Recap

What’s up guys.

We totally just finished our last concert before heading back to Willmar! We still have a couple of bookings and concerts before the summer program starts up, but we will pretty much be stationed here until our commitment with CTI ends. To that I say, unofficially, our spring tour is about to come to a close.

As well, since this may be my last personal blog post of the year, I think it’s quite fitting for me to reminisce and take a look back at this year as a whole to figure out the biggest thing I’ve had to overcome.

And the answer that I find to that question initially seems to be excruciatingly frustrating. Because the fact is, the biggest thing I’ve had to overcome is this entire year itself.

If you know me, you also know that I don’t sugarcoat things at all. But before you start getting any wrong ideas, if you asked me to go back in time back to the start of the year, I would have made the same decision to come on this full-time team with this bunch of great individuals. There’s just something about this experience that undoubtedly makes it unforgettable, memorable, and maybe even a little life-changing. And I would tell you time and time again that I truly enjoyed my experience throughout this entire year. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Here’s the problem.

I’ve often been called a piece of tofu growing up.

Why?

If you’ve ever tried to pick up a piece of tofu with a pair of chopsticks, you’d understand. It’s extremely difficult. Most of the time, it’ll just break apart when you try to pick it up.

I’m exactly the same. My immune system is easy to break, and difficult to mend back together. For some reason common colds take longer than average to go away. For some reason shingles start to form on my body as a result of a poor immune system when I’m still only in university. For some reason every little thing that happens to me triggers my asthma during the only year where I have to rely on an out-of-country health insurance policy that I don’t have quite the competency in fully understanding. Heck, I could probably count the number of weeks on one hand throughout this entire year where I wasn’t begging God in the middle of singing a song for Him to somehow get me out of the concert without viciously coughing into the microphone.

Excruciatingly frustrating to not be able to sing like you know you can for most of the year. Excruciatingly frustrating to know that half of the repertoire is instantly gone when Kenny is bedridden. Kenny, you were so foolish to sign up for a musical role that you’d suffer the most in. Kenny, you were so foolish to sign up for a musical role that you’d make your team suffer the most in.

And maybe I was foolish. But it brings me to my next point. All the way back in October, our infamous Hong Kong YFC director told us something that really began to start resonating halfway during this tour.

It is a blessing for us to suffer for the sake of the gospel.

It’s something that seems so simple, and yet rings so true, especially in this circumstance. It is a blessing to suffer for the sake of the gospel. It is when trials, stress, and suffering occurs that we can only rely on God because we don’t have the strength ourselves to overcome our circumstances. It is when trials, stress, and suffering occurs that God displays His glory and His strength through you. Suffering is a regular part of the Christian life. It was never designed to be easy. If ministries like these were so easy, I wonder if every proclaiming Christian would jump headfirst into them. If Christianity was easy, I wonder if every person on this earth would jump headfirst into it.

We always have a choice in how we address our suffering – to either see it as a blessing, or to groan and complain about how difficult our lives are. I’ve complained about my health. We’ve all complained about our sufferings before. I challenge you to see it as a blessing – it’s through our suffering that God’s glory and His strength is displayed.

And I believe this is completely 100% true for me this year. Because it could have been extremely likely that due to my health, I wouldn’t have been able to continue spring tour. It could have been extremely likely that I wouldn’t have been able to continue winter tour. Heck, I might not have even been able to continue fall tour. But here I am writing to you my final personal blog post of my full-time year. And to tell you the truth, I could not be more proud to tell you all that I was able to finish my very first tour singing on stage, and I was able to finish my very last tour singing on stage. And there is no way that this could have been possible through my own strength. Writing this blog post to you in Willmar, after five full tours, is enough evidence of that. It’s not about how I barely made it through each concert still standing on stage. It’s about how I would have NEVER made it through any concert if God’s strength was not displayed through me each time.

Now, I’m NOT saying that you should go and purposely hurt yourself. I think that’s even more foolish. Don’t do that. I believe we should be good stewards of our health and our bodies. What I AM saying though, is to think to ourselves when we are in times of suffering, whether we truly see it as a blessing if it’s for the sake of the gospel.

My friends, it is a blessing for us to suffer for the sake of the gospel. It is when suffering occurs that God displays His glory and His strength through our weakness. And that allows us to remind ourselves that it’s not about us, but it’s all about Him.

On the Road Music Video

Hey, everyone!

