Wayland students return from Spain

PLAINVIEW - Marleny Morales stands by the vacuum at the Wayland Baptist University bookstore. She is surrounded by books and cards, candles and knick-knacks. It's a far cry from where she was two weeks ago.

Morales, a senior music/business major from Plainview, was among 47 Wayland music faculty and students who traveled to Spain on a mission trip sponsored by the Baptist General Convention of Texas earlier in May.

"Over there, you would find yourself in places where on one side of you there are huge mountains covered in trees and on the other side of you is (The Mediterranean Sea)," Morales said, taking a break from her afternoon job to talk about her experience.

The group spent 10 days in Valencia, Madrid and the surrounding areas, spreading the Word of God through music and song, as well as showing His love through their actions in working with the people they were around.

"Our students were unbelievably effective," said Wayland Assistant Professor of Music Robert Black, who organized the trip through the partnership missions office of the BGCT. "We made lots of good music, made friends and helped a lot of Baptist churches and ministries in Spain by giving them some credibility."

The group performed several concerts featuring the band, instrumental ensembles, handbells, a 30-voice choir and Spirit, one of Wayland's marquee vocal ensembles. Black said the highlight of the concerts was a three-movement piece composed by Dr. Gary Belshaw, assistant professor of piano pedagogy.

"It was written specifically for the trip to Spain and specifically for the group of people who went," Belshaw said. "Everybody had a part."

Belshaw, who spent about a month on the project temporarily titled "A Espana," said he hopes to complete it and return to Spain with a full chorus and orchestra to perform a complete concert. During this trip, the group only used part of his composition which implements scripture reading with music for both the band and choir.

Between concerts at local churches and the university where Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote worked, the Wayland group visited the Alpha and Omega Christian School in Denia where they worked with the students.

"If anything made it all worthwhile, it was when we had the opportunity to go to the school and work with the kids," said Morales, who had to learn to cope with cultural differences.

"We got to do some arts and crafts in the classes and we just made simple little necklaces out of washers," she explained, saying some of the children presented her with necklaces made "especially for you. The little washers that I have at home are so treasured because they remind me of these little kids and the little hearts that they have."

Morales said she would gladly go back . as long as she didn't have to stay for a whole summer. While the trip was very rewarding, she said it did have its drawbacks - coping with the cultural differences being the main thing.

"A lot of it was just me being a spoiled American," Morales said. "I was trying to make myself try some of their cultural things, but because of the fact that I am into my own little world, it wasn't working very well."

The lack of available electricity was one thing that Morales, who is used to using three or four outlets at a time, had to deal with.

"We had one for all these people," she said.

Morales, who was raised in Plainview, speaks Spanish and understood the people, but had a hard time reading the menus.

"We would open the menus and I had no earthly idea what anything was," she said. "We would just pick and choose what we were going to eat for the day and would end up getting something that we had no clue what it was."

"The students just ate it anyway," Black said. "They ate squid. They ate rabbit and all kinds of unidentified seafood and fish and acted like it was the best thing they ever had."

Black said the trip went just as planned with no delays or flaws. At the group's two main concerts they played before packed houses and were received with open arms. They also performed several impromptu concerts with overwhelming results.

The reception to their presence and music was more than the group had expected. In a meeting before leaving for Spain, Morales said they were told that many people in Spain might not be open to people from the United States.

"When we finished our first number, we were overwhelmed with applause," Morales said. "It was awesome that they were so open to us."

Morales even spent time translating "Trading My Sorrows" from English to Spanish and teaching it to the members of Spirit who were able to perform in Spain's native language.

"In one of the emails that we got, the pastor at the school was telling us that the little kids were singing it all day long," Morales said. "It was cool that we had that influence on them."

Not only was the group able to influence the young, but for a moment, they bridged the gap between Catholicism and protestant religions. A catholic priest was invited to one of the concerts and when the group had finished and the preacher had delivered his message, the priest was asked if he would like to speak.

"The pastor preached the salvation plan and after he preached they brought up the Catholic priest," Morales said. "They didn't think he was going to be there, but he showed up and they allowed him to say some words. He talked about how even though there are different beliefs, we were using music and that preaches to everybody.

"It was awesome because here were two people that have different beliefs and they were brought together by something that we were able to do."