New Song in Cyprus
With its warm sun, sparkling blue waters, flourishing cities and hospitable people, Cyprus seems like a Mediterranean paradise. But as nine Geneva College students discovered during a winter break trip, this little island off the coast of Greece and Turkey has had its share of troubles and suffering.
New Song, a Geneva College music and drama ministry, traveled to Cyprus January 2 to 12 and was accompanied by thirteen alumni and friends. Planning to perform and minister in several venues, tour the country and stay with local host families, the group was excited about the trip, but when they arrived in Cyprus they were surprised by the serious societal issues they met with face-to-face.
“The country is divided along religious as well as political lines,” says New Song director Louise Copeland. “While most Greek Cypriots belong to the Orthodox Church, the majority of Turkish Cypriots are Muslim.”
Despite political, religious and cultural barriers, the members of New Song soon discovered how much they had in common with their new Cypriot friends. While in Cyprus, the group held six concerts, as well as several impromptu performances, and at a concert celebrating the centennial anniversary of the American Academy in Larnaca, they had the chance to meet and perform with a number of academy students.
New Song member Kassie Lorey believes speaking with the Cypriot teenagers and learning a little more about their culture was one of the most extraordinary aspects of the trip. “Talking to them and getting to know them, we realized that even half-way across the world, students share the same likes, dislikes and life goals,” she says. “Although language barriers and cultural differences are difficult to overcome, we were all able to discuss politics, music, religion and other parts of life.”
For New Song, the trip to Cyprus also renewed their understanding of the meaning behind their songs. They reflected on the trip as a reminder of the message they were sent there to sing and its impact on the ethnically and religiously diverse people of Cyprus.
“‘Prayer of the Children,’ a song about children affected by war, became more real as we toured the bombed-out boundary between the Turkish and Greek parts of the city,” says Stephanie Ishler. “Every day children must present their passports and cross the line in order to get to school.”
The group gained a deeper perspective on Cyprus through their interactions with children and students, as well as through the time they spent with their Cypriot hosts. As they stayed with local Christian families, New Song members had the opportunity to learn about the country, the culture and themselves.
“One of the best experiences of a New Song tour is spending time with host families,” says Jordan Feagley. “It helps to see the way that Christians in other parts of the world live their lives and share the gospel. Spending time with older and wiser Christians can teach us so much about life because of the past experiences they share with us.”
The New Song group had entered Cyprus with high expectations. But as they boarded the plane to come home, they realized the experience had turned out to be deeper and more powerful than they could have imagined.
“Our journey to Cyprus may have at first been viewed as a vacation,” Jordan says, “but it soon turned out to be a chance for the Kingdom of God to be furthered in a divided land.”
New Song performs in a variety of locations and venues throughout the year, and members of the 2007-2008 group include:
- by Allison Perry, Senior Political Science Major