August 1, 2017

On Hope, Worship, and 2018

By Bill MacLeod, Executive Director

I recently interviewed Paul Ramey who will be leading worship for us at this January’s Mission ConneXion Northwest event, when our theme will be “There is Hope.” I wanted to get a better feel for who he is as a man, and as a worship leader of one of Portland’s most dynamic fellowships.  His responses really touched me – so I thought you’d enjoy hearing his unique perspective on hope, worship, and this January…

Bill: What were the circumstances that ushered in the hope of Jesus into your life?

Paul: I grew up as a pastor’s kid, the youngest of four, and lived a pretty amazing early childhood.  In junior high, my family went through some incredibly difficult times that completely destroyed my understanding of family, God, church, and the world.  Everything I could count on was shaken and I no longer felt safe or reliable.  This devastating event sent me into a tailspin through my high school years, and I eventually found myself escaping into anything that took my shame and pain away, even if for a moment.  My escape of choice was drugs and alcohol until a “bad trip” caused me to think I was going insane for a period of six months.  I spiraled into a darkness I had never known before and it seemed hope was a dream.  Suicidal and in a constant state depression and confusion, I picked up the guitar and began to journal my thoughts and pour them out to God in song.  During this season, Jesus began to heal my mind and my heart.  Mental transformation paralleled spiritual transformation and hope became a reality.

B: How has that hope transformed your life and led you to express it in your current role as a worship leader here in Portland, and cross-culturally?

P:  I have seen God perform that same kind of healing in the context of gathered worship, here in the US and abroad.  Yes, Jesus is always with us, but we can see in Scripture that when we come to him in music and song something special that seems to transcend the rest of life happens; our awareness of his presence is activated and our whole self – body, mind and spirit – is engaged.  A few years ago I was leading worship in the Oddar Meanchey region of Cambodia with my band.  The history of the people in this region is brutal and the brokenness and hopelessness could literally be felt physically.  A Christian event was prohibited, but we were invited to “perform” as part of a humanitarian festival touring the country.  I wish I could include all the details of this story because it was life changing, but while we began to sing and play worship songs that were theologically substantive, poetically imaginative, and musically compelling, we could literally see the Spirit begin to work and breathe hope into the hearts and minds of the Cambodian people.  Many gave their lives to Christ that day and the Church in Cambodia grew.  We have the privilege of doing this on a weekly basis in our local gatherings.  Sometime I wonder if we really understand the significance and power behind it.

B: When you think about “There is Hope.”- our theme for Mission ConneXion Northwest 2018 – what would you like to see happen in the lives of those who attend, especially as you prepare to lead worship?

P: I am extremely excited about Mission ConneXion Northwest’s 2018 theme, There Is Hope!  After 23 years as a pastor, I have learned that it is easy for those of us in ministry to neglect hope for ourselves while we offer it to others.  My prayer for us as we gather in January is that the Spirit would breathe the hope Jesus offers into our lives, crushing the enemy’s attempt to keep us ineffective as we offer this hope to others.  THERE IS HOPE!  Let’s sing about it.  Let’s listen to it.  Let’s receive it.  Then…let’s tell the world!