professor Shawna Stewart, noted that seeing the openness and the hospitality of the people has had a dramatic influence on the members of the chorale.

“To see their servanthood … they have been a role model for all of us with their hospitality and welcoming visitors,” Stewart said. “They have an openness of spirit … they’re not just generous with their time and resources, but they’ve been very open with their hearts.”

Stewart also said that, although choral music is often considered an antiquated art form in the States, the students have come to a greater understanding of what music can do for people. Music overcomes the difficult social, cultural and linguistic barriers, added Sinclair.

“Music, especially of the kind we're offering, seems almost like a commodity in the Korean culture,” Sinclair said. “Particularly in this time of despair and mourning, our audiences are incredibly grateful for the comfort we can give with our music. We're so humbled to be a part of bringing healing to this people.”

THE GIFT OF MUSIC 

In the midst of over 15 performances, long hours of travel and challenges with cultural barriers, the students are finding joy in their experiences. Junior vocal performance major Brad Naden remarked that the passion of the South Korean people has inspired the chorale to keep pursuing God and glorifying him.

“What a gift it has been to share the love of Christ with these people,” said Naden. “God brought us here at a very needed time to comfort and love them. It has impacted all of our lives how they have responded.”

In reflection of the overwhelming response they have received, the chorale members are opening themselves to whatever way God will use them to minister to the people despite being broken people themselves.

“It’s amazing how broken, fickle college students can be used to uplift and encourage a nation. That’s pretty ridiculous,” Weaver said. “God moves in mysterious ways.”

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