Monday, October 30, 2006

It's like Christmas shopping...without the crowds

Progress of the "slowly but surely" variety has been taking place on plans for the big trip to South Africa. Folks in Cape Town have been diligently working on advance publicity for the Summer Songwriting Workshop (as we have dubbed it; remember, Dec. 2--or 2 Dec. as they call it there--is summertime).

Still praying & waiting and (where possible) applying for financial support. But non-cash contributions are helpful and encouraging, as well:

Hit songwriter and Brentwood Baptist deacon Kelley Lovelace ("He Didn't Have To Be", "The Impossible") has donated a couple of copies of his excellent book "If You've Got a Dream, I've Got a Plan." This is an excellent overview of the music business from a songwriter's point of view.

The folks at the Nashville Songwriters Assn. International (NSAI) have offered a substantial amount of support; I dropped by the office (just down the street from my apt.) and came away with some neat gifts for the workshop attendees, with a pledge for even more "non-cash" support that I'm keeping as a surprise for now.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A few more visuals from Cape Town, 2005

Radio CCFm, just like the sign says, in Muizenberg. This is where we'll do the Summer Songwriting Workshop, Dec. 2. The Living Hope homeless shelter is across the street.

Our heroic hosts, Pastor John and Avril Thomas (left) and the logistics expert from Atlanta, Jay Johnson (right) with a couple of "clients" in Ocean View community

A proud mother and her child, in the township of Masiphumelele

Kayalitsha, a township on the edge of Cape Town

I could look at those colors all day, too.

Boys in da hood (Masiphumelele)

A couple of representatives of the future of South Africa, and an "investor"--a teacher (Masiphumelele)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A picture is worth a thousand blogs

I've had some encouraging and, in a couple of cases surprising, responses from friends and acquaintances who've heard about my upcoming journey to South Africa. All very much appreciated.

Plans for the songwriting workshop (if that's what we end up calling it) are progressing, via e-mail. I'm collecting some books, DVD's etc. to offer as prizes/gifts. Gary Talley happens to have been the first contributor to that cause.

I'm shopping for a digital camera (it'll be my first). The Minolta X-370 I've had since I graduated from college has served me well over the years, but it's time to get something smaller that I can take with me without making people think I work for National Geographic...then I can share that much more of my experiences with you. I've got my eye on a Samsung Digimax L50 that has an audio-only recording feature; perfect for the picture-taking songwriter on the go (or amateur spy, whichever). Open to advice from the audience....

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A few visuals from Cape Town, 2005

Table Mountain dominates this view of the city from Robben Island, the island where prisoners, lunatics and out-of-luck rulers were exiled.

View of Cape Town from Table Mountain.

How do you say "en garde" in Xhosa?

"Amen" is a universal hit..."sing a little louder..."

My inner child is great at coloring.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The mission continues...solo

Anyone who has had any communication with me over the last two years, whether in person, via e-mail or by phone, has probably heard references to South Africa. My conversation has been peppered (or scattered, smothered and covered) with information about my adventures there, the South African people I met there (and here), their history and current situation, even movies about South Africa I've managed to find in the library. (I see those eyes rolling…it's OK…it's the same look I get from people in Nashville when I admit I'm a songwriter).

In 2004 and 2005 I traveled to Cape Town as part of volunteer groups from Brentwood Baptist Church, working with Living Hope, a church-based organization whose myriad outreach efforts include a hospice, a radio station, a homeless shelter and clinical care for those suffering from the HIV/AIDS crisis that has burdened that nation more than most. Pastor John Thomas, Executive Director of Living Hope, has provided visionary leadership to the faith-filled congregation of King of Kings Baptist Centre and others to accomplish amazing things in their community-enough to warrant visits from our own White House staff. I have continued to stay in contact with the folks over there, while BBC has continued to partner with Living Hope in their work.

As plans were made by BBC to send another team (who are there as I write this), it seemed less and less appropriate for me to join them, given my work schedule and my desire to pursue activities that would not easily have fit the team's agenda. So I decided to go on my own. I've corresponded with Avril Thomas in Cape Town, wife of Pastor Thomas and Branch Manager of one of the Living Hope locations. She agreed to be my local supervisor and help facilitate as much useful music-related work (if you call it work) as I can squeeze into my one week there.

After a lot of prayer, checking details, gauging potential support (and a smidgin of procrastination to see if time would prove this to be a bad idea-so far, so good), I've taken a step of faith by purchasing my plane tickets. So, barring any drastic events over the next two months, I'll be departing for Cape Town on Nov. 28 for a 24-hour journey to a faraway land that is foreign in many ways, yet familiar in many others. I'll be going by myself, but I know I won't be alone, if you know what I mean (and I'm not referring to the other passengers or incognito security personnel).

Combining what I believe I have to offer and the needs of the ministry there, we have come up with a tentative schedule of activities. These include a music seminar or writers' retreat; this is part of a monthly series of seminars, organized by the radio station, aimed to equip area musicians to improve their craft and enhance their ability to minister through music. Avril has also suggested I meet with several of the various HIV/AIDS support groups in various locations, offering a song or two and encouraging them to write about their own experiences as a sort of therapy. This is a sobering assignment, and I am open to any help I can get on the best ways to approach it. There will be a team of volunteers there hosting Christmas parties for underprivileged children, so there's a chance I'll get to put my experience working with kids (including all those Chattanooga riverboat Santa Claus cruises) to use as well. World AIDS Day will be observed while I am there, so there may be a possibility of being involved in that somehow.

In fact, there are several ways in which you can be part of this continuation of a worthy project.

You can 1) pray. Pray for me as I prepare, spiritually, musically, physically, mentally, and financially. Pray for safe travel to and within the country. Pray for the people I’ll be working alongside. And pray for the souls that may be touched, even if in some small way, through my efforts, even if I don’t see the results (we seldom do, really).

You can 2) e-mail and let me know I have your support.

And 3) you can make a donation to the cause (of any amount). If you want to make a tax-deductible donation, make a check out to “Brentwood Baptist Church” and be sure to put “Mark Hall South Africa trip” or to that effect on the “for” line, and send it to:

Brentwood Baptist Church
Attn: Kim Cox
7777 Concord Road
Brentwood, TN 37027

If you want to keep the the donation anonymous, include a note to Kim. Donations can be accepted as late as mid-December, (even though the trip will be done by then).

My budget will be roughly $2500, (somewhat less if I don’t rent a car), including $1500 travel and about $400 for meals and lodging at the Team House (a place especially set up for missionary housing). Other expenses would be for materials for the music seminar, etc.

If you’d like to keep up with my progress you can check this blog and/or let me know and I’ll keep you updated via e-mail or letter.

For more info on Living Hope, see

For a brief summary of the history of AIDS in Africa:

And if you want to see footage of Bono shaking hands with Sen. Jesse Helms in one of the strangest proactive partnerships ever (as well as the history of HIV/AIDS including the evangelical response), see the PBS Frontline documentary "The Age of AIDS." Buy the DVD or watch it online:

Grace & Peace,

Mark Kelly Hall

"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me." -Matthew 25:40