Fish Guts & Gratitude: A Look Back at "Jonah & The Wave Breakers"

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The concert lights turned off, the band finished signing autographs, and the Ninevites headed to an applesauce after-party. Just like that, the first tour of Jonah & The Wave Breakers—a three-weekend run and four straight sold out performances—was over.

As the cast and crew broke down the set, put away props, and hung up costumes for the last time, my head swirled with thoughts. Gratitude for the experience. Love for everyone involved. Amazement at the support the show received... and wonderment at where the time went. 

The final performance of Jonah & The Wave Breakers marked the end of an almost four-month journey for most of the cast and crew. But for me, it began over two years ago. 

In May of 2017, my friend and BCL’s content coordinator, Michael Murray, invited me to collaborate with him on writing the book and lyrics for Summit’s fourth original musical. Michael shared that it would be about the prophet Jonah, would feature a crab (named Bastian), and would be produced in the summer of 2019. I distinctly recall two things from that initial meeting: how excited I was to be included in the project and how incredibly far away two years felt. Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios would be open by then. I would finally have a Trader Joe’s near my apartment. The I-4 Ultimate project... still wouldn’t be finished. Not even close. 

It felt so far away, but after piles of drafts, hours in writing meetings, and several table reads, it was somehow 2019. We had a script. We had music (written by the talented Marco Randazzo). Then there was a creative team and a cast. And that’s when it became real.  

I was lucky enough to continue with the show as a member of the cast, so I experienced the world of Jonah & The Wave Breakers coming to life first-hand. As each rehearsal came and went, I marveled at the talent and creativity of the cast and crew. Opening night arrived, and I was so happy that audiences finally got to drop in and see our hard work. But that also meant that the end of Jonah & The Wave Breakers was quickly drawing near.

After two years of working on the project, it was strange to think about it being over. While we can’t avoid endings, we can recognize the importance of the moments we share together. So that’s what I did. 

The wrap party for the cast and crew of Jonah & The Wave Breakers was an opportunity to laugh (and maybe cry) and reminisce on the past few months. In addition to the silly superlatives and delicious barbecue, we took time to show gratitude for each other and the experience. We acknowledged and thanked each other for showing support, for offering encouragement, and for letting us be a part of each other’s stories. 

Maybe one of the reasons endings can be tough is because we don’t always know what’s next. I hardly know what I’m doing next week—much less further into the year and beyond. In Jonah & The Wave Breakers, Jonah received text messages from God telling him exactly what he needs to do. I can’t help but think how amazing it would be if I received clearly written messages about the next steps for me, too.

But even with clear direction, Jonah still didn’t listen to God. I find it comforting that when we make the same mistakes and don’t listen, rush ahead with what we think is best, or would just rather say no to God’s plan, he is still right there with us every step of the way. God continued to pursue Jonah, and he’s still pursuing each of us over 2,000 years later. 

Getting to “Rock the Boat” over the past two years was an amazing experience, and who knows what’s next? Maybe Jonah & The Wave Breakers will get back together for a reunion tour. Maybe that fish named Mary Lou is still lurking somewhere under the sea. Maybe the Ninevites will give up applesauce and turn to mashed potatoes instead.

But no matter what, God has a plan. Jonah & The Wave Breakers served as a wonderful reminder of God’s grace and how much he loves everyone, wherever our stories take us. That’s something that will continue on, and that’s something I’m proud to have been a part of.

Heart. Whale emoji. Wink!

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Emily Lupfer has been serving at Summit for over three years, simultaneously sharing Jesus’ love with kids and stretching her creative muscles as a regular performer and script writer for BCL. She’s obsessed with musical theatre soundtracks, loves improv, and is always up for tackling a good ropes course.

 
StoriesEmily Lupfer