At the beginning of 2013 we committed to full-time music ministry.

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Enjoying a break between concerts in Northern Queensland, Australia – 2013

However, in our minds, we kept telling ourselves that it was only going to be for 6 months. It seemed safer. Less scary if you will. Then after six months the plan would be to move to Avondale College for Eric to complete his Theology/Ministry degree that he started all of those years ago. Even though a major move in and of itself is daunting, to us, that option seemed a lot easier than the unknown life of the full-time musicianary.

So, we prayed and we planned for six months of music ministry.

Songs of Ascent Tour in USA – 2013

First up in 2013 was the Songs of Ascent ‘Psalm 103 Tour’ that would go from January till March in USA (Read about that tour here). Before we left Australia we were struggling in looking for tickets. They were all so expensive! We started to look around search engines. Researching different ways to put together the flight sectors to get it cheaper. We then realised that a make-it-yourself round-the-world ticket was actually the same price as a return trip to USA! Wow, sweet! That led us to thinking, “Could this be a door that God is opening for us to tour in Europe as well as USA??” So, we prayed. We struggled. We thought… a lot. Then, the ticket prices changed slightly and we knew we had to make a decision before they went up too much in price. So, we ‘jumped’. We prayed both before and after we bought the tickets that God would use this decision for His glory. Even though we hadn’t booked any concerts, we prayed that He would make a way for these events to come.

Live in Sweden at Ekebyholm – 2013. Thank you Christian Hjortland for the pic

He did! Through the 11 weeks in USA and the 5 weeks in Europe we saw God at work. It was an amazing experience that we haven’t to this day fully processed. We heard stories of struggles experienced and commitments that God inspired people to make through the concerts. After USA and Europe we went back home to Australia to tour the East coast. June was approaching and we came to a point where we couldn’t see ourselves putting the brakes on music ministry. God had opened so many doors and we could visibly see Him working through this ministry and we knew we had to keep going. It didn’t help that people after concerts around this time would say to us, “Don’t stop doing what you’re doing” we saw this as a sign and our six month jaunt became one year… Oh, by the way, you can read about our first full-time year in more detail here.

Can’t believe we got to visit Norway in 2013 with our music ministry! So frozen!!

So our first year of full-time music ministry came to an end and we were trying to figure out what to do next. We spent a few weeks struggling, praying and thinking over possible options. Could full-time music ministry actually work and be sustainable? We felt a strong need to be a part of a church community and to have a place to come back to after a tour. After being on the road for a year and being at a different church for nearly every Sabbath for 2 1/2 years we wanted a home.

Live at Tübingen in Germany – 2014. Thanks Simon Knobloch for the pic

All the while music ministry was happening, we still had Eric’s unfinished degree in the back of our minds. Just the thought of the moving expenses of going up to Avondale College was weighing us down. Randomly, we then heard that Eric’s degree was now being offered by distance education beginning in 2014. So, Eric contacted the Theology/Ministry department to see if doing distance education was a viable option. After praying about the situation we got to thinking about where we would want to life if distance education was the direction Eric would go.

Live in Eric’s home town – 2013

At that point we were staying with my parents who live in South Gippland in Victoria. We have always loved South Gippsland. It is simply one of the most beautiful areas in Australia and for many years we had dreamed about being able to live just outside of Melbourne to be far enough away, but close enough to enjoy. Also, one of the churches Eric worked with in our first year of marriage is in South Gippsland. We loved that church! So, we began looking around for rental properties. On the day we began our search we found a cute, 3 bedroom house. It was on the coast and it had cheap rent. In fact, we found out that it’s price had dropped $50 on that very day we were searching. We prayed about it and put in our rental application thinking there wasn’t too much of a chance we would be chosen due to being newly self-employed. Two days later, Eric got an email saying he could finish his degree by distance education. Then, two hours later we got a phone call from the realtor saying we had been chosen out of about 15 applicants by the landlord! Praise God!! So, we moved in and began our second year of music ministry with a place to call home after tours.

