Serving the Voices Blog

(Don’t) Brace Yourself


At the end of May, I was fortunate enough to attend the GMA Immerse Conference. (See previous blog post for details.) I wanted to bring some advice with me to share with new and emerging artists about life on the road. I reached out to several artists that had stayed with us (my husband, Greg and I have a Host Home in Albuquerque, NM) during their tours and proposed this question:

If you could go back and tell yourself one thing, one very valuable, life-saving, piece of advice before you set off on your very first tour what would it be?

I received awesome responses. Everything from the practical to the Spiritual. I love every single one of them, and will post them here someday – for it is all excellent advice.  Today, though, I offer this post to my friend, Joshua Fink. You’ll be inspired and encouraged and in the end, you will long to embrace the unexpected. 

Julia Saites, RYFO Communications Coordinator

Joshua Fink
Guitarist, Shine Bright Baby

In the 5 years of our existence, the band has been blessed with opportunities to tour with dozens of incredible artists. With each passing tour we learn a little more about God, ourselves, each other and how to travel more effectively.

If I could go back and tell myself one piece of valuable advice before I left for our first tour it would’ve been to embrace the unexpected.

When you tour you expend enormous amounts of energy making sure everything is as organized as possible. Spreadsheets brimming with hotel confirmations, venue addresses, and merchandise inventory guide you and your daily itinerary forward. By quantifying the entire tour you save time, energy, and money. The end goal is to evaporate any chance of the unexpected occurring. Eventually though, the unexpected will occur and while on the road, the unexpected can challenge your faith and erode your passion for music ministry altogether.

You see, our society has been recalibrated to center life around predictability, comfort and convenience. Hamburgers at McDonald’s taste the same in Ohio as they do in Florida, or Maine. We’ve been programed to a crave a safe, expected environment.

Let’s face it, we’re sheltered as a country so when something unexpected happens our response is one of shock, and then overreaction. We’re told that the unexpected is bad, that it can only come at the worst possible time. And while some unexpected events can be unfortunate I’ve learned that the unexpected can be good. It can become an opportunity.

I’ll never forget when our van was broken into in San Diego and we had $4,000 worth of personal electronics stolen. The feeling of helplessness and desperation was overwhelming.

As a band, we recognized we were under a spiritual attack and in that very moment lifted the situation (and the individual(s) who took our belongings) up in prayer. During that prayer, we surrendered our feeble attempt to control the situation. We embraced the unexpected and through that, God provided in astonishing ways.

Our band has dozens of stories where we encounter and rediscover God when we embrace the unexpected.

On one tour our van broke down in rural Montana and within minutes of being stranded we met an eccentric, and rather disheveled gentleman who happened to be a diesel mechanic. Twenty minutes after our breakdown, we were cruising down the road once again.

Those stories are just brief examples that show what can happen when you embrace the unexpected. I’m thoroughly convinced that on some tours we’ve encountered angels. It’s in those vulnerable, unexpected moments where Christ can show up and speak the loudest.

With each passing tour I’ve been slowly learning to embrace the unexpected. Realizing that our capacity to tour won’t last forever I’m beginning to consciously attempt to enjoy every moment, even the unexpected ones.

When you abandon your own selfish personal agenda you create space for opportunities to flourish, and for lives to be transformed.

Constantly reminding yourself that it’s not about you creates room for God to work.

With that being said, I want to encourage you to embrace the unexpected, to say yes, instead of no. I want to encourage you to give up control of your life, and allow God to take over.

When you give up control He will do something bold for you. He will challenge you. He will be your sustenance, your strength, and your unexpected.

Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Mind Your Business

Mind Your Business
By Julia Saites, RYFO Communications Coordinator

Ah, the music business.  I can’t pretend to be an expert on it, in fact, I can say that I may only know a bit more than the average Joe.  I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy an education of sorts from close friends who have made music for well over twenty years as both the musician and the producer.  It’s complicated to say the least and even artists who have been making music for years still get surprised sometimes with the business side of things.  It’s a difficult world to maneuver within.  It can be a killer of dreams or at the very least, it is a perplexing road most artists don’t care to explore.

