September 30, 2012
Atlanta, GA—The 2nd stop on the Gracias Choir Christmas Cantata Tour was a memorable one for many different reasons, especially to the regional volunteers and organizers who combatted impossible circumstances and relied on God to produce an amazing and graceful night for the citizens of Atlanta.
There were concerns after securing the Woodruff Arts Center venue in downtown Atlanta, including potential issues around traffic, accessibility, and cost. The 1800-seat hall was located in a very busy part of the city. Regardless, with a heart of faith and a belief that the Gracias Choir Christmas Cantata deserved no less, the Atlanta volunteers, the majority congregants of the Good News Atlanta Church, challenged themselves in the name of the Gospel.
Although equipped with a number of IYF-organized staffers and first-time volunteers, Atlanta faced an unforeseeable hardship in the weeks leading up to the Cantata. While pouring countless hours into witnessing, promoting, and preparing for the event, they faced an ultimatum from Atlanta City Hall to demolish a huge chunk of their church facility, mainly, their dining room, because of zoning and permit issues. Not only was this tough for the church itself, questions were raised around where they would prepare the food and supplies that are so vital to a successful event without a dining room space.
To everyone’s amazement and dismay, the case was escalated to city legislators. Everyone wanted to see the Atlanta church dining room torn down for good. They succumbed to blaming God, as well as falling into confusion as to why this devastating City Hall mandate was happening while they poured their hearts into preparing what was clearly the will of God.
Two particular verses in the Bible gave the volunteers a fresh perspective. 1 Corinthians 15:57: “ But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” and 2 Corinthians 2:14: “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.”
“We wondered how to consider our dining room being torn down a triumph, but were told that because God always triumphs, this, too, was a triumph in itself,” recalled regional event planner Saejoong Park. “Our hearts felt like they were being re-forged to be utilized for something else. It was refreshing. We were happy. And, we were thankful.”
It was clear that the Atlanta church facility issue was teaching everyone how to define the work of God, not by a standard of right or wrong, but according to His end goal, which is to spread the Gospel across the US and reap all the glory. The Atlanta church realized that this newfound heart was not only applicable to their own building, but to the success of the impending Gracias Choir Christmas Cantata.
Schools, retirement homes, army bases, and religious organizations: volunteers took to the streets with 5,000 tickets to distribute, as well as 50,000 fliers and 50,000 invitations to spread. Cantata advertisements made their way to radio stations and public event calendar websites that reached well beyond the surrounding Atlanta suburbs. On one hand, there was a situation that spelled failure, and on the other, the Word of God that spoke of truth. Atlanta church chose the latter and just days before the Christmas Cantata performance, 2500 people had confirmed their attendance. Nobody could deny that God kept his promise that He would make us victorious for His name’s sake.
Inclement weather and predicted heavy traffic may have deterred a few confirmed guests from getting to the Cantata in the end, but when the welcoming message by Pastor Yeongkook Park began, miraculously, nearly 1700 people had taken their seats with open hearts ready for the Word.
Yes, Gracias Choir delivered their usual brand of top-shelf music and stage performance. There were standing ovations and ear-to-ear smiles from the attendees. People flocked the booths after the performance to buy music and get more information about Gracias Choir, and the buzz was extremely positive. Pastor Park delivered a compelling sermon and preached the eternal redemption of Jesus Christ and how He can only be born in the hearts of dirty, filthy people just like the manger at the nativity scene.
But to the volunteers and regional staff members from the Good News Atlanta Church, it was that and so much more. They learned that whether a loss, a failure, or impossibility, they should be considered a triumph through the eyes of God.
More from the 2012 Christmas Cantata Tour soon. Next stop: Jacksonville, Florida.