Scott England is a contemporary Christian singer/songwriter and worship leader from Atlanta, Georgia. Among the faith messages he shares in his performances (think a younger, hipper James Taylor meets Need to Breathe) is his testimony about a visit from the Holy Spirit after suffering severe injuries in a near death car crash. But a recent trip to Haiti proved equally transformative for the 34-year-old musician.
"It was all dirt, rubble, and rock," England says of his first impressions of Carrefour on the outskirts of Port-Au-Prince when he arrived with URMissions.com and nursing students from Malone University to work with local group Hearts for Haiti. "The spirit of the Haitian people is so strong, though. In the middle of extreme poverty, they have managed to cling to hope and maintain joy."
Although England spends much of his year touring the U.S. with his band members, he travels frequently to countries Latin America and Africa, pitching in on building or medical missions and offering his talents in song with his trusty acoustic guitar.
"I believe in the importance of meeting practical, physical needs, as well as using music to help provide environments for spiritual and emotional healing," England says of his role as a self-described "musicianary."
The trip to Haiti was just as uniquely eye-opening as any of his previous travels.
From a governmental perspective, the place seems hopeless. It blows my mind to think of all the money that has been poured into that country, and yet, there's still so much work to be done. We must not forget Haiti! When I see general living conditions and children playing outside houses pushed up against a trash pit with wild pigs eating the garbage, it breaks my heart.
All photos by Scott England. Courtesy of Scott England Music.
Along with the songs sung in homes and makeshift houses of worship, came education and resources for "basic hygiene," England says of his work alongside the university nurse and pharmacy pupils.
While there's been much criticism of small church and missions groups "muddying" the work of larger, established NGOs in Haiti, England says the situation in Haiti is still so desperate that every resource -- particularly legitimate groups that provide medical care and assistance -- is helpful.
"Some people we met had severe infections that could have been prevented with a tube of Neosporin," England says.
At a local hospital, the medically trained members of England's group assisted with childbirth and in the ER, providing stitches and giving injections. The hospital's regular staff housed any old or broken equipment on the facility's roof, which felt like its own graveyard of sorts, says England.
If there was heartbreak in living conditions, there was revival in the social and religious life of the community, England reports of the huge evening gatherings all around greater Port-au-Prince.
"Pastors are working together, rather than competing. It was refreshing to watch practical medicine collide with spirituality and faith to provide healing," he says of the Haiti mission.
As for how music affects the process, "It has the capacity to heal hearts hardened by so much upheaval and sadness," England says, "and gives people the opportunity to connect and respond -- to God."
The openness of people to accept and desire spiritual connection amazed England most, whether it was a 10-year-old boy who needed prayer in the ER or a young mother with an eight-month-old baby who hoped God would clear her baby's fluid-filled lungs.
"Whether with medicine or music, in God's presence, miracles do happen. For me, mission work is a lifestyle, not my religion or something I do once a year. I have God-given desire to love people, and being a musicianary is my way to do that."