“I hope this project is another way for people to experience the story of our journey to a far-off place full of hope and grief, beauty and pain. Eric McLaughlin

I remember when Eric McLaughlin was the shortest kid in the junior high Sunday school class I taught. We’ve been friends ever since. He sprouted up and back in the day rocked the keyboards with our youth worship band. He could have pursued music as a profession, but instead became a medical doctor.

Eric, his wife Rachel (also a doctor), and a community of young medical missionaries collectively known as the McCropders answered God’s call to serve Africa. Their story is amazing and inspiring.

“These songs were written and recorded during the two years my wife and I lived and worked as missionary doctors in rural Kenya. They are attempts to tell the story of  that place and time. To give a name to the struggles of that experience. It is a place of great beauty and sorrow, great joy and sadness”

The other night a group of us gathered to hear stories from Kenya and learn of their upcoming new mission to Burundi.  Afterwards, I listened to Eric’s record with a fresh awareness of the backstory. I was blown away.

This is important music.

Now and Then features sublime, poignant, profound songs that wrestle with the questions of suffering and God and feeling helpless. Eric writes from the authority of having actually lived in this intense reality. He narrates the struggle with a Psalmist sensibility and a Rich Mullins/Andre Peterson musicality.

Eric’s blog post  “My First Call Weekend”  sets the context:

“For the sake of at least a facade of brevity, I won’t tell the whole saga. Five children died during my 48 hour watch. Each time I watched one die, I would pray for God to receive his small child, and each time it got harder and harder to trust in the subtle, yet powerful, albeit mysterious, goodness of God.

It doesn’t break my faith, but it creates a tension inside me, one that is greatly complicated by my feelings of helplessness, despite many years of my life, gone into training that is seemingly not nearly enough for the need around me. This tension makes me want to run, but I don’t deny its presence. And I would assert that I have the Psalmists and a chunk of biblical prophets who would back me up.

God, how can you let this happen?

God, I can’t do this.

God, I still believe that you’re good. Please, please, show me.

There’s so much death. How can I just keep going? “

You hear the tension in What I’ve Been Looking For:

She is six years old
and she just breathed her last
with my hand upon her chest
and my words hung in the air
like a fog condensing to a drop that falls
and shatters like a piece of broken glass

maybe I should press on
maybe at the end, you’ll show me your face
and maybe that’s what I’ve been looking for all along

Yet hopefulness permeates Now and Then:

Now and then in this weary world
And even here and there inside my weary soul
A bit of redemption’s breaking through
So, maybe everywhere, like a whisper floating on the air
It says, “all things are being made new”

There’s an eternal perspective in Laying Stones:

We are laying stones
on a road whose end is hard to read
current trajectories may mislead
because we are not alone
so maybe at the end we’ll see that this road we
build is leading us home

Why you should listen to this album.

These are visual songs with thoughtful lyrics and well crafted melodies. But the production is raw and homemade, recorded with limited resources in rural Africa. There are some …. unpolished moments.

But ultimately these are great songs, inspiring and very much worth listening to.

I think every servant of Jesus would benefit from experiencing this project. On the free album download there’s a lyric book with images for the stories.

Worship songwriters can learn a thing or two on writing about suffering, honesty and resolution.

To partner with Eric, Rachel and the McCropders, you can learn more about their mission to Burundi and donate at their website “Word and Deed”.

McCropders Kenya Video,  “Laying Stones”

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