amy courts: en route


I Have a Family I’ve Never Met

I have brothers and sisters in Gulu, Uganda whom I’ve never met but have come to love more than I love my own life.

Brothers and sisters who’ve experienced more grief, loss, disappointment, terror, fear, and hopelessness than I could ever begin to imagine from my cozy little townhouse in South Nashville.

villageofhopeThey’ve all lost family members. Some to AIDS and malaria, some to murder, some to the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Rebel force of Gulu, Uganda.

Some have been forced to kill their own brothers and sisters, parents and cousins.

My sisters and brothers have been forced by fire out of their homes that burned to the ground as they ran. Many of them were captured and made to be young wives who bear the children of rebel soldiers, or young boy soldiers-in-training, donning their enemy’s uniform in an effort just to survive.

But these sisters and brothers know a God I’ve never dared to ponder.

A God who is able to keep some of their bodies clean of disease, despite having been born to a family suffering of AIDS and malaria.

A God who is able to rescue and renew and revive even the bleakest of lives.

A God who restores hope and life, who provides all needs in abundance.

A God who is always present, in rain or drought, war or peacetime.

Most of my brothers and sisters have never known peacetime, outside of the presence of this great and mighty God.

Last night, I heard a story of one young man who boldly walked into a Rebel camp with two of his brothers to teach soldiers about the love and peace of Christ. They were captured and forced to choose between giving their own lives or taking life from a young, 9-, 10-, or 11-year-old recent captive. The first chose Christ, peace, and ultimately death, and his captor, a Rebel commander, willingly complied. The second chose the same, and a bullet found him dead seconds later. The third echoed his brothers saying, “no, I will not kill. I’ve come with the Peace of Christ’s gospel. I am here for Him and will go to Him.”

But when shot, the gun misfired. And a second time…and a third time…the gun misfired. Shot blanks.

And finally, another Rebel soldier told his commander they’d better leave, because these guys were tapped into Something they didn’t want to mess with.

Certainly his is a God much more powerful than my North American God of wealth and prosperity.

That man was freed and went on to become the leader of Men’s Ministry at the Child Mothers’ Village of Hope in Gulu, Uganda.

He went on to help rescue my brothers and sisters from sexual and spiritual slavery, and lead them into freedom. And now they are leading even more displaced brothers and sisters into similar freedom, carrying the torch of Christ’s love and mercy, the promise of medicine and education and HOPE to their neighbors into the surrounding IDP camps.

These brothers and sisters…They’ve started a revolution.

Most of you know that over the past few years, God has planted and watered what has become a rather consuming passion in me for those living in the aftermath of war in Gulu, Uganda. What began as a tearful response to hearing about night commuters – the nightly groups of 30,000+ children who were forced to leave their home villages and travel in the dark to refugee camps, in an effort to avoid abduction – has grown into an uncontrollable love for people I’ve never met face to face.

I don’t know any other way to describe it, but to say that I feel a connection to those people unlike any I’ve known outside of my biological sisters and to my husband and step-son. It’s as if I’m tied to them, and they to me. And this not being able to share my life with them, to touch and hold and love and be next to them, is a burden I can sometimes hardly bear.

But over the past six to ten months, God has whittled down my passion from a desire to simply “GO GO GO! It doesn’t matter where or who with!” to a place of patiently waiting for and seeking out the right opportunity with the right group of people.

As I’ve prayed and considered my options, there seemed only one left: to travel to Gulu, Uganda, to the Child Mothers’ Vilalge of Hope – the project I’ve been supporting and rallying support for through my involvement with Mocha Club – without the cameras that inevitably accompany artists on the job, but on my own, for the sake of learning the lay of the land and establishing relationships to be watered and nurtured in the years to come.

And finally, over the past two days, it seems this overwhelming and at times all-consuming dream of meeting my family in Uganda is beginning to find form.

I met with Jerry and Candis Bingham, the lead Missionaries at the Village of Hope, and was able to share with them my heart and my desire. And – amazingly enough – they were as overjoyed as I about the prospects of me spending the whole of next October with them and the Child Mothers in Gulu.