We had an idea towards the beginning of our year (back in November) to do a music video while we were driving. Well, six months later we finally got around to it! This song is called Death Was Arrested, and it’s by Northpoint InsideOut. It’s one of our favorites, and one we frequently use to share the gospel. The bridge of the song is a declaration of the freedom we have in Christ, and it’s a beautiful anthem of praise to our Savior. We hope you enjoy!

Hillary…With Five Strings!

Story Time!

Something interesting and unpredictable happened to me in Toronto during one of our concerts there. On this particular evening, we were performing an hour long concert at a church. It started out looking like it would be a pretty “normal” concert. We were able to set up in about 30 minutes, sound check ran smoothly, and I was fairly well prepared for what I was going to say from stage. As the concert started, the first two songs ran pretty smoothly without anything too eventful happening.

Toward the end of the third song, however, as I was strumming agressively on some octaves, my D string suddenly snapped! In disbelief, I stumbled through the rest of the song and then waited for an opportune moment, as the next person was speaking, to grab a new string from my guitar case. Then suddenly it dawned on me: I didn’t have any extra strings in my guitar case! At that moment I realized I had a choice. I could either give up right then and there, or I could continue the concert with only five strings.

This incident reminded me of an illustration in a sermon that I listened to during overseas training in the Fall. This illustration involved a famous violinist named Paganini. During one of his concerts, he broke three strings on his violin. However, despite these odds, he kept playing the Concerto (excellently, at that!) until he was down to only one string. Even with one string, he persisted until the song ended. At the end he took a bow and proclaimed “Paganini with one string!”

I wish that I could say that I played as excellently with five strings as Paganini did with one. I honestly stumbled through the rest of the concert, hitting several wrong notes and having to skip some central lead lines. However, now that I look back, I have no regrets, because I knew that I tried my best.

As I look back at that concert, I realize how applicable this is to my life right now. Right now, as I persist through the end of this year, I feel like my life has a broken string. In other words, there have been times where it feels impossible to continue through the physical and emotional fatigue and difficulties that come my way. It is in these times when I have a choice to make. I can either give up and emotionally check out, or I can persevere with my “five strings” that I have left. During this last leg of tour, I want to choose the ladder option. I want to look back and realize that I did try my best with what I had left!

However, the comforting thing in all of this is that even when I do stumble and make mistakes (as I did in the concert), if I continue to give it my all until the very end, and continue to be a good steward of what God has given me, God will honor that, will give me strength to push through, and still use me, mistakes and all!

distractions.

Distractions are constantly around us. It might look like friends, social media, work, or future plans. For example, just now I was trying to write my blog and got distracted for ten minutes by a bunch of pictures of Phoebe that I’ve collected over the year.

On a more serious note, though, I’ve found myself getting easily distracted from my faith and focus this year. I find myself turning to social media sooner in the morning, rather than starting my day off in the Word. I find myself becoming immersed in thoughts about the future rather than pouring into the people around me. I see myself becoming so concerned with my well-being, needs, and desires that sometimes during concerts my thoughts aren’t even following what my teammates are saying. And that freaks me out. And it drains me.

When I lose focus and start to chase after these things that really don’t fulfill me, I am exhausted. When I am filling myself with social media all the time, it leaves me longing and desiring the lives of people I follow and unhappy with where I’m at. I let myself think about the future a little too much, and start to slip into a lot of worry and doubt which leads to only thinking about myself and my life.  Basically, I’m letting myself get distracted by all these things that will never fulfill me or give me any real value.

This all reminds me a lot of our song Shadows by Tenth Avenue North. The bridge of the songs goes:

All that I run to, all that I cling to

Everything seems to only slip through my hands

See, all these things that I’m getting distracted by are just “slipping through my hands.” Yeah, they give temporary satisfaction. They make me feel good for a little bit, but that’s it. It doesn’t go any further than that.

I cannot put any of my worth on any of these things, because they’re not God. They can’t fulfill me.

My Father is everlasting. He has adopted me into his family, he has forgiven me for everything that I have ever done. He is faithful and always will be. He pursues me. He loves us so much, he took it to the point of death on a cross and rose again so that we could have eternal life. He has given me a name. I am HIS. 

I don’t know about you, but I think that is more fulfilling than social media or my future. I simply have to accept that gift. I simply have repent and say “yes” to Jesus and then I am forever his. I don’t need to search for worth anywhere else, I will have it forever in Jesus Christ.

