Encountering God Through Music
2:23PM Sep 9, 2022
Jenny Jee-El Park
If we are the body of Christ, and we don't honor, and share, and support, and train the gifts that God has given to the church, we are going to have a heart attack because of lack of circulation.
Hi, friends, welcome back to another episode of Ideas Have Consequences. Today's show was amazing and I learned so much and I hope all of you are able to stick around for the entire interview with this week's honored guest. As always, our mission on this podcast and our mission as Christians is to spread the gospel around the world to all the nations. But our mission also includes transforming the nations to increasingly reflect the truth, goodness and beauty of God's kingdom. Tragically, the church has largely neglected the second part of our mission and today, Christians have little influence on their surrounding cultures. Join us on this podcast and rediscover what it means for each of us to disciple the nations and to create Christ honoring cultures that reflect the character of the living God.
Well, welcome again to another episode of Ideas Have Consequences, the podcast of the Disciple Nations Alliance. I'm Scott Allen. I'm the host of this podcast. And I'm here once again with the team Darrow Miller, Dwight Vogt, Tim Williams, Luke Allen, and today we have a very special guest, Jenny Jee-El Park. And I'm going to introduce Jenny briefly and we're going to jump into our conversation with Jenny today. We're going to be talking about the intersection of biblical truth and beauty. Jenny is a native of South Korea. She now lives in Southern California. And she is a concert pianist, a professional musician. She is active in Southern California as a soloist, a chamber musician, educator, producer and arranger. And she also directs a ministry called Music Across Borders, which I'm looking forward to hearing more about. Jenny was born in South Korea. But now lives, as I said, in Southern California. Received her bachelor's degree in piano performance from the Manhattan School of Music, and her master's degree in music education from the Teacher's College of Columbia University, all the way back in New York. She made her Carnegie Hall debut in 1998 as the winner of artists international special presentation award. And that was followed by numerous concerts throughout Europe, Asia, and North America. Jenny, I want to hear more from you, but that gives our listeners a little bit of a background of who you are. So anyways, it's a real honor to have you with us today.
Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Well, it's really exciting to have you on Jenny. And I've not met Jenny face to face yet. I have that honor next week, when I'm over in Dana Point for the concert that she's going to be giving, but we've met through zoom and some calls on the phone. But Jenny read the book, "A Call for Balladeers." I asked her to read it for an endorsement. And she read it, sent me a wonderful endorsement. Read it again a couple of days later, sent me some things that would improve the book, some changes to make. And she said "Darrow I want to do a concert to launch this book." So Jenny has... what would you call it? We've begun a journey. The Disciple Nations Alliance has never done a concert. I've never done a concert. And Jenny has taken us on a journey that we have described over the last few months as a wild goose chase.
Yeah, it's exciting. It's exciting. And for our listeners who may have missed some previous podcasts too, I'll just catch you up. Darrow is referring to his newest book, "A Call for Balladeers." And that book is going to be released imminently. And you can go to, Tim, what's that website again?
Acallforballadeers.com. You can learn more about the book, read those endorsements, including one from Jenny and put your name down on a list to be notified when the book is available and how you can get yourself a copy.
Well, Jenny, it's a delight to have you. My guess is we would be able to spend hours just hearing your story, hearing your passion, learning about your life. And I'd like to begin with a very general question. And that is Jenny, what is your passion?
My passion is to preserve my first love, which is God as well as music. And it's a real fight. It's a real fight to be faithful and enjoy it, and share it, and keep myself from being deceived. I don't know if I'm being clear enough since it's a general question. I fell in love with music and just with any love, you don't work to fall in love, it just hits you. It just happens. And I remember my mom saying that—this was when I was in Korea, I must be like five or six years old, and I was listening to some cassette tape by Tamás Vásáry playing Chopin Waltz or whatever—and she was telling me how I was lying on the floor with my legs crossed. Somehow, crying, I didn't know I was crying, I vaguely remember it. But it's this encounter with beauty even through that cassette tape, something really touched me. And so I would say that's kind of like when I met my husband, it was the same kind of experience. It just happened, you know. And, of course, with God, he loved me first, but then I did fall in love with him. And so I guess it's just a way of staying whole, and not compartmentalize myself, which is what the culture really demands from me every step of the way, and not just the culture, even the church. So I think I've suffered schizophrenia for a long time. And so it is this discovery of that first simple truth, the encounter with beauty, and love, and God that it is one in the same experience. But how to articulate that and how to hold on to that truth, that was the story of my battle, I guess. Yeah. So that is my passions is to live a life of love and enjoy it. Yeah.
