“It’s just about spurring one another on.”

That, in a nutshell, is the essence of what Melbourne-based band Simeon’s latest project is all about. Called Not Calming Down 4 Niger, the project - a joint initiative between the band and CBM - aims to raise $50,000 toward helping the mission organisation’s work in the African country.

Simeon

TAKING ACTION FOR GOD: The band Simeon, including Simeon Shinkfield (second from left) are aiming to raise $50,000 for the work of CBM In Niger. 

 

“I wrote (Not Calming Down) saying ‘God, I don’t want to become calm about these things’ and feel harder; I don’t want to be caught up in myself...and I know you’re asking me to be involved’. So the song is about, I guess, practical action, and it’s about saying ‘OK God, I need to move on this’.”

Singer/songwriter, lead singer and the band's namesake, Simeon Shinkfield, says the idea for the project came about when he was writing a song called Not Calming Down - the second single off the band’s latest album, Then We Collide - and had a strong sense that God wanted more from him than “just a song”.

“The Bible talks about us not becoming numb to the needs of other people and becoming numb to God as well,” says Simeon, who spent a couple of years in Niger during his schooling while his parents worked with mission organisation SIM (Serving in Mission).

“I know for me, even though I lived in a country in the midst of extreme poverty, and seeing some of the needs around me even here in Australia, the temptation open to us is become caught up in ourselves and live for ourselves...So I wrote that song saying ‘God, I don’t want to become calm about these things’ and feel harder; I don’t want to be caught up in myself...and I know you’re asking me to be involved’. So the song is about, I guess, practical action, and it’s about saying ‘OK God, I need to move on this’.”

Given Simeon’s past connection with Niger, the band approached CBM (formerly known as Christian Blind Mission) to see about the possibility of working with them on a project involving the west African nation. After discussions, they decided to release the single Not Calming Down and donate $10 from the sale of each copy - which also features the radio hit All Remains Is Love and previously unreleased acoustic versions of I Hear Your Voice and Wings Of Changeas well as a video clip and booklet with lyrics and information about the work of CBM - to a project involving cataract surgery in Niamey, Niger. 

The project, which aims to raise $10,000 through the sale of 1,000 CDs, was launched in December. In addition, the band are also helping to raise a further $40,000 which will be put towards other projects in the country.

“It’s a $50,000 project which is split up into a number of different areas of disability care,” says Simeon.

The origins of the band go back to when Simeon, now 32, was still at university where he was studying architecture. A friend asked him to sing for his band.

“I’d done a bit of up-front work as far as a bit of acting and drama in church and that sort of thing, so I thought ‘Oh, I’ll give it a go’,” he recalls. “So I got up and had a bit of a sing - I’d never done any singing...but I guess there was enough encouragement to push on from that. A few years later I picked up a guitar and started learning that...”

As well as Simeon, who has been with the band fulltime since Easter 2007, the group includes guitarist Graeme Moyle, drummer Chris Broomhead, and bassist Josh Ham.

The group, the current line-up for which came together in 2008, have been performing at festivals (including the recent Easterfest in Toowomba) and Youth Alive events, as well as in churches and schools.

“In the church a lot of what we present is about us going beyond our comfort zone and getting involved in what God’s doing and what He’s asking us to do,” Simeon notes. “And in schools we tend to focus on where we find our security...”

While he grew up in a Christian family and made a commitment to God at a young age, Simeon - who is now married to Jodi and has two young sons Asher and Caleb - says it wasn’t until he went to university that he found his faith really challenged.

“It was probably at that stage that I really started to question a lot of what I’d been fed,” he recalls. “Being in a rather secure environment in my upbringing, I wasn’t really challenged until I got to university. University for me was definitely a place where Christianity was not welcomed in any form. My lecturers were quite anti-Christian and welcoming of every other religion, it seemed.”

Simeon had also started working night shift at a supermarket and often found himself living off only a few hours sleep.

“So I actually went through a stage of quite deep depression and that, combined with the challenges of university and people really pushing me in what I believed, I really questioned, I guess, the existence of God and said to Him ‘Look I need you to come through'."

He describes the outworking of that as a “process” which lasted a couple of years rather than a sudden, single event.

“I can’t say a lightbulb came on or an angel appeared to me or anything like that but (it was) working through, meeting with mentor-type figures and reading books and stabilising my life as far as sleeping patterns and that sort of thing over a couple of years which was really working back to that position of really knowing that God is a God who personally cares about us and the significance of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit that is promised to us as well. But it really was a rediscovery with a lot of ups and downs.”

“(W)e see this project as just a chance for us to put a little bit into being involved with what he’s doing. It really brings excitement to us that He’s opened this opportunity for us to be involved and He’s given us a chance to speak to others about it so that we can all encourage one another to be involved.”

While his previous experience living in Niger which Simeon says had partly prompted him to start thinking about how the band could become more involved in a project to help others in the nation, he says it was also prompted by the fact that God had been showing him “more and more” how much He is at work all over the world during the past couple of years.

“(H)e’s created us to be involved in what He’s doing and He’s created us with unique gifts and opportunities which ultimately are really for our benefit,” he says. “When we get involved in what He’s doing, yes we are helping other people and we are becoming the hands and the feet of Jesus, but it is something that He put in his larger plan in order to grow us as people and in order to grow us closer to Him as well. 

“I think the difference in what I’ve learnt from Him showing me that is the hope that comes with it. Whereas when we do it in our own strength...it becomes really overwhelming and depressing. But when it focuses on Him and what He’s doing and us simply playing a part within that, there’s a lot of hope and a lot of joy and a lot of fulfilment.

“So we see this project as just a chance for us to put a little bit into being involved with what he’s doing. It really brings excitement to us that He’s opened this opportunity for us to be involved and He’s given us a chance to speak to others about it so that we can all encourage one another to be involved.”

• To buy a copy of Not Calming Down, visit www.simeon.cbm.org.au