At the conclusion of the Youth Choir Festival hosted by Bethany Christian Services on March 9, approximately 250 teens filled the altar at Cedar Hill Reformed Church in Wyckoff. Talented young people from three Christian schools and the North Jersey Homeschoolers Choir—representing various races and ethnicities—nearly overflowed into the aisles as they sang “America the Beautiful” and put an exclamation point on a stirring evening of song and celebration.
At that moment, Doug Hoogerhyde, a Bethany Christian Services board member, looked over the crowd of students and made a comparison that helped the audience realize the impact the nation’s largest adoption agency is making in the Tri-State area.
“The amount of students on the altar now represents the same number of children this Bethany branch has placed with loving families over the past five years,” he said.
“That number, 250, highlights the importance of every life,” said Nancy Dykstra-Powers, director of Bethany Christian Services of NY/NJ/CT. “The fact that teens gave their Friday night to sing was awesome.”
Bethany Christian Services is a global non-profit organization serving orphaned, abandoned, and vulnerable children on five continents. The choir festival was a fundraising event for local Bethany branches and also helped inform attendees about Bethany’s wide-reaching mission, which also includes placement of special needs children, assistance for struggling birthparents, and programs that build awareness through networks with hospitals and crisis pregnancy centers in the local community.
At the Youth Choir Festival, groups from Eastern Christian High School in North Haledon, Hawthorne Christian Academy, Koinonia Academy in Plainfield and the North Jersey Homeschoolers (NJH) each performed short sets that were sandwiched between mass choir selections at the beginning and end of the evening.
“What a profound, moving experience and opportunity for students to worship with new and old friends, harmonizing to benefit Bethany Service’s mission,” Suzanne Kraai, choir director at Eastern Christian High School.
“[Our high school choir] was honored to be part of the festival,” said Anne Paynter, choir director at Hawthorne Christian Academy. “It was wonderful to partner with other Christian schools in the community, working together to benefit such a worthy ministry.”
Another highlight of the evening was a video sent by college freshman Sandeep Thomas, who was rescued from a life of heartache and poverty in India when he was adopted 14 years ago. At age five, he witnessed the horrific suicide of his mother, after being abandoned by an alcoholic father, was placed with American family through Bethany’s New Jersey office.
Through a video appearance, Thomas, a student at the University of Washington–Bothell, invited the audience to join him when he is the keynote speaker at Bethany’s annual banquet Wednesday, May 23, 6 p.m., at the Venetian in Garfield, NJ. At the banquet, his younger sister Ruth—also adopted through Bethany—will also sing.
“We are excited to have Sandeep as our speaker,” said Nancy Dykstra-Powers, director of Bethany Christian Services of NY/NJ/CT. “I had the privilege of working with Sandeep and his family when he first came to this country in 1998. At the banquet, we will hear his amazing story and how he is making a difference in this world.”
And at the Youth Choir Festival, many were inspired as well.
“What a blessing, to see young people unite their voices for a cause so precious to God’s heart,” said Beth Prins, choir director for New Jersey Homeschoolers. “It was a wonderful celebration.”