Saved by song: A Liberian refugee's survival story
Barchue Guar is a Liberian refugee and gospel singer who lived on a refugee camp in Ghana for nine years before coming to the United States. He now lives in Red Lion and is preparing to release his first album to help support underprivileged children Paul Kuehnel
Music helped Red Lion gospel singer Barchue Guar survive a civil war. Now, he's using it to help underprivileged children in Liberia.
Like many young children, Barchue Guar used to dream of becoming the next president.
And like many, that dream eventually changed to becoming a doctor or a lawyer.
But when the civil war hit his home country of Liberia in 1989, his dream was just to survive.
The 37-year-old of Red Lion was about 11 or 12 years old when the war that would kill more than 200,000 people broke out.
“I didn’t really experience my childhood because we had to go in search for food,” he said. “I became like a grown up in my family.”
As one of four sons, Guar and his brothers were responsible for providing for their four sisters, parents, cousins and other relatives. At the time, there were 16 or 17 family members living under one roof in their four-bedroom house, he said.
Twice a week, Guar and his brothers would walk 30 miles in search of food. Sometimes they would find abandoned farms or someone selling food, he said. And when they did, they’d have to carry it on their shoulders and on their heads all the way back home.
The only way they got through it? Music.
“My brothers and I, we sang most of the time,” Guar recalled. “We would sing church songs because there was no church to go to at the time. Fighting was all over, and nobody felt safe going (across the street) to church.”
They’d sing songs like “Soon and Very Soon” and “Jesus Is the Answer,” a song Guar said reminded him that no matter what he was going through, he could turn to Jesus.
So, four years later when he went into exile in the Ivory Coast, that’s exactly what he did.
“Singing was a place of comfort for me through crisis,” he said. “Whenever I’m down, troubled, scared or nervous, I sing.”
But, in 1995, when he moved again to a refugee camp in Ghana – an English-speaking country where he could go to school – singing became not only a form of comfort, but a means of survival.
Guar used to go door-to-door singing for food with a group called Advent Revelators. They’d sing on refugee camps, go to town and sing at churches and do major performances every weekend.
By the time his family, who had resettled in America, was able to send for him and his brothers in 2001, singing was already an important part of his life. So, he and his brothers continued as a way to tell their story.
Since 2003, their group Messiah’s Men has performed across the United States and made it to the top 16 on NBC’s “The Sing-Off” in 2011.
But now, Guar – lead vocalist of Messiah’s Men – is going solo for the first time to give back to the place where his story began.
He’ll release his first solo album “Then Sings My Soul” at a free album-release concert on May 1. The album is composed of eight tracks, including “Jesus is the Answer” and “And They Praise God,” with the message that no matter what continent you live on, or what struggles you’re going through, we all praise the same God.
Messiah’s Men will also perform at the event.
The goal is to raise money through donations and album sales for Legacy Holding Foundation, a nonprofit Guar’s wife founded to help underprivileged children and orphans in Liberia.
“When the war struck, I was opportune,” Guar said. “I had my parents. The kids there, they are orphans … I want to tell people that in America, we have everything at our disposal. But just across the sea, there’s a child there that’s in need of help. He doesn’t know where his next meal is going to come from. He doesn’t know where the clothes he’s going to put on his back are going to come from. Children down there don’t even have a means of getting to school.”
At the concert, Guar said people can expect to hear some stories about the war and his experiences on refugee camps, but more importantly, a personal touch with Jesus.
“Come prepared to have your souls revived and experience Jesus in another way through music,” he said.
If you go
What: Barchue Guar’s album release concert
When: 6 p.m. Sunday, May, 1
Where: Seventh Day Adventist Church, 2220 Roosevelt Ave., York
More info: Visit barchandgracelegacy.com.