And your passion for music began as a five year old, laying on the floor, listening to Chopin. What happened from there?
Well, um, so my father was sent to pastor a Korean American congregation in New York, New Jersey metropolitan area, and I was by that time, 12 years old. And, of course, my dad never owned—he's passed away now—but my dad never owned a house. You know, we were not well off by any means. And so piano lessons were a luxury. But when I came to the States, I think I suffered a mild depression of some sort, because I miss my friends. And I didn't even know the alphabet. So it was a real shock for me. And one of the church members who was studying at the Manhattan School of Music for her graduate degree, wanted to take me on as her student, and she was preparing me for their audition. So that school has what's called the preparatory division for pre college level, but you have to audition, and you have to pay tuition as well. And so she prepared me for the audition. And she said, for you to really have a guaranteed acceptance—a little corruption story here—you have to play for my teacher, Mr. Fishbein. So she took me to him and I played for him. And I don't know why, he asked me what my name was and I said, Well what's your name? Like, tell me your name first or something. I don't remember it, this is what he told me. And he liked my attitude or something and he decided to take me under his wings. And so from then on, for 10 years, I was on full scholarship and I studied with this really famous, well known teacher. And that's when my formal training began. And it was a real gift because my dad otherwise couldn't afford to pay for piano lessons.
Hi, friends to learn more about Darrow Miller his newest book, "A Call for Balladeers, Pursuing Art and Beauty for the Discipling of Nations," go to this episode's landing page, where you can read about the book, watch the promo video, and learn when the first copy is printed so that you can get yours right away. As we mentioned in this episode, there is a concert that Jenny is hosting to launch this book, which is this Friday, the 16th in Dana Point, California. So if you're in the area, you're absolutely welcome to join, the entire night is free, and there will be books ready for you if you go. To learn more about the concert, visit this episode's landing page. And by the way, when the guys mentioned that the concert is going to be next week, that's because we actually recorded this a week ago. So they're actually referring to this Friday. As always, if you could send us a rating and review that would be great. And share this episode with a friend. Thanks and I hope you enjoy the rest of the episode.
So you learned to be a pianist. And you combine that with a love of beauty.
I've always loved music. And I love piano because it's very physical. You know, you literally hitting hammers. So if you want to play loud, you have to exert that much force, you know, very straightforward. I experienced a lot of moments where the music was interacting with me. And it was opening a landscape that otherwise I wouldn't have imagined existed. And the world of sound was just so vast, and you know, so much to explore. But all those years, of course, I played for all of—I was the free accompaniment for my dad's charge, you know, play for all of their Sunday services, revivals, what have you. And what I experienced through playing old hymns for these first generation Korean immigrants was, what the Spirit does to the musical experience. What shouldn't be an aesthetic experience becomes a powerful experience when the Holy Spirit enters the picture. And I think I was able to take that experience into playing Chapin and Bach. I just needed a way to have the world be one, not separated. And you talk about that in your book a lot, the divide between secular and sacred and how that is just engineered by man, it's really not the biblical truth.
You've mentioned your life and your spirit entered the world of sound. And you've also said the Spirit of God has worked in you and the music. Can you unpack those two thoughts for us? You know, and I've said this to you before, I love artists. I've tried to encourage artists for years. But I don't have a drop of artistry in me, whether it's music or drawing or drama or anything. And so you've said some things here, entering the world of sound. The Spirit of God moving you to a new level. Tell us more about that.
Well, to be honest, the limitations of me as a musician is really what everyone feels in their limitations of abilities. There's so much you can do to get the passage right, you practice, you can do all that. But at the end of the day, the experience of beauty is a gift. Because you can play all the notes perfectly, and you can do everything in good intonation, and you can plan the whole thing.
