University Singers Perform in Puerto Rico Over Spring Break

The University Singers infront of Castillo San Felipe del Morro.

Southwestern Adventist University’s small choir, the University Singers, recently spent 12 days on a musical mission trip in Puerto Rico.  The group toured the entire island, singing 15 concerts and a few unplanned mini-concerts during the trip.  Traveling with them was Director Jonathan Wall, accompanist Dr. John Boyd, Pastor Jose Pagan with his family, and photographer Elia King.

“This mission trip was different than most,” says Stephanie Rudisaile, a sophomore English major and alto in the choir.  “It didn’t involve building a church or school.  There was no physical goal for us to accomplish.  Instead our goal was to hopefully bless those that heard our singing.

“At first I had a hard time seeing the tour as a mission trip.  Then I remembered that music can often reach people where words often cannot.  I even felt blessed from our songs, especially towards the end of our trip. This made me realize how big a difference music can make.”

The singers landed in San Juan late the first night after their four-hour flight from Dallas-Love Field.   They greeted the island by singing the end of one of their songs, “The Battle of Jericho.”  They unloaded their luggage and blew up their air mattresses in the floor of a local church, where they would sing their first concert.

The University Singers performing at Metropolitan Adventist Academy in Puerto Rico.

A variety of churches and schools throughout the island welcomed the University Singers with open arms.  They opened up their fellowship halls, cafeterias, libraries and more to make sure the singers had a place to stay and food to eat.  “The hospitality on the island was unbelievable,” says freshmen nursing major Elaine McDonald, another alto from the choir.

An example of the amazing hospitality can be found with one woman who stayed up all night so that she could wash the choir’s performance clothes.  Another person took a group of girls to her home and volunteered the use of her own shower.  A pastor and his wife spent the night with the choir just so they could be there in case someone needed something.  People everywhere were willing to help out in whatever way they could.

Almost every night during their 12 days on the island they slept in a different spot. “I was really impressed with the adaptability of everyone on this trip,” says Boyd.   In the words of Pagan, the choir was lucky to spend the night at the “floor hotel,” that is, the church floor.

Their days were mostly spent traveling from place to place in a caravan of minivans.  They did remember to take time for tourism though. The first day the singers visited “El Morro,” an old fortress that used to guard San Juan. Later they walked through Old Town San Juan and visited various old landmarks. The choir also spent time in “El Yunque,” the local rain forest, spending the night at the Seventh-day Adventist camp there and swimming beneath a beautiful waterfall there. Another event that the Singers got to be part of was a midnight kayak trip to see the bioluminescent bays that feature a type of algae that glows when it is disturbed.

Traveling from place to place, it was hard for the choir members to hear testimonies from those they sang to.  Many of the testimonies took place in the choir itself.  As the trip went on, many of the Singers grew closer with each other and closer with Christ.

Overall, the theme for the trip was prayer.  The choir sings a song called “Wana Baraka.”  It’s written in Swahili and the translation says, “They have blessings, those who pray, Jesus himself said so.”  Several of the choir members had been injured during the trip.  Others in the choir were emotionally and physically drained.  Prayer became an essential part of the trip.  The words “Wana Baraka,” were taken home with them as a reminder of the blessing of Puerto Rico.

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