GMA Immerse is helping demystify the business of music.  From May 26th through May 29th, the Gospel Music Association and LifeWay held a conference in Nashville specifically tailored to new artists and those interested in the music industry.  It was a glorious few days filled with informative sessions from music industry professionals, competitions for singers and songwriters and of course Jesus.  Make no mistake, Jesus was there.

Each morning began with a devotion from artists and speakers, Montell Jordan, Milam Byers and Mike Harland.  Some sessions had titles such as, “Artists Called To Be Warriors”, “Redefining Success: Understanding Your Artistry in the Context of Servanthood”, and “10 Ways to Make Your Soul Strong and 10 to Make Your Songs Sing”.  These sessions focused not only on the artist, but about making sure the “Why” of making music doesn’t get lost in the “How”.

It was a beautiful combination of encouraging new artists in their craft, equipping them with the business aspect of music and folding it together with the heart of God to send out disciples with passion and knowledge.

We at RYFO were thrilled to be a part of the conference, joining several other exhibitors set up to help encourage, inspire and educate the attendees.


immerse_collageWe enjoyed meeting many artists from around the globe.  We were even treated to some impromptu performances at our booth.  For many it was the first time they had heard of RYFO and after explaining it was pronounced, “Rye-foe” we were able to offer them information about who we are and what we do.

The main draw for many touring musicians is our Host Home Network, currently comprised of 59 homes around the country.  Our Host Homes provide housing, food, laundry facilities, wifi, and other practical things (such as safe parking) to touring musicians/artists at no cost.  That information was usually met with a jaw drop and a look of confusion.  It was fun to watch time after time.

Yes, indeed, the RYFO Network serves musicians, all musicians at no cost.  Our Host Homes truly have the heart of servants and expect nothing in return.  We understand the journey is an arduous one and all we wish to do is give you some of what you may need to help you along.  Sometimes that comes in the form of a meal, peace and quiet, an ear to listen or a heart to heart conversation.

RYFO Host Homes are one part of who we are at RYFO, but at this event filled with an overwhelming amount of information, we were so glad to be able to say, “This part is easy.  We’ll help take care of you.”  So, yes, mind your business.  Learn all you can and do it to the very best of your ability. (Col. 3:23-24)  There is more to music than putting notes or lyrics on a page.  It’s difficult, but not impossible.  You can do it.  We’re here for you.

For The Love of Music(ians)

For The Love of Music(ians)
By Julia Saites, RYFO Storyteller

The circumstance drives the relationship.

My confession is that I love music.  I love it.  I love it.  Like many others, I just love it.  There is nothing on this planet that can affect me like music.  Nothing.  Dance comes close, then visual art (any kind) and nature, but not quite like music.

The song, the melody, the lyrics, the rhythm – every piece of it pulls something out of me.  A song can evoke a powerful reaction from me – it can stir a memory, showing me a face from years past – a face I miss dearly, a face that can take me back to a forgotten day.  A song can draw out a love from within me that may be hard to express otherwise.  The words I sing along with can roll off my tongue and into the air as a fragrant offering to my King.  A song can fill my heart with empathy and compassion allowing me to offer those things up to one who may need it.  A song often times wrings my heart, the contents flowing out – making room for something better, something more.

So do I love music?  Yes.  But what I also realize is that the music comes out of someone.  A musician.  An artist.  Those are their words, their melodies, their rhythms.  The song is of them.  The songs I love, the songs most powerful are the contents of the artist’s soul poured out onto sheets of music in the form of notes and words.

This also explains my love of dance, visual art and nature.  The most beautiful dancers utilize not only their physical talents, but also leave part of their soul exposed out on the stage.  The same goes with paint on a canvas – the art draws out my emotion because I know a part of that artist’s soul is literally on that canvas.  And nature?  Well, that’s the work of a true Artist.  The most creative Being ever.  So as I watch the golden specks of sunlight bounce along the top of the ocean, I experience a part of the Artist’s soul.

The music, the art, the creation is part of the artist’s soul – good or bad, joyful or full of anger, pain or hope, love or lust.  It gives us a window into the soul of its creator.  If it were not for the courage of the musician to pour out themselves into a song, would we have a desire, a calling to share the love of Jesus with them?