So when you find yourself becoming easily distracted by these things, remember that you have a Saviour that loves you and died for you, and remember that you have worth and value. You don’t need to find fulfillment anywhere else.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

What is Worship?

Our team spent about a week in Toronto last week. We hung out with some CTI alums (s/o to Sam and Elisa!), ate a lot of good Asian food, and of course, played at schools and churches in the Toronto area. But while we were there, we held 3 workshops for worship teams at the schools and churches we played at. The workshops consisted of us talking about what roles each section in a band should have and how all the instruments can come together cohesively, but we also spent a portion of our time talking about what worship is.

When someone says the word “worship,” or asks you what “worship” is, what thoughts come across your mind? Maybe you might associate worship with music? Or with adoration? Praise? Loving others? Devotionals? Prayer? The list can go on and on. I’ve been thinking about what worship means to me. For a while, I associated worship with music, like playing for worship on a Sunday morning or listening to worship music in the car. And that’s not necessarily wrong, but I’ve come to realize that worship is much greater than that.

By definition, “worship” means to ascribe worth to something.  There is an act of surrender when you worship because you recognize the value and worth in something. You wouldn’t want to worship a bug, for example, because you probably wouldn’t find much value or worth in it. Worship in this case, is valuing or treasuring God above all things because you recognize that He is greater.

When you begin to see worship as more than just music, you start to see how worship can and should permeate every part of your life. You worship God by obeying His commands, by serving one another, by spending time in prayer, etc. Worship is an action. It requires a response. Worship can be summarized as

….a lifestyle.

Worship is a lifestyle. Everything you do can either be worshiping God or…not. Worship is no longer something you’re only doing on Sunday mornings, but something you’re doing every moment of your life.

So I want to challenge you. What does worship mean to you?

This was taken after Sam made us DELICIOUS pork tacos, so it was very easy for us to smile.
We are very excited about our bubble tea. This was 1/5 times we had it in Toronto. I miss it already.

 

Legacy

Hey, everyone!

A few days ago, we posted this video to Instagram asking if there were any alumni or people who have seen a CTI team perform that have been impacted by the ministry, and what sort of legacy it has left on their lives. So if you haven’t seen it yet, check it out! And if CTI has impacted you in any way, please send us a video. #CTILEGACY

 

Photo dump

Hey all, we have been here, there, and everywhere and have pictures to boot! I thought it would be fun and exciting to share some of these photos with y’all, so I’ll cut the chit chat and get down to business.

Phoebe residing inside of a stand barrel in Smithville, ON. It is quite the humorous photo
Niagara Falls from the Canadian side. Majestic and powerful is what I would describe it as.
1421 out on a Sunday lunch with the pastor after a morning service.
A meal from a small family owned restaurant in Monticello, NY. It was called Annie’s Home Style Kitchen and was fantastic. Definitely worth a visit. I rate it a five star.
The ladies of the team looking pretty intimidating with their instruments. Don’t mess with them, but if you do, watch out!
Phoebe and William having a wonderful time in Queens, NY watching the sunset over the ocean.

We are having a fantastic time with this ministry, and are enjoying every opportunity we get to share the Gospel and enjoy the company. We are excited to be spending the rest of the week in Toronto with some CTI Alumni. See y’all on the flip side!

Homebound

What is your home to you?

Last night I got to finally do what everyone else on my team got to do – go back to my hometown. And I think it was a more interesting experience for me specifically. Unlike everyone else, I didn’t go back to my hometown during our Christmas break. Unlike everyone else, I didn’t go back to my hometown during our Easter break either.

I liked to joke around with my teammates that I didn’t really have a home. Sure, my house is in Toronto, but I actually don’t have keys to my house because our family only has one set of house keys. We have a garage door opener at the front as well, but the sensor doesn’t work. If my mom didn’t fly back from Hong Kong a couple of weeks ago to get ready for our team to come by and stay for the night, I wouldn’t have been able to get into my own home. So if you want to try to break into my house, you’ll have to find a creative way ;).

Some people like going home after a long time away. They get to finally connect with their friends and family and just take a break from all the action. Home is the place where they truly feel like themselves and that’s where they truly belong. Home is where people go to get the rest that they need to continue on with their lives.

What is your home to you? Is it a place where you go for rest? Is it a place where you go to relax? Is it a place where you get to finally be yourself?