Technically. Technically. But there is this another dimension that you have no control over. And, you know, it's really a gift. It's really a gift. Because you could you could play a perfect piece, you can play it perfectly technically speaking, and you're not moved, your audience is therefore not moved. And it was just like, What the heck was that? But I have faith that the process—I have learned to really value the process of practicing self discipline, and being really sincere about this gift of being a musician, but then when the performance time comes, I just let go, because I've done all I can. And so it's now you offer it up to God, and this is the realm that God has to operate, and God has to accept it. And so it is literally a worship for me when I give concerts, whether it's in the liturgical sense in the church or outside of the church. And that mindset, that perspective actually changes everything.
For example, the measure of success becomes different. It's not like the commodity of music, how much money it's making, how much it's selling, or how prestigious is the venue, or... those are not even a concern. Because from the very beginning, it's a gift, the whole process is a gift. And I operate within the freedom of being the recipient of that gift, and just trying to be a good steward and enjoy it myself. And that is the reward for me. Music is the reward for me. And that's why I say this a love relationship. Music isn't a stepping stone to something else, it is not being used to gain something else. And I think that really opens up a lot of doors for me, because I could give concerts at nursing homes, or home for the handicapped or mentally handicapped, or whatever the setting it may be, and whatever the—how did this conversation start, what was your original question?
It was a phrase you used, "Entering the world of sound." And I've never heard those words, "entering the world of sound" before. And I thought, well, she understands something I do not understand. I want to understand this. But it also sounds that what you were doing is not only entering this world of sound yourself, but you are bringing that world of sound to other people.
Yes, I am entering that beautiful world of sound as a Christian. And so it's literally like you open the door, like in the CS Lewis story, you know, and like whole new world opens up before you through the wardrobe. Right? And it's because if you're not a Christian, let's say you don't fear God, there is the temptation of wanting to usurp or the temptation to want to possess or claim as yours or that's a selfish motive. And so, entering the world of sound just basically means, in the world of sound, there is syntax just like language, there's logic, there's expression. Just like entering the world of language, it's the same thing. But sound is a little bit more sensuous, and directly physically felt because you're dealing with frequency and vibration that you literally feel, right?
Jenny, I hear you, when I listen to your talk, it reminds me of something that we teach a lot on here. It's the old reformers phrase, the Latin phrase "Coram Deo." And it means "Before the face of God," and I always go back to those early reformers, they understood something very profound, and it affected their daily life, that they, as you were saying, everything is a gift from God, it all comes from him. But we're his image bearers and we we have a role to play in this. We partner with God, in a sense. And they understood that in terms of their vocation, the different tasks that they did. But at the end of the day, it was all for God's glory. And so it was this very much God saturated kind of way of living and understanding the world. And I'm hearing something like that when I listened to you talk, are you familiar with that concept "Coram Deo" and does that get to what you're talking about?
Yeah. So like, it's also a privilege of Christian to have somebody to thank, right? And I thank God for the laws of physics, which gave us—for those musicians out there listening to the podcast, what's called tonal music, and we have the home key tonic, right. And then we have the dominance and sub dominance and we have this play of tones that result in certain psychological response from the listener. There is science to music. And of course, laws of nature. This is a reason why I sent you that article of the Congress for cultural freedom. And the CIA, because they also try to promote not only post modernist artworks, but also 12 tone, atonal music. So atonal music is very synthetic. Because in real nature, the laws of acoustics dictate that certain tones are not more grounded. And the overtones that go on top of that gives us the diatonic scale. And so in the world of sound, you know, there's a lot of room for interplay with other disciplines, whether it's science, or mathematics, or literature, or theology.
Well, you're kind of blowing our mind here, Jenny. You're kind of blowing our minds here a little bit, ya know?
Great. What Darrow's book did, is, of course, he's not a musician, right? Darrow you said, you're—
No, I'm not.
By trade that is, who knows how gifted you are musically, but by trade, you're not. But it is this platform. A marketplace of ideas to come together. But artists and musicians come because we have a lot to contribute, we have a lot to say. And Darrow has kind of made a playing field for everyone to come, basically a big party, you know, just come and let's share ideas. And let's see, let's discover more about this world that God created and gave it to us.
