September 28, 2023

Over the summer through the school off music, two groups known as Hope and Light journeyed around the world to bring the message of the gospel through song.

Through this experience, these students have gained a new perspective on music and life.

“Life on tour is unlike anything else I can imagine,” said Connor Smith, senior music composition major. “It’s such a unique experience and an opportunity that most people will never get to have in their lives, and I’m so blessed to have had the opportunity to do it not just once, but twice.”

Smith was the leader of the small group Light and Kathleen Kopitzke, second-year master of music student, was the leader of Hope.

Both Smith and Kopitzke said that leading their team was difficult at times, but the challenge undoubtedly transformed them.

“I think the biggest thing anyone can learn from experiencing a small group tour is perspective: perspective on people, social dynamics, on personal beliefs and on life itself,” Smith said of the tour.

While Light toured through 25 states on the East Coast, Hope toured through China and the West Coast, making it to Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and Washington.

“Something that stood out to me, too, was the power of prayer,” said Natalie Prines, sophomore liberal studies major and pianist for Light. “I definitely felt those prayers as the Lord not only blessed our tour in many ways, but also kept us safe and healthy through all the miles of traveling.”

Prines said this tour was definitely a huge growing and learning experience for which she is thankful.

She said she felt honored to accompany her group in different kinds of settings for concerts in a variety of churches as well as performing outdoors from time to time.

“It was a joy getting to meet so many different people from all different cultures, lifestyles, and backgrounds,” Prines said.

As representatives of California Baptist University in China, Kopitzke said Hope performed for major universities and a few high schools. Because China is a closed country and one cannot openly express personal faith, Hope performed secular pop songs.

“We were disappointed at first that we couldn’t do more hands-on discipleship while we were there,” Kopitzke said. “But we held on to something Dr. Larry Linamen (vice president of globalization at CBU) said to us. He said although we couldn’t bring the gospel directly to the people in China, we could bring them to the gospel by representing the university and bringing them to CBU.”

Linamen has made all of Hope’s connections in China and has been building relationships with people there for over 30 years. Linamen has also been fostering connections in Japan where Hope had travled last summer.

“China was amazing,” said Ivan Utomo, first-year master of music student and pianist for Hope. “We traveled within the country by shuttle, train and plane, visiting Beijing, Changchun, Dalian, Hangzhou, Ningbo and Nanjing in two weeks.”

When Hope returned to the United States, they enjoyed being able to worship freely with so many different bodies of Christ just as Light did.

Utomo said it was always a blessing to praise God through music with such talented people. He said they become a family due to all the time they

spent together and all the things they experienced together.

“There’s nothing like two months of international and cross-country travel with a small group of friends to really broaden your experience and understanding of God, the world he made, and the importance of building relationships with the people he’s placed around you,” Utomo said.

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