And so now, the planning begins. I don’t know how I’ll raise all the money. I don’t know exactly how my time will look. I’m scared to death of being away from my husband for a month, in a foreign land, and of living in conditions I can scarcely fathom, much less describe.

But I’m finally going to meet my family.

And that’s all that really matters.

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NEW REVIEW AND INTERVIEW in Wrecked for the Ordinary

Voices in Culture: Amy Courts


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Amy Courts is one of those musicians whose songs you can put on repeat, and hours later still be enjoying the tunes like you were playing them for the first time. After doing just that, I found myself intrigued by the depth that ebbed just below the current of solid progressive rock. Amy’s voice swells with a ringing resonance, spreading out to the most delicate of edges—a perfect contrast of power and intricacy. Her sweetly ornamented stylings add a tinge of silver lining to the shadowy undercurrents of melancholy underneath.

If you get the chance to hear her in person, you will discover that Amy is fully present in her live show, revealing how much her craft comes straight from her heart. Her songs are a candid expression of life as it is and life as it could be—containing the type of honesty and lucidity that made me suspect she would be a perfect person to sit down with and just talk about life. So I did just that.

I discovered that Amy moved to Nashville after college on a whim, essentially having no semblance of a music career in place when she came. But her background in guitar and poetry fused together as she began to garner attention from the music community. Now just a few short years later, she has completed an EP as well as her debut full-length album and has been featured in such publications as Christianity Today and CCM Magazine, who referred to her as a female “Derek Webb.”

I would venture to say that the resemblance to Derek Webb is not merely musical. Amy, like Derek, is also deeply committed to world justice and front-line involvement with current affairs. She advocates for the improvement of conditions in Africa, even giving away her CD to those who join the African relief agency she partners with. But she also is involved at the local level, believing that relational interaction is so crucial to really understanding the scope of service and community. She volunteers for the Sudanese Center for Refugees in Nashville, hoping that this will eventually prepare her to go to Africa herself.

Read further for a glimpse of conversation with Amy.

WRECKED: Your CD “These Cold and Rusted Lungs” was released this past summer, and is already generating a lot of attention. What’s been most exciting to you?

AMY: Well, I have to be honest: seeing the review post to CCM Magazine’s website calling me a “female Derek Webb” was the high point of a few months! He’s one of my absolute favorite writers and artists, with such an inspiring set of work that I was flattered and quite humbled to be compared favorably to him. Other than that, I think just seeing the process come together from start to finish – and seeing finances and songs and production and players blend to create such an awesome album that so closely reflects my heart and music – is terribly exciting. I loved making my EP, but this was a whole new level cause it was my heart and soul on the line. It’s relieving to be able to feel proud of it, and to know others are already getting something out of it.

WRECKED: You’re a big advocate for Mocha Club. For our readers who are unfamiliar with Mocha Club, can you explain what it is and the incentive you’re offering to encourage people to participate?

AMY: Mocha Club is an amazing African Aid orginazation with projects all over the African continent developing orphanages, universities, medical facilities, and rescue villages to bring people out of poverty and disease and equip them with the resources they need to rebuild themselves and their countries from the inside-out. But what set Mocha Club apart to me – given the hundreds of Aid organizations out there who’re serving Africa – is that they do all this with just $7 per month: the cost of two mochas. When I learned that $7 could provide 7 people with clean water for one year, and provides 2 Angolan farmers with seed and farming supplies for an entire crop season, and pays for life-saving Malaria and AIDS treatments for multiple people, I knew they were the organization I wanted to partner with. It brings the need – and the ability to make a MAJOR difference in peoples’ lives – to a child’s level and leaves no one with an excuse not to be part of the effort. We’re called by God to care for the orphan and the widow; Mocha Club makes it irresistably simple by asking for just $7 per month. And they do so much with that money.

WRECKED: If it weren’t for music, what would you be doing with your time?

