I’m sitting in TX on my Camp KidJam dorm room bunk, exhausted. My arms are tired from carrying around my heavy book-bag full of schoolwork that I need to be doing in my down-time to prepare for the fall home school run, and the workload of necessary training I intend to do to enhance my essential oils business. Have I even touched what is in the bag before today? Nope. But the reason why was rather life-changing—a story that I hope will inspire other leaders to a deeper level of leadership. So sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip, of a faithful ship—[leader]ship… sit back while I share “The Miracle of Harmony Wiseman.”
Meet Austin Wiseman. He was sent to join me in Glen Rose, Texas to lead worship together for EPIC kids’ camp (over 500 kids and their leaders). None of us had ever heard Austin sing. He was recommended by a trusted and professional musician friend who has served Camp KidJam in years past.
So apparently I freaked Austin out a little (or a lot) when I met him in the airport and asked the question, “I’m so excited to sing with you: have you worked on all of the guy-led songs and learned the harmonies?”
He looked at me with a rather nervous, but contagious grin, and nodded “yes,” but in more of a question-form sort of nod. Not looking so sure of himself.
Back-story: There were NO singers—ZERO—to respond to the director’s request to lead at this camp, and just days before that first meeting at DFW airport, I was to be “the lone singer.” That’s not the norm for these camps. (We do wear out guys, though, unless they can sing freakishly high; even the most well-known worship leaders have had their struggles at CKJ.) So my “last-minute, 48-hours notice team” was to be Austin (with the mystery voice yet to be heard) along with a girl that we thought was 17 from the camp’s home church. She ended up being 15, and she had not yet heard the music with any vocals on the tracks. Upon meeting her, she said nervously, “Um, I don’t really know the songs. The music my leader gave me was just music.” (Insert apologetic, yet beautifully contagious grin.)
SO! I had NO IDEA how this was about to go! But I absolutely LOVED how likeable these two were right from the start! Knowing that God is Sovereign and how rare this scenario was that was playing out, I was both anxious and excited to see what would happen.
We started to sing together for the first time at the hotel.
“Just sing along, Austin, so that I can see where we need to divvy out parts and decide who is leading out on which song.”
He was singing every single word of every single song, and it was apparent to me how HARD this kid had worked . . . an octave low, though, and melody only.
“That’s GREAT! Now can you try to match my voice?” and I moved forward in trying to get him to sing the songs in the right register. Not. Gonna. Happen. Possible? Sure, but it would take learning some new habits, and our first session was in one day. I decided then to play to his strengths, and that would mean welcoming his lower register. God had a plan.
After determining that we were going to have eight sessions with thirteen songs to work on, I went to bed that night praying exceptionally hard for guidance on how to handle this amazingly spirited and wonderful kid, whose heart loves God with as much passion as a heart can possibly hold.
The three of us worked non-stop until the first evening session. I would love to say that we went out of the chute amazing, but . . . vocally, that first night was rough. The energy was fantastic though, and these two kids prayed backstage like they were moving mountains!
JUMPING off of the stage that night, Austin’s entire FACE smiled and he exclaimed, “That was so awesome! I have NEVER led worship without voices on the track before!”
I was happy for him, while balancing the need (and pressure) from our director to raise the excellence level. We were going to hit it hard and hopefully add the ability to sing harmony. This would keep him in a register he was comfortable with, but learning harmony for the first time in front of 500 kids and leaders is not ideal, for anyone! I was so unsure of him, of them, of us, and of my own leadership abilities, and of what to do.
The Lord kept steadying my heart with this verse:
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)
The next morning, I told Austin, “Your name is Harmony! Harmony Wiseman! It is who you are now. You are GOING to do this; I just know it!!!” Then there were times when we would spend an hour and forty-five minutes on ONE SONG before moving on to the next. The next five days turned into a vocal workshop that extended through all of our waking moments. At one point, I was smiling externally and out of my mouth were words of highest praise and encouragement. But inwardly, I was bashing my head against the wall over and over and over again.
The Lord immediately steadied my heart with this powerful thought:
If Austin were J. Michael, how would YOU want the person sitting in YOUR CHAIR to treat your son?
