Last year, the Christian Leader’s Meeting held over several regions across the US and the World Christian Leaders’ Workshop (WCLW) held in Dallas is still a hot topic amongst the general churches in each region. To continue the ongoing heat, the Gracias Choir opened the way for the Easter Cantata Tour with performances at Connect Church in Belmore and Christian Melody Church in Bronx on the 21st of February. This Easter Cantata Tour is meant for the general churches in New York and it is scheduled to take place in a total of 23 churches from the 21st of February to the 27th of March.
Connect Church where the Tour first began today is a church that works actively for youths with a vision for youths. It has only been 2 years since its foundation and despite being located in a Jewish community, 150 people gather. The Head Pastor, John Gravagna was connected through the promotional process of the WCLW, opened his heart after hearing about the vision of Good News Mission towards the church and the Choir, and even visited the Mahanaim Center by joining in the luncheon after continuously staying in contact. Although Pastor Gravagna could not attend the Christian Leader’s Meeting, he hopes to attend the upcoming events and even visit Korea and meet with Pastor Ock Soo Park.
Unable to conceal their excitement about the performance, the people who have met with the Gracias Choir and the Orchestra for the first time approach them, greet them, and even take pictures with them before the start of the performance. Before the emcee could mention anything, Pastor John Gravagna of Connect Church said that it was the guidance of God that Pastor Bang Won Park visited Connect Church to preach the Words and that he is very happy to give this church’s Sunday service and, he introduced the Gracias Choir saying, “people who really know what is the meaning of going out to the world to preach the gospel.”
The Easter Cantata performance was carried out in the form of concert than in the form of theater due to the small scale of the stage but, the Gracias Choir’s beautiful songs touched the audience as if they had returned to two thousand years ago when this scene had happened. Members of the Connect Church lamented when Jesus was whipped, sang along when the Choir sang hymns, and harmonized with the Choir throughout the 50 minutes performance.
“I truly thank the Choir and the Orchestra. It was amazing. The message of the Pastor was very clear and I marveled at his knowledge.” –Stephanie
“The Choir’s performance was really wonderful. It was beyond imagination. When I saw the peoples’ faces responding to the performance even the children were really enjoying. The Choir’s music was unbelievably perfect and high class. You deliver the message of the life of Jesus through music, theater, and voice and people are responding to it. I think it’s a very special thing that people are taking the initiative to preach the gospel, especially in America. I really thank you all.” -John Gravagna (Connect Church Head Pastor)
On the other hand, the Christian Melody Church where the performance began at 3pm is a church located in Bronx with 300 members. The Head Pastor, John Paulino and his wife, Pastor Felicia Paulino work here. Alike the Connect Church, they were connected through the promotion process of the WCLW, opened their hearts, and both even visited the Mahanaim Center. Before the performance they had a small meeting with Pastor Bang Won Park and his party and expressed their hopes to continue working with the Good News Mission in the future.
At last, the Cantata began and the people could not take their eyes off the stage at the story of Jesus within the beautiful music of the Easter Cantata. Especially, lamentations were heard from here and there when Jesus appeared with the cross on his shoulders. Many shed tears as they watched Jesus being nailed to the cross. When Jesus came back to life, there was standing ovation and cheers.
Pastor Bang Won Park delivered a short message at both churches after the performance. Through the scriptures in Romans 4:25, he explained how a Korean person who gives up one’s citizenship through various processes becomes an American citizen and no longer a Korean. Likewise, our citizenship of sin has ended and we have received a new citizenship of righteousness through the death, funeral, and resurrection of Jesus of all our sins. Moreover, there is no sin that cannot be washed away by the blood of Jesus and we have gained eternal life, holiness, and righteousness not through my efforts but by the works of Jesus. People shouted ‘Amen’ and cheered in between the message as they listened carefully to the Words. At Christian Melody Church especially, Pastor Bang Won Park asked the audience during the sermon that if there were two lines in Heaven each for the righteous and the sinner, those who would be able to stand in the line of the righteous to raise their hands. It was a moving sight to see dozens of people raising their hands.
“Today’s performance was very good. I have lived inside the flesh until now. But today, I was able to understand that Jesus died on the cross and redeemed all our sins. Now I have gained the assurance that I can later stand in the line of the righteous later on in Heaven.” –Ludys Valentin
“We have become righteous because Jesus gave his life. It is not what we have done but the through the grace of Jesus. I have clearly become a righteous.” – Kenny
“The best moment throughout the Cantata performance was when Jesus came back alive. Many people don’t understand why Jesus came to this earth. However, Jesus came to wash away our sins. I could not have gone to Heaven and I have no qualifications but Jesus did it for us. Now I can confidently say that I am righteous because Jesus died for me. If it weren’t for that, I could never have become righteous.” – Samuel Foster
“I felt that I should join my heart to go where you go. I believe it can fill my life. I’m very interested in the things you do. When I see the Pastor, he is prepared in all ways and I felt he is a Pastor chosen by God. I could see he speaks realistically and spiritually in showing Jesus. I do not doubt that at all that the Pastor is the wonderful person of God and I feel that God is alive.” – Felicia Paulino (Christian Melody Head Pastor)
It was a short performance and message but the gospel clearly entered the hearts of the people as they listened to the music of the Choir that deals with the true gospel and the sermon of Pastor Bang Won Park. Among the many performances of the Choir, the Easter Cantata is most closely connected to the gospel. In such terms, the Choir looks forward to this Easter Cantata to be more than a local church performance; a new chapter in leading many people to salvation.