Well here it is… the blog I thought I might never write. And to be quite honest, I still don’t know what the second step is for KSM, but I know the next one…finally! For those of you who have followed this ministry over the past years, you know that this is the way it has always been; a journey of faith, revealed one step at a time. And truly I believe this is what makes the life of faith so challenging, so exciting, so rewarding… and so much fun! And please help me share this message by link, by text, by email, or by whatever means you can. I have been quiet for so long, and because of certain algorithms the tech giants have chosen, many of our “friends” may never see this. Many of them no longer use social media at all. I’d really like to reconnect.
Over the past 14 months of full-on craziness I have blogged/posted very little. I felt like my Journey was no more challenging than yours, and I really didn’t have much to say anyway. So apart from a few posts and a couple of original song videos, I have been relatively quiet about our Journey. It also seemed that everyone has had a full plate over the past months. It just seemed so selfish to ask for your prayers. During this time our ministry turned rather organic. We’ve participated in a few podcasts and videos, but mostly we have ministered in one on one opportunities.
Now, however, it seems I finally have a few new things to share with you. FIrst, a quick recap. Ready? (I’m talking “quick” here.) In early fall 2019 it seemed as if God were saying “slow down a bit”. In January 2020 I agreed to take a part time position in a small church near our home and travel a bit less. One of the reasons I did this was to take care of a few personal medical concerns (nothing serious thank God!). On March 15, 2020 we discovered along with everyone else that a “bit less” travel really meant no travel at all! Our “forty-three of fifty-two Sundays” in 2020 turned to zero in a matter of a couple weeks. Then I became unexpectedly (but wonderfully) busy handling a greatly increased video and audio workload. In no small part due to our DOM, I also ended up installing several audio and video systems as MISSIONvideo found its way to the forefront. As the year drug on, a few of our special churches began having services and invited us to join them. Because of this I had a few opportunities to speak and to lead worship. (Truthfully, I think some of them made up reasons, just to be good to us one more time). At the same time the little church I was working with wasn’t quite so little anymore. We did several Christmas concerts and crawled into 2021 with everyone else. As more churches began to open up, the phone began to ring and the little church I was leading worship at wasn’t little at all anymore. Whew! But at least we now we’re all up to date, and we can finally get started!
2021…. All our 2021 available Christmas Concert Sundays are now spoken for, although I can take a couple “though the week” dates. As far as the rest of the year, anyone from the Texas Metroplex to west Texas want Sunday September 12? I also have Sunday, November 14 available for most anywhere. And that’s it for the rest of the year. We are still taking a few “through the week” and Sunday night dates however. And you remember how this all works, right? These church appearances in addition to being ministry opportunities, help make it financially feasible to do our “anytime, anywhere” thing. They also provide for us the ability to take part in conferences for other Parents who have shared a Journey similar to ours. And speaking of conferences, we now have three of those scheduled as well. There’s one each in Colorado, New Jersey and California. We have out of town concert and Church dates in North Carolina, Arkansas, Ohio and Texas. Among these are several opportunities to tell Matt’s story to brand new audiences. Can you believe it? Now we ALL know that this might just go away again. Perhaps the country will shut down for the next “crisis”. Maybe another gas pipeline will be compromised and we won’t be able to buy fuel. Could be that a financial meltdown will overtake us and our money will be no good at all. Might be that our religious freedoms will be trampled once again and church doors will close. Then again, the next musical instrument you hear may be a trumpet and we won’t have to be concerned about any of this ever again!
2022 AND BEYOND…. This is the “next step” thing. I’m praying about a “relaunch” of sorts in the Fall. You know, the “redesign the website and social media pages, communicate with all the churches where we have been and see if there’s a future out there. But I’m not sure about all that just yet. Still haven’t had the “This is the way, walk ye in it” moment. So I guess I’m asking for your prayers for clarification here.
NEW MAJOR PROJECT… One of the amazing opportunities that presented itself during the “pandemic party” involved producing a large number of audio/video hymn projects for a local Church. One of my dear friends approached me about this to help his church provide music while they were meeting “in the zoom” instead of the “in the room”. These unique arrangements called for a much more formal type of presentation than you are used to hearing me do. This caused me to dig deep into my musical past and rediscover idioms and chord progressions long ago forgotten as many of these arrangements tend to be a bit more “classical” in style. Add to those a couple of unique jazz arrangements I recorded with my friend, a very personal original tune or two as well as some additional hymnody and bonus traks. This has turned into by far the most ambitious, all new recording project I have ever attempted. KSM is considering a release of this project as a DVD/CD boxed set as well as downloadable files this Fall. Believe me, this is huge. I expect sell so many that the project will immediately go aluminum or maybe even tin. (Gold and Platinum are out of the question). I’m hoping to find a corporate or individual sponsor to help fund the packaging. Either way though, we’ll offer this one like we have always been led to do. An offering of any amount… and guess what? Whatever comes in we will use to keep KSM afloat and continue to tell Matt’s story anytime, anywhere.
AND NOW PERHAPS THE MOST EXCITING NEWS OF ALL…. All those years ago now when Matt announced to us that he wanted to be in the ministry, we wanted him to make the best educational choice possible. With that thought in mind, he and Shaunda boarded an airplane and flew east to check out one of the largest and arguably the most desirable Christian university in the country. About twelve hours into the “college days” experience, Matt announced that this one was a clear “no go”. A few weeks later, at the urging of his “Baddy”, we loaded up again (this time in the car) and headed to the south. Baddy personally knew the president of a small Bible College, then known as Jacksonville Baptist College.
