Athens Review, Athens, Texas

December 14, 2013

Unexpected discovery

South Africa’s Noa excited to perform in Athens

Rich Flowers
The Athens Review

Athens — A concert