Fall 2016 Features

Voce Vera Brings the Joy of Music to the Dominican Republic

Pictured above: The OBU team pauses for a photo with two workers from a local orphanage, Ronald Yesid Rodriguez and Itzel Diaz who is holding Lucas Feller, son of Dr. Mary Chung and Dr. Carlos Feller. Pictured left to right are Rodriguez, Lucas Feller, Diaz, Chung, Mason McCormick, Ariel Hawkins, Paige Shelton, Dakota Unruh, Andrea Larson, McKenzie Reece, Caleb Schantz, Katie Best and Professor Rebecca Ballinger.

Since the age of 11, Dr. Mary Chung has called the Dominican Republic home. She and her family moved there as missionaries, and she quickly fell in love with the people and culture, longing to serve them while sharing the love of Christ.

Chung, assistant professor of piano, led a group of three faculty members and eight students to the Dominican on an OBU sponsored Global Outreach (GO) trip May 25 to June 6. The trip was unique, in that all faculty and students came from the Division of Music, with the students all members of the acapella vocal group Voce Vera, Italian for “True Voice.”

“The idea from the beginning was to make this primarily a music mission trip, blessing others through the gift of music,” Chung said. “God has blessed me so much since my years as a missionary kid in the DR, and I wanted to share these blessings and His love with others.”

The trip came together as Chung felt called to lead a group of music students to her home country for a mission trip. She approached Rebecca Ballinger, assistant professor of voice and director of Voce Vera. The two decided the ensemble would be flexible enough to adapt to the different performing environments and bring a unique set of skills to help the local people in the Dominican.

“We wanted to serve God in a global setting using the talents that He gave us,” Ballinger said. “You expect to go on a mission to help build houses, provide medical care or feed people, but we had the chance to help churches worship God. Now, we still fed people and helped the kids, but watching the language of music transcend language barriers to create global corporate worship was incredible.”

Faculty sponsors for the trip included Chung, Ballinger and Dr. Carlos Feller, Chung’s husband and OBU adjunct instructor of music. Students attending the trip included Katie Best, Ariel Hawkins, Andrea Larson, Mason McCormick, McKenzie Reece, Caleb Schantz, Paige Shelton and Dakota Unruh.

The group provided special music for worship services and assisted in the worship ministry in seven different churches in Santo Domingo and other cities, along with two orphanages, two schools and a nursing home. They served by providing special music for worship services.

“It was great getting to sing in churches and seeing how much joy it brought them to hear us, even though in our minds it’s just another thing we love to do,” said Caleb Schantz, a junior from Yukon, Oklahoma. “It was so beautiful to experience worshiping in another culture and language while knowing we are all still worshiping the same God.”

The team delivered 30 musical instruments including six guitars, two French horns, one oboe, a keyboard and 20 recorders, made possible by generous donations from First Baptist Church of Shawnee, their members and Ada Music Center. The instruments were given to different churches and orphanages, along with a local youth orchestra, Soli Deo Gloria. Most of the students in that organization are from underprivileged communities and are unable to afford an instrument. The team also provided snacks, school supplies and craft materials to more than 500 children, while sharing the gospel with everyone they encountered.

“I loved getting to experience such a beautiful culture while sharing the love of Jesus,” said Katie Best, senior from Norman, Oklahoma. “The people were very welcoming, and I was so humbled to be able to worship the Lord with them through the music that I love so much.”

Immersed into the local culture, the team dined and stayed with host families. They also experienced forms and styles of worship particular to the Dominican culture, making a lasting impression on the entire group. Ballinger was touched by the impact that trips like this make, on students and mentors alike.

“It is essential that students experience life in different cultures, meet their global brothers and sisters in Christ, and realize that God is bigger than they are. When they do, they realize He is bigger than any plan you could imagine for yourself and cares about these people who are so different from you. Then you realize that you are not so different after all.”

Chung said she is grateful for Voce Vera and their director, and for the attitude and unity they expressed throughout the trip.

“Not only are they talented music students, but true servants of God,” she said. “They constantly and joyfully demonstrated God’s love and Christ-like character everywhere we went.”

Dr. Carlos Feller, adjunct instructor of music, visits with children at Iglesia Bautista El Sendero (El Sendero Baptist Church) in Santo Domingo.
Dr. Carlos Feller, adjunct instructor of music, visits with children at Iglesia Bautista El Sendero (El Sendero Baptist Church) in Santo Domingo.

While it was her first mission trip experience, the apprehension Ballinger felt prior to going melted away during the journey.

“For those like me who think, ‘Oh, someone is pushing mission trips again,’ I have to say: Go. Go and meet God in your travels. Go and see the majesty of His creation. Go see your students in a new light. Go and be a part of something greater than you and your reservations. Go and answer His call to spread the light of Christ into the world. You will love the person you become.”