Yo-Yo Ma, Yo!

November, 2011 – This quarter one of my AAIV student leaders, Jessica, managed the unthinkable: bringing together hip hop, classical music and social justice for the advancement of God’s Kingdom. Jessica, a senior violin performance major, organized  a partnership between the NU student musician community and the Firehouse Community Arts Center, a ministry of Lawndale Community Church that reaches the youth of North and South Lawndale through the arts. The story was also reported on by The Daily Northwestern.

Jessica is an amazing testimony of the impact of our student leaders: only has she been an effective leader within AAIV, helping lead our small group ministry and discipling women in the fellowship, but she has also been a faithful witness in the School of Music. Many of the musicians that participated in this concert were not Christians, and they were exposed to the Gospel in action, through  the IV students and the ministries of Lawndale Community Church. But enough from me, I’ll let her personally share her story.

Following God’s Lead

by Jessica

The Firehouse Community Art Center in Lawndale


On November 13th, Sunday afternoon at 4 pm, my heart was racing. The orchestra was in place, the guest artists from Lawndale had arrived, there was pretty large audience seated in the chapel, and the microphone was on. All that was left to do was walk up to the front of the stage and say “Welcome to this afternoon’s concert: A Fundraiser for the Firehouse.” Two months of hard work and God’s provision had led me and a few of my peers to this moment, this realization of a vision of music and social justice coming together to advance God’s kingdom. Our God is one “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20), and this event was proof of that truth.

At the start of the school year, my friend Chris, an aspiring conductor, and I, a senior studying violin at Northwestern, decided to put on an orchestral benefit concert on campus. We had no program, no musicians, no venue, and no beneficiary, but I knew, by God’s hand, things would fall in to place. And sure enough, they did.

He brought us the Chicago Urban Program Team, a group of students, many of whom were my friends from InterVarsity, that spent their summer in Lawndale, an underserved and poverty stricken community in the southwest side of Chicago. They had grown to love the community and to question their own responsibility for the huge disparities they saw. He brought us Pastor Phil Jackson, one of the pastors of Lawndale Community Church and The House, a hip hop church, as well as the head of the in-progress Firehouse Community Arts Center. He brought us a group of close to 50 volunteer music students who were willing to give their time and talent to this endeavor. He brought us a venue in the form of a chapel in a seminary right in the middle of campus. He brought us my violin professor, a world-renowned violinist and pedagogue, who was eager to play a solo with us. And he brought lots of help, encouragement, and prayers along the way. Piece by piece, God made his agenda very clear and by simply following his plan, we put together a concert of classical music, hip hop, and a call for social justice.

As wonderful as the event itself was, the most amazing part was the privilege of working with God, of being in his presence throughout and following as he led. So many times, it seemed as if doors were closing and the whole concert would fall through, but every closed door simply led to another open one. At every discouragement, there was someone or something to encourage. At every desperate moment, there was someone to lend a hand or a prayer. At every unsolvable problem, there was a solution. God literally carried it through. All we were asked to do was trust and follow. God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. And within the arts, this truth is not an exception.

The arts are such a powerful force – how much more so when God is in the center, as He was intended to be? As artists that trust and follow Him with the talents and the experiences that he has given us, there is no end, no limitation, to the amazing things that He will accomplish through us and through our art.

Please pray that God would continue to use Jessica to bless her colleagues and community through her leadership and talent. Pray that those around her might encounter God through her. Please pray that artists around the nation that have similar dreams and visions would be encouraged to step out in faith and trust that Jesus wants and can use artists to serve the poor.

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