So in a nutshell, that is the story of how we became full-time musicianaries.

Singing like it was the last time in Sweden – 2013

The last year and 8 months have been nothing that I had imagined or could have ever predicted. Sometimes it’s really difficult doing music ministry and being on the road can be incredibly tiring. We’ve learnt that numbers don’t mean much. Often we can’t believe the places we have sung in and how far around the world our music has travelled. But, the greatest reward is hearing stories from people of how God used our music in their lives.

For me, music ministry begins with an understanding that everything is only possible with Jesus at the centre. Every note. Every spoken word. Every concert. Every tour… And that if God is taken out of the centre, that will be the moment the music ministry begins to lose its purpose. With this in mind, we spend time before each music event in prayer and focusing on the importance of what we are about to do. Praying that God will be heard through our singing and speaking. That God will be seen and we will become invisible. And that He will help us to sing like this could be the last time we ever get the chance to sing.

Each tour has been unique in its own way with the people we meet, the stories we hear and the scenery we drive by between each place. Yet, they also have similarities that run between regardless of state, country or language. We have found that music breaks down barriers and speaks to the heart in a profound way when it is coupled with Scripture.

Overall, it has been overwhelming to receive so much encouragement and support from family, friends and people we have just met. We’ve noticed that God has a sense of humour and is always there to catch us when we take a leap of faith.

Live in Linz, Austria at the GYC Europe Youth Conference – 2014

Becoming full-time musicianaries was not part of our original ‘plan’ or desire in life, but it came about through what we believe was the leading of our Saviour. We don’t know where the road will lead or how long we will be on it. All we know is that we desire to follow Jesus where He goes and live a life dedicated to Him.

~ Monique

If you missed:

Part 1 – Read it here

Part 2 - Read it here

Part 3 - Read it here

 

It was an upright piano in the back corner of a long room at ARISE. Eric was practicing ‘He Knows’ and I was sitting next to him, hanging out, waiting for him to finish. After awhile I began to sing a little harmonies here and there. A friend walked through the door close to the piano and said, “You guys should sing at the concert!”

I said, “Yea, Eric’s singing.”

He responded, “No, you should both sing.”

“No! Eric’s gonna sing.”

“You should both sing!!”

This went on for a few days, until I said, “Will you leave me alone if I say yes to singing with Eric?”

“Yeah.”

He left me alone, and Eric and I sang together for the first time. I was petrified. Literally, my hands were shaking before and after. During, I was just nervous. I actually chose to sit behind the piano. There I am in the photo below, trying my hardest to hide behind the piano and the light.

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The first time Eric & I sang together in public (Sonora, CA). I am trying to hide behind the light and piano.

After the concert had finished our teacher, David Asscherick, said that the song was perfect for his sermon at GYC. He asked if we could come and sing for his sermon appeal. After a lot of praying, we felt a strong calling to commit and go to GYC 2009 in Louisville, Kentucky. We didn’t have the money upfront to go, but based on how the Lord had blessed in the past, we prayed and took the risk to charged it to our emergency credit card. We have never regretting stepping out in faith!

Have you ever been scared to take a step into the unknown? To put yourself out into an uncertain situation? We stood backstage. The tightness and fluttering in my chest and the clamminess in my hands could only be described as fear. As we waited to sing in front of 6,000 people, my mind felt foggy. The fear inched its way into my mind. We prayed. For peace. For steadiness of voice. And to be used by God. As we walked out to the sea of people. Peace descended. This was only the third time we had sung together in public. It was an incredible experience!

Singing 'He Knows' at GYC 2009. The third time we had sung together in public.

Singing ‘He Knows’ at GYC in 2009. The third time we had sung together in public.