Is your home a physical place? Perhaps it might be an environment – like being around your closest friends and family.

I identify with a bit of everything above. It’s great being amongst my friends and family as well as being able to unwind and relax. But I wonder why I had been so excited about going home. There’s obviously nothing wrong with that, but it just made me think – am I only excited about going home for the aforementioned reasons? Am I able to look for those same things in Christ, who resides in me and lives in me wherever I am and in every aspect of my life? And if I am, am I constantly chasing after Him for the things that He promises me? A promise to give me rest, to give me an identity, to give me worth, to give me comfort, and to give me peace?

What is your home to you?

 

The Lion of Judah

Hi Everyone!

We are currently in New York hanging out with some alumni.  We’ve been having a great time!  We also have been blessed with some great opportunities for rest, so God is faithful.

One of our songs that we play this year is called, “Lion and the Lamb” by Bethel.  The first half of the chorus goes like this:

Our God is a lion, the Lion of Judah!

He’s roaring with power and fighting our battles.

Who can stop the Lord Almighty?

This is pretty great!  God is powerful and strong.  There are countless passages throughout scripture where God is cited as fighting for us (ex. Romans 8:31).

However, as I was reading my Bible this morning, I stumbled across a verse in Hosea 5:13-15:

When Israel and Judah saw how sick they were,
    Israel turned to Assyria—
to the great king there—
    but he could neither help nor cure them.
I will be like a lion to Israel,
    like a strong young lion to Judah.
    I will tear them to pieces!
I will carry them off,
    and no one will be left to rescue them.
Then I will return to my place
    until they admit their guilt and turn to me.
For as soon as trouble comes,
    they will earnestly search for me.

Man… that makes you think twice about celebrating that God is like a lion… You see, in this point of the Bible, Israel had rebelled against God a countless number of times.  They deserved to be punished and nothing on earth could protect them from the wrath of God.  The anger of God can be like the attack of a lion.  Nothing can stop it.

After reading this verse, it made me think, “How can we celebrate that God is like a lion?”

I did some research and this metaphor is not alone.  There are countless times throughout scripture that wrath is referred to as a lion.  BUT I did find Hosea 11:9-11

No, I will not unleash my fierce anger.
    I will not completely destroy Israel,
for I am God and not a mere mortal.
    I am the Holy One living among you,
    and I will not come to destroy.
For someday the people will follow me.
    I, the Lord, will roar like a lion.
And when I roar,
    my people will return trembling from the west.
Like a flock of birds, they will come from Egypt.
    Trembling like doves, they will return from Assyria.
And I will bring them home again,”
    says the Lord.

Why do these people come running to the Lion?

Because He became the Lamb for us.

We all deserve the lion-like wrath of God because we have gone against Him and His commandments.  But God, who is rich in mercy and grace, loved YOU so much that He gave up His position as the powerful lion to become a weak sacrificial lamb.  He paid the price that we deserved to pay by receiving the wrath of God on the cross.

But the Lion didn’t stay dead.  He rose again!  And if you have faith and believe in Jesus as your Savior, then you can have access to the one who is now “roaring with power and fighting our battles!”

Who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Our Adventures This Week!

Hey Everyone! This first week and a half has been a very eventful one for all of us. From Minnesota to New York, we have at times done three concerts a day and have been driving for long periods of time. Yet it has been an amazing adventure, and I wanted to share with you some of the places we have been during this eventful beginning of tour!

1. Churches and youth groups! Whether it has been a Sunday morning service or a Wednesday night youth gathering, we have had incredible opportunities playing at churches. Sometimes we have played for the worship portions of services, while other times we had the whole hour to perform a program. So far we have played at churches in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

2. Colleges and Christian highschools! We have played for Christian gatherings at public colleges and many chapel services at highschools this past week. So far we have played at schools in Minnesota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. 

3. Ministries! We have had the incredible opportunity of playing for two ministries during this first week of tour! One of them was a YFC (Youth for Christ) located in Columbus Ohio. The other one was a rescue mission located in Wilmington, DE.

At all of these places, we were incredibly blessed by all of the people we encountered and their provision for us. We were very encouraged by our interractions with contacts, hosts, and concert attendees this week! Therefore, even though the beginning of tour has been very busy, I have come out this week feeling blessed: blessed by the opportunities that God has given us as a team, and blessed by the people God has placed in my life!