104, 100, and 97 degrees. These are the temperatures of the hot springs we soaked our travel weary bodies in Bozeman, Montana. Riding on a bus all night, trying to get comfy enough for actual sleep is a challenge, and most of us had a few kinks to work out. The air was a crisp 60 degrees. Steam rose off the surface of the water as we floated and alternately stretched out on cold stones like arctic seals. After a couple of hours of this refreshment, and an outdoor meal of pizza at a local spot, we loaded back into the bus to drive to Billings, MT, and Yellowstone Lutheran Brethren Church.
I was not raised in the Lutheran Brethren (LB) circle, neither have I been on a HLA choir tour, so I wasn’t prepared for the actual feel and purpose of this event. Every church we have stopped in has its own unique personality and flavor. Each place has greeted us with genuine warmth and excitement, feeding us and finding us places to sleep. The Church of the Lutheran Brethren is a close-knit group spanning many generations, and this is so evident on a tour like this. Students are greeted by pastors and parishioners who, if they do not know the specific student, recognize names, knew grandparents of the students, or met the student's mother of older siblings. I look on with wonder and amusement until I am introduced and immediately embraced with the same warmth, finding myself quickly assimilating into this special bond that is, above all else, Jesus Christ himself.
The church we were at last night was a smaller congregation whose numbers did not dampen their enthusiasm. After our concert we were assigned to our host homes. Every night is an adventure as we wait to meet our host families and load our belongings into waiting vehicles and allow ourselves to be driven off to the unknown. My particular group of ten girls was driven to a ranch that raises cattle, sheep, and operates numerous greenhouses. In the dark, we could have been staying anywhere, but this morning when we got up, we saw the sunrise over a lake with a mountainous backdrop. It took my breath away. People LIVE with this scenery before them every single day! Our host read Psalm 100 to us before feeding us a fabulous breakfast. I was struck anew with an appreciation for the body of Christ that has embraced us every step of the way.
Tonight we are warming up to perform at The LB Church in Williston, ND. We’ll be dining beforehand with members of the congregation, which is a fun twist on our usual dinner theme. Tomorrow we will continue our trek east, adjusting our time, and drinking coffee that is increasingly weaker. Home, here we come!