And what I'm hearing you say, in these moments, Jenny, is this world of sound, it's sound but there's a larger universe out there, of which the world of sound is part. And the world of sound is like a doorway into Narnia. It's a doorway into another realm that we have a hard time experiencing in our materialistic framework that we have in the Western world.
Into God's presence into heaven, in a sense.
Yeah, exactly. Because right now, we're all kind of being misled to believe in this cult scientism? Where honest Christian scientists or honest scientists in general will say that there is the realm of physical and the metaphysical. And science, no matter how advanced it is, the realm of metaphysical is not for the empirical data to enter.
Yes, yeah. You can't enter that realm.
If it exists at all, right?
Yes, you cannot. But then I think it's a mistake to be Platonic about it and just put it hierarchy over what's metaphysical is above physical, because we serve incarnate God. Our job is to enjoy the metaphysical and the physical reality together, and not having to keep separating the two or put it in some sort of a hierarchy. And, you know, not put all the funding into like STEM, but put some funding to art.
To all you STEM people out there, we love you, too.
There's more than STEM.
I want to go back to a comment you made about 10 minutes ago, you said, you can perform perfectly but you cannot deliver this thing called Beauty because beauty in its essence is a gift. And it sounds like you're saying that's the intersection of the physical and the metaphysical, something happens special. And somehow you connected that to the Spirit of God working in a concert. Is that what I heard?
Yeah, I really think that music is different from visual arts. It's performing arts because it exists in time. But what else exists in time? Relationship. And so right now I'm trying to really explore the connection between the law, because I'm exploring the idea of biblical idea that the origin of law is love, right? Love the Lord, love your neighbor, and therefore you have the 10 commandments. And the origin is love, and that is the mind of Christ. Then law and beauty shouldn't really be disconnected. They're both beautiful. For example, the commandment of Sabbath. Sabbath is basically putting premium of time over money, saying it takes time to be holy, meaning it takes time to have a relationship with God. Speaking of "Coram Deo" and for me, for artists, time is a lot more valuable than money. That's why you have that proverbial poor artists, I guess.
Wow, Jenny, you've got some incredibly deep insights. I'm just like, we're all just kind of—
That's why I wanted to have this discussion.
And I've never thought about music at the level that you're talking about it today. Honestly, thank you for taking us down this road here that we haven't been down before. It's amazing. So I would
Going back to what Dwight was asking. So yes, it is a relationship so I expect to encounter God in music. Because this is how I have a relationship with with God. You see, it's my mode of choice.
I wanted to touch on something you said and take it to CS Lewis's, I think it's "The Magician's Nephew" where Aslan creates Narnia. And if you remember that incredible scene... The Bible begins with the word of God speaking the universe into existence. The Word. Words. But Aslan sings the universe of Narnia into existence. And this goes back to what you were talking about a minute ago. Music and math. These things are not separated. And most of us think they're separate things. Beauty and science are not separated. We think of them as sciences over here, it's abstract. And over here you have beauty. It's the heart. It's the wonder. And in a materialistic framework, we separate these things and cannot conceive of them together. But in a biblical framework, where there is a final integration point of all things in God Himself, the creator of the universe, the creator of all this diversity, the final integration point is in him. And so you have Aslan, singing Narnia into existence? And how do we use the world of sound as a gateway into this deeper realm that's right there, that we often cannot see or experience?
Well, I dwell on the idea not only of Coram Deo, but Imago Dei. Imago Dei, actually, "image of God." From Genesis 1:27. So if we are serving a Trinitarian God, there is also try unity of man. And this is how I got to meet Wilberforce Institute. And I basically told them, you know, you have logos and ethos, but you're missing pesos. And they said, come on board and help us. And this is how it worked. But I guess what I'm saying is we kind of label ourselves or limit ourselves. We voluntarily put ourselves in a closed system, where the rules are not really all necessarily of God, or natural laws. It's kind of like a municipal laws, like, don't go over 55 miles an hour or something like that. But that kind of separation, I think, has really affected us. And kind of limit ourselves.
