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The power of music

Jubalheirs celebrate 40th anniversary with Russia tour


Joe Westbury/Index

Eighty-two-year-old Raisa Grinevich is caught up in a moment of worship during a congregational song led by the Jubalheirs at Central Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, Russia. The musical interlude was part of a woman’s Bible study interspersed with singing and testimonies by Jubalheir members who sought to strengthen the faith of their sisters.

Jubalheirs celebrate 40th anniversary with Russia tour

Joe Westbury/Index

Central Baptist Church was the site of a concert and two-day Bible study where Jubalheirs gave testimonies and ministered to women of the church and community. The congregation meets in a former Russian Orthodox church and is the largest Russian Baptist congregation in St. Petersburg.

ST. PETERSBURG and MOSCOW, Russia — On a cool, drizzly October morning outside a crowded subway station in St. Petersburg, a dozen Jubalheirs lift their voices in praise to God. Across town, a like number minister at an orphanage while spouses work at a construction site.

Indoors in another direction, members of the vocal group assemble witnessing tracts for a missionary who lacks the manpower to pull the materials together.

After lunch and a brief rest at the hotel, the Jubalheirs change into formal attire, board buses to their evening concert, practice, perform, eat a late dinner, and return to the hotel by 10 p.m.

And so the 12-hour ministry days are repeated for more than a week of missions, music, and ministry in Georgia Baptists’ two partnership cities. The event was part of the group’s yearlong 40th anniversary celebration and an opportunity to undergird the work of International Mission Board missionaries in the former Soviet Union.

Nearly 22 years after the dissolution of the USSR – which occurred in December 1991 – Christians enjoy a newfound freedom that the country had not seen for nearly a century. IMB personnel, working through the Russian Baptist Union, now openly share their faith and encourage partnerships such as that with Georgia Baptists.

The Jubalheirs, whose mission statement focuses on missions and ministry as well as music, seized the opportunity to present more than a dozen concerts as part of their anniversary.


‘Amazing Grace’ at the Metro

As the lyrics of “Amazing Grace” float above the rushing commuters, IMB missionaries Keith and Kristie Sullivan stop passersby and invite them, tract in hand, to attend that evening’s concert or visit an English Movie Night class. They are joined by Curtis Murdock, minister of music at Beech Haven Baptist Church near Athens, and Paul Moller, whose Jubalheir wife Claudia coordinates the children’s choir at First Baptist church of Augusta.

The popular language class helps Russians hone their English skills while introducing them to scripture. The missionaries say that if someone makes the effort to attend such a gathering, their chances of accepting Christ increase substantially.

Joe Westbury/Index

The popular handbell choir performs at an opening night concert in St. Petersburg. Before the evening ended concertgoers were also treated to a mini-performance by a local Russian handbell choir.

Some take the tract; others decline the invitation. But regardless, the seed is planted and may sprout on another evangelistic encounter.

Local IMB missionary Clint Stewart says that is the genius behind groups such as the Jubalheirs traveling to Moscow and St. Petersburg for ministry.

“So many times mission teams arrive with their own ideas of what they want to accomplish, and that’s OK to a degree. But when volunteers like these from Georgia come to connect with our ministries – ministries that help meet the goals of the Russian Baptist Union – it strengthens all of our work.

Stewart refers to that approach as “crossover ministry.”

“Georgia Baptists bring resources and capabilities and we connect them with real places they could not otherwise reach. They cannot go to an orphanage because the local officials do not have a relationship and do not trust them.

“But we already have people there who are ‘tried and trusted’ and we channel the Georgians to meet those specific needs. This also helps the RBU because they don’t always have the resources. In effect, the IMB personnel serve as matchmakers between you (Georgia Baptists) and the RBU.

Joe Westbury/Index

State missionary Jon Duncan, who coordinates Music and Worship Ministries for the Georgia Baptist Convention, leads the Jubalheirs in a pre-concert rehearsal.

“Its all about interconnectivity.”

The next day that message was lived out as Jubalheir spouses – serving on one of 14 ministry teams that would eventually minister in St. Petersburg and Moscow – showed up in construction work clothes. At this location they installed windows in a new church that were needed before heating and roofing could be completed before winter. About $8,000, part of the love offering donated for the trip, was used to purchase 13 windows for the site.