After GYC we were led back to Melbourne with Eric getting a Bible worker position at a church and me as a Bible/Religion high school teacher in the Western suburbs of Melbourne. We had a great year of ministry in one of the least christian western suburbs in the southern hemisphere. Throughout the year we gradually came to the realisation that God was opening up more doors in the direction of music ministry. We were praying and trying to figure out how to afford our first record when we were approached by Psalter studios in at the Adventist Media Centre (based in Sydney). Recording albums are expensive and we had no idea how we were going to be able to do this album, to be called ‘Pilgrim’. Psalter offered us to become signed artists which meant they would fund our first album upfront and we would pay off the project via a buy-back scheme at $7 per CD. We were so thankful to God for opening up this door and for Psalter, especially Tim Burcham and Dale Willis, for all their help and vision. They were an amazing team organising super talented session players and bringing our ideas for this album to light.

Recording our album at Psalter Studios.

Recording at Psalter Studios.

As time progressed we could see through many ways that God was leading us into full-time music ministry. We prayed a lot about it. We told our friends and family that we were going to go into music ministry full-time at the end of the year (2010). The end of the year came. We got scared. We doubted that God could take care of us while putting ourselves into His hands so completely, financially. It sounds weird as God had given us so much evidence of how we could trust Him for everything in the past. Yet, we doubted. So, we stayed. This scenario repeated for the next two years.

Singing at SQLD Big Camp.

Singing at the SQLD Big Camp (2010).

Throughout this time when we were struggling with God calling, God opened the door for us to be involved in the formation of Songs of Ascent (SOA). SOA is a ministry under the umbrella of ARISE & Lightbearers. As a collective of musicianaries, we came together to do music evangelistic tours with an evangelist speaking throughout the concert to create a seamless creative narrative on the character of God. Around this time we had also begun to do music/sermons at churches around Victoria in Australia. Doors continued to open and God continued to impress upon us that He was leading us into full-time music ministry. We are so thankful for the continued support and spiritually-minded advice from our friends in the picture below throughout this time and into the present. They all mean so much to us. We praise God that He brought them all into our life and we get the privilege of doing ministry together.

Songs of Ascent Team

Songs of Ascent team on our inaugural music/speaking tour around California, USA (2011).

Full-time music ministry was a scary thought as it was very comfortable to keep our regular jobs with all the security that they brought. We both really came to understand the Israelites’ doubt of God after they had been bought out of Egypt. He had shown them multiple amazing signs of His providence. And yet they doubted. We had seen and experienced physical signs of God looking after us. We have discovered that faith and trust in God is like a muscle that needs exercise. And that to surrender to Him takes a daily surrender. After a lot of praying and planning we decided to go into full-time music ministry at the beginning of 2013.

To be continued…

If you missed part 2, read it here. If you missed part 1, read it here.

~ Monique

The Dnieper River frozen solid in Kyiv, Ukraine.

We stepped from summer into -9°C winter. The ground was white leading into the grey sky of twilight. For me it was amazing to be back in Kyiv to see so many old friends from the first time I lived and volunteered in Ukraine. We taught English as a Second language, helped lead Friday night Bible conversational club and helped out at the International Seventh-day Adventist Church. We had 6 months living in both Kyiv and Kharkov filled with good memories, making great friends, laughter, really difficult challenges, answers to prayer, and seeing God work in amazing ways.

And Eric wrote the songs ‘He Knows’ & ‘It’s Time’.

Just one of the many stand out experiences happened at a Friday Night Bible conversational club when we studied about the Inspiration of the Bible – basing it around the reasons why we believe the Bible is God’s Word. We looked at reasons from: history, archaeology, the Bible itself and fulfillment of prophecy. At the beginning of the night we asked them what they thought of the Bible. They were very open explaining their opinions. None of the students thought it was God’s Word. Only a few thinking it might be possible that part of the Bible could be God’s Word. Throughout the night they had questioned us about various things about the Bible and other religious books. We got through the Bible study and as we did we could tell that they were getting more open to the possibility of the Bible being God’s Word. At the end of the night we challenged them to read the Bible and decide for themselves. Seven people out of eight took the Bibles! After we prayed, most stayed on for about 45 minutes and asked a lot of tough questions.

Visiting a Ukrainian village for a Christmas Celebration at -25°C.