I am not good at math. Or I'm not as good at math, as I'm good at music, or whatever. It doesn't matter to me. Because, you know, whether I read history, or theology, or physics, or whatever my mind takes me my curiosity takes me, I see that I'm always looking through the prism of a musician, thats the glasses I'm wearing, that's how I see the world because that's how I can process and interpret everything I see. So even when I studied geometry, or algebra, the formulas, you know, I see the parallels in music. When I look at theological tenets, I see the metaphors directly from the music. And the beauty of everything having relationship. It's all related, that we are not kind of like one isolated atom, but we're part of this bigger existence.
That to me can be one of the definitions of beauty, like finishing a jigsaw puzzle, and you see the whole picture and it's all making sense. And there's so much joy when you see that and I feel that when you talk about Aslan singing the world into creation, the connection there is nobody really knows where speech stops and song begins. But when you have a heightened emotion, it becomes a song. So that's why even rap is music because there's rhythm, right? And to take it one step further, not to put anything in hierarchical structure, I always imagined myself as someone who's singing through my 10 fingers. Because at the end of the day, all music is a song. But then all song is part of speech. And that speech was in the beginning, the creative force.
So it all connects.
Would you call—you know, this thinking of song and music and language has me wondering—I'm thinking about the universality of music. Is it a common language? You know, we have different languages, we speak different languages. I just came back from Chile and I needed an interpreter. And it was challenging, right? I don't speak Spanish. But there's something about music that strikes me. It transcends the differences in language, there is a kind of a universality to it. What are your thoughts on that?
Yes, I do think that there is something that universally common. But then there's so much room for diversity. So it's kind of having the same roots, but different branches. I'm not an ethnomusicologist, but the pentatonic scale is found in every culture. And so there is psychology of tone, we do have a certain reaction. Like when you go to a contemporary church service. Every time they modulate up a key, everyone raises their hands. There's a reason why marketing executives hire psychologists and musicians to control our behavior through sound. So just make sure you don't mistake Holy Spirit with the emotional engineering through sound. They're not the same thing.
Yeah. Oh, Jenny. This is so fun and profound.
What's your next book Jenny?
I know? Seriously.
You're gonna need to find somebody to dumb it down for some of us.
Seriously, you need to write Jenny, yeah.
You mentioned your fingers were the place that the you spoke through your fingers. And it reminds me of Jeremiah and Mona Enna from the Storling Dance Theater. I remember their story in the book. And I was at one of their ballet theaters a few years ago, when they invited the schools in Kansas City to bring their students to see this ballet. And then they did a question and answer for the students. And one of the students asked Mona why her legs were exposed. And she said, that's how I speak, through my legs. And it's true, in ballet there's no—it's not like a play where you have a voice coming through your lips, but you speak through your legs and your dance. And it helps you enter this larger world that God has made, that without dance, you wouldn't have that particular gateway into the world, into the universe.
Yeah, you said music is my path. And I don't know whether it's your language path, or whether it's your path to experiencing the world or God's world. Could you unpack that a bit more? Because I know I'm thinking, what's my path? As soon as you said that I was like, what's my path?
Are you haveing a midlife crisis Dwight?
Well, I might be. I didn't know I was.
He just bought a red Corvette.
What do you mean by "path," a little bit more than that?
Well, I feel like, it's kind of undeniable that I didn't choose music, but music chose me, if that makes any sense. And this idea of like, life, as well as everything about me, is a gift. And to recognize that be thankful for that and to live life using that set of gifts God gave me it really puts me at peace. So that's what I mean by path. I do many other things than just play the piano. But, like I said, piano is my first love. And even when I compose or when I do transcribing, or arranging or even conducting, I always use the piano to study that score. And I love Bach because he is my role model as far as being a theologian musician. And I talk a little bit about that at the concert. But there's so much to be discovered that God has already created in the world. And I think it's either our laziness, or lack of curiosity or love of comfort, or whatever, that just makes us settle with whatever has already been figured out. We really need as a church, this adventurous spirit of like wanting to discover more about God, and make that final connection back to God and say, Thank You, Lord, for giving us this beautiful whatever-it-is.
Wow, that's so powerful.
