How have you been sharing your talents to bless others during this pandemic? I recently had a conversation with Susan Smith, a local musician and parent to two of my former students. I was impressed with how she was creatively continuing her music ministry during the Covid-19 ban.
Every Wednesday morning Susan invites all the ARC residential homes and community programs in her area of Herkimer County, NY, to join her for a virtual musical program through zoom. She never knows week to week how many groups will participate, usually six or seven.
Susan plays the keyboard and sings various worship songs while striving for audience participation. “It is so much fun to look up at my computer screen and see all the participants clapping and singing along,” she said. “I want them to feel like it is their program, not mine.”
These zoom meetings have temporarily taken the place of the worship services Susan and her husband, George, have been conducting every Wednesday morning at various facilities under the name “Euangelion” which is the Greek word for the good news. Their programs contain a lot of singing – solos and duets by Susan and her husband, with group sing-a-longs. Susan passes out rhythm instruments so everyone can join in the fun. George shares a message, and participants are invited to share a song. “It is all about making a connection,” Susan said. “We want them to feel ownership for the program.”
Susan’s passion for music started as a young girl at the church where her father pastored in Long Island, NY. She remembers singing with her Dad at a young age, but it wasn’t until she was 14 that she became serious about sharing her talent for the Lord. At this time, her father had started a care and share group, and she rededicated her life to Jesus. She began to live out the Bible verse Matt. 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”(ESV)
With much encouragement and support from her parents, Susan began taking voice lessons and seriously studying piano. She is especially grateful to her father for driving her back and forth to her lessons for so many years.
Throughout high school, Susan sang weekly at church as part of a folk group, and she often did solos, usually singing to a pre-recorded soundtrack.
She continued her music lessons until she graduated, and then went to secretarial school. After working as a secretary for only a short time, she decided to go back to college to follow her passion and study music. “It was priceless for me to be able to get that kind of education,” she said, “I had a whole new set of coaches and teachers to encourage me.” She graduated with a degree in music therapy.
At this point, I would like to fast forward to 2007 when I first met Susan when her husband took a teaching position at Herkimer College. The Smith family settled in nearby Little Falls, and they enrolled their children in Mohawk Valley Christian Academy where I was a teacher at the time. Susan often reached out and helped with the music program at the school.
Soon after moving to the area, Susan and George started the Campus Christian Fellowship, a campus ministry at Herkimer College which consisted of various Bible studies, large group worship meetings, retreats, game nights, parties, outings, and a Gospel choir which Susan led. The group soon grew into the largest student organization on campus.
During this time, God began stirring Susan’s heart to compose her own inspirational songs. She responded to God’s nudge and began writing original songs, but she wanted a better way to present them to the public. She contacted the company on one of her accompaniment CD’s to see if they could produce a customized soundtrack for her. She was put in touch with a music arranger from Nashville who once played keyboard for the “Oak Ridge Boys.”*
He worked closely with Susan to create soundtracks for Susan’s original songs, and for some of her favorite hymns. Susan used these soundtracks as she shared her music in many venues around Central New York. Her music was met with enthusiasm, and many people asked where they could purchase a CD of her music. She had to tell them that she didn’t have any available, but a seed began to grow in her heart. She asked God, if He wanted her to produce a CD, to send her a mentor to walk her through the process.
A few years later, when Susan was performing at a revival meeting in Newport, NY, she met Pete Rose, a local musician and radio host on WVVC (88.1FM). He shared Susan’s vision and provided her with the guidance and encouragement she needed to bring her dream of making a CD to life. Susan had waited a long time, but she felt that this was God’s perfect timing. He spoke to her through Deut. 2:31 “The Lord said to me . . . Now begin to conquer and possess his land.” (NIV)
In 2016, she produced He’ll Calm Your Storm, a CD which features four of Susan’s original songs, a song written by her father, and some of her favorite traditional hymns. “The signature song, ‘He’ll Calm Your Storm,’ is especially relevant during these turbulent times,” Susan explained, “it is based on the Bible story found in Matthew 8:23 – 27 where Jesus calms a storm while crossing the sea with his disciples and on Psalm 46:10, ‘Be still and know that I am God. . . .’ (ESV) What I want to get across is that no matter what is going on in your life, He will calm your storm.”
One of the greatest blessings in Susan’s life is that she has passed her passion for music ministry on to her two children. Her daughter, Susan Grace, is a worship leader at the church where she and her husband pastor. She sings and plays both the piano and guitar. (And Susan is proud to announce that her daughter is carrying her first grandchild, due in April.)
Susan Smith’s son, George III, plays the drums for the worship team and is involved with the youth ministry at his church.
We are not all blessed with beautiful soprano voices like Susan Smith, but I hope that you are creatively using whatever talents God has given you to reach out and bless others during this difficult time.
Portrait by Mick Kineke
background image by Jan White from Pixabay
Susan would like to give you a special gift – a link to her signature song, “He’ll Calm Your Storm.”
To schedule a performance of Euangelion at your church or organization, or to purchase a CD, visit their fb page at the link below:
*Originally incorrectly stated as Alabama. Revised on 2/20/21