Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teen Trades Summer for Songs Boy Sings with Christian Group to Help Chinese

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Teen Trades Summer for Songs Boy Sings with Christian Group to Help Chinese

Article excerpt

Byline: Pat Neleski, Times-Union correspondent

ST. MARYS -- His mother hasn't bought the map of China yet, or the stickpins, but already she is worried about her "sonny boy."

Aubrey Bowen, 17, will travel to China this summer to perform with the Christian outreach group The Continental Singers.

Dawn Bowen still doesn't want him to go, but she is getting used to the idea.

"I had to do a lot of talking to convince her to let me go," Aubrey said. Finally, both decided they couldn't argue with God.

Aubrey said he felt compelled in mid-April to sign up for this trip.

"I'll be spreading God's word," Aubrey said, of his reason to join the Christian singing group. "This is a great time to bring Jesus Christ into a community where the people have been spiritually suppressed for years."

Aubrey was further convinced this was God's will when he was able to raise the entire $6,250 needed for the trip in less than a month.

"I think it is great that he has this calling. He was so emphatic to follow the calling," his mother said.

Still she worries about the reception Americans might get in China, following months of tension about a downed American surveillance plane.

Officials with The Continental Singers have had their concerns, too. This is the group's first trip to China in at least five years; it is a rare offering for a group that offers about 57 worldwide tours a year.

"There were a lot of concerns about the whole plane thing," said Keith Rowe, a talent representative who recruited Aubrey through an audition tape and is helping coordinate the trip. "Do we just cancel? The Board of directors decided we're going to stick this out and wait for things to blow over."

Now, Rowe said, the Chinese government is still willing to have the young people visit.

"This is a cultural exchange," he said. "They're very excited about us visiting them."

While there, the Continentals will raise money for a Chinese leper clinic in Guangzhou and for disabled people in Dapu.

Rowe said Aubrey and the other 23 singers, dancers, instrumentalists and technicians will receive sensitivity training to avoid potentially offending the Chinese they are visiting. …

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