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Five hundred and one hymns

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WORLD Radio - Five hundred and one hymns

A former church librarian’s pandemic lockdown project leads to an unexpected ministry opportunity


Marbara Stivers at her piano filming a video of singing hymns Still from Musical Moments with Marbara #486, Facebook

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, August 3rd.

You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we’re glad you’re here.

Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.

Coming next on The World and Everything in It: being faithful… in the little things.

Some people post videos to social media in hopes they’ll get that 15 seconds of fame. But for every viral video, thousands are posted that seek to quietly encourage others.

REICHARD: Early in the pandemic in 2020, we met a Christian grandmother who recorded a hymn every day and posted it to Facebook. Just a few people watched. But it didn’t end there. WORLD’s Executive Producer Paul Butler has our story.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: It wasn’t that long ago when everything shut down during the early days of the pandemic…including churches:

SHUT DOWN MONTAGE (INCLUDING CHURCHES)

And like many of us, Louisville resident Marbara Stivers was suddenly stuck at home. It came on the heels of a discouraging season—as her previous church library ministry had painfully ended a few months earlier.

STIVERS:  I felt very fragile. You didn't know what was going to happen. You didn't know if the next person you saw was going to give you some disease or whatever. I mean, it was just there was so many unknowns at that time.

So on April 1st, 2020, Stivers set up a phone and recorded herself playing and singing: This is My Father’s World. She posted it to Facebook…

VIDEO: Marbara Jayne Baker Stivers - April 1, 2020
This is my Father’s World

STIVERS:  And that's just the song that came to me to start with. [17:08] that was a reminder to me that no matter what happened, or what was going on, God was still in control.

Stivers wasn’t sure how many of her friends or family would watch…but that didn’t matter.

STIVERS: [1:01] I just was trying to think of a way to encourage friends and family and as an outlet, you know, something I could do at home. And so I decided that I asked God, what he wanted me to do. And so he said, sing...

And with that, Musical Moments with Marbara began:

[MONTAGE OF HYMNS]

Stivers posted a hymn every day for months. Shortly after she posted her 250th consecutive video she spoke with WORLD Radio…

MARBARA STIVERS: I’m an introvert. And this is just a perfect way for me to connect at my own pace, and other people can listen when they want or not.

That was December 9th, 2020. I asked Marbara at the time, how long she planned to continue recording hymns for her family and Facebook friends…she said she’d continue until God made it clear it was time to end. That turned out to be much longer than she expected. So she just kept singing…

[MONTAGE OF HYMNS II]

Some videos have had more than two or three hundred views…most are well under a hundred…some less than 30. But Marbara didn’t track the views. She believed that God would bring those who needed to hear a particular song to that particular song. Those who checked in each day often found their spirits lifted by the unassuming and simple recordings of hymns, choruses, and gospel songs—sprinkled with scripture readings and song histories. Sometimes, she was joined by her family.

Musical Moments with Marbara #275 - December 31, 2020
We Gather Together

One Facebook friend commented on this episode from December 31st, 2020: “Your musical interludes have been a real bright spot in these days of COVID. Thank you for sharing with us.”

As I scroll through the hundreds of videos, most don’t have comments…just emojis—thumbs up, smiley faces, or hearts. Stivers says she wasn’t always sure if the songs were helpful for others…but they certainly were for her.

STIVERS:  And it was just like, that was my job. And it gave me a focus. During that time when we didn't have… when everything was so uncertain. That was something that I could do every day.

Stivers seems almost embarrassed as she reflects back on the project. But her love for Christ and her desire to be obedient to His leading is clear.

STIVERS:  Matthew 5:16, came to me this morning, it says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” And I wasn't doing it for people to see good works, but I do want them to glorify God.

On August 25th, 2021, Stivers recorded her last Musical Moments with Marbara. Episode #501.

[EPISODE #501 CLIP]

Even now a few years later, people still stumble upon the videos and surprise Stivers by commenting or sharing them.

STIVERS:  the Bible says God's Word does not return to Him void. So whatever of him was in the recording, I hope that that it will continue to do its work.

During COVID, her pastor began occasionally streaming Stivers’s videos in the weekly online service. Marbara also started singing with the Zoom worship team. That continued once in person church services began again. Slowly, leadership gave her more and more responsibility. Then earlier this year her pastor encouraged her to lead the worship ministry.

STIVERS: You know, I, I just had my 70th birthday. And I, I never dreamed in my life, that at 70 that I would be the worship leader in our church. So that's how it changed me.

Stivers says those 501 videos prepared her for what God had in store…and no one is more surprised than she is…

STIVERS:  Just don't restrict what God can do with your life…You're never too old to start a new thing…I thought my service for God was over …But he wasn't through with me… just be available…to say yes, because you never know what God has in store.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Paul Butler.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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