by Sam Solerno correspondent
Following the recent release of his benefit album “7 Years,” Moody alumnus and up-and-coming songwriter Jacob Mau came to Moody’s graduate chapel on Wednesday, Feb. 26 to explain his project. Through his touring and album, Mau, who graduated with a B.A. in communications, hoped to convey the universal vulnerability of international refugees while raising awareness and support for the 70,000 displaced people resettled in the U.S. every year.
In 2005, while a student at Moody, Mau traveled to Kabul, Afghanistan for a six-week mission trip to work with children in afterschool programs. The trip exposed him to a reality he hadn’t anticipated: the devastation and displacement of refugees due to nearly two decades of war.
“Coming out of that experience I was interested in finding a way to continue working with people who had been displaced,” he explained. “I had heard of an organization called World Relief Chicago, so I applied and did an internship with them.” The internship lasted until Mau graduated in 2008, and eventually became the part-time job he holds today.
World Relief, according to their website, is an evangelical organization that equipps local churches around the globe to manifest the love of Christ to the vulnerable through physical means. They work directly with the U.S. government to help resettle nearly 7,000 international refugees who come to the U.S. from countries plagued by war, natural disaster or other life-threatening situations.
“Every artist has a backstory they’re creating out of. [There is] always something going on that sets the backdrop for whatever you are writing,” Mau said. “As I worked with these refugees, I noticed these themes of heartache and grace just kept coming through my songwriting … After several months, I had the idea to put together a benefit album that could invite as many other people into those experiences as possible and be a practical way for people to contribute to the work.”
Mau said composing the album wasn’t easy, as the songs often tell heart-wrenching stories of refugees who lost family and possessions while finding refuge in the U.S. While extremely difficult to do at times, Mau found an anchor through it all.
“Part of what sustains me while doing work with people who have such weighty backgrounds is the fact that God has brought good friends around me who have held me accountable in my own growth and have helped me work through my own stuff … they help bear some of my burdens. Pray for friends like that,” he said.
Inspired by Old Testament themes and influenced by stories of refugees, “7 Years” is currently available for free download with suggested donation at www.jacobmaumusic.com. All proceeds until June 20 — World Refugee Day —will go to the launch of Shiffa, World Relief Chicago’s mental health initiative.
Mau will be hosting a weekly songwriters circle every Monday in March at Uncommon Ground Devon, featuring local songwriters and musicians. The cover fee is $7, and 90 percent of the proceeds will also go toward Shiffa.