Sunday, 9 June 2013

IAmMusic.TV: Why music and religion might not be that different after all...

“And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears. Get over your hill and see what you find there, with grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.”- Mumford and Sons
Religion and music aren’t often seen to go hand in hand; John Lennon once joked about the Beatles being bigger than Christianity and it was pretty much a downward slope from then on. But aside from John Lennon’s ego, religion and music have one huge thing in common: they connect people. Going to a gig is similar to going to church: you spend 90 minutes listening to somebody relay their lives work and when you leave (perhaps in the cases of good gigs…), you feel a connection with an entity so much more powerful than your very being. My altar might happen to be the O2 and for a while, I assumed that I’d only be able to connect with people on a similar wavelength – those who felt at their most comfortable watching Alanis Morissette ‘shing’ (shout and sing…) about performing oral sex in cinemas, alcohol flowing and bodies merging into one as you became unsure of whether it was your own sweat you felt dripping down your body or the person’s next to you. But then I became acquainted with Carrie Lloyd and I realised that whether your altar happens to be a sweaty music venue or the Holy Trinity Church in South Kensington, both religion and music are ultimately about one thing: love.
Carrie has been my writing mentor for the last two years and over that time, I’ve had my entire outlook on life transformed. She’s opened my eyes to numerous points of views I would have otherwise dismissed and encouraged me to think about what the world is really all about. Alongside this, she’s taught me how to continuously learn to be a better version of myself, a nicer person and a more open minded one at that. I’ve always been interested in religion – mainly because, just like music, it manages to get each individual in a gentle headlock and shape their mindset…I’ve just never understood why sometimes this doesn’t work in everyone’s favour? I guess that’s a question that I can’t answer just yet…but with Carrie’s help, give me a couple more years and I’ll come back to you. In the meantime, if you do go to a gig and bump into a particularly nasty guy in the moshpit, maybe you could ask him why music makes him mad and let me know.
When I met Carrie, I lived in a tiny little town off the South East coast and had yet to come across a person so destined to change the world. I guess that’s why I took a interest in her; I saw her ambition, her dedication and her passion for something other than messy nights in Eastbourne town centre. With a 10 year age difference between us, I still think to myself that if I’m half of what Carrie Lloyd is like when I’m 30, I will be the happiest 29 year old on their birthday eve, ever.
So when an e-mail popped up in my inbox back in August, telling me she was planning to move to America for a year, I wasn’t shocked or surprised as I always knew that Carrie was part of the bigger picture. There’s an entire world out there for her to help and although I suddenly realised that there would now be an eight hour time difference between us, meaning ‘instant messaging’ was a thing of the past unless we both became insomniacs, I also knew, rather selfishly, that Carrie’s ‘adventure’ would benefit me because I’d be learning so much about the world without having to miss my favourite band perform at Brixton Academy. Bonus.
I found out that Carrie was to be studying at Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Yup, I’d never heard of it before either and it does sound like something out of the Harry Potter series. Nevertheless, through Bethel, Carrie has been studying in America for the last seven months and is now about to embark on something more terrifying than losing your friends in a Pantera moshpit;-
For 13 days, Carrie is going to be amongst a group of ‘students’, all studying at Bethel, as they begin a mission that will not only change the world, but so many of the lives they come into contact with. Bethel lead mission trips every Spring to 47 different countries, with each mission differing from the next depending on the destination. In Congo, Bethel focus on helping the likes of child soldiers regain the life they’re supposed to be living, as children…not weapons of war. In East Asia, Bethel may focus on governmental provision and financial change. It’s all about making the world a better place. Which is why I love Carrie’s religion so much; what the students of Bethel are doing for the world, music does to me.
This time around, Carrie’s going to be one on a team of 51 people flying to the Philippines, where Bethel have partnered with a charity called Unlikely Heroes – a charity dedicated to the rescue of children forced into sex slavery. So far, 30 girls have been rescued and placed into a safe house. Which is where Carrie will be staying throughout this mission. Let’s focus here: I can barely look after myself. Carrie has just agreed to look after the safety of a group of girls whose reality is worse than a nightmare. That’s a lot of responsibility but I can think of nobody better. I mean, if she can provide me with writing encouragement at 3am most mornings, I know for a fact that she’s the best possible person for this mission.
I e-mailed Carrie for a little bit of an insight into the mission; I’m fascinated by all that she does, knowing it’s in the name of a greater power. We may hold different religious views but Carrie’s taught me that believing in God doesn’t necessarily mean believing in a  old guy sat in the clouds with a beard. It’s about believing in love – spreading love, giving love and teaching love. Which is exactly what she’s going to be doing in the Philippines.
