The Celebrant Singers, an international and interdenominational missionary organization, spreads the Gospel through its repertoire of contemporary Christian music. Over the years, the group has played for audiences in nearly 100 countries, including performances for World Youth Day and Mother Teresa.
Since 1977, when it was founded by Jon Stemkoski, the group of vocalists and instrumentalists has performed for more than 7 million people in about 95 countries.
Headquartered in Visalia, Calif., the Celebrant Singers are on tour throughout the year, usually for three months at a time. In a typical three-month period, the group travels by bus to roughly 70 to 80 cities, performing in concert almost every day of the week. They carry with them only what can be packed in suitcases. They find shelter with host families when possible, or hotels when necessary. Their only money comes from free-will donations or post-concert CD sales.
As members of the Celebrant Singers, Rudolfina Avsic and Dorice Paulemont have learned what it means to trust in divine providence.
Avsic, who turned 33 on Feb. 21, had been a violinist with the National Opera Orchestra in Slovenia. Her job paid well and her contract would have guaranteed her a position for life. But after eight years, she felt called to use her musical talents to share the love of Christ with others. She quit her job, left her homeland behind and joined the Celebrant Singers in summer 2006.
She has learned “to live by faith” – and that faith has been constantly rewarded.
“When you leave your boats and your nets and you go with Jesus, you have a lot of stories to share,” said Avsic, a Catholic who plays violin and sings soprano with the Celebrant Singers. “With my own eyes, I see how Jesus works every day, how He takes care of us; because we are not paid [with money], but we are paid from God. God pays us every day with miracles.”
Paulemont, 30, spent five years as a registered nurse in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She sang in the choir at her evangelical Baptist church, but did not see a future as a singer. But after repeatedly being called upon to perform as a soloist, she decided that God was leading her somewhere. Since 2007, when Paulemont began singing alto with the Celebrant Singers, she has come “to see how God provides.”
“I’m walking in the steps of somebody who walks by faith,” she said. “I’m not walking in the steps of somebody who walks according to her own strength or financial power.”
The Celebrant Singers is a 25-member missionary team, which includes 10 vocalists, a 12-piece orchestra and band, an American Sign Language interpreter, a sound technician and a bus driver. The missionaries hail from various countries around the world, and commit to a minimum of three months of service.
Potential group members must provide a recommendation from their priest or minister, demonstrate their musical talent in an audition, and raise $4,000 – one-third of what it costs for one missionary to tour with the group.
A typical concert includes music and personal testimony from the missionaries themselves; group members also pray individually with attendees at the end of each concert. Concerts have been held at churches, schools, malls, hospitals and other venues. In the past, the group has performed at the Pentagon, several World Youth Day celebrations and even the Nobel Peace Prize reception for Mother Teresa.
Over the years, the Celebrant Singers have brought the Gospel to places where it has not always been welcomed when presented non-musically, such as Albania, Bulgaria and Cuba. The group has also been able to transcend language and cultural barriers.
“I think music is … a universal language,” said Paulemont, who recalled a concert that took place in a remote region of the Philippines where the people did not understand English. Though they did not comprehend the words, she said, “where the Holy Spirit manifests Himself through the music, there’s something; there’s an understanding that is common to everyone.”
The Celebrant Singers are requesting applications from interested singers, musicians, sound technicians, ASL interpreters and bus drivers, age 18 to 40.
For more information or to support the group’s missionary efforts, visit www.celebrants.org.
Printed with permission from the Southern Cross.