Something to Praise About

Not many outreach musical ministries can humbly state: “Wow, after 30 years of outreach  God says, Do it Again”.  Is this ground-hog day or are we really getting ready to host the 31st Annual Praise In The Mountains?

It was 1991, when Machaira,  a  newly formed band from Grass Valley didn’t really have any clear objective or vision except for the fact we all were Christians that played musical instruments, therefor it felt appropriate to form a band in order to use our talents.  We experienced few venues to perform, except the traditional Christian Coffee house that was the thing to do in the 90’s.  After a couple of those concerts, our family and friends grew weary of the hounding of band members to come down and watch the show, so we decided to do our own event.  After much debate, we named it “Praise In The Mountains”.

Having no experience doing our own venue, those early years were definitely a time of growth.  We sold tickets the first couple of years and that one factor brought on more than a few challenges.   It was through those challenges that we grew to understand that if we were going to have something that reached out to those who don’t know Christ and the fact the Gospel is a free gift, we eventually did away with the practice of charging and stepped out in faith for expenses to be covered.

It was then we started to experience the abundance of God’s providence and grace which allowed the event was able to grow in several areas.

Those early years were also challenged by the diversity of the music we used to minister from the stage.   I remember long conservations with members of the community who were trying to shut the event down because of the volume or the fact some of the bands had long hair, or the music was rock and roll, etc…   There was one particular lady that would always call a few days before the event and try and quote scripture on how this outreach was not of God.  She lived in the area of the Grass Valley Fairgrounds where we had the first 18 events before moving to Penn Valley.  She said the noise stressed out her children so badly that they would plug their ears and go crying into the house.  After a verbal beating and much active listening, (I even once offered her an expense-paid night away from home) there was little I could do to change her attitude.

Another image that I still laugh about from those early years was this challenge to reach a device crowd with a wide variety of music styles.  First of all, we had not learned the lesson that more is not always better.  We had ten bands on the bill and the variety of styles spanned the entire spectrum.  After a mellow day of vocal bands and traditional Christian music, one could look out on the crown and observe a fairly large attendance.  People were on their blankets, sitting in their lawn chairs, and enjoying a worshipful experience in the tall pines of the fairgrounds.  When it came time for the second to the last band, a Christian Rock band appropriately named for what was to happen next “Grand Exit”.  When they hit the first three bars of their introduction tune, I observed a large portion crowd gathering up their belongings and making a grand exit.

It’s interesting how much our culture has changed over the years for what Grand Exit presented back then is commonplace in many of our worship services today.   I think it was the image of guitars and drums that people found the most challenging.  This reaction was even in the local newspaper the next day and I heard rumors of some of the local churches had discussions around this matter.  The good news is later that evening we witnessed several young people coming forward and accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

So many times over the years we hear people say “I never knew about this event”.   We have tried many things to create awareness of this important outreach,  Radio, TV, and Newsprint, however, we believe the 2,000 posters we network out each year is what God honors most.  The fact you can give another believer a stack of posters not only involves this person in an act of service, but it also allows individuals a special tool to witness.  Posting a Christian outreach poster is a great way to share Christ. We have learned to place great importance on each poster and we see this part of the process as a special ministry. 

One year I was in the Raley’s in Loomis and saw they had a bulletin board so I posted a Praise In The Mountains poster.  The day before that year’s outreach several of us were at the event site getting things ready when a depilated old car pulled up with a young mother and two small children.  She stated she was traveling across the country and had no real place to stay and asked if she could camp at our concert site.  Seeing this was a family in need we gladly found a suitable place and helped her set up her tent and got her some food. I asked her how she happened to arrive at this site, she stated she had seen a poster at Raley’s in Loomis. The next day during the alter call I looked out over the crown and watched this young mother and her two children come forward.  I felt God say, “That’s why I provide you with posters”.

As Machaira continued to evolve as a band we experience developing into an outreach ministry while having Praise In The Mountains the major force that keep us focused, which allowed God to continue to work in our lives.   “The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” John 10:3

Looking back at those early years, one story stands out: Sooner or later every band goes through the painstaking task of naming their group. Anyone who has played in a band knows this can be an overwhelming task. I’ve seen groups break up before they get started because of their differences in naming the group.  The music outreach ministry, in which God has called me to, somehow took care of that task from the beginning.   We ended up with one of those names that no one can pronounce, let alone spell. Anyway, we are labeled, Machaira (muh-kai-ruh) in Greek which means SWORD.  The band has claimed, from the Bible, Hebrews 4:12 “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any dual-edged sword”.  Yes, the name is a struggle for many, but it’s been around long enough now that it’s a house hold word, well in my house anyway.  I remember once someone telling me that their non-believing neighbor gave her a Machaira CD they had picked it up at a street fair we were playing at.

