This is my 4th and final year at the University of Mobile and my 3rd year travelling with the Voices of Mobile. I would have to say that travelling with Voices has been the highlight of my time at the university. I’ve had so many irreplaceable experiences, like getting to tour Cuba, China and the Philippines this past summer (I know right? All three in one summer, it was incredible). I had never even been out of the country before! I’d never imagined the Lord opening those kinds of doors in my life.
Traveling with an ensemble at the University of Mobile is an awesome experience for a number of reasons… but I would have to say that the best reason of all would be the Christmas and Summer Tours!
So…We just got off of our Christmas tour, I thought I’d give you a few of my favorite parts of the experience!
1. NO CLASSES
One of the challenges of travelling with an ensemble is being on the road every weekend and balancing that travelling with homework assignments and such. Don’t get me wrong, it’s completely possible, and totally worth it, it just takes a little extra effort sometimes.
Tour is like a breath of fresh air. You’re travelling just like the rest of the semester, except in this case…it’s non-stop for 3 weeks, with no classes or homework assignments to do. Therefore, it’s a good time to catch up on some stuff! It’s a great time to catch up on sleep (because we all know you get a little behind during finals), read that book you’ve been trying to read (we all know with normal reading assignments for classes there’s no time to read what you want during the semester), and catch up with your friends (by this point in the semester, without fail, the people in the ensemble have become some of your closest friends).
2. It’s Christmas Time
OK so this one is kind of obvious I’ll admit, but I thought I’d give you a little bit more detail about the reason this is important. Let’s begin with the fact that we get to sing Christmas songs!! Seriously though, who doesn’t love a jazzy version of “Jingle Bells”??? We load the concert with Christmas songs, some popular secular ones like “White Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, but also powerful songs about our Savior like “O Holy Night” and “Strange Way to Save the World.” They’re seriously my favorite songs to sing in Voices each year.
Another Christmas-y tradition is decking out the inside of the bus in Christmas decorations! The whole nine yards: garland, lights, a tiny tree in one of the seats, and don’t forget the ornaments! Each member of the group has an ornament hanging somewhere on the bus that represents their personality in some way (even the bus driver has one). We even had an Elf on the Shelf this year…
And then there’s my personal favorite: SECRET SANTA. I think we all know what Secret Santa is, but in case you don’t…basically, we draw names before we leave campus for tour, and then throughout our time on the road you leave little gifts and/or notes of encouragement for the person you drew. The idea is to keep it a secret until we reveal who we had at the end of tour, and give one final gift.
3. Meeting New People and Hearing New Stories
Alright, so here’s where we get a little more serious. One thing that I will always cherish about my time with Voices is how much I have learned about people. While on Christmas tour, we have the opportunity to be hosted by several people in their homes. It’s so gracious of them to host us. I know it can be daunting housing 2-4 college students; we can be pretty intimidating, I think. But one thing I will always remember, is that every home I stay in is an opportunity to learn something from someone whose life experiences are unlike mine; therefore, there is always something I can learn from them.
For example, on this past tour, I was able to stay with a family for one night in Mississippi. If you asked me his name, I wouldn’t be able to tell you (I am horrible with names) but I’ll always remember what I learned from the father of that family. He took off work Monday morning and took the other Voices guy I was staying with and me to a little “mom and pop” place for breakfast. When we walked in the place, I promise he knew every single person in there. He walked up to each one of them and asked them specifics about how they were doing in whatever situation life currently had them in. He then began to talk to us about the ministry he leads helping those in need financially. Essentially, what I learned from him was how to just plain-ole love people. No motive behind it, no agenda. This man just loved people for the sake of love. Living out the Gospel.
4. The Reason for the Season
My last point is the most important, but honestly, it can be easy to miss. Touring all year can be tiring sometimes, and it can become easy to neglect time spent in God’s word. Christmas tour, however, is a beautiful reminder of why we do what we do. Why we travel every weekend. Christmas tour is a celebration of the literal birth of the Gospel. Yes we sing fun songs, the bus is all decorated, and we get to play Secret Santa…but at the end of the day, we spend that time on the road to spread the news about Jesus’ birth and sing songs in celebration of that.
So when it’s all over, Christmas tour is really just an incredible reminder about what this life is all about. As the tour comes to close, we may be tired physically, but we are fueled up spiritually for the spring and summer of travel ahead of us.
I am grateful for every single moment I’ve had on Christmas tour…And after three years, I’m really gonna miss it.