Jason Gray will be in concert at 6:30 p.m. at the Hardy Performing Arts Center at Cambridge-Isanti High School on Saturday, April 6. Tickets cost $15 to $25 and are available online at showtix4u.com or by calling Shannon at 763-250-4655. The fundraiser will also include a silent auction beginning at 5 p.m. and pre-concert music at 6 p.m.
Our Response exists to unite the people of East Central Minnesota to respond to global poverty, disease and suffering.
“Since our beginning in 2009, we have been partnered with World Vision to transform the community of Kivuruga, Rwanda,” Our Response Director Steve Fredlund said. “We now have over 30 churches, businesses and schools who are uniting to help these wonderful people. Over the past three years, many people have been very creative in using their skills and resources to contribute to our response. We have had four sewing groups make 450 dresses that we brought to Rwanda in 2011, Cambridge Eye Associates is donating eyeglasses, a young gal in Pine City made and sold jewelry, and two young sisters encouraged their church in Forest Lake to donate their change. The creativity and passion of many in our community is incredibly encouraging.”
The April 6 concert will help fund the trip for 12 area residents who will be traveling to Kivuruga, Rwanda, this summer, which will be the third trip for Our Response since 2009.
Gray currently lives in Janesville, Minn. and said he’s wanted to be a musician since the second or third grade.
“I grew up on the road with my mom’s bar band, so I was always around music, but more than that I was drawn by it,” Gray said. “Music was a very intimate companion to me when I was growing up. It moved me, even as a little boy. It still does. It is a kind of magic, and I always wanted to be a part of it.”
Gray describes his music as acoustic pop with a folk conscience.
“I’m most interested in what drives the human heart, why we do what we do, why do what we don’t want to do, especially,” Gray said. “Christianity offers a very compelling story for what drives us, what we hunger for most and what heals us. I guess this is the conversation that most interests me. I write other kinds of songs, too, but the kind of songs that help me get to the root of my humanity—what I’m afraid of, what I hope for, why I do the things I do—these are the songs that are the most gratifying for me to sing.”
Gray enjoys writing his own songs and draws inspiration from a couple of areas.
“The books I read are a big part of it, but generally it’s more a matter of keeping my antennae up, paying attention to thoughts and ideas that visit me and seem fertile,” Gray said. “Really, it’s about paying attention to what moves me. If it moves me, or if it’s something I need to hear, chances are good that someone else may need to hear it, too.”
Fredlund said the entire team heading to Rwanda is excited to represent all of East Central Minnesota and accept the gratitude of the people of Rwanda on behalf of the entire community.
“The team will be building relationships with area residents and leaders while bringing encouragement to World Vision staff and volunteers,” Fredlund said. “The team will have an opportunity to engage in many different elements of life in Kivuruga and the changes that are happening as a result of the financial support. This will include visits to schools, churches, agricultural cooperatives, medical caregivers and micro-financing projects. The trip will be individually transforming, but will also continue to enlarge our vision for the impact that can be made when a community sets aside its difference to unite for a common cause.
“Have been there twice myself, I know for a fact that everyone on this trip will never be the same again; and as they see the impact we are having, I expect that passion to continue to spread throughout our area,” he added.
Fredlund said there are now more than 540 children in Kivuruga sponsored by the people of East Central Minnesota through Our Response—these sponsorships alone represent over $225,000 each year of support for Kivuruga. After this year, Our Response will have raised more than $600,000 in direct support through sponsorship and other funding for a Nutrition Project, clean water and AIDS Caregiver kits.
“Using the support of the people of East Central Minnesota, the people of Kivuruga now have an improved Nutrition Center where children up to age 5 are able to get one well-balanced meal each week as well as milk on a daily basis,” Fredlund said. “Also, more than a dozen water collection and filtration systems have been installed. Other improvements include associations to raise and sell mushrooms, training of volunteers to provide care to those with HIV and AIDS, construction and expansion to area schools and education in the areas of nutrition, health and medicine.”
Gray welcomes all members of the community to the April 6 concert.
“We’ll laugh a lot and we’ll share some stories,” Gray said. “Hopefully by the end of it, it’ll feel like time spent with old friends. I hope people feel assured, and like they have found courage they didn’t know they had, and most of all that they would feel loved.”
Fredlund appreciates the continued support for Our Response.
“I want to thank those who continue to support the efforts of Our Response either financially or through encouragement,” Fredlund said. “We have no paid staff, and so we are all involved as volunteers simply because we believe in this effort; we have seen the impact both here (uniting our community) and there (transforming their community). To those who have captured that vision with us, you have affirmed what we have set out to do.”