Any music fan will tell you that the music is what drew them in.  They became interested in the musician because of their music, i.e., ‘The circumstance drives the relationship’.  The type of relationship we are driven to is what delineates the fan from the fanatic.

Being able to receive the music for what it is but also being able to look at the artist as an individual, a human being, and not a celebrity elevated on a stage is what makes us different.  The fan has become rebranded.  The Rebranded Fan doesn’t forsake the music.  We can handle that separation.

We can go to a concert, sing along, dance around, scream and shout, even ask for a photo but we also help load gear, ask if they’ve eaten and feed them if they haven’t, put gas in their vans, ask about their families, pay real attention, pray with them and talk to them about Jesus.  This is our calling – this is how we share Jesus with them.  Others minister to musicians in different ways than we do.  It’s the beauty of the body of Christ.  God explains; ” The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body.  So it is with the body of Christ.” (1 Cor 12:12, NLT)  Each one us is a different part of the body, complementing one another.  Not one is more important than the other.

Perhaps as Rebranded Fans we are the fist – able to offer a fist pump in the midst of a song, and then open it up offering a helping hand or hand on the shoulder when the music stops.

Where Are They Now?

Where Are They Now?
By Julia Saites, RYFO Storyteller

When I first saw a copy of HM magazine – I was intrigued to the point of purchase. I saw it in a Christian bookstore back in 2005. After that first purchase, I was hooked and became a subscriber. HM served as my insight into the music I loved so much. I have kept all my issues.

Often times I flip through my back issues rediscovering bands and insights. Today, as I flip through Issue #130 from 2008, I look at the bands and I wonder: What has happened to these men and women? Are they still around? Do they still make music? Do they still tour? Where are they now?

The reason I pulled out HM Issue #130 is because an interview was brought to my attention with Shiny Toy Guns. The editor asked, “What do you think of Jesus Christ?” Jeremy Dawson (synthesizer player/programmer) responds, “Jesus Christ? Sadly, no one’s asked me that in a year.” He continues, “I think that… It sounds selfish, but it would be neat to have like a mobile … like a band bus you could go to and there’d be people there, like accountability people in there. When you’re on tour it’s really… There’s all these things that are around, loaded with temptations and all the fun things of this world. And you have people that you phone back to for accountability, but it’s like a penpal. It’s not the same. You don’t have a buddy with you all the time…” Dawson continues explaining tour life, “…But it’s tough to be in an environment and not have somebody with you when it’s like: ‘Should I get in that car and go to that party? I probably shouldn’t,’ but it’s just me all by myself to have to make that decision.” His last words hit me hard. “So, as far as Christ goes…it (touring) really creates a wedge in a direct relationship or a regular prayer life or fellowship with others that believe the same. It makes it really tough. It really does.”

Where are they now?

I am not asking about where they are now on the charts, or what success they have had or not had in the world, I am asking the hardest question I can’t even answer completely for myself, Where are they now in relationship with Jesus Christ?

All the success in the world – on the charts, money in the bank, arena tours, buses instead of vans, planes instead of buses or all the perceived defeats of the music industry – broken-down vans, playing for a crowd of twelve, no radio play, debt, and finally break-ups – none of those scenarios are as important as the health of one’s soul. But I ask you, how do we contribute to the health of their souls?

Whether we realize it or not these men and women are tired of sleeping in moving vans. They have to utilize those gross gas station bathrooms daily. They may have little money and time to feed themselves with proper nutrition. It may be an easy fix for us to come to the rescue to meet some of those needs. Clearly, meeting those needs are essential to the health of the artists. But, we also somehow inherently know their souls are in need of nutrition as well. For many of us, it’s not that we are ashamed of Jesus, but perhaps we are not sure if we should “go there.” Do we consider that we need to go there? How often, during your struggles in life, do you walk up to a stranger and blurt out, “I’m sinking! I’m a mess and I’m empty! I miss my family and I may be looking for fulfillment somewhere I shouldn’t be! Please help me!”? Really, what stranger has run into your living room vomiting their pain all over your floor? So, how can we expect an artist to just spill their guts to us without provocation? Usually, relationships take time – trust needs to be built so we can begin to bear each other’s burdens. But time we don’t always have. Minutes maybe hours, or a day or two if we’re super lucky – that’s all we get with these travelers.

