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Pastor, sons use hobby to provide guitars for missionaries

Pastor Greg Gilbreath of Madison Baptist Church, Jackson, Tn., strums the guitar he and his sons made to be sent to a church in Peru. It was the second guitar the Gilbreath family has constructed for missions. (B&R photo)

JACKSON, TN. (BP) — Pastor Greg Gilbreath of Madison Baptist Church has always enjoyed both playing and repairing his own guitars.

Two of his sons — Sam and Ben — also enjoy playing the guitar while his third son, Nic, is a woodworker. Sam Gilbreath is minister of youth and plays in the worship band at Meridian Baptist Church in Jackson while Ben is a folk musician. “Nic does not play an instrument but he is really skilled at making the guitars “look pretty,” he laughed.

After learning about Instruments of Joy from Scott Shepherd, worship and music specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, Gilbreath and his sons decided to provide a guitar for the Nashville-based organization that provides musical instruments to equip musicians who live in poverty-stricken communities who cannot afford instruments.

Since its founding, Instruments of Joy has provided more than 750 instruments in over 70 countries by working with partners, such as the TBMB, who have established relationships in many of those countries.

Gilbreath and his sons purchased a blank guitar body and the electronics for the guitar. He shared what they were doing with Madison Baptist and Madison-Chester Baptist Association and both entities provided additional funds. After the guitar was complete they had enough funds to send “extras” with the guitar, including a hard shell case, an amplifier, extra strings and more. “It was everything a guitarist would need,” he said.

Instruments of Joy delivered the handmade guitar to Ediberto, a musician at Central Baptist Church in Peru, who could not believe someone would make a guitar for their church.

“We enjoyed the Instruments of Joy project,” he affirmed. “They were grateful.”

Instruments of Joy sent this message to Gilbreath and his sons: “The guitar is already loved and will be put to work for the kingdom quickly. It will be used during their Sunday/Wednesday services and their youth and college services. They feel so blessed by not only the donation but the fact that you made this guitar so special for them.”

The project also encouraged the members of Madison Baptist, Gilbreath said. “They were inspired by how cool it was to bless a church with an instrument that will last and be a blessing to them for many years.”

For several years, the church has had members go to Brazil and work with four or five churches. Those going on the trip this year asked their pastor and his sons to make a guitar for one of those churches and they did.

One of the church’s musicians played the handmade guitar during a recent concert and the members were really excited about sending the guitar to Brazil, he said.

 And, Gilbreath has a hunch the guitar for Brazil won’t be their last. 

“If the trip goes well, I’m pretty sure we will continue this until all the churches we are serving (in Brazil) are equipped with a guitar,” he said.

For Gilbreath, the project was more than just doing something for missions. “We enjoyed the project and it was fun working on it with my sons,” he said.

Working on the guitars also is a good stress reliever, Gilbreath added. “This is a hobby. I’m not ready to be a bivocational pastor in the guitar business,” he laughed.

 “I’m happy being a full-time minister, but working on the guitars helps relieve stress,” he said, though he acknowledged that building a guitar is not without stress as well, especially when it comes to soldering the tiny wires inside the body of the guitar.

“It’s difficult but it relieves my mind and lets me think about something else for a while,” he said.

“Some pastors I know play golf. I work on guitars.”

    About the Author

  • Lonnie Wilkey

    Lonnie Wilkey is editor of the Baptist and Reflector (baptistandreflector.org), newsjournal of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

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