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Causeway members use music, faith to bridge traditional, contemporary

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–They come from diverse backgrounds and cultures with two common passions — making music and faith in Jesus Christ.
The six-member instrumental ensemble chose the name Causeway to symbolize their city, Miami, and their purpose, according to Todd Billingsley, keyboard specialist and arranger.
“We looked up the definition in the dictionary and a causeway is a bridge or raised way over a depression or obstacle,” Billingsley said. “That describes how Christ affects our lives. It’s also a great name to fit into what we’re doing — bridging traditional hymns with contemporary sounds.”
Causeway, which plays weekly for the Saturday night worship service at University Baptist Church in Coral Gables, Fla., played at twice daily worship services of the National Urban and Multicultural Leadership Conference, Aug. 4-8, at Ridgecrest (N.C.) Baptist Conference Center.
“We feel at home here,” Billingsley said of the conference that included Hispanics from Mexico, Central and South America; Koreans; Haitians; and persons from other language and culture groups.
Billingsley, owner of Coral Key Music Publishers, is the only Causeway member who grew up as a Southern Baptist. His father, Derrell, was a minister of music and is now preschool/younger children’s consultant in the Baptist Sunday School Board’s music ministries department. Hymns were Todd’s introduction to music and to Christ.
Causeway numbers included Billingsley’s arrangements of hymn favorites such as Trust and Obey; Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart; Nothing But the Blood; Immortal, Invisible; and Holy, Holy, Holy. Blended with the melodies were sounds of contemporary jazz and the Caribbean from Billingsley on piano and electronic keyboards; Ken Kosicki, bass; Rey Sanchez, guitar; Julie Jacobs, drums; Ed Maina, saxophone and ewi (electronic wind instrument); and Cookie Lopez, percussion instruments including bongos, congas, timbales, rain stick, bell tree and koriko, a Japanese instrument.
A native of Puerto Rico, Lopez became a Christian in 1994 after seeking help for her addictions to drugs and alcohol. She had reached a low time in her life when she began doing drugs with her son.
“I got to the point where I couldn’t even get high,” Lopez recalled. “I felt more guilt at getting him (son) involved.” In desperation she called a friend who arranged for her to enter a Christian treatment center in upstate New York. During her seven-month stay, she became free of drugs and alcohol and accepted Christ as her Savior.
Back in Miami, she received a call from Billingsley with an invitation to play with Causeway for a Saturday night service. She’s been with them ever since and now also works at University Baptist Church preparing preschool resources for use by workers at weekend services.
“I’ve learned how to make blocks and puzzles,” said Lopez, who uses locally grown mahogany to make some of her percussion instruments.
“From where I was to now is incredible,” said Lopez, who found the time at Ridgecrest an opportunity for personal reflection. “I’ve learned to wait on God and trust him.”
Other Causeway members have similar stories of years without God.
In addition to being featured soloist with Causeway, Maina teaches band in an inner-city middle school, modeling excellence as a musician and a commitment to living for Christ.
Kosicki, bass player and landscaper, became a Christian 20 years ago after growing up in a dysfunctional family and struggling with alcoholism.
More recently, he told conferees, “the Lord has totally restored my marriage. I’ve learned a lot about forgiveness and a lot about trust.”
Sanchez, Causeway guitarist and a music producer, said he “likes to gather facts. That’s the kind of person I am.”
A native of Cuba who lived in St. Louis after coming to the United States with his parents and sisters in the early 1960s, Sanchez said he became a Christian 23 years ago after God met him at his point of need.
“My need was facts. Now he’s helping me forget about analyzing and trying to figure out what he is doing. Sometimes being a Christian is about letting go and letting God,” Sanchez said.
Jacobs, a drummer from a musical family, said for many years she “had no need for Christ in my life.” While working in Las Vegas, a Christian entertainer “slowly, over a year’s time, shared Christ with me.”
Back in Miami about five years ago, “one day I just decided to give my life to the Lord. I’m just still amazed at the way God leads, slowly and gently, one day at a time.”
Billingsley and his wife, Missy, faced their own “humongous trial” beginning seven years ago when their first child, Graham, was born three months premature, appeared to be making progress and then died at the age of seven weeks. A daughter and then a second son also died at birth.
“We struggled with why,” Billingsley recalled. “I got very angry with God. I thought he bailed out on me. It took two to three years for the scars even to begin to heal.”
He described the last year as “phenomenal, as far as my relationship to Christ is concerned.”
The aspirations of Causeway do not include full-time touring or recording. With families and their separate careers, they only travel a half dozen times a year, usually conducting seminars on bridging traditional and contemporary music in worship. The focus of their work together is the Saturday night service at University Church.
“It’s so wonderful to be living in him,” Billingsley said.
The National Urban and Multicultural Leadership Conference was sponsored by the Baptist Sunday School Board.

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  • Linda Lawson