They thought they were buying a CD of “The Macarena”, you know the catchy little pop tune “Do the Macarena”.  It wasn’t what they thought they were buying so figured their “Christian” neighbors would appreciate it more than they did.   We can only pray that they listened to it before they quickly gave it to their neighbors.

Ministering with Machaira, which endeavors to stay true to evangelism, we found ourselves in many challenging places.  Also, as a group of Christian Musicians playing outside of the church, we normally don’t find packed houses, but there was one event that seemed to even push this dilemma to its limits. We were in Gridley, California.  Gridley is a small farming community that thinks “American Graffiti” is a present-day documentary.  We had thought we made the big time for as we drove up, we found our name was on the marquee of the old 1930’s style movie theater which we were to minister at.  I am confident the last movie that was shown at this place was “Rocky II” when it was a new release.  As always, we followed our usual formula, setting up and praying as a group for Jesus to be big and us to small.  We prayed for changed hearts and lives to be touched.  We prayed for God to be glorified.  We prayed to be humble.

As we entered the stage, we couldn’t really see past the front row for the theater was presently being used for a theatrical group and we had taken advantage of their lighting system, which I’m sure were left over from some glory days past.  There was also a cardboard set of a street scene, which also enhanced the uniqueness of the event.  From the energy of the lights, setting of the backdrops, and I’m sure the Holy Spirit had something to do with it, we played and ministered as if there were no tomorrow.  I do remember as the night went on that the house seemed empty, but again that didn’t seem to matter.  As we drew to a close we gave our usual altar call, however, I don’t remember anyone coming forward.  The house lights came up and we saw six or seven young teenagers on the front row.  Yes, six or seven teenagers.  That was the total number that had come to see Machaira in Gridley that evening.  I remember tearing down and a couple of the members talking with the small group of youths. We finished our tasks, closed in prayer, and praised God for allowing us to minister in Gridley. Several years later I was getting ready to introduce a band at an outreach festival we help put on every year in Linda CA called Changed Hearts and one of the guitar players in my group came up to me stating, “You need to come and meet someone.”  I said, “I was really busy getting ready to introduce the next group.”  However, there seemed to be urgency in his voice and I could see he wasn’t going to allow me to wait.   As we approached the person I was to meet, I could see a nice young couple, one being a mother holding a very young baby in her arms.  We exchanged names and shook hands.  The mother stated she had no idea that Machaira was going to be at this event or that she even knew that we were still a band.  She then made a statement that explained the urgency of my being there.  She stated she had gotten saved at a Machaira concert several years ago in Gridley. She then introduced her baby.  Meet Machaira Moore.  I could feel the tears of joy welt up and being speechless I quickly ran to get the other members of Machaira with the same urgency. It’s not about numbers but being faithful in what we are called to do for God for He will call His sheep by name.

As the years went by Praise In The Mountains continued to evolve and grow as did Machaira as a ministry.  It became clear that our calling was outside the Church and more and more we found ourselves ministering to a special segment of society: the homeless, those challenged with substance abuse, those less fortunate, families at risk, and mainly those who had not accepted Christ as their Savior.   Street corners, parks, and river bottoms became commonplace.  The lessons learned from years of Praise In The Mountains allowed us to expand our experience and team up with many different ministries over the years reaching out to a variety of communities.  Our message and objectives became more and more simple and very clear during this period.  Our motto became “Jesus is enough” and let’s not complicate the Gospel.  Believing, repenting, and being born again seem to be the winning combination.  With this, we started to see more and more fruit and people making decisions to follow Christ for the first time.

