FRANKLIN — Joshua MacLeod had to travel all the way to an AIDS orphanage in Malawi to learn a very valuable lesson — music offers hope in the midst of hopelessness.
MacLeod, founder of Instruments of Joy, shared his story during a recent webinar with Scott Shepherd, worship and music specialist and also partnership missions specialist with the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
MacLeod visited the orphanage in Malawi in 2007 with an organization that trained African leaders. He described the scene when he arrived.
“There was no electricity. There weren’t any generators, no (working) electricity. This is the worst of the worst scenario. They eat once a day. And so we’re going to this orphanage and the hopelessness was just palpable. All I could see was the darkness and the reality of the scenario.”
As they began to meet the orphans, MacLeod acknowledged that it was an “awkward time” as no one really knew what to do or say.
Then, “this kid comes in and he has a gas can and a block of wood that somehow were strapped together to make a ukulele-like instrument. And he had a song and he started to play on this ukulele thing and the entire atmosphere of the orphanage changed,” he recalled. “And, what had previously been the no hope scenario became the hope-filled room that was full of joy.”
He said the song provided a change in perspective, too.
“It was like before this orphan came and spoke, the only thing that I could see was darkness. After this orphan comes and starts playing on his guitar, the only thing that I can see is light.
“In traveling all over the world and being able to go to 27 different countries and deep diving into orphanages and AIDS clinics and war zones and all sorts of things, one of the realities about poverty that I discovered is that if you’re going to rise out of poverty, if you’re going to take steps to get in a better situation, one of the primary ingredients is hope,” MacLeod affirmed.
He observed that he learned firsthand that “music gives people hope and it helps them rise above this cloud of poverty where the only thing that they can see is no hope.”
MacLeod was with a worship minister on that trip.
He was moved by the experience like MacLeod and he told him, “I’m going to give that kid my guitar.” MacLeod looked at him and said, “Yeah, me too.”
When he returned home, he shared the story with his sister and they planned a yard sale to raise money. He noted there was another trip planned to that orphanage a few weeks later and they were able to send four instruments with the team to distribute.
“Since that time, we’ve given out about 750 instruments in approximately 70 countries. … That’s kind of where we started. We want to equip those musicians who are bringing light to communities that simply can’t afford an instrument. And so I can and I know people who can and so why not? I can find somebody and give them an instrument. That’s what we do.”
MacLeod said the mission of the Nashville-based ministry is to provide new or restored quality instruments (instruments do not have to be guitars) by working through partner organizations in the various countries they have served. Those organizations have “established relationships so that those instruments are going to the exact right individuals,” he said.
The ministry’s founder said they collect donated instruments and have them refurbished as well as donations for new instruments. He stressed they use only quality instruments because it’s so much harder to play a “cheap guitar.”
MacLeod stressed that the instruments are gifts from God, not the organization. The recipients know nothing about Instruments of Joy, he said. All they know is that they could not afford an instrument, and someone shows up, gives them a guitar and says, “This is a gift from God for you.” He also added that every instrument has a John 3:16 tag on it, some in English and some in Spanish.
In addition to orphans, Instruments of Joy has given many new church plants their first instrument. Instruments are a “much needed tool” for evangelism and church planting, he said.
Shepherd noted that with his dual role with music/worship and partnership missions, “Instruments of Joy is a perfect fusion of these two facets of my ministry.”
He observed that Tennessee Baptists participate in more than 100 mission trips every single year. Instruments of Joy offers an opportunity to multiply the impact of these trips, he said.
Instruments of Joy has quality musical instruments which have been donated to their Nashville-based ministry, he related. “Tennessee Baptists can assist by delivering these instruments to impoverished musicians (many of whom are worship leaders) on a mission trip they’ve already planned,” he suggested.
“In Tennessee, we know the importance of music in worship. Week after week, Tennessee Baptists proclaim the gospel through song. But what if our worship leaders could not afford instruments? What if our pianist had no piano to play? Our guitarists no guitars to strum? This is the sad reality for many impoverished churches around the world.
“By partnering with Instruments of Joy, we can meet this need — improving and revitalizing churches by providing their musical leaders instruments to lead in Christ-honoring worship,” he said.
Lyndel Littleton, worship pastor at Hilldale Baptist Church, Clarksville, has worked with Instruments of Joy and has had members who donated instruments. “They show me pictures of people in other countries with the instrument they donated. Along with the picture, the person says ‘thank you’ and shares how they are using the instrument. Our folks were thrilled.”
Shepherd encourages Tennessee Baptist churches to connect with Instruments of Joy. “Short-term mission trips are, by nature, short-term; our time is limited. Donating instruments allows our encouragement to continue long after we’ve returned home.
“Sharing the gospel and seeing lives transformed by Jesus are the ultimate priorities of any mission trip” he continued.
“But Tennessee Baptists have long recognized the importance of tangible, physical expressions of God’s love — building churches, repairing homes, disaster relief and so much more. Instruments of Joy is one more option for Tennessee Baptists to express the love of Jesus to a lost and hurting world. In my eyes, this is a ‘win’ for Tennessee Baptists.” B&R — For more information about the organizations or to donate instruments, visit instrumentsofjoy.org.