Last summer, Immanuel Medical Center Auxiliary Coordinator, Barb Glendenning, sent an email to the staff at Bethany Lutheran Church in Elkhorn, wondering whether the church would like to partner with Immanuel to host a concert in celebration of the hospital’s 125th year of service to the community. The idea was to feed the spirits of those who fill the many roles required in an organization dedicated to healing, to connect with the Bethany faith family in our common Lutheran heritage, and to welcome the wider community into an evening of grace and blessing. I was privileged to serve as the facilitator between Bethany and Immanuel. The artists selected to perform were Sara Groves, with special guest Eric Peters. Both are long-time favorites of mine, making promotion and oversight of day of show details an honor and a joy. Experienced and loving team leaders, staff and volunteers from Bethany, combined with enthusiastic and incredibly competent volunteers from Immanuel, made for one of the most stress-free and enjoyable concerts I’ve ever coordinated. The list of people to whom gratitude is due is very long, but special thanks go to Barb Glendenning, Bob Copple (Immanuel Campus Operations Leader), and Kathy Treu (Immanuel volunteer coordinator), to the Bethany staff (I love you people), and to Cindy Kasten and Helen Ohm for a very long day of delicious made-from-scratch catering; also to Melissa Landholm for giving several hours of her time to pamper the artists. That’s the tip of the iceberg, but to each of you who helped, my heartfelt thanks. I know who you are.
Now a few words about the artists. Today, Sara. Tomorrow, Eric.
I became a fan of Sara Groves about 10 years ago, when I found her album “All Right Here”. I loved three specific things about her music: First, the beauty of her voice. It has a texture and tone that is somehow especially pleasing to my ear. And she sings in keys that I can comfortably sing along with in the privacy of my car as I’m driving around. Love that. ♥ Second, she plays the piano. That instrument and the people who play it well hold a special place in my heart. And third, she is a fellow word nerd. Her lyrics reflect both her fondness for a well-turned phrase and her mastery at creating them. Her songs have always invited me to imagine the bigger story behind them, and encouraged me to find my own place in that story.
I first met Sara and her family when she toured with Andrew Peterson’s Christmas tour in 2007. Bethany had already booked the show when she was announced as the special guest for that year. What a delightful bonus. She played again at Bethany when she and her husband, Troy, teamed up with Charlie Peacock, Derek Webb, Sandra McCracken and Brandon Heath in the fall of 2008 for the Art*Music*Justice tour, benefitting International Justice Mission and Food for the Hungry. This is the little girl our family has sponsored ever since:
Marie Rose lives in the village of Gisanga in Rwanda — a village where the Groves’ long-term partnership continues to change lives for the better.
Which brings me to the bigger reasons why I am an unabashed Sara Groves fan girl. Not only is she a skillful teller of stories, but she is also someone who re-writes the stories of the broken and the powerless. She continues to support the work of IJM in freeing slaves and rescuing young children from the sex trade around the world. She plays concerts in prison, reminding society’s outcasts of their intrinsic value to God. She and Troy also played an important role of encouragement in the life of at least one musician I know who was on the verge of giving up his art entirely. Which would have been a tragedy. And they have now founded Art House North – “a creative community established for the purpose of common good”. I can hardly wait to see what grows from the seeds they are busy planting.
On top of all this, Sara and Troy are parents to three great kids, who they are raising to have the kind of hearts that will also change the world for the better.
I hold the Groves family in the highest regard, and count it a great blessing in my life each time our paths cross.
If you need some of Sara’s music, visit her online at www.saragroves.com.
Photo credits: Martha Kennebeck