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Revolution of Compassion: The story behind a life-changing song

June 5, 2013 | Ashli O'Connell

“What would our world look like if we followed the words of Christ?”

When Evangel University junior Ryan Odle sat down at the piano one day last spring and wrote those words, he had a feeling that God was about to do something big.

Odle, at the time a pre-law major, confesses that he’s not an accomplished pianist and “can’t sing at all,” so composing music wasn’t exactly his forte. Nevertheless, Odle felt compelled to sit at the keyboard that day. “I had to sit at the piano right now. I just knew God was going to say something.”

And in just 10 minutes, the song came out. “God gave me the lyrics and the song just wrote itself,” he says.

The song, “Revolution of Compassion,” took on a life of its own from the moment it was written. Working with other students from Evangel and Central Bible College, Odle was able to have the song professionally recorded and available for download within a matter of months.

The inspiration for the song came from an experience Odle had while doing an internship with Convoy of Hope, an international humanitarian organization headquartered in Springfield, Missouri. That internship – and the song – have changed the trajectory of Odle’s life.

Ryan Odle at the piano

The experience composing and recording “Revolution of Compassion” birthed in Ryan Odle a desire to use his music in ministry.

An unlikely journey

As he looks back at the experiences he has had since coming to Evangel, Odle realizes that his story, like his song, is one that only God could write.

Evangel was not Odle’s first choice. In fact, he started his college career at a community college in California while he focused on his main goal at the time: to be a professional mountain biker. “Biking was the only thing that mattered to me,” he says.

However, after an injury forced him to quit biking he began to reevaluate his goals. “God showed me that biking had become an idol to me,” he says. “So I started researching colleges where God could be the focus.”

He had never heard of Evangel University and didn’t consider a move across the country until he learned about it in a magazine ad. “I decided I wanted to get out of California, see something new,” he says. Two months after he first heard about it he was packing his bags and making the cross-country trek to start anew at Evangel.

With an interest in politics and government, Odle started Evangel as a pre-law major. As he quickly made friends and plugged into Evangel, he found that the Christ-centered life he had hoped to find at Evangel was still eluding him. While cycling had become his idol in community college, he found that academics were becoming his idol at Evangel.

“I let academics take precedence over my spiritual life,” he says. When he went home the following summer, he had to reevaluate again. “I had become spiritually apathetic and was disappointed with where I was spiritually.”

At the suggestion of a mentor, Odle read the book, “Relentless: Pursuing a Life that Matters” by Dave Donaldson, one of the co-founders of Convoy of Hope. Reading the book in the summer of 2012, Odle says, marks a major turning point in his life. “The book is a challenge to my age group, and it sparked a fire in me,” he says.

Back at Evangel the following semester with a renewed commitment to his faith, Odle’s worldview began to change.

“I decided to put God first,” he says. “I finally learned that life is more than a college education or that future job.  In my opinion, if you leave college with a fancy degree, but spiritually lifeless you have just wasted four years of your life.  Never stop pursing God while you are in school.  See God in your classes, activities and relationships.  No one, not friends, not family, not church and not Evangel’s Chapel services, can push you to serve God; only you can.  I wish, I had understood this my first year of college. I believe it would have helped me greatly.”

Revolution of compassion

Odle had originally arranged an internship at Convoy of Hope because he thought the community service aspect of the position would look good on his law school application.

He did not anticipate the significant impact it would have on his life. He did not anticipate that it would revolutionize his understanding of being a Christian.

“Ever since I walked into the doors at Convoy, I sensed God,” he says. “All of the workers, whether it is the president or a guy who drives the truck, are so excited. Every step they take is an extension of their relationship with God and their love for people. The more I talked and listened and understood what Convoy is all about, the more I realized I had found my calling.”

Odle changed his major to International Studies and began pursuing a future in compassion ministry and advocacy. “I will work for Convoy as long as they will have me,” he says.

This passion was pouring out of Odle the day he sat down to compose. He played it for friends who encouraged him that the song, which raises awareness of world hunger and stirs listeners toward a life of compassion, indeed had a significant message that needed to be shared.

“I truly believe God anointed the song,” he says.

In a development that Odle says has to be “a God thing,” he soon had the opportunity to enter – and win – a contest that provided him with a free recording session at Music Precedent, a professional studio. He quickly pulled together a group of musicians to record with him: David Donaldson on drums and rhythm guitar; Caleb Schatz and Heather Beyer on vocals; Austin Crews on guitar; Jordy Mango on bass; Katelyn Lawler on violin; and Tyler Gilliland on cello.

The band was also invited to play in a Chapel service on April 18, 2013, when Dave Donaldson came to speak and challenge students to compassion ministry. This turned out to be a pivotal day for the university as it was the day the new president-elect, Dr. Carol Taylor, first addressed students. “It was such an honor to play at her first Chapel,” Odle says.

Odle has dedicated “Revolution of Compassion” to Convoy of Hope and plans to donate the proceeds to the organization. In just a few short months, the song has had almost 700 plays online. You can find it at Reverbnation.

“This song is also the start of a music ministry that God has put on my heart,” says Odle. “The vision is to get a band together to play in secular environments as a witness for Christ.”

As Odle heads to Haiti this summer to volunteer with Convoy, he reflects on the journey he has had the past couple of years. “If I hadn’t been injured, if I hadn’t heard of Evangel, I never would have had this experience,” he says. “God is looking for willing people, and if students come with an open heart and say yes to God, He will use them and it will be a wild ride.”

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