As the half year was approaching, we began to pray about where God wanted us to be. Eric had been looking at Bible Colleges for a while now and had the thought of going to one tugging at his mind. So, we began looking at ones in Australian and USA. Looking at the time that they began and a few other factors, we narrowed it down to ARISE. The college was located (at that time) in Sonora, California, USA. The only problem was that we had no money to go. At that point we had about $200 in our bank account and were on volunteer wages of about $250 p/m each. Due to the AUD/USD exchange rate at that time we needed around $14,000 AUD ($9,965 USD). And this was just after the Global Financial Crisis. It sounded impossible! So, we prayed about it. We wrote up a newsletter to send out to our family and friends letting them know what God had put on our hearts. Then we just waited on the Lord. Over the next while, all the money came through in various ways and from various people, many of whom are still anonymous. We couldn’t believe it. We had the money to go to ARISE!

But we didn’t have enough to get to California. So, we prayed.

Kevin Rudd (the then Prime Minister of Australia), at exactly the right time, gave out $900 to each Australian (who had earned a certain amount the previous financial year) as part of a stimulus package for the economy. This was the exact amount of money we needed to buy flights from Kyiv to Washington DC. But how would we get from Baltimore (where my Uncle lives) to Sonora, California? So, we prayed again for enough money and a way to get across the country.

We saw many US National Parks on our trip across the country. The Grand Canyon was breathtaking!

My Gran & Pa Skyped us and told us that they were going on an RV holiday throughout the national parks across the US at the same time as when we were going to be in Baltimore until when we needed to be at ARISE. They asked if we would like to come with them and for Eric to help them drive the RV in ‘return’. As they owned the RV, my grandparents offered for us to ‘hitchhike’ with them only paying for what they wouldn’t pay if we weren’t with them! We were astounded. Amazed how God not only provided what we needed, but also an experience that we will never forget with grandparents that mean so much to us both.

In the middle of the RV ‘Hitchhike’ trip, we got our tax returns that gave us the money we needed to pay for flights back to Australia and food for during ARISE.

Climbing up the side of a cliff, just another day for my grandparents. Young at heart indeed!

ARISE was one of the most spiritually meaningful and fulfilling experiences we had been through as a married couple as well as individually. Learning in-depth about the Bible and sharing that knowledge through going door-to-door and taking Bible studies for four months was amazing in so many ways. To be equipped with an understanding of the Bible, our beliefs and how it is all centred around Jesus gave us a desire to continue learning and drawing closer to God.

Pastor David Asscherick teaching at ARISE.

One Sabbath, we were at church and the offering was announced. As I looked in my purse I saw a $50 note and it was as though time froze. I showed Eric and he began slowly shaking his head. To understand why we had this reaction I need to back up a bit to a decision we made at the beginning of the year.

In January when we first got to Ukraine, we were already amazed how in the middle of a global financial crisis God had provided exactly how much money we had needed. Around that time we read Malachi 3:8, 10 “‘In what ways have we robbed you?’ In tithes and offerings… Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for your such a blessing that there will be not enough room to receive it.” We read this and took it at God’s word. We prayed about it and made a decision between us and God that in addition to tithe that during 2008 we would give all the money in our wallets and purse into the offering each week. We wanted to physically show that we were giving this year fully to God and to trust Him financially. For us this was quiet hard, and sometimes still is.

ARISE Class of 2009.

So, back to that Sabbath at ARISE where we had a $50 note in my purse when the offering was called. The totally amount of money we had left was $55. There was still about three weeks left at ARISE. And we had put the $50 in my purse this morning, not the $5! We both did not want to give the $50. As those collecting the offering slowly got closer, Eric & I both shook our heads. We didn’t want to do it. But inside it was as though there was a war going on. So, we prayed. As soon as we had finished praying, we looked at each other and knew that we had to give the $50. We put in the $50. Immediately we both felt completely at peace.

Later that night, I was one of the welcomers at the evangelistic series ARISE was running. A man came through and shook my hand. As he kept walking, I looked down and saw two $50 notes in my hand! I walked after him to tell him left something in my hand, unbelieving that this could be happening. He told me that he had a strong impression from God that I needed that money. Wow!