For 13 days, Carrie is going to be counselling the girls who endure repeated rape, torture and brokenness on a daily basis. You’re sat there reading this on your Apple iPhone or state of the art laptop. I can’t even begin to put this into perspective.
When Hendrix performed at Woodstock in 1969, atmospheres changed. That’s exactly what happens when Bethel students embark on their missions; atmospheres change, broken hearts are healed and the world moves for everyone involved. The aim behind the missions is to change the world…it’s that simple. Using religion as an umbrella, methods of world changing madness are based around love. Just like groupies following their favourite musician, Bethel students react to what they receive from their God.
This movement was sparked last year, when Bethel students took to the slums of the Philippines and realised that through prophecies received from God, they could heal the broken hearted, the sick and the wounded. Be it trouble in a relationship, a career issue or actual physical pain, these guys have been known to change lives through the revelations they’re witness to. “It’s not about converting, it’s about saving souls as much as showing there’s a bigger entity that believes in love and wants intimacy with mankind. It’s about speaking life into someone, changing a person’s life to think an omnipotent being is looking over them so specifically that He got a couple of people to tell them that.”
Without wanting to disparage the beauty of this mission, because I think even if I wanted to, I couldn’t – there’s enough evidence that this ‘adventure’ is so selfless, inspiring and ridiculouslu beautiful that I’d be stupid to try and belittle such a thing. However, music does something similar. You know when you’ve just gone through a break-up and you hear ‘Someone Like You’ – Adele and you think, for those three minutes, that the song was written solely for you? That Adele wanted to specifically reach out and tell you everything was going to be okay because “sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead”? Yeah…we’ve all been there. That’s exactly what Carrie’s mission is trying to show. That when you feel alone and like things genuinely cannot get any worse…there’s always someone to hold your hand.
People begin to beg for this ‘heavenly encounter’ that Bethel students are creating; “people dance in the rain and atmospheres shift. Less crime occurs in places. Printers work. Really bizarre things happen with a team of people who just want to love and reach out. It changes world.”
Through a technique called Sozo, a freeing intense therapy which connects people back with God, Carrie is going to be changing the worlds of the girls witness to such dreadful things, helping them to have their own ‘heavenly encounter’, reminding them that they too deserve to be loved, regardless of the horrors they’ve been put through.
When Carrie sent me an e-mail about the mission, she warned me that it might be a bit too ‘God heavy’ to publicise. But this is where IAmMusic.TV differs from other publications/blogs; we believe in love and essentially, that’s exactly what Carrie is teaching on her mission. We’re not just about publicising music that touches the hearts of individuals, but publicising the actions that highlight the wonderful, crazy people that inhabit this world, making it a better place for the future generation.
“I’ve never done anything this terrifying. Some of these missions are so dangerous, that if you are accepted to go on the trip – you receive a phone call – no emails, no online evidence anywhere.” The scariest thing I’ve ever done was moving to London alone and there’s Carrie, e-mailing me about hostage situations. There are genuinely no words to describe her bravery. But then again there are also no words to describe the situation of the girls she’s going to be helping…
What I find the most fascinating about the missions Bethel host is the miracles that occur throughout. Carrie’s fully aware of my religious standing and has never tried to preach to me the wonders of her God, but I’m fairly open minded; instead of quivering in fear as Carrie describes the occurrences that take place on the mission trips, I find myself fascinated and begging for more information. It’s explanations of Raise The Dead teams (I think the title is pretty self explanatory) and miracles occurring that give me faith in the Universe. Whilst Bethel students say these unexplainable happenings are part of God’s work, I’m going to go back to one of the first lessons Carrie ever taught me: it’s just love. Be it God’s work or not, the basis of these miracles is that simple.
I guess I’m pretty lucky in the sense that I’ve been surrounded by strong, unbreakable women since a really young age. I began taking life lessons from The Spice Girls and screaming about ‘girl power’ from the age of four and along my journey, I discovered Alanis Morissette, Caitlin Moran and Carrie, herself. Through lyrics and newspaper articles, I’ve had some of the most fortifying lessons instilled in me. But the girls Carrie is going to be spending 13 days looking after haven’t. Like I said earlier, they’ve endured a lifetime of torture and haven’t been able to utilise the people around them for their own benefit. They should be listening to old P!nk albums, singing about being “too cool for school” – not being subjected to repeated rape. Which is where Carrie and her team come into this; they’re going to be healing these children, counselling them towards a life where they can then become undefeated and providing them with the tools to remain strong. “A God encounter to make them rise above their trauma and past the hurt – it’ll allow them to believe in the power of goodness, winning the battle against evil and most importantly: love.”

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