It reminds me—
—I want to see what questions you guys have. So go ahead.
Sure, sure. I was just going to respond to Dwight and Jenny for a quick second, it reminds me of a book I came across years ago. I can't say I read the whole thing to recommend it. But it was called "Sacred Pathways" by Gary Thomas. And it's nine ways to connect to God. And so you know, I mean, he has "Naturalis," loving God outdoors. "Traditionalists," loving God through ritual and symbol. "Activists," loving God through confrontation. "Caregivers." "Enthusiasts," loving God with mystery and celebration. So as you talked about a path, I think we all have certain things that when we experience it, it's easier to connect with God than others. For me, I can be inside all day long, and I can try and experience God. But the moment I walk outdoors, it is nearly immediate. I get the idea that it's not that way for everybody. But it's it's that way for me, you know, 100% of the time. So that's something that made me think about. Luke? Comment from you?
Same. I mean, when you guys were talking about path, I remember my pastor mentioned this a few weeks ago on a sermon about God's will. And he said, what is God's will for you life, it's a hard question. And it's sometimes broad, but it's the intersection of your God given gifts and things God has burdened you with. Or you could say, your passions in a way. Your passions instead of burdens. But you know, not every five year old is going to be laying on the floor being brought to tears through Chopin. So that is clearly a burden in a way.
No, I that that really struck me too Jenny when you said that. Clearly, that reveals something about how God made you, the fact that you had that experience. And it reminded me, it's interesting you brought up Bach, because we heard a few years ago, I used to live in Japan, and I have a huge heart for that country. And I had heard a story, I can't speak to exactly how true this is, but that Bach was becoming incredibly popular with this kind of new generation of young Japanese. And that as a result, many of them were even coming to Christ. And it just really moved me, of just the power of music and the universality of music and especially his music, as you said, he's a musician theologian. He lived coram deo, I always give him as an example, when I teach on that concept of coram deo, because that's how he functioned as a musician. I think he was very much like the way I hear you talking about your relationship to music, and how powerful that is, even over generations in very different cultures. It's really moves me.
Jenny... Go ahead.
No, that was just a "yeah."
I'd like to ask you, how did the book impact you? And what happened for you to write to me and say, I want to do a concert to launch the book.
The book, I appreciate it because it wasn't coming from the academia or the musical world or even from the pulpit. I liked the fact back that you met real people out in the mission field and you were willing to listen to the struggles of creative young musicians or artists in the church. And I always felt that if we are the body of Christ, and we don't really honor and share, and support and train, the gifts that God has given to the church, we are going to have a heart attack because of lack of circulation. Because there's so much unequal distribution of funds for different work that we do as a church. And there is this blind spot, from the leadership top-down. So it was really refreshing to read Darrow's book, because he is in the mission work and teaching and discipling. And for him to recognize this untapped resource that we have in the church, and to really speak about that, and imagining in my head that that's going to encourage somebody out in the world. And give that man or woman hope and validation. And so that's what got me excited that oh, I'm glad. Because I want this book to be read widely. Because again, it's going to bring people together and open up a platform of debate and conversation that's really needed, sorely needed these days.
What's the blind spot?
Yeah, I was gonna ask that. Is it the same thing that you referred to when you said, when you joined Wilberforce, there was an emphasis on ethos and logos, but not pathos. Is that the blind spot you're speaking of?
Well, I don't want to make any enemies, so this is just my personal opinion. But I just, I felt that the church is really verbose. And as very Greek in the way we present the gospel, very linear, like presenting an argument and having to find justification for our faith, and then finding a way to persuade other people to agree with us. The blind spot is, like I said, we're leaving out God. I can prepare all I want for the concert. But if the real living God's presence does not join the concert, it's just a futile venture.
So what that means is that encounter with God can't be just abstract, and mental, and cognitive, because like, I was talking about triunity of man, you know, the whole person has to encounter God. And in that we are missing the beauty and the emotions and the heart knowledge experience. That is missing. And the idea of God's economy has a completely different calculator, right? Because like one loaf of bread feeds like 5000, or two loaves, whatever. But that economy of like, completely open system, because God can and does create, that we're not in this Malthusian closed system of like fighting over limited resources and survival of the fittest. That's not the world we live in. If that is the case, then we shouldn't always focus on meeting the needs of the poor in the most physical sense by feeding them food. But we also have to honor them by providing avenues of beauty and growth in that sense, not just physical, but metaphysical. So I feel like the mission work that we do really needs to honor the entire person and not just take care of one part of ourselves.
