God of This City–Of Every City (Part 2)
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him” (II Chronicles 16:9 NIV).
(***To read Part 1 of God of This City–Of Every City, click HERE. It was the last post at Penning Pansies, several weeks ago.)
As the song ended, that song perhaps some didn’t think belonged in a piano bar in Asheville, Bill and I looked at one another, tears in our eyes.
“Well, he did it,” Bill said, referring to the pianist who’d never heard God of This City prior to reading our request.
“Yep. And didn’t it seem he sang with more earnest gusto than any of the other songs tonight?” I shook my head. “Incredible. Just incredible.”
And it truly was.
Ironically, I’d heard God of This City for the very first time in Asheville–in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium some years prior. But it wasn’t the very popular Chris Tomlin who sang it there either. It was the female Christian contemporary artist Natalie Grant. She closed her concert with that song, asking everyone to stand and make it a prayer over the people.
I remember being so moved by that moment–interceding for a city that, like any city, large or small, is steeped in sin. And while God does indeed hate sin, He loves beyond measure each and every sinner…
Sinners like me.
When the song ended and we began filing out, I told my sister-in-law, “That was beautiful. I’ve never heard that song before.”
Little did I know, I’d soon find out more.
Can you and Bill host a house concert? my dear friend Kathy asked, her text pinging my cell phone, and we talked details in a phone conversation shortly after.
Kathy works for an amazing ministry called World Orphans. And being a dear friend of ours for many years, we’d heard a lot about this organization, had offered support in other ways, and had been encouraged by the reports she’d give after trips to Haiti and Kenya.
It was arranged. Bill and I would host a group of young men who were part of two Christian bands, comprised of artists from Northland Ireland and Canada. These groups also collaborated with World Orphans, and its members had become personal friends of Kathy’s. They would come and perform a concert on our back deck. We’d invite friends and family to join us with hopes to raise financial support for this ministry whose mission is to serve widows and orphans around the globe.
Sounded like a win-win to us.
“Oh, and you know the lead singer of one band–Aaron Boyd? He’s the one who wrote the popular song God of This City,” Kathy added.
“Really?” I asked. “I thought it was written by Chris Tomlin.”
“Lots of people think that. And though he did make it popular, it was written and first performed by Aaron’s band Bluetree.”
That was news to us, but it made it even more exciting. After all, most in our circle already knew and loved this contemporary worship song, so it would be a plus when we invited them to the house concert in the coming weeks.
The event was held on June 10, 2017. The band members and supporting staff arrived early and got settled in before enjoying the cool water of Selah Farm’s pond–splashing like kids, their squeals and shouts carried on the wind.
Soon, guests arrived. Seated on our back deck, each anticipated the coming concert, as well as hearing more about the work of World Orphans. It was a beautiful evening.
Songs of praise stirred our hearts, and testimonies offered made us grateful. So many around the globe suffer–having survived earthquakes in Haiti and sickness in Kenya, just to name some of those hardships.
Prior to closing, Aaron drew the attention of our intimate gathering. In his lovely Irish accent, he shared the backstory of his most popular song, though few had been aware it began with him, with his band Bluetree–its roots deep in an experience in a dark city on the other side of the world, among prostitutes and pimps.
All for whom Jesus died.
All whom Jesus loves.
The song was born in Thailand, particularly in a small coastal town called Pattaya. Bluetree band members were there as part of a mission team, ministering to many in the sex industry. Men and young boys. Women and little girls.
The worship band they played with there was called Pattaya Praise, and they ministered in the streets and in prisons–just about anywhere they could. Wanting to play in a particular bar–Climax Bar–in the heart of the prostitution district, they inquired if that might be possible.
“Yes,” they were told. That is, if they brought at least thirty others with them and purchased Coca-Colas for everyone. If so, they had 2-hours to play whatever they wanted. 2-hours to say whatever they wanted.
As stated in an article for Breaking Christian News (by Aimee Herd, June 6, 2009)–
We brought 30 of our friends from the conference and played a two-hour set. We did every worship song we knew in the first 20-minutes, and we were like, ‘What do we do now?’ So we went into the time of free worship and began singing some riffs over the city… We started singing, ‘You’re the Lord of this place, You’re the King of these people, You’re the God of this city; and greater things are yet to come and greater things are still to be done here.’ And that’s the truth. In the midst of all that darkness and craziness, all the sex and child abuse, when it’s so impossible to see God, He’s still God…
As our gathering of friends and family members listened to Aaron relay this memory, share from his personal experience how God birthed this song, tears fell. Hearts were moved. And generosity flowed.
It was a beautiful night of worship, and a successful event to help raise support for our dear friend and the ministry she has so faithfully served for more than a decade. It was our prayer–continues to be our prayer–that widows and orphans around the globe will not only be helped tangibly but, more important, will meet Jesus through the hands and feet of those who serve them in this manner, through this ministry.
(Again, to learn more about World Orphans, click HERE.)
The morning after our experience at the piano bar in Asheville’s Grove Park Inn, I texted my friend Kathy to ask her a couple questions and to share with her all that happened the night before.
I wanted to know if I could quote the lyrics of God of This City. I know that copyright laws–even when giving credit where credit is due–prohibit writers from doing so, even in personal blog posts, without the permission of the original writer. Because I’m aware that Kathy and her husband Keith know Aaron Boyd personally and could ask him, I relayed my question to her.
Imagine my surprise when she texted back–
Well, God being the amazing God that He is, I just happen to be in Colorado right now, and Aaron is leading worship this morning, singing that very song…
She then sent me some photographs and a video of the praise band, with Aaron leading, singing God of This City.
Am I surprised?
Well, sort of.
But should I be?
After all, God shows up time and time again to show Himself faithful to those who seek Him with devoted hearts, as II Chronicles promises.
He even showed up in a piano bar in downtown Asheville.
And perhaps the prayers of those who prayed Aaron Boyd’s lyrics–first prayed in the desperate, dark city of Pattaya–over Asheville many years before in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium prepared the way for that night…
When a pianist who may or may not know Jesus sang God of This City…
And planted seeds.
May they bear fruit for the kingdom in the lives of sinners desperately loved by God.
And please, sweet Savior, start with me.
For more information regarding Aaron Boyd’s current ministry and music, as well as for his most recent album, click theses links: