NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A little girl sits like a rag doll on her daddy’s shoulders, her arms curled around his neck, as they walk beside the polished black granite wall.
“Dad, when will we see Pappa’s name?” she asks. “I’ll show you when we get there,” he answers. At the apex of the Vietnam Memorial Wall, he whispers, “There it is.” His daughter uses a finger to slowly trace the name of the grandfather she has never known. A few minutes pass and the man slowly puts her down, walks away and begins to cry. Thoughts flood his mind of a dad he lost when he was just 4 or 5 years old — the same age his little girl is now. His dad was a hero, but that doesn’t lessen the pain.
Mike Harland witnessed that emotional moment between a father and his daughter and said the image stayed with him as he wrote “America: We Must Not Forget,” a patriotic musical released earlier this year by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. It was written in part as a tribute to America following the Sept. 11 attacks, but the musical is about more than just remembering the victims.
It’s also about remembering the heroes — and it’s a call for spiritual revival.
“I certainly wanted to celebrate the red white and blue and our great history and patriotism,” Harland said. “But I thought if that’s all we did, the musical isn’t going far enough. We want to call our country and specifically the churches of this nation to revival. Revival really doesn’t start with the citizens of America as much as it does with the churches of America.”
The hour-long musical, created by Harland with Chris Machen and Luke Garrett and arranged by Richard Kingsmore, is divided into three major sections for remembering “our heritage,” “our heroes” and “our hope.” It’s received wide praise and attention from churches across the country. One of the many churches that performed the musical for the Fourth of July was Monroeville Assembly of God in Monroeville, Penn. Cornerstone Television Network, a nondenominational satellite network which reaches more than 52 million viewers, recently taped the church’s performance. The network was slated to air the performance Sept. 11.
“We wanted to use the musical because it is calling America back to the foundation of why it was founded,” said Linda Wilson, guest coordinator of Cornerstone Television. “It reminds us to pray for America and not to forget where we came from. As a Christian television station, that’s what we wanted to present to our viewers.”
Bill Jenkins, minister of music at Monroeville Assembly of God, said one of the quotes used in the musical from Patrick Henry especially “stuck out” as he was looking for a musical his choir could perform.
“[Henry] says, ‘It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ,'” Jenkins said. “That’s a message we need to hear.”
A DVD supplying visuals that support each song, along with the music and the narration, accompanies the presentation. The musical “Jesus, the One and Only,” based on the Beth Moore Bible study by the same name, is the only other LifeWay product to date that includes a supporting DVD.
The DVD also offers accompaniment options that allow churches to customize their musical needs and use anything from from an entire orchestra to just a string section. Harland admits that there is a familiarity with this musical that people might expect with the theme of patriotism.
“There’s songs we know and love out of the patriotic repertoire,” he said. “But I’m excited about the fresh songs that are saying new things.” He singled out “Song for the Hero” in the musical that was written with the policemen and firemen of Sept. 11 in mind.
“It’s a song that wouldn’t have been written two years ago, but when we saw a nation rise up to show appreciation, not just to firemen and policemen, but also to our military, it was evident that our nation wanted to say, ‘Thank you,’ to our heroes,” Harland said.
For more information on the musical “America: We Must Not Forget,” visit www.lifeway.com.