Wow, that's really profound. Yeah.
Does that make sense?
And it is true that people who are poor are not defined by their poverty. They are the very image of the living God. And the wealth for them is realizing that. That they are the image of God, and what is the vast potential that they have as a human being made in the image of God? And how do we unleash that potential. And one of the stories that we tell in the book is about a young man from India who came to understand these things. And he was working in poor villages doing health care among the poor. And he told me one day when I was with him in India, he said, "Darrow, I'm so frustrated, because I'm an artist and a musician. And I've given up my art and my music to help the poor and that's my calling to help the poor." And I said to him, who told you, you had to separate those things? They are integrated in your life. What is the world going to look like when you have those integrated instead of separated in your life, and some of the things that he has ended up doing with the poor through art and music, to help them understand they're the Imago Dei. Help them to understand their ability to be creative. Even if they're living on the streets in India. It's opening a new world for them, that you're talking about that that bigger universe.
I want to share a story with you all because it had a bigger impact on me. In 2019, I visited Nigeria. Jos is the name of the city. And I visited the shelter where the Christian girls who were abducted by the Boko Haram, the school bus incident. Those girls who they know are Christians, had to be protected because they didn't want to get abducted again. And there's a whole separate story about that. But that's not the one I want to talk to you about. I went to a women's prison with a SIM missionary there. And there, the missionary wanted to read Bible study for the women. And so she brought her iPhone, and she played like mp3 of some song that was really popular in America, among the contemporary worship-verse, whatever. And there was really no response from the ladies there. And none of them really committed any crime. They are just suffering injustice of the court system. And then, and I just said, I want to hear what you normally do when you have gathering by yourself and worship. And then they took out all of these homemade drums and things like that. And they started singing in their own language, and they started dancing around. And it was just the most beautiful music I've ever heard.
Yeah, there's nothing like Africa when it comes to music. It's amazing.
And so I think, again, when we do mission work, we have to make sure that our culture is not superior. I am a classically trained pianist, but I dare not look down on other forms of music, because to have an elitist attitude, not only is it unbiblical, it does music disservice, because that's not the point. But so, it's not like you have to go and teach these people how to read music, the Western notation system, they already have that. They already have that culture. But how to put that into a biblical worldview in line with God's teaching and God's love so that it's redemptive. They already have the culture, they already have the music. But how can it be redemptive and redeeming rather than used for idol worship or what have you. So that's a story I wanted to share. Because I learned a lot from that. A lot of humility and making a lot of making room to appreciate all kinds of music and seeing God in that genre as well.
You helped to create Music Across Borders, can you tell us, and our audience a little bit about that, and how that is playing a role in the concert and book signing next week?
Okay, so Music Across Borders is founded by Dr. James Melton, who I worked with him at Vanguard for a long time, he was the head of the music department. He's a wonderful Christian. I think he's a Baptist pastor, actually. And choral director, and has been very active in the world of choral music. But we found ourselves being asked to visit different places for short term teaching missions. So I've been going to a school in Cebu called Emmanuel Bible College several times, he goes to school in Manila, India, Bangalore, and China, Beijing, many, many different places where there is definitely a need for training. And under training, its musical skills, as well as theology, biblical worldview. And we find that there's a lack of resources for these people, because American universities or Christian schools with that kind of program is way too expensive.
And so we were trying to find ways to meet them where they are, and give them the resources that they need, and use technology. So we did a lot online teaching as well, and develop videos that can be shared for teaching. So we're trying to kind of fill in the gap, where there's so many talented young people who have absolutely no economic means to do anything with their gifts, except to go and work as a nanny or call centers or whatever. And not everybody needs to be a dental assistant to come out of poverty, there has to be a way for the church to support these people so that they will be the next artists, musicians, worship leaders for the kingdom of God.
