QUINCY -- Miami native Rodney Jean made a last-minute decision to apply to Asbury University.
College life took some getting used to for the freshman music major. Connecting with the Asbury University Salvation Army Fellowship Band and Songsters, a college music ensemble made up of Salvation Army soldiers that has been performing since the 1940s, helped him find a place of comfort amid the shock of his new environment.
"I was really lost," he said. "Now I know I have people, and I want to help others the way they've helped me."
The Salvation Army Fellowship Band and Songsters arrived Friday in Quincy. Their first move in a weekend full of events was to invite local teens to the Kroc Center for an evening of games and fellowship. The meeting featured several ice-breaker-style games that helped to blend the band with the teens.
The trip is Jean's second with the Band and Songsters.
"It helps to have people just like you to relate to," Jean said. "I think the Salvation Army is doing a good job of connecting with people. That bond you get from a smaller congregation makes a big difference."
Bethany Kelly, who serves as president of the Salvation Army fellowship on Asbury University's campus in Wilmore, Ky., has been on six trips with the Band and Songsters.
"I grew up in the Salvation Army. When I came to Asbury, all the people I knew were part of the fellowship," Kelly said. "It's like a built-in family."
The musical ministry trips have helped Kelly shift her focus away from herself and taught her meaningful skills she hopes to apply further down the line.?"It's easy for the world to become all about you, especially when you're in school," she said. "These trips have taught me a lot about working with people. I try to relate to the kids and let them know they're valued, even by people they don't know."
Band and Songsters members will spend most of the day Saturday completing a number of different service projects around the Kroc Center -- everything from playing music to attract patrons to helping the IT department -- and the Salvation Army's Quincy and Hannibal food pantries and stores. After the projects conclude, the group will put on a show for the community at 6 p.m. in the Kroc Center Worship Theater. The group will be joined by the Clarion Trumpet Ensemble from Hannibal-LaGrange University.
"This is a chance for our students to put their faith into action," said Nathan Miller, the Asbury University professor of music who oversees the Band and Songsters. "Hopefully this is preparing them for a life of service."
Miller is an Asbury University alumnus and was once a member of the Band and Songsters. When he took the faculty position at Asbury University, he immediately volunteered to lead the group. He puts the older students in charge of coordinating the trips and views his role more as guiding than leading the ensemble.