The Freedom Singers chose freedom of worship when they were still teenagers. Now they share their music and story to inspire others.
Simon Ivascu, Steven Ivascu and Wesley Pop knew that when they finished school in their native Romania they would be forced to join the army where their freedom of Christian worship would be forbidden. Refusal to join the army would mean several years in prison and persecution.
The young men started their dangerous escape to Italy. They were locked in a container which was sealed and placed on a container vessel. They spent two weeks there baking in the heat and running out of food, water, oxygen and hope. It seemed that the container would be their tomb. Then God provided a miracle in the story of their faith and perseverance in the face of insurmountable odds. They reached Italy and began singing together.
“We were singing mostly hymns together, but we started to sing southern gospel music in 2000 after we heard the Gaithers and the Cathedrals on television,” said Simon Ivascu. “It was a sound we instantly fell in love with. After singing in local churches and telling our story, it was suggested to actually give our group the name The Freedom Singers.
“We were blessed beyond our imagination in so many ways — from the opportunity of sharing our music and testimony in churches big and small, to performing at the largest annual Canadian Gospel Convention in Red Deer and doing radio and TV interviews to being the guest artist on a Christian music cruise.”
The Freedom Singers, who now live and work in Kelowna, bring their music to a concert to benefit the North Okanagan Valley Gleaners Society April 17.
Harold Sellers is the general manager of the North Okanagan Valley Gleaners processing plant in Lavington. The plant produces dried soup mix and some dried fruit which is supplied to aid agencies to be distributed world wide in areas of need.
Since 2009, the plant has produced 50,000 bags of 100 servings each for five million cups of soup in places like Ukraine, Romania, Haiti and North Korea, all from Canadian food that would otherwise not be used. All the food is of good quality but might not meet Canadian standards for sale because of size or shape.
“All the food is donated to us. The local producers, big and small, are very supportive and we get donations of food from other producers around the province,” said Sellers. “The soup mixes are seasoned to local tastes when they reach their destination and used as the base for meals with local ingredients added. Children, the elderly and poor are the primary recipients.”
The Gleaners also have a store which sells good-quality donated used furniture and collects used but functional medical equipment like hospital beds and wheelchairs to be sent where needed, mostly to Africa. Volunteers are always welcome at the store and processing plant for whatever time they can give. Plant tours are available for prospective volunteers and interested groups but must be booked ahead by calling 250-558-5872.
“We always like to hear back about how these things are used in other countries,” said Sellers. “It’s exciting to see something we might throw away go to maybe save someone’s life. It’s great volunteer work and you meet some wonderful people.”
The concert for the Gleaners Society takes place April 17 at 7 p.m. at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Vernon. Proceeds will go to modernizing the coolers at the plant. Tickets are $10 at the Gleaners store or processing plant. For more information call 250-549-1123. See www.novgleaners.org.