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United Methodist music video gives hope to Haitians



"We will rise once again,
 From the place that we're in.
Hand in hand with faith we will stand
And with God as our guide, side by side
Together we will rise.”

--“We Will Rise”

Stefan Youngblood wanted to give hope to Haiti.

First, he donated money. Now he's donating a song.

“We Will Rise," a song he composed, is being used in a music video to raise funds for Haiti through the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

"It's a song that's meant to inspire people in the midst of all the hopelessness and despair," said Youngblood, 48, of Raleigh, N.C. He leads music for The Gathering, a contemporary service at Edenton Street United Methodist Church.

On Monday, the downtown church of 4,200 members was bustling with dozens of volunteers putting together health kits for Haitians. Youngsters colored pictures to send to Haitian children.

"People are putting to use the gifts that God gave them in any way they can to help the people of Haiti," said the Rev. Ned Hill, the church pastor.

Music often brings comfort to people in a way that words can't, Hill said. Youngblood's song, combined with images from Haiti, make a powerful video, he added.

"This is music that will lift up anyone who is suffering and being challenged by life," said Rozlyn Sorrell of Garner, N.C., a classically trained vocalist who participated in the recording.

Youngblood is answering phone calls from across the country - and even Canada - about the song. A caller from Haiti was interested in recording the song in Creole.

"People seem surprised that I'm giving out the sheet music and the choir tracks," Youngblood said. "Everything is free. This is what I can do."

UMCOR hopes video watchers will be inspired to donate to its Haitian relief effort.

Youngblood wrote the song after Hurricane Marilyn slammed into the Virgin Islands in 1995. He lived in St. Croix at the time.

"On the day before the hurricane, people were boarding up windows and buying up candles," he said. "I bought a piano."

He wrote the song by candlelight with his children in tow. He rounded up a couple of dozen children from the island for the first recording.

The song resurfaced after a cyclone devastated Myanmar in 2008.

The version being used by UMCOR was recorded using North Carolina talent after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Youngblood tapped college students, high school students, professional singers and children from various churches to sing.

He said his sister, a former producer for Oprah Winfrey, put together the music video after Haiti's earthquake last week using photographs from the scene.

Another singer -- Janice Fletcher, 45, of Rolesville, N.C. -- said that people in Haiti are facing a tragedy beyond what most people can comprehend.

"We want them to know that they are not forgotten," she said. "We want them to know that we are rallying behind them."

*A UMNS report by Susan Hogan.  Hogan is a freelance writer based in Chicago.

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