To fill the world with music

Two teams with one mission on separate continents experience the joy of service and fellowship.

Team members march in a massed band in a parade celebrating the territory’s 35th anniversary.

Tom Hanton remembers the cheering, the dancing, the hugs. Students at a territorial music camp in Liberia had just been told they would receive 150 donated musical instruments from the Central Territory.

“It was an explosion of joy,” Tom recalled.

Tom served as project manager for the Central Global Mission Team that taught at the camp with a theme of joy based in Acts 2:28. Sixty-eight students were enrolled on the first day. By the end of camp two weeks later, nearly 100 students—children and adults—were taking part.

Tom’s lessons featured rhythm exercises, music notation and reading. His advanced theory class concentrated on rhythms, clapping and stomping.

“The people there are naturally musically gifted. They can hear harmonies. Our goal was to help them read music,” said team member Captain Stephanie Hartley, who taught music theory and Bible lessons.

The team makes an encouraging visit to the training college principal who was injured in an accident.

Team member Jon Heaver, who taught at a Boliva music camp in 2017, said teaching the Liberian Salvationists how to read music would help them perform with a good blend and balance.

“It’s our hope they not only continue to do this, but that they teach more musicians,” said Jon. “Once the container with 150 donated instruments arrives, the sky will be the limit!”

Jon taught advanced brass, as did Major John Aren, who played a large role in gathering and transporting the donated instruments.

Team members Captain Dana Cook (leader) and Julianna Dobney taught timbrels and handbells; Barbara Burtch and David Dahl taught beginner brass; Dawn Hedberg taught piano; and Captain James Beardsley taught percussion.

Captain Stephanie Hartley with Darlington, a songster leader and student at the camp.

“They were so eager to learn it almost made me want to cry,” said Captain James of students in his percussion and music theory class. “They were writing notes, taking down everything. We could not give them enough.”

“Sometimes the power would go out, but that would not stop them. They listened, soaked it in and asked questions,” said Captain Stephanie.

Fittingly, she and Captain Dana had both chosen songs and Bible lessons that focused on joy.

Captain Stephanie said she was especially overjoyed when after one Bible lesson 52 students accepted Christ as their Savior or re-committed their lives to Him.

The music camp was held on a Salvation Army compound that encompassed a corps, a medical clinic and a high school. Directly outside was a busy marketplace with pop-up shops and taxi-style bicycles. Team members recall palm trees, tropical plants and lots of dust as they taught under the blazing sun of Africa.

Team members Major John Aren and Jon Heaver with the camp’s advanced brass class

While the team had little downtime, they visited Providence Island, learn about Liberia’s history, and near the camp’s conclusion joined all camp participants to swim at an oceanside resort.

A highlight of the trip was joining other Salvationists in a celebratory parade for the 35th anniversary of the Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Territory. Team members and camp students played as part of a massed band that marched with other soldiers and officers through the city streets.

“It was wonderful to be out there with fellow Salvationists,” said Captain James. “sharing our witness in the way we love to do it—through music.”

Captain Dana said the mission was a great success, adding, “God put together and sent the right team for the right time.”


Brazil is known for a vibrant culture that includes exciting music. But it wasn’t the Bossa Nova or Samba that summoned a team from the Western Division. It was the sound of the gospel.

The Santa Maria Corps praise team led by Captain Adao Nunes

The team conducted the first territorial music camp in Rio Grande du Sul in 15 years—an opportunity so precious that to attend one girl cut and sold her hair to raise funds, and two sisters sold their pet. The longing for this experience was also seen in students’ journeys to attend—many traveled up to 20 hours—and their complete engagement in learning.

“The attention, eagerness and work of the students was astounding. I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Major Stephanie Sawka, who noted the students’ enthusiasm didn’t fade even during afternoon theory classes when temperatures soared past 100 degrees.

The location in the south of Brazil enabled many people to attend who couldn’t if it had been held in Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo. Representing four divisions, 100 campers, in their teens through 60s, participated in band, choir, dance and guitar classes. Each day began with devotions and ended with fellowship that included music, games and sports.

Matt Walter teaches a brass class.

One evening brought friendly competition between the USA and Brazil. The USA won the volleyball tournament, but not surprisingly the Brazilians dominated the soccer match. While there was great fun on the field, the team’s favorite moments were spent each night as the Brazilian officers and soldiers organically gathered outside the cantina to sing, play guitar and drums, and dance, only dispersing when they were reminded another day was on the horizon.

“I was amazed by the joyful spirit and camaraderie at the camp,” said team member Matt Walter. “You could just sense the Holy Spirit’s presence.”

Indeed, the trip and Brazilian Salvationists made a lasting impression on the entire team co-led by Captain Alex Yanez and Major Stephanie Sawka and including Major Geoffrey Crowell (chaplain), Amy Kruger-Cross, Donna and William Berryman, Carolina Yanez, Matt Walter, Michael Sivels, and Marty Thomas of the territorial music and creative arts ministries department.

The team in Brazil with some recipients of music given to the corps.

Some like Matt and Michael jumped headfirst into the culture. At the Santa Maria Corps to take on work projects before heading to the camp, they ventured a few blocks one morning hoping to find a gym for an early morning workout. Providentially, they struck up conversation with a staff member who used to attend the corps. Invited to the camp meetings, she not only came, but she and her family began attending the corps again!

Each team member found their niche at the camp where they made connections that were a blessing.

“I met a young man named Miguel who is a metal guitar player. We hit it off immediately as I’m a metal head,” said unassuming Major Geoffrey. “He lives out his faith daily and that made a big impact on me.”

At the end of the camp, three outstanding students were awarded airfare and scholarships to attend the Western music camp, Central Music Institute and Central Bible Leadership Institute. The team also presented computers, new music stands, a brass repair kit, printed music, and even a new baton to the divisional music director.

After his experience in Brazil, Marty concluded, “I always thought music was the one thing that could unite people of different languages and cultures, but now I can attest that it is in fact the Spirit of God that unites believers.”




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