BAM!!! THAT WAS IT! From that moment forward, I had patience for days! We laughed, and laughed, and worked hard, and sang phrases endlessly, and laughed, laughed, and laughed some more! IT. WAS. AMAZING. And I began to see a MIRACULOUS TRANSFORMATION taking place like nothing I had ever before experienced.
Harmony Wiseman never gave up. He was able to adapt to instruction. He was honest and humble, eager and determined like nothing I had ever witnessed. He was the poster child for the “happy heart and teachable spirit” that we desire from our own two children. He was able to try anything, laugh at himself, and keep the best attitude! Christina never ran out of patience, and she worked just as hard. It got to the point where I didn’t want it all to end.
It is impossible to share in a blog all of the things that awed me over those five days. But I will tell you this: after the THIRD DAY, Austin was leading songs AND singing harmony for the very first time in his entire life!
By the fourth and fifth days, he was confidently leading FIVE songs like a pro and singing great harmonies on SEVEN others.
Austin Wiseman found his voice.
I encouraged him to go home and immediately stop relying on other voices to do the singing for him. I advised him to find a vocal instructor right away who believes in him as much I do, because the mountain of material that he leveled in those first three days was nothing short of miraculous!
And when this kid spoke to the kids in the crowd? They did not make a sound. They responded immediately to his every word. Singing or no singing, Austin’s voice WILL be used to bring many kids to Jesus. Of this, I am certain.
What did I learn?
I learned many great leadership principles while working with Austin from 7:30am to 11:00pm each day. We essentially went through a vocal course while laughing and enjoying every bit of hard work together! Ironically, the drama taking place during camp was about a normal boy “Norman” who attended a school for the exceptionally gifted, and how he “found his voice” when the lead character believed in him. Norman was wise in a world of the smart. And as our real life challenge played out, Austin Wiseman (his legit last name) relied on the encouragement from me and the supernatural help of the Lord He loves, to quite literally find his voice.
We are often reminded to “treat others the way you want to be treated” or even to “treat others the way that God treats you.” I was gripped when I was prompted to “treat someone else the way that I would want my own son to be treated.”
I couldn’t help wondering if any other leader had been in this scenario with him what might have happened. I have been in competitive settings, even in the church, where EXCELLENT PROFESSIONALS will get insecure or crushed, unable to rise to even the potential that they already HAVE. Let alone what they have yet to uncover.
Whatever way you look at it, when you are looking at a seemingly impossible leadership situation, there is always—ALWAYS—the potential to witness a great miracle.
You MUST look not at yourself, but instead leverage your influence for the greatest good in someone else!
This will require surrender and reliance on YOUR part as well.
This will require patience and a well-spring of unending encouragement.
This will demand that your words give life, and only life!
Sometimes you must look BEYOND what you see in order to uncover the *more* that lies in the depth of the one you are leading. Everyone, even the most skilled persons, have a *more.* Look for it!
Seek to encourage – TO INSTILL COURAGE – which will require a death to your critical spirit. People are always more likely to shrink back in fear, yet YOU can draw them out!
The rewards of
pouring into the success of someone else will far outlast any leadership
joy you can derive from your own personal accolades or successes.
Surprises like these become reminders for the future life-changes ahead.
God is seeking those who live in humble surrender, in order that He can bring the most glory to Himself. It is NOT about us, but ALL about Him.
God’s Presence filled that camp, and my favorite worship nights of the entire summer were found under the desperate reliant lead of Austin Wiseman, the kid who found more than a voice.
Giving every bit of himself to the Lord is exactly what this young leader did.
And we were ALL changed because of the miracle of Harmony Wiseman.
If YOU are facing something that you feel ill-equipped to accomplish, GREAT!!! I’m so excited for you! I hope that you are wise enough to see the opportunity for the Lord to stretch your life in a brand new way. Hit it with a happy heart and a teachable spirit. Find others who will breathe life into you. Don’t give up, even if it takes more time and effort than you thought it would require. I pray that you will find your voice, and use it to magnify the all-surpassing greatness of the God whose power is made perfect in your surrender.
Imagine if all of our lives were in harmony with one another, seeking wisdom with such joyful reliance:
What in the world could God do?
|I will remain grateful for these two incredible young leaders and I cannot wait to see all that they become!