The fact that the windows were purchased locally, delivered, and ready for installation when the Georgians arrived was no accident. It was part of a well-orchestrated chain of events that began in early meetings between the IMB personnel and GBC state missionary Jon Duncan.

The ministry was largely dependent on the effort of volunteers like Elsie McDow of Powder Springs First Baptist Church, who coordinated the donation, assembly, and unpacking of 3,500 pounds of donated supplies. In addition, Jubalheirs raised funds like the $8,000 to purchase the windows.

For months she worked closely with Duncan, who leads the Jubalheirs and organized the trip, to be sure the specific requests of the IMB missionaries were fulfilled.

“We were determined that if there was a need wherever we serve, God will give us the means to meet those needs.”

Jon Duncan, state missionary
GBC Music and Worship Ministries

“When we saw the needs list from our missionaries we were rather overwhelmed, but after we considered their level of sacrifice to live on the field away from friends and family, we didn’t see that we could do anything other than meet each of those requests,” Duncan said.

And that is what shows the heart of the Jubalheirs in black-and-white terms.

“We were determined that if there was a need wherever we serve, God will give us the means to meet those needs. In this case, as in others, we were able to meet each need that was presented to us,” he added.

Joe Westbury/Index

Jubalheir members pause in a two-day Bible study to enjoy lunch at Central Baptist Church. The group came bearing gifts of new pots and pans and kitchen utensils wherever their meals were hosted. GBC state missionary and former IMB missionary Buck Burch led the study at Central Church.

In Moscow on the second leg of the trip, the male team members installed new flooring for a drug-alcohol abuse rehabilitation center and provided cash to purchase furniture for the center. Jubalheirs visited an orphanage and homeless shelter/food closet where they delivered clothing and toys for the children and enough cash to stock the food closet through the winter. And they purchased thermoses to take warm food to the streets during the long Russian winters.

And as in Moscow, they spent evenings ministering through the gift of music in concerts, which built visibility of the IMB missionaries and Russian Baptist churches and directed guests to English language groups using the Bible as curriculum.

Jubalheir members range from 40-year charter members such as Hildegard Stanley of Vidalia to Sherin Hinnant of Warner Robins, whose mother, Helen Cook, was a charter member and whose father, Richard Cook, was an organist with the Sons of Jubal for 30 years.

Younger members such as Julie Sellers of First Baptist Church of Albany, who has been Jubalheir for only three years, said it is “wonderful to be part of such a talented group of musicians whose desire is to glorify God. I can’t tell you how much of a treasure it is to have a statewide support group for prayer and fellowship.”

Jubalheirs 2014 free concerts

Jan. 17 – Gillionville Baptist Church, Albany

March 7 – Wieuca Road Baptist Church, Atlanta

Oct. 3 – First Baptist Church, Smyrna

May 8 – 2014 Jubal Chorus Concert, First Baptist Church Statesboro

Click here for more information

Regina Shultz, minister of music at Rockmart Second Baptist Church, read about the Jubalheirs in The Christian Index 10 years ago. The article, which focused on the group’s music and missions ministry, was just what she was looking for.

“I love this group because I learn more about music while using those gifts which God has equipped me with. It all starts with music, but includes a lot of missions and ministry.”

That ministry includes helping associations plant churches by sponsoring health fairs and related events to build visibility.

“Ministry is in the DNA of the Jubalheirs,” Duncan explained.

“To go to Russia and not do ministry like they do here in Georgia would not be true to who they are.”

Joe Westbury/Index

Powder Springs First Baptist Church member Elsie McDow, who coordinated the donation of 3,500 pounds of supplies for missionaries and churches, takes inventory with a Russian Baptist Union pastor. In addition to concerts the group also provided a music workshop for music leaders from across Russia at Second Baptist Church in Moscow.

Joe Westbury/Index

Nancy Skates, left, one of the newest Jubalheirs with one year of membership, exchanges tracts with Ruth Jones outside a St. Petersburg subway station. Skates is a member of Concord Baptist Church in Cumming while Jones is a member of First Baptist Church of Snellville.

Joe Westbury/Index

One of several choir teams performs on a rainy day outside a St. Petersburg subway station. The impromptu concerts drew attention to upcoming concerts and English language classes hosted by local churches.

Joe Westbury/Index

The Estonia Lutheran Church concert hall was the first venue of the group’s Russia concert tour.