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Discovering a pandemic silver lining


Mission co-worker gets a performance of a lifetime

May 24, 2022

Zoey Moe, left, shows off her poster autographed by Leslie Odom Jr., while her father, Eric, top left, plays on stage. Betsey Moe

While Guatemala was struggling with the global pandemic, mission co-workers Eric and Betsey Moe were working remotely from Spokane, Washington.

“It’s feels like we have been standing at the top of a high dive with one foot extended, waiting to jump,” Eric said. However, infection numbers in Guatemala are improving, and the couple finally moved to Guatemala at the beginning of 2022.

As a longtime professional musician, performer and teacher of trumpet, staying in Washington state did give Eric the opportunity to keep practicing with the Spokane Symphony. It also gave the mission co-worker the chance to appear on stage last October with Leslie Odom Jr., the actor, author, musician and vocalist best known for his Tony award-winning performance as Aaron Burr in “Hamilton.”

Eric admits that the pandemic was in a way “a perfect storm” that allowed him the “amazing chance to solo with a great musician,” adding that Odom’s “whole group was just phenomenal.”

As for Eric’s part, “it was an easy little solo, 16 bars of a jazz standard, not too tricky, but at that level it’s really exciting.”

Odom’s performance was sponsored by Whitworth University in Spokane, an institution with historic ties to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Both Eric and Betsey are Whitworth graduates. A few select alums were asked to participate in the program.

“When I finished, I felt good about my performance, but the crowd just went wild,” Eric said. “I haven’t had a reaction like that maybe ever. People loving Whitworth, loving the Symphony and loving Leslie Odom. That’s my crowd.”

Also in the crowd were the Moes’ 11-year-old daughter, Zoey, and their 19-year-old son, Henry, who came home from college to see his father perform. Eric said Zoey is a huge Odom and “Hamilton” fan. At the reception afterward, she got her “Hamilton” poster signed by Odom, the only one who got an autograph. Henry’s special moment came during the third encore.

According to Eric, Odom “came out with just his guitar player and played ‘You’ve Got a Friend,’” a song written by Carole King and recorded by King, her friend James Taylor and others.

“That was the first song Henry learned to play on the guitar. There’s a spot in the opening where Taylor has changed the note from an ‘A’ to a ‘C.’ He never leaves his songs untouched,” Eric said. “Henry was listening intently to this phenomenal guitar player, and he heard the ‘C,’ so he knew this guy really knows the song. He’s away at his first year of college, so the lyrics were special as well. All those little details, the song, that moment and Leslie Odom just being such an amazing musician — it was memorable.”

In preparation for this once-in-a-lifetime performance opportunity, Eric did a deep dive into Odom’s music.

“He did a song he wrote called ‘Foggy,’ about lying in bed wanting to have a lazy morning with his family when work is still calling. It’s a beautiful ballad. That one really touched me. He has an amazing voice,” said Eric.

The Moes will continue their work with the PC(USA)’s longtime global partner, the Protestant Center for Pastoral Studies in Central America (CEDEPCA). CEDEPCA provides North American church groups, theological seminarians and college and university students the opportunity to discover the beauty and diversity of Guatemala and to experience the everyday life of Guatemalans through immersion programs. Betsey is part of the team that receives visiting groups, plans and facilitates their educational program and itinerary, and leads reflection discussions.

Betsey tells the story about the semester she spent in Central America with 25 other students from Whitworth. On that trip, she heard stories that would change the way she understood herself as a Christian, and she saw that the actions of her own government had a significant impact on the people in Central America.

Having served churches in the U.S. for 16 years and leading people on short-term learning and service trips, Betsey feels ready to do similar work alongside Guatemalans to help people grow through intercultural encounters. Eric hopes to find ways to use his music to connect with the people of Guatemala.

Kathy Melvin, Director of Mission Communications, Presbyterian Mission Agency

Daily Readings

Today’s Focus: Eric Moe, Mission co-worker

Let us join in prayer for:

PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Ashley Smalley-Ray, Assistant VP/Trust Officer, Trust Services, Presbyterian Foundation
Kim Smith, Operations Administrator, Presbyterian Foundation

Let us pray

Gracious God, by your Spirit, you inspire our efforts to feed the hungry, preach the good news and share your love. Your people, all your children, are hungry for food, for friends, for peace and for the good news. As you have fed us, bless our efforts to feed each other, for we serve in your name. Amen.

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