AMY: You know, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about gifts vs. talents. I’ve thought for a long time that my music was my gift, and without it I’d have nothing to do and be useless to the Kingdom. But it’s been encouraging to realize that my spiritual gifts – mercy, evangelism, and exhortation – can be exercised in so many ways, and right now they’re best exercised and most effective through song. But down the road, if I decide my time is over for music-in-the-public-eye (though I’m sure I’ll always be a musician in some capacity), I know my gifts will be effective elsewhere. And right now, my growing passion for Africa and specifically Uganda makes me believe we’ll end up living in Africa and serving the Kingdom there. At least, that’s where my dreams take me when I let go of the reigns…

WRECKED: What stories stand out in your mind from people you’ve come in contact with, that make the difficult challenges of music worth it to you?

AMY: I’ve had so many great experiences talking with people after concerts and hearing about how some song or songs really spoke what they were feeling or thinking. And it’s such a humbling realization to know that we’re not alone in our frustrations and hopes, but also that God would use me – me! – to reach others…that makes all the frustration and sleeplessness of touring, all the energy poured out in writing a song from the depths of who I am worth every drop of sweat.

WRECKED: What has music in general, and your music in particular, taught you about the nature of God?

AMY: That God is a relational Being. He has existed for eternity past as Three-in-One, the God-head persons of the Father, Son, and Spirit, and that’s how He created us to relate to each other, and it’s He relates with me now. Not on a slave/master level, or even on a Mentor/learner level. But on a Creator/Created level…and I think there’s so much more intimacy in that thought, because it implies He knows exactly who I am in and out, because He made me. He knows my flaws and strengths, every minute detail, and He longs to share the details of Himself with me. And so we relate. And, as with any relationship involving humans, we butt heads, there’s tension, frustration, joy and peace. But in the end, whatever it is we’re doing boils down to simply being in relationship. In writing and singing and listening to music, that’s the greatest Truth and greatest hope I’ve found: God’s not about me being perfect; He’s about me being His.

***

Amy Courts is an artist whose music gets into your head and whose conviction gets into your soul, fusing art and action into a powerful force of culture. To learn more, visit her official website or MySpace.



Unto the Least of These

In the midst of the current political climate as we all explore the foreign and economic issues that will inevitably (and have already, in so many ways, proven to) define a generation of a nation, it’s often difficult to pull out the lens and widen the perspective. To remember to look at things in terms of morality and individual responsibility, and bring the health and progress of our country – and our world – back to our own level, taking it into our own hands.

But then there are times we hear or read encouraging clips reminding us that ultimately, we have the power to change and rearrange the way things are. In fact, it is the calling for which we’ve been especially enabled.

Over the past couple days, I’ve stumbled across some incredibly engaging and empowering stories of people like you and me refusing to leave our world and its care – especially that of the least of these – in the hands of politicians, or really, anyone else. These people refuse to assume anyone else will do what must be done and choose to use their voices to empower the weak and provide for the orphan and widow.

Yesterday, I read Relevant magazine’s review of the Art*Music*Justice tour with Sara Groves, Drek Webb, Sandra McCracken, Brandon Heath, and Charlie Peacock. And while the article certainly highlighted the sickening ability of the artists to weave melodies and lyrics in such a beautiful way, the focus of the article was on emphasizing the purpose of these artists whose mission is to use song, video, and prose to engage and empower listeners, driving them to action on behalf of worldwide victims of injustice. And as an artist and singer-songwriter, I have to say how righteously jealous I am of these artist’s ability to tell a story of injustice and hope in song. It is such a struggle for me to get out of my own head and thoughts and write about issues more important than me, especially because I feel so inexperienced in the writing. But they inspire me…to go, see, experience, and bring it back as fuel for the engine that will drive us to the end of poverty, sex trafficing, genocide, and all worldwide injustice.

