- 2003 7 Nov
In every band’s musical journey, the story typically goes something like this: The first album is recorded, and fans get acquainted with the band’s brand of music based on this initial recorded sound. Then, when it comes time to record that follow-up disc, the band fights hard against that clichéd “sophomore slump” by branching out, trying new sounds and making more of an experimental effort, often to the fans’ disappointment. And for the third time around? It’s usually back to the trademark sound the band initially created.
If we stick to that storyline, then Vertical Records’ Ten Shekel Shirt is venturing along toward chapter two at the moment, poised to release its second disc, "Risk" (Fervent). But when it comes to taking “risks,” the band isn’t just settling for breaking the vertically focused worship mold of its first album and forging ahead with a new rock sound. Instead, this whole “risk” motto has even become a prototype for the band’s new outlook on the world. Now here’s how it all started:
Imagine visiting Thailand. Ancient beauty is everywhere; and while the language sounds foreign to your ears, the people’s smiles seem as familiar as an old friend. The child approaching you could be your sister, your child’s best friend or even your own child. She is about 14 years old and is wearing a red dress that matches the outfits worn by the other children powdering their faces behind a glass partition. You notice she has the number 8 on her claim tag, a tag that matches the number her pimp will give to the next “customer” who walks in and pays. Your guide has brought you into a brothel to see and understand the mind-numbing reality of hundreds of thousands of children worldwide. You feel nauseated, angry and helpless; but what are you going to do?
You could shudder and turn away. Or you could do something about it. Ten Shekel Shirt has chosen the latter.
While many artists promote ministry organizations like World Vision, Compassion International or D.A.T.A., less are actually creating their own organizations. But after frontman Lamont Heibert and some friends took a trip in September 2002 with International Justice Mission (IJM), that’s just what this Dove-nominated band did, forming Justice for Children International (JFCI).
“I think our love for God and our worship of Him becomes stale and even false if we are not reaching out to those in desperate need,” Heibert says. Citing Micah 6:8 and Luke 11:42 as evidence of the need for justice for the less fortunate, Heibert goes on to point out the Father’s call to action for distressed orphans and widows in James 1:27. “Our vertical worship of God is inextricably linked to our horizontal love for others,” he says.
Ten Shekel Shirt’s goal through JFCI, Heibert says, is to raise awareness and resources for the rescue and aftercare of sexually exploited children. “There are still many outside the church who see Christians as irrelevant, hypocritical and even dangerous,” Heibert explains. “What if we gathered up all the time and effort we as Christians spend on trying to prove we are right and spend that energy on being good?” And in response to this question, Ten Shekel is working to raise $200,000 for IJM and aftercare programs by September 2003 — partially through proceeds from an exclusive, six-song, donation-only EP from the band and partially through special benefit concerts, dinners, golf tournaments and simple requests for donations.
And while it may look as though the band has found a new line of work in philanthropy, the guys are still focused enough musically speaking to add a band member and change its initial acoustic-based sound. And about that new musical sound? Heibert explains, “The new direction in sound evolved as our taste in music evolved. We are fans of the Brit pop/rock scene, so things naturally took a turn in the right direction. Having Jake Carey [lead guitarist] join the band,“ he goes on, “has helped shape the entire sound and has given us more confidence in songwriting and live shows. I’d say we are trying to accomplish a creative sound that we like first and foremost and then something that both the churched and unchurched can connect with.”
For more information on Justice for Children International, visit jfci.org.
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