We also grew because of the various servants and partners God brought us over the years.  One specific group that has since moved on was Outreach America.   Their style of outreach brought a carnival approach, with the intent to have something for everybody.   We became more than just a musical band and started providing free give away’s, free food, Jump houses for the kids, and the importance of the entire team being active listeners waiting on the touch of the Holy Spirit to share God’s love.  Winning a free guitar signed by the band became a signature part of the Machaira presentation.  I can recall countless times these free guitars ended up in the hands of someone in need of such an instrument and now is ministering on a church worship team.   The free giveaway even evolved into a Praise In The Mountains tradition of giving away $1,000 at the end of the night with the free raffle.  Not only did this one addition to the program keep most of the attendance through the alter call; each year God used this one act to bless someone in need.  One year a Food Ministry that was facing a $1,000 debt won. One year a mission trip that was about to give up that needed exactly $1,000 to undertake the trip won.  One year a person that needed the funds to visit a dying mother on the east coast won.  One year a person that was getting their home electricity turned off won, I could go on and on.   This segment of our ministry also showed us that trusting in the Lord to provide and making all our outreach events free then provide us abundance.  We were blessed with a professional stage, a professional sound system, jump houses, trailers, and always enough resources to maintain a free ministry that gives stuff away.  We were also blessed with the ability to hand out thousands of nice gift bibles and this one act became part of our normal outreach.  We even evolved to having a baptism pool at Praise In The Mountains and over the years this special act of obeisance has demonstrated God is at work.

As years passed with the annual Praise In The Mountains we continued to struggle to find willing servants to help serve at this event. Things like finding folks to park cars, staff jump houses and pack band gear to and from the state seem to always come up short. Then it would really separate the wheat from the shaft in the late hours as we tore down after the event.   Then one year God truly blessed us which helped expand our focus of the event. That particular year there was no one to park cars and staff the jump houses.  We then turned to the Teen Challenge group who had come to enjoy the event.  That particular year they saved the day and it proved to be a win-win.

From that point on we focus on using recovery groups and special program ministry’s to come and serve.  We have even been blessed with having youth from Juvenile Hall programs attend to assist in parking cars and then being ministered to as they enjoy the concert.  This has also taught us to keep the focus on a “Servants heart” attitude. Each person that helps gets a Servant Tee shirt to identify the reason they are there to serve.  We have also expanded this part of the ministry into the handling of performers/bands.   No one performs without being annotated with oil and prayer over.  We encourage each band member to stay the entire day and when not ministering from the stage to be out in front encouraging the other bands or ministering from their tables or within the attendance.  We discourage groups from just showing up, performing, and leaving.  We have no VIP area.

Well, it’s time again for Praise In The Mountains, the longest-running FREE Christian Concert.  We are blessed that God has allowed us to continue this important outreach.

The program is very family oriented.  Activities and musical styles will be pleasing to all ages.

The concert atmosphere will be enhanced with: Free Family Games and interactive air jumps for the children.  There will be drawings all day for free prizes to keep the event exciting and at 7:30 pm $1,000 cash will be the grand prize.  Food will be available but you are welcome to bring your own.  The beautiful amphitheater is surrounded by trees, and conducive to a worship experience.   We are really excited this year to have the return of Machaira, a longtime favorite at Praise In The Mountains, also recording artist The Rhythm Riders a popular Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline Tribute Band  Our number one goal with this event is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We also hope to join churches together in one event and create unity between the different church bodies.  While these are the most important and serious goals, Praise In The Mountains will also prove to be very entertaining.

It is our prayer that Christians and Christian Congregations will come together in support of this event while encouraging non-believers to attend in hopes of leading them to salvation.

“Praise In The Mountains” is a Tax Exempt organization with the State of California and the IRS #91-178668.   Feel free to write, or e-mail, if you wish more information: Machaira Ministries 12439 Kodiak Lane, Grass Valley CA 95949.

MACHAIRA (a band of musicians)

MACHAIRA (muh-kai-ruh) is a non-denominational Christian band with its roots in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains.  They have been playing and singing together in Northern California for the past 31+ years.  Machaira is the host of the longest-running free gospel concert Praise In The Mountains. They have recorded and released five albums, appeared in the feature-length film: Something in the Dark, and toured Russia by invitation which produced the filmed documentary: 151 Hours, The Russia Tour.  Their latest album release: Play Loud Preach Hard features legendary Tower Of Power Horn player, Mic Gillette, Doobie Brothers drummer Michael Hossack and Marc Russo on Sax as well as 80’s pop star keyboardist Brent Bourgeois. From the beginning in 1990, to the present, of Machaira has enjoyed over 30 years of experiencing God.  Thank you to everyone who has supported Machaira through the years, and to every person who has encouraged us to go where the Lord has led us.