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Making ‘miracles’

The story of the Joplin Song Project

December 19, 2013

JACKSONVILLE, Ill.

When the youth group of First Presbyterian Church in Jacksonville, Ill., decided to take a mission trip to Joplin, Mo., its first call was to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. Group members never imagined the devastation that they would see in Joplin. Four of them were so inspired by the experience that they, along with the group’s leader, wrote a song, “Turn Us Into Miracles (Song for Joplin),”which stood out as something special even from its debut performance.

That fall, First Church’s youth committee decided that it didn’t the song just to fade away. It wanted to do something to memorialize the song and give back to Joplin, so it proposed that the song be professionally produced and then sold to raise funds for Rebuild Joplin, a nonprofit working toward long-term recovery in the area. 

It was a unique idea for a fundraiser, and no one involved with the project really knew what they were doing, but God was there, prayers were answered, and the project came to fruition. Thanks to dozens of hours of hard work and the donated talents of professional producers and musicians, the song was professionally produced. Performed by the youth group, the recording was mastered in Nashville, Tennessee, and is now available for purchase from every major digital music download service. All proceeds from its sale are being donated to Rebuild Joplin. 

The song was released in March 2013 and has already raised some much-needed funds, but much more could be raised if more people knew about the project. Allen Stare, who produced the single and provided studio space for the recording, is chair of the youth committee at First Church. He and the committee continue the job of turning this dream into reality. “It was just such a great song,” Stare says. “We wanted to do something that would keep the song alive, and since the song was inspired by Joplin, we loved the idea that the song could also give back.” 

It has always been the hope that the song could generate enough funds to build a house. More than 90 homes are still planned for construction by Rebuild Joplin in 2014. “So far, we’ve fallen pretty far short of a house,” says Stare. “But that’s the beauty of this thing—it is always there, always working. If our story were to catch on, if the song started to sell, this project could still build a house.” 

Tim Chipman, First Church’s youth leader and one of the composers of the song, says: “This whole endeavor has been an amazing and fulfilling experience. Our kids are creative, hard working, and inspirational. Twenty-two members of our high school youth group perform on the finished single, and it just sounds great.” Chipman plays piano on the track and applied his talents as music coordinator and director during the recording process. Youth group members Maddy Albers, Andi McCombs, Holden Jones, and Anna Ferguson collaborated with Chipman in composing the song, and each is a soloist for one of the verses in the finished recording.

“This project is something special,” Chipman says. “God is at work in this song and in the lives of these great kids. And, really, it’s a song that goes beyond the tragedy of Joplin. The lyrics could provide hope and inspiration to anyone who has experienced loss or devastation—especially from a natural disaster.” 

Stare says that making the song successful as a fundraiser requires widespread promotion. Each single purchase costs 99 cents, he notes, and download services such as iTunes keep about 35 percent from each sale, leaving Rebuild Joplin with 64 cents from each copy sold. “That’s great if we sell 100,000 copies,” he says, “[but] not so impressive if we only sell 100.” 

Stare, Chipman, and the youth group members and their families have all worked hard this past year to spread the word about the single. Sales have been okay but spotty. “We were even honored as . . . marshals for the Fourth of July parade here in Jacksonville—the entire youth group, as composers and performers of the song,” Stare says. Yet the parade exposure only generated 14 new sales. “Most people around here already own it. We need to broaden our exposure. We would love to see churches, youth groups, pastors from all over the country spread the word to their congregations. It costs less than a cup of coffee. You get a good song plus you help the relief effort in Joplin.”

Chipman says: “We love this thing, we believe in it, and we’re going to keep working to support and promote it. We hope that others find it and give it a try.” 

Purchase the song on iTunes now, or search for “Turn Us Into Miracles (Song for Joplin)” on any music download site.

Read the full story of the Joplin mission trip and the creation of the song in the free PDF booklet Making Miracles.

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