And so that is basically our mission, which is to be a little bit more hands on and practical. And gather resources and partner and network with existing organizations. Our motto is, do not reinvent the wheels. Somebody's already done it, just go shake hands and partner MOU and go together. So we're very young, it's only been a little over two years, I believe. And so that is our mission, in any case. And also, I tried to give a lot of public concerts for free for the community. But make sure that it's not churchy music, but it's really good quality, beautiful music with really wonderful professional musicians who are Christians or who are in line with our mission. So we've given a lot of free concerts in the past. And we continue to do that for the upcoming event or book launch/concert next Friday. I don't know if you remember, I literally was writing down as quickly as I can with a pencil, a piece of paper, the idea that that just popped in my head as I was reading the book for the second time. And so I just, if you remember, I just sent it to you Darrow and I said, I don't know what to do with it. But I wrote it down. And then I guess that began the wild goose chase.
Jenny, is there a website for your your organization Music Across Borders the organization or is there some way that people can learn more and connect with you and with what you're doing there?
Sure. It's musicxborders.com. Instead of "across" spelled out, just use the letter "X." Musicxborders.com.
Okay, perfect. And what about you personally? Is there any way that people can connect with you? Or is the best way through that?
You can email me. But I am trying to, you said that I should write a book and—Lord help me. There should never be. I'm not a writer—but I am working on a course called "Music, from Cult to Culture."
Yeah, you know, I think when we were encouraging you in that way, Jenny, it's just because you're saying things that I think are so important and profound. I have not heard these things before. But I think it's really important what you're saying. So I'm sure that many people would feel that way. And you began our conversation today by saying, Darrow asked, what's your passion? And you kind of said, I'm struggling to maintain my passion in the midst of a world that's trying to compartmentalize me, I guess, and I think we all feel that. And you've got something to help us with there. So I wouldn't mind you talking a little bit more about that. But I feel like maybe we need to have you back Jenny at another time to go into that conversation. So yeah.
Yeah, feel free to email me if you have any questions, personal questions, or whatever. It's firstname.lastname@example.org. And I'll try to answer as much as I can.
Well, it's very generous.
Give us a couple of minutes on "Cult to Culture," the book that you have in your head.
It's a course that I'm trying my best to put together into, I don't know, like set of 12 weeks or even 10 weeks, and try to launch it using Wilberforce International Institute, their platform.
Yes. And just just a quick plug for Wilberforce Academy. And this is the ministry that our dear friend Bob Osburn was the founder of and in Minneapolis, we've had Bob on the podcast here multiple times.
Yeah. So their mentees, you know, they mentor a lot of international students who have gone through the US school system, and they go back to their countries of origin, and do a lot of ministry. Not necessarily in the church, the sacred, quote unquote "sacred" side. A lot of them run schools or a lot of them work with children. And a lot of them have to deal with culture. And so I just wanted to give those lay people who are not musicians, or who have no interest in being a musician, some kind of a biblical framework, where they can pastor and nurture musically gifted, inclined students in their midst. Or how to make sure that we don't reduce this gift of music to just propaganda and utilitarian, functional, fill in the dead time thing, how can it really be a source of spiritual food and spiritual weapon. So those are the questions that I have. And if that does get finished, then I do launch it in the fall. It will be announced next Friday, during the concert.
We'll look forward to seeing that when you're finished with it.
Jenny. What an honor to have you with us today. Just so rich, incredible. And we're looking forward to being in your part of the world next week and seeing each other face to face. So anyways, we look forward to the exciting opportunity to meet you in the launch of Darraw's new book, the aall of balladeers, "The Call for Balladeers." That would be the call for balladeers.com, right, Tim?
A call for balladeers.
Acallforballadeers.com. And so we're excited about that, too. Yeah, exactly. Jenny, thank you so much. We'd love to have you back. And boy, I know we just kind of scratched the surface on some of the things we'd love to explore further with you. So if you don't mind, we might bug you again by coming back on the podcast.
Thank you, Jenny. And we'll see you end of next week.
Okay, sounds good.
And thank you all for listening to another episode of Ideas Have Consequences the podcast of the Disciple Nations Alliance.