For Darlene Zschech-speaker, author, pastor and worship leader who has written over 100 anthems sung by 30 million worshipers around the world-the concept of hope is not a concept at all. Hope has hands that serve the poor. Hope trusts even when the diagnosis seems grim. Hope says yes, before the question is asked. As long as there is hope, there is life. And for this mentor of a whole new generation of worship leaders, as long as there is life, there is worship.
"Worship pushes back the noise of life," explains Darlene, who along with her husband Mark, pastors Hope Unlimited Church in New South Wales, Australia. "In that place, we hear Him speak, we're made more like Him, we're satisfied in His presence, given the fruits of the Spirit. Over the years, I've had this sense that maybe this is really all about the Great Commission. Once He has our hearts, then He has our lives... worship has more to do with what comes from our lives, not just our mouths."
And much has come from this worship-filled life. Bringing hope and the love of Christ to the world has long been the calling for Darlene and Mark through their longstanding work within the Church and through relief agencies such as Hope:Global, an organization they founded to serve the poorest of the poor. The Zschechs believe that if our worship is to fulfill God's purpose, we must be willing to say "Here I Am Send Me."
It is the answer and response that drives the entire Hope Unlimited congregation. And it is the overarching message for Darlene's latest recording, a live album and her first project following a life changing cancer diagnosis in 2014.
Set for global release, Here I Am Send Me (Hineni) features 11 new songs penned by Darlene and her team at Hope Unlimited, along with guest writers Martin Smith, Paul Baloche, Jenn Johnson and Leeland Mooring. It is, she says, a family affair and the most intentional work of her life.
"The first mention of worship in the Bible is in Genesis 22," Darlene says of the impetus behind the title track. "God calls Abraham, and Abraham says, 'Yes Lord,' which is translated in Hebrew as 'hineni,' meaning 'Whatever it is you're asking, my answer is yes.' Even before the ask, before anything, my answer is 'Yes'."
It's a scary proposition, this unreserved "yes." But having received the power of the Holy Spirit, His healing and grace, there is no other response for this mother, grandmother and spiritual mother to countless others.
Here I Am Send Me begins appropriately with a full-on declaration of the greatness of God in the song "You Are Great," written with Martin Smith (Delirious?) in response to the most challenging season of her life.
You are great / Greater than the world has ever seen / Higher than the heavens over me
"When I was at my sickest, Martin flew over from England to sit with us, sing songs over our church, and walk and talk with me and my husband, all the while speaking courage into us," Darlene says, her voice full of emotion recalling the dark days after her diagnosis of breast cancer that is now in remission. "It's week one of treatment and you think you're going to die, and Martin said, 'Darls, I know you're going to want to write songs about this season. What do you want to say?' And I said, 'I want to say 'HE IS GREAT!' And so we wrote this song together and have been singing it in our church. That's where it started... In the midst of the fire, it doesn't change who our God is."
From there, she says, the album goes on a journey, always declaring God's greatness, love and call, and our response.
"You Will Be Praised," written with Paul Baloche and Jenn Johnson on Darlene's first return to America after cancer treatment, unabashedly declares the power of the Holy Spirit living among us that makes fearlessness possible in every season and circumstance of life. It is, in many ways, Darlene's testimony.
Though I walk through darkest valleys / There's no fear for You are with me / You have held me through the fire / Jesus You are here with me... Through every storm You will remain / In death and in life I'll not be afraid /
In joy or in pain You will be praised
"It meant so much to have that opportunity and I treasured every second," says Darlene. "We sat and talked about God's faithfulness. I'm 51, and I never thought I'd be doing this at my age. There's such a freshness in me. In our culture, youth is almost worshiped. But there's something to be said when you've watched the faithfulness of God again and again and again. There's something to be said of the trust that grows over time."
"Kingdom Come," another stand-out track that is worship set-ready was co-written with Thomas Macken and reflects a year-long teaching theme at Hope Unlimited. "Tom is an unsung genius," says Darlene. "He just wrote a song for Tori Kelley, was nominated for an American Music Award, but leads worship like everyone else... flies home and sets up the chairs at church... it's just beautiful."
"Love and Wonder," written by the Zschech's teen daughter, Zoe, and Hope team member, Bonnie Gray, delivers a tranquil interlude within the tracklist. "She was downstairs on the piano," Darlene recalls, "and I heard this little thing, just a little piece of heaven, really." Mum decided it had to go on the album and listeners will understand why when they hear the chorus.
"Beloved" a modern hymn of surrender co-written by Darlene with Leeland Mooring and Casey Moore, takes its cues from "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross" penned by 17th century hymn writer Isaac Watts. "Leeland had put it on his album, and it was beautiful. I wanted to record it but strip it back," says Darlene who recalls a sweet moment during the recording where the church began singing spontaneously as the team ended the song. "You hear the people start to respond... it's a really holy moment."
The album is full of such moments. But perhaps more than any of the aforementioned tracks, "Here I Am Send Me" and "Go" encapsulate the heart and passion of this worship pioneer and her unequivocal "yes."
Here I am send me / Send me to the nations / Send me to my neighbors / Send me with Your love
"Go" is a song of commissioning closes the album. "It can't be any straighter," Darlene says with a laugh. "In Ephesians, we get that sense of being commissioned into the world to share His love. I write about tribes, lands and neighborhoods... When you get in his presence, when you allow Him into the tough places, you rise knowing you must go and share it. His love is what is missing in the world."
Here we come now Your church / We will go to all the world / Every tribe every land / As Your feet and loving hands / To the rich to the poor / Grace is flowing for us all / Nothing missing nothing broken / He makes all things new / From the ash from the fire / There is hope there is new life... Tell the world lift Him high
"Cancer is a funny thing," says Darlene. "The medical world doesn't like to use the word 'healed.' They like to say the word 'remission'... but I'm believing God's report over my life. I speak Psalm 91 over myself every day, I take my medicine and I take the word of God and I do my best with what I can do in the natural and trust God with those things over which I have no power."
"None of us know how many days we have," she continues. "Whatever days I have-and I'm declaring a ripe old age-I want to live them intentionally. I want to live the love of Christ... Everywhere we go, we take the presence of the Lord, we take His presence and His hope, His extravagant love. It's a journey. I'm not there yet, but that's the journey."