Worship and mentoring school Awaken Generation (AG) is releasing their second full-length album, To God be the Glory, on Wednesday, October 23, 2019. Earlier this year, the team took a special trip to Israel, where they served in a worship camp for local children and brought their new music to parts of the nation. The city of Jerusalem also features on their album art.
We sit down with AG’s co-founder and senior leader Calvin Hong to find out about the new album and its special connection to the Holy Land.
Tell us about the album cover, which features the heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, inverted over the city of Singapore. What’s that about?
We always pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – that’s actually trying to mirror the image of what the Kingdom is like on earth.
The revelation of the album was: God, what’s it like in heaven that we can bring down to earth? So there are songs on it like Sound of Revival. What does revival even sound like, look like, feel like? The sound of revival could sound like an anticipation. Are we hungry?
So many times we come to church and we want to sing songs that make us feel good rather than songs that put a sense of anticipation in us, the longing of encountering God.
If I know I’m going to have a big dinner, guess what? I anticipate, I don’t eat snacks or junk food, I skip all these things because I can’t wait to have a massive buffet with my favourite dishes. In our appetite for revival, it’s the same thing as well – to expect that God will do a mighty work.
We’re praying that in every area, in every song of revival: “God. we want your Kingdom to come down. God, I say yes to the calling that you’ve given me.”
We know that in the midst of producing the album, the AG team took a very special trip to Israel, where some of the album’s songs were sung. What was so significant about this experience?
The theme of our school this year is “Bold and Courageous”. So when the songwriters came together in January to write (as we do every year), there was something declarative about the songs that I believe were put on our hearts by God to sing.
From Sound of Revival to the title track To God be the Glory, the 10 songs are collectively about summoning prayer and seeing what God is doing in all the nations.
Part of that experience included us travelling and ministering to different countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia – and ultimately Israel, when we were invited to bring the team up for a worship camp and tour of the holy sites.
Taking our team would cost us heavily, but the Lord supernaturally provided for us through different supporters who believed in what we do as a ministry and felt that Singapore has a part to play in the storyline of Israel.
Did you know that Israel is one of the most unreached people groups in terms of the Christian faith?
Learning this got me really surprised. A good friend and Bible teacher, Samuel Whitefield, told me that he believed God is doing something in the nation, and that the other nations needed to come and sing over it.
Can you share about the picture God gave you about AG’s special role in this picture of ministering to Israel?
Two to three months before our trip this year, I woke up with a piece of Scripture in my heart. I could tell the Lord was saying: “Read 1 Chronicles 13.” I began to read it, and then He impressed upon me to read backwards to the chapter before.
These few chapters of 1 Chronicles form a picture of David and his mighty men, which is also the time when they recaptured the Ark of the Covenant, which had been taken by their enemies, and attempted to bring it back to their people.
It reads in 1 Chronicles 13:7 that they had put the Ark of God on a cart, and two of the mighty men, Uzzah and Ahio, were driving it. These guys were also Levites, who were the ones meant to minister to God as priests. However, it all goes wrong when the oxen stumble and Uzzah stretches his hand out to steady the Ark, upon which the Lord strikes him dead.
When I read that, I was shocked – the presence of God really cannot be manipulated. The whole operation started off on the wrong foot: The Ark of God was meant to be carried with two beams, on the shoulders of Levites and not to be touched directly by man. It shows humility. They had gotten complacent and mistreated the presence of God.
Although David desired to bring the Ark back home, he was afraid after what happened. So he took the Ark of the Covenant to the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite (same as Goliath) who lived nearby. And while it remained there for the next three months, it says that God blessed the family of Obed-Edom and everything he had.
This must have provoked jealousy in David, seeing how Obed-Edom, a Gentile (non-Jew) knew how to host the presence of God. Later on in 1 Chronicles 15, we read that David did things the right way and was able to bring the Ark of the Covenant back home. And he invites Obed-Edom to be one of the musicians, gatekeepers and doorkeepers for the Ark – the first time a Gentile is included!
So this is a prototype, or a significant event, we observe. David included those from outside the Jewish community, other nations, to come and worship God. And God chose a Gentile to host His presence. This showed me that God is not a respecter of man, race or religion – He is looking for people who would love and honour Him for who He is, as Obed-Edom did.
And that is what we felt as a team, when I shared this story with them – we are those Gentiles, hosting God’s presence. This was a calling for us to bring that to honour Israel and her people.
One of our staff even pointed out that this is the 50th year anniversary of the diplomatic relationship between Israel and Singapore. This means a jubilee year – of releasing, celebration and honouring.
It’s almost like God planned this to include us so that we could witness what He wants to do in the nation. That we, as Gentiles, would represent Singapore, Asia, in going to Israel to bless Israel.
Tell us about the experience of visiting Obed-Edom’s house when you were in Israel.
So when we were on our way from Galilee, before we went to Jerusalem, Samuel (Whitefield) brought us to the place where Obed-Edom lived. Today that place is a monastery.
And the person who greeted us at the door was a nun who was neither Jewish nor Arabic, but Filipino. In fact, that monastery is taken care of by six Filipino nuns – Gentiles hosting the presence of God where Obed-Edom once did.
And it was a surreal moment as we recorded a few songs and just gave thanks to the Lord. A group of us, from the East of Asia to the West of the States, coming together and worshipping God together in the place where Obed-Edom hosted the presence of God.
It doesn’t matter who we are, where we’re from. Every nation has a purpose to sing our songs, from the ends of the earth, from the East to the West, from the South to the North, to glorify Him, to draw His people back to Him.
And so we’re just privileged to be part of that, to have songs that have been written and sung, just to bless what God is doing in Israel for His people.
What is the beauty of having songs from To God be the Glory sung over the nation of Israel on its own soil?
I feel like Singapore has been given songs to bless the nations. In fact, some of the songs from the new album were well received when we led them in Israel.
We had several nations represented in our tour group: Germany, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Austria, the US, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore… And to see them identify with these songs showed the beauty of what God is doing. What a powerful thing it was to sing His songs in a land longing for the return of Jesus.
The beauty of God’s redemptive story is that He wants to redeem the nations. Jesus is coming back for the reward of His suffering. He’s coming for His inheritance – us, even us in Singapore.
Jesus has placed His inheritance everywhere, but I feel that part of the deposit of what God did in Singapore many years ago is tied back to His chosen nation, Israel. So when you look at that, our story is not just in our respective nations – we’re caught up in what God is saying and doing right now in Israel.
The key to end-time revival can be seen in David: how he was after the presence of God, to build God a resting place where His presence was manifested. Yes, part of hosting God’s presence involves living our lives as disciples, making disciples, fulfilling the Great Commission and teaching others to obey what Jesus taught.
But if Jesus is not worshipped then everything is lost. David understood the key was to host His presence 24/7. So as worshippers, we have a part to play in terms of hosting the presence of God, to make Him known.
I love how the ending song on the album is by Jonathan Cho, a song called Better Thing. That amidst the songs of revival, we remember what we are focusing on: Sitting at the feet of Jesus.
Awaken Generation is launching their new album, To God be the Glory, at their upcoming Revival Night on Wednesday, October 23, 2019, 7.30pm. Due to the large numbers expected, entrance is strictly by registration only.