And it all leads me to one inevitable conclusion. If we, who even in the midst of economic crisis, are still among one of the wealthiest nations on earth, then certainly we have the means to act on behalf of those Christ loves. No longer is it simply an opportunity, or even an obligation or responsibility (though I do believe, given the commands of Christ and the sheer volume of Scripture’s references to making the care of orphan and widow our primary concern, as they are His dearest).

Instead, it is our greatest honor.

That we humans who so often find thousands of reasons to avoid others and focus on ourselves have been not only commissioned with the care of the victims and impoverished, but entrusted with their care tells us that not only does God want this from us and for them, but that He believes we can do it because He – the Almighty God of the univerise – has equipped us to accomplish it.

Besides the fact that our God is so passionate for the fatherless and the widow that He has embedded in each of us a similar passion (that only needs to be uncovered), it is the greatest hope to realize He has chosen and specifically equipped we who love Him and love what and who He loves to accomplish His will among the least of these.

My heart bursts with fiery passion that you would know the deep riches of the love of Christ, and to pour this same love on those He so desperately loves and longs to see us serve. There is no such great hope, nothing so exciting or empowering among politicians, no matter who we each believe ought to be the next President of the United States.

Ultimately, beloved ones, we are the ones with the tools to change the world. We have been entrusted with the care of the victim, with stewardship of the Created earth, with the spiritual, emotional, and intellectual development of our children, and most importantly, with the love of Christ going into the world. We are His ambassadors whose fight is for justice and peace around the world.

This is our charge; this is our responsibility; this is our honor.

Let us not sit idly by waiting for someone else to do what is only ours to do!

GET INVOLVED THROUGH ANY OF THESE (AND SO MANY MORE) ORGANIZATIONS:

ONE-TIME INVOLVEMENT
(Give a one-time gift to any of these organizations and watch it go for miles):

Freedom’s Promise (rescuing victims of sex trafficing and restoring hope through freedom)
Blood:Water Mission (digging wells and providing medicine to meet the two greatest needs of Africans today: clean water and clean blood)
Charity:Water (100% of donations taken in are applied to clean water projects throughout Africa)
ONE (Eliminating poverty worldwide)
Food for the Hungry (FHI provides the basic physical needs of children worldwide while developing programs for education, spiritual development, and international advocacy.)

MONTHLY INVOLVEMENT
(Make a monthly committment to supporting individual children and village projects with as little as $7
per month)

Mocha Club (This organization, with which I’m an artist sponsor, takes $7 per month – the cost of two mochas – and funds the development of orphanages, rescue villages, universities, medical facilities, and more throughout the continent of Africa. Bonus: If you join my team supporting the Child Mothers Village of Hope in Gulu, Uganda, you get FREE downloads of BOTH my CDs!)
Compassion International (Through Compassion, we can sponsor children from almost everywhere in the world, and with just $32 per month provide for their education, medical care, clothing, food, and future hope.)
World Vision (Similar to Compassion, one person with about $30 per month can become a child’s sponsor and watch their growth and development over the course of their youth.)

USE YOUR HANDS (Donate Your Time)
(Call your local organization headquarters and get involved on the ground either in your own hometown or around the globe through any of these organizations.)

Habitat for Humanity
(HH not only builds houses for lower-income families, but offers financial and lifestyle coaching for all its receipients while giving everyday people an almost weekly opportunity to serve our neighbors.)
Youth for Christ (Contact your local branch and find out how you can serve the youth in your community by either coaching a group or hosting a party, etc.)
Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, etc. (Locate your nearest store and ask the manager how you can volunteer.)
Mercy Ships (Join a Mercy Ships crew for a minimum of one year and be part of saving lives through providing FREE major medical operations and basic health care for the impoverished in Africa and the region.)
American Peace Corps (Similar to Mercy Ships, you can join for a year and travel the globe meeting basic needs of people in thousands of impoverished or developing areas.)
Contact Your Local Homeless Shelter, Domestic Violence Shelter, or Teen Shelter and find out how you can help, whether by volunteering your time (or gathering a group to serve), or gathering goods for their use.