After the evangelistic meeting had ended that night, one of our teachers came up to me with an envelope. He said that someone thought that we needed this, but didn’t want us to know who it was from. I looked into the envelope and there was $150! We couldn’t believe it! God has quadrupled the money we had given to him just that morning. Praise God!

Snow Day at ARISE 2009.

ARISE was also the first time Eric & I had sung together. We had been married for nearly 2 years at that point.

To be continued…

If you missed part 1 – read it here.

~ Monique
* If you want to read more about these experiences, we blogged about them all the way back in 2009 here.

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One Friday evening on a recent tour, we were sitting around our billet’s table and it came time to open the Sabbath. The family shared stories on the providence of God and people stepping out in faith. These stories led to us to share our story of how we came to be in their dining room, living as full-time musicianaries. After telling the story and seeing their reactions, we realised that to a degree we had taken the journey God had led us on for granted. Sometimes when you’re right in the middle of life’s picture you can be oblivious to the frame and all that God has done.

So, we wanted to share this same story with you. The story of how God led us to become musicanaries. It’s a long story, so we’re going to break it up into a four parts that we’ll put up on our blog over the next six weeks. We hope that through sharing this testimony, God will be uplifted!

We haven’t always been musicianaries.

It began with a want to follow God wherever He leads. A realisation that this world is temporary and that God’s love is eternal.

Our Wedding day.

Eight years and three months ago we met. We became best friends. Fell in love and decided to serve God together for the rest of our lives. Six and a half years ago we got married. It was a perfect day, which ended with us driving around to find a hotel until 2:30am after the initial hotel we booked (that had 24 hour reception) decided to close early that night for some reason. Looking back, it’s hilarious. At the time, not so much.

After our honeymoon on Matamanoa Island in Fiji, Eric joined me in Melbourne, where I had already been living for a year. We set up house, extremely excited and loving life. Within the first few months we had racked up quite a bit of debt with a nice red car and some new furniture. I was working as an English and Humanities high school teacher at a Seventh-day Adventist School and Eric was working as a youth pastoral worker at two churches. Life was great!

1st year of marriage.

As the year progressed we realised that our focus wasn’t quite right. With us both having good jobs, life was easy sailing. We noticed that our security and focus shifted to gaining material things, the here and now. Even though we were both working for God. That we both loved God and had always sought to follow God. We realised that we weren’t as fully committed to God as we knew we could be. During that time we read some incredible stories on the faith of Brother Andrew in his his book ‘God Smuggler’ and listened to a lot of faith sermons by David Gates. Deep down we were convicted that we were not giving our all to God and we felt a desire to give more and to take a step of faith. We wanted a deeper experience with God. So, we prayed. We listened to sermons, read books and the Bible. We started saving to take down our debt and save up for what ever God might have planned.

We prayed.

We searched.

Then we saw that the English Language Centre in Kyiv, Ukraine that I had spent a year volunteering at in her early 20s was in need of two volunteers to teach ESL and help out at the local english church. Feeling impressed to apply, we prayed and sent through an application.

We were accepted.

The remaining months of 2008 was filled with saving up, packing up, storing our stuff in my parent’s backyard shed (which we helped to build), paying off debts, selling a car, and finishing up with our jobs. All in the middle of when the Global Financial Crisis hit in 2008. God really has a great sense of timing. In the end we had just enough money for everything we needed including a one-way flight to Ukraine.

Building our storage shed.

Throughout this whole experience we kept coming back to the Bible verse in Joshua 24:15, “…Choose this day for yourselves this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” We wanted to put everything in God’s hands. To give Him a year to say:

“Our lives are yours. Lead us where you want us. Everything we have is yours.”

So, on January 1, 2009 we got on a plane. Never having sung together. Clueless to what God would do within the next year.  Full of excitement. Full of peace. We couldn’t wait for this adventure to begin!

To be continued…
~ Monique

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