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We started Tuesday morning hopeful that the air conditioning had been fixed the night before…but the bus temperature soon climbed to 81* within an hour of departure. We stopped at a gas station, several of the guys poked around in the guts of the bus after watching a YouTube video that the bus company sent, and by the end of our bathroom stop we had AC! The bus temperature dropped from 81* to 74* in a matter of minutes, and by the end of the day we were actually getting chilly. Nobody complained. In the morning Jared shared some personal musings about the program songs with us, making some great connections between God’s tremendous love for us and the peace we can experience here on earth – both concepts that appear frequently in our repertoire. Jesse led us in some fun vocal warmups before we scratched our voices by talking too much on the bus. Airplanes, darts, arrows, and a lost alligator may or may not have been involved. After warmups we had a chance to share stories and testimonies with the rest of the group. We stopped somewhere between Hartville, OH, and Nappanee, IN, for a Walmart stop and lunch, then climbed back on the bus and passed the rest of our travel time playing games, sleeping, talking, reading, and passing around a communal bottle of blackberry basil kombucha bottled by Isaiah.

When we arrived at Sandy Ridge Mennonite Church we had some rehearsal time in their beautiful sanctuary, then enjoyed a delicious supper before changing into concert attire and spending half an hour in prayer and quiet before the program. This time of stillness to prepare our hearts and calm our minds and bodies makes so much difference in our own capacity to enjoy and fully invest in the music we’re making.

Community. This is the most striking aspect of the 2018 Laudate tour to me personally. Many of our songs come from strong community settings, such as Shaker and African American cultures, and Ken has taught us to sing together, breathing together, phrasing together, stopping together. He taught us, and now he sits quietly in a pew while we sing part of the program by ourselves. Jesse gives the pitch, we look at each other, we inhale together, and we start together. We are a community, and we interact with each other while we sing, listening twice as loudly as we vocalize. The concept of community fits so well with the themes of love and peace that permeate the entire service; the music comes alive when we breathe together. We form a half circle when we sing. The other half is completed by you – the audience. We are all a community.

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