What is the answer?

1) Use your voice.

2) Learn from each other.


How difficult is it to ask, “How can we pray for you?” or “How is your family back home?”? Many of us don’t ask these simple questions. If you do, you are to be commended and are an example for the rest of us. We must want to contribute to the health of these men and women who we may only get minutes with. We should care and want to know that they broke up not because they were spiritually drained or empty, but because God was taking them in new directions. We can be the “band bus filled with accountability people” or the voice on the other end of the line offering Jesus, not by a meal, but by real love, prayer and encouragement. We are the chosen people. You are chosen by God to share your love with your gifts and talents and with your voice.

We may be serving the voices, but let’s also literally use our voices to serve. We must. If we don’t then when we think of every musician we so silently loved, we will be haunted by the question: Where are they now?

Lent Prayer, Week 7 – Holy Week

Lent Prayer, Week 7 – Holy Week
By Simeon Lohrmann, Director of Operations, RYFO.

To conclude the communal prayer effort that our Host Homes offered during this season of Lent, we decided to go through the posts from each week and create a prayer that encapsulated the themes of all that has been prayed over the past 6 weeks. Thank you for joining us in this effort!

Heavenly Father,

As we reflect on the sacrifice of your son and marvel at the miracle of his resurrection, we pray that you will teach us to live sacrificially and to extend your love and grace to the musicians we encounter. We pray that our words and deeds would touch the hearts of these musicians and point them back to you. We are grateful for the opportunity to be an extension of your love and care for these artists. Fill us with humility and wisdom to know how and when to share your truth with them. We pray for the safety of these artists as they travel and that they will experience your love and peace as they stay in our homes. May your name be glorified throughout the music community!


Mike Mains & The Branches Talks RYFO

Mike Mains & The Branches Talks RYFO
By Cathy Hill

Michigan-based alternative band Mike Mains & the Branches has made good use of the RYFO network of host homes over the past few years. “I’d say that 95 percent of the places we stay on the road are RYFO homes,” says Shannon Briggs Mains. “We always know they will be welcoming and comfortable places.”

Mike likens RYFO to Starbucks: “I like going to Starbucks because it’s consistent. Each place has its own atmosphere but what you get there is reliable.” The band is glad to know that homes are pre-screened; “you never know what you might get when you accept a random offer to stay somewhere.”

But room and board are just the beginning of the benefits they cite when asked about the role of RYFO. There is so much more to the ministry.

Mike, Shannon and the band look forward to RYFO stays, both new and repeat. Shannon enjoys how the relationships with the hosts deepen with each stay. “The first time they are a RYFO home. The next time it’s the home in Naperville. Then it’s the Hill family. Each time we stay we feel a deeper level of relationship.”

Mike agrees. “Now we have a network of families around the country. The Shevlots and Lubs are our Indiana families. The Kazarians are our east coast family. The Wallaces are our Arkansas family. And as family, they not only welcome us, but challenge us and keep us accountable as well.”

One of the bands’ most memorable experiences came in the midst of a very trying time. Their van was stolen, along with not only their gear and merchandise, but also with birthday presents for Shannon. (And we all know how much we like birthday presents!) Yes, insurance and donations covered the gear, but Shannon was especially touched by the RYFO homes along the way that gave her birthday presents, and even surprised her with a homemade ice cream cake! “That’s what family does,” says Shannon.

As the band continues to travel as God leads, Mike Mains & the Branches look forward to meeting more of their ever-growing RYFO family. 

To learn more about Mike Mains & The Branches, visit their Facebook and check out their NEW ALBUM!

Guest Blog For ‘The Sound Opinion’

I was brought up in a Fundamental Baptist church in the midwest. Music in which the driving beat was on 2 & 4 was “the devil’s music.” At one point, I was even told by my youth pastor that the old southern gospel group “Acappella” was bad to listen to because of the rhythm and syncopation they used. Keep Reading…

God Took My Voice Away?

