The Journey

South African Music Technology Project
By Chelsea Kwast

Timothy M. Black, '88, can sum up his life in one simple sentence: "God has big plans for people, much larger than we have planned for ourselves." He never anticipated that God's plan for his life would lead him and his family to Japan to teach music, to South Africa to donate music technology, and to central Idaho, the one place he and his wife, Amy, didn't want to go.

Tim's time at Whitworth affected the rest of his life. "Part of the vision Whitworth gives you is to be mission-minded, and think outside the box and be problem solvers." In addition to gaining this new mindset, Tim met Amy. They were soon inseparable.

They graduated together in 1988, and 14 years later, found themselves in Japan. "I got a phone call in the middle of the night asking me if I was interested in teaching in Okinawa, Japan, for the Department of Defense schools," Tim said. "Within about a week we got orders to go in the fall of 2002 and we've been here ever since."

The transition to Japan wasn't easy for everyone. Amy, who now teaches music at the middle school, said, "I think it's kind of ironic that when Tim and I were first in the military, one of the places they wanted to send us was Japan. I was about 23 and I went 'Oh no, no, no, that's too far away from my mom.'" Amy added, "Ten years later, God sent us to Japan." Tim and Amy both see Japan as home, as do their children. Amy said, "I couldn't imagine being anywhere else."

Roughly 1,000 kids make up the largest Department of Defense high school in the world, where Tim is the director of choral music and teaches Advanced Placement music theory. Because it is a Department of Defense school, Tim is teaching American children whose parents are stationed in Japan. He says the most rewarding part of the experience is the school system itself. "We really are an extension of a larger military family." He added, "We as teachers can really help keep some stability in their lives."

If going to Japan isn't proof enough that Tim and Amy are determined to live according to God's will, the beginning of their journey should convince anyone. They began in the one place they asked God not to send them. After getting their teaching certificates, they started praying, asking God to provide jobs. "It's only when we put conditions on God's plan," Tim said, that they could see his sense of humor. They told God they were willing to move anywhere but the prairie of Idaho. That's exactly where they ended up.

So, Tim laughed, they spent three years on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation in Kamiah, Idaho, teaching music. Tim was director of all music, choir, band, and orchestra, K-12. After the program grew, Amy was hired to teach K-6 music. The Lord blessed them with opportunities to spread his ministry through music. "We were able to revitalize music programs, really as God's proxies." Revitalizing music programs in their case meant adding some music technology aspects to the curriculum.

While in Idaho, Tim and Amy started the Upper Clearwater Musical Arts Camp. Tim said that the biggest blessing of the camp was being able to hire pre-service music educators from Whitworth and the University of Idaho as clinicians. He felt that presenting those students with the opportunity to experience teaching before thrusting them into a student-teaching situation was a great witness to Whitworth's commitment to give their students real world experience.

Tim is back in the shoes of a student himself. He is currently three years into his doctorate from Boston University. "Part of my pre-dissertation work is on supplying disadvantaged black South African teachers with music technology." His project turned into the South African Music Technology Project. The non-profit donates laptops and synthesizers to under-privileged music teachers in South Africa and educates them in how to use them.

The SAMTP gave Tim and Amy a new, hands-on way of experiencing God's power. In the summer of 2009, Tim and Amy took the equipment to the Ligbron Technology Academie in the Mpumalanga District in South Africa and trained the recipients. Tim said that they "went in there and treated all of the black South African teachers as equals, as professionals. That was the biggest thing that they appreciated." Tim said, "We just taught with them and shared with them. We didn't talk down to them. They're music teachers, we're music teachers. Our goal is to build up the lives of children, and that was universal."

Amy had some reservations about the whole thing. "I wasn't a part of the original concept," she said. "I wasn't part of this process and so I was pretty scared and I wasn't buying into it because I didn't know anything about it and I wasn't really in the loop." After a long conversation, she jumped on board, without any concrete concept of what she was supposed to do. As soon as she saw the reality of the project, she became excited. "I had nothing to do with the logistics; Tim made some phone calls and everything just happened. When we walked up to this building in Japan and they loaded 50 used laptops into a van for us, for free, I got goose bumps. There's no way that we could've ever made this happen on our own."

Being in South Africa affected both Tim and Amy, as individuals and as a couple. "It was really interesting to have Christian South African women, one in particular, come up to Tim and me on the first day and immediately start giving her testimony to us, just out of the blue." That experience made Amy realize how important the non-profit was.

Tim and Amy would like to return to South Africa, with more technology to give away than before. "We're trying to expand to two other locations this coming summer, one in the Western cape in South Africa and one in Zambia." They are gaining support from other organizations and individuals alike. They hope to see the SAMTP continue to grow in the future.

All in all, Tim's experiences have given him a unique perspective on life. "Think outside of your own needs and outside your own box, and let God's vision be part of your vision for your life. I think really big because I know God's not going to give me something I can't handle."