Did I say small? How about very small. And not only small, but with the exception of a couple of newer buildings, the others had seen their last upgrades many years earlier. It’s doubtful that this institution would have been on many aspiring student’s short list. It was a likely “no” from me and an overwhelming “no” from Matt’s mom, but a resounding “yes” from Matt. He saw what we could not. A few months later following several hours of scrubbing on the shared dorm bathroom and a new piece of carpet in the dorm room, we drove off leaving Matt laughing and smiling at the dorm room’s front door. Shaunda, on the other hand, cried all the way home… literally. And thus began one of the most life-shaping experiences of Matt’s young life.
Matt earned a couple of really good scholarships from the school. One of those required him to sing bass in a southern gospel quartet. Guess what? He hated it. Guess what else? I LOVED it! (There occasionally is justice in this world.) Soon we also grew to love this special place in East Texas. We knew a lot of what Matt did at school, but not everything. Some things we found out at his special service. We knew he sang. We knew he ventured into drama for the first time. We knew he had coffee in the mornings with several professors and administrators. We knew he had good grades (mostly). We knew he loved his time at Jacksonville. We did not know, however, that he dressed up in a cougar costume as the school mascot for basketball games. Funny, he never told us about that.
It was at Jacksonville Baptist College that Matt fell deeply in love with the Word, and fixed his trajectory squarely towards ministry. It was here that he became acquainted with Criswell College and eventually chose to attend there to complete his Bachelor’s degree, winning a full ride scholarship to lead worship in the process. And it was during his first Christmas break from Criswell College, in his third year in Bible College, that Matt’s Journey would take the hard left turn that would see the end of his ministry… or would it?
And it was at this special place in deep East Texas, now known as Jacksonville College, that just last week Shaunda and I stepped out of her car into one of our few sunny days of late. We walked across the familiar campus to meet with the current outgoing President and the incoming President. We couldn’t help but notice that the campus, though still small, appeared clean and updated. We had scheduled this meeting to discuss perhaps our most exciting news of all. What is that news? Glad you asked!
A regular supporter of KSM approached me just before Christmas in 2020 with an idea. “Suppose you start a scholarship in Matt’s name so that his legacy may live on in another young man or woman”? And just that quick, there it was. Yet another Christmas miracle.
You will hear more about this soon as details of the process are finalized. But perhaps even as soon as the 2021 fall semester a young man or woman who wants to continue their own path towards a career in the Worship Ministry can start at the very same place Matt started, a small out of the way wonderful haven in East Texas. And they can have a substantial portion of their Journey paid for just as Matt did because of a special friend of this ministry.
We enjoyed a wonderful meeting with these two gentlemen where we got to share Matt’s incredible story of hope one more time. Then we were led across the street to the Alumni association building where we found a cache of yearbooks dating back may years. It included an 06/07 copy, the one Matt never bothered to pick up and bring home. A quick glance through the pages revealed several more pictures of Matt we had never seen, including the infamous “cougar” picture. Then just a couple pages over we saw a nearly full page picture of Matt when he was named Mr. JBC 2007, yet another fact he casually left out.
After a rainy six weeks, the skies early last Wednesday were uncharacteristically bright, but had now turned a bit cloudy, Both Shaunda’s and my heart must have swelled with pride as we were walking back to the car through a time warp, enveloped by a flood of emotion. As I rounded the last corner I looked up at the door of the exact same dorm room where we left Matt all those years ago. I couldn’t help but notice that once again Matt’s Mom was crying. So I thought I may as well join her. Soon we were on our way back north toward the small Texas town that we still call home. This time, however, we were soon laughing once again. As I drove along it seemed that Matt was there today too, and completely aware of everything that had just happened. Perhaps he had joined the “great cloud of witnesses” at least for that special morning. Perhaps he was also aware that his ministry might just live on in some small part through someone else even after we are gone.
FULL CIRCLE…. So all of this brings us full circle, and I once again ask you to pray, really pray for this ministry, Less than one hour after our meeting and after having quickly eaten half of my lunch, I joined a Zoom call (late) to discuss one of those conferences. It was at the end of this call that I was reminded again of how important this ministry that God has given us really is. Please don’t misread that. I am not important, and honestly neither is Matt. But the message is. Seems that at the end of one of this year’s sessions there will be a brand new component. There will be a special “memorial service” if you will. Because of the lockdowns there will be several moms joining us who lost their children during the pandemic… but were never able to have a memorial service at all.
Wow. How terribly sad. Do you see how important the message of hope in Christ is? What do we really have without Him? Very little I’m afraid, So thank you to those who have hosted us in your churches over the past months. Thanks to those who have chosen KSM for your video production, sound system, video system and audio recording needs. Thank you to our individual supporters who have faithfully carried us through. Thank you to the special people who have made the MATTHEW VIRGEL SCHOLARSHIP FUND possible. Thank you Prairie Valley for jumping way outside the box and inviting me to be your Worship Leader. Thanks to all of you. Because God laid this ministry on your heart and because of your prayers and financial support, there still IS a KSM today. And that was not a foregone conclusion friends. Many times over the past year I thought this crazy adventure might be over for good. I thought I might never again be able to share with you what was “coming next”. This is a blog I thought I might never write.
Pray for God’s continued blessings on this ministry. Pray that we correctly determine God’s direction for that next step after this one. Pray for us as we travel. And pray for Shaunda and me. Pray that when we stand before grieving Moms and Dads, that we will be willing vessels through which the all-powerful message of hope in Jesus can flow.
How great is our God!