In 2004, God took my voice away.

My introduction in to church ministry was through an older worship leader named Bobby who invited me in to a mentoring relationship after I graduated high school. Despite Bobby’s constant efforts to curb my natural tendency to glorify myself on stage, I began to find my identity in my ability and opportunities to lead worship for our student ministry of 400+ high schoolers. Three years later, after a few rounds at community college, playing in local bands, and quite a bit of worship leading, I decided to enroll at a 4-year school to study “CCM” (contemporary Christian music). there I joined an emo band, straightened my long hair, and wore tight girl jeans. Oh yes, size 11. But by the end of that year, God had begun to steer things in a new direction. Two things began to happen simultaneously. One, He birthed the beginning of the RYFO vision in my heart, and two, He began to take my singing voice from me.

By the end of that first year away at school, I was taking steps to transfer (to a Bible school), while suffering with a quickly deteriorating voice.  Arriving at Bible school that next year, I was physically unable to sing or sometimes even speak.  What had once been my identity and idol, was supernaturally ripped from my throat.  I saw several doctors in downtown Chicago, seeking help and healing, endured not-so-fun cameras being shoved down my nose, and medication that just didn’t help.  The doctors were unable to explain my issues.  So they dubbed it “unexplained severe vocal fatigue”.  In an environment (Bible school) where I probably would have sought recognition and value from being a regular worship leader for the student body, I was blocked and rescued from myself.

I have this distinct memory of standing, not-singing (unable to) Matt & Beth Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name” with the student body during a mid-week chapel service.  As “we” sang the bridge section, I began to weep…

You give and take away.
You give and take away.
My heart will choose to say,
Lord blessed be your name.

It was in that moment that God and I got really honest.  My heart was broken.  I missed singing.  I was bitter that God had allowed me to loose my voice.  I felt lost, not knowing what talent I had to offer Him any longer…  And I was finally able to praise Him in spite of my circumstance.  As I read those words on the screen, I cried and cried because I finally meant them.

God knew that as long as I desired to be a rock star (for my glory), I would be unable to serve Him for His glory.  In His wisdom He knew that in order to minister to “rock stars”, I had to not be one.  This is my journey, not a blanket statement of right/wrong.  God knew what I needed, and I still praise Him for it.

I continue to hope and pray that He will restore my voice, in His timing, when He feels that I am ready to sing for His glory alone.  But until then, I am in awe of the opportunity He’s given me to serve other “voices”; some who live and sing for His glory, and others that have yet to.  God is good, and He is deeply committed to restoring relationship with us.  He’ll do what He needs to in order to draw us to Himself.  Lord blessed be your name.

serving the voices,

Nick Greenwood

PAX217: RYFO’s Inspiration

Video Length: 5:28 | PAX 217 STORY from Jason Shelton on Vimeo.

In 2000, I received a compilation album with 2 songs on it from a band called PAX217.  I became their fan, instantly.  I went to countless shows and wore their record out.  As a young musician, I had an aspiration to rock like they did, and an admiration for who I perceived them to be.  PAX217 was a voice of inspiration, calling their fans to be voices of change in our world.  When God placed the idea of RYFO on my heart in 2004, the first person I thought to reach out to was Dave Tosti, lead singer of PAX217.  He didn’t know me, but I had a sense that Dave would resonate with the vision.  So I found his email address online, sent him an email…and he responded.  A couple months later, we met together for the first time (on my birthday).  Since then, Dave has been a big encouragement to me, and has even spent a season on the RYFO board of directors.  I am thankful for this band and how they ministered to me in several different ways.  It’s an honor to be a part of their story.

Serving the voices,

Nick Greenwood

RYFO (pronounced, rye – foe) Host Home (pronounced, cray – z)

A recent blog from a RYFO Host Home:

“We had quite an experience this weekend, one I had hoped for, but not out loud – just a secret wish. You see, maybe a month ago I noticed a RYFO event posted on facebook – a ‘Dessert’s On Us’ or something or other. I was intrigued and checked out the details. It was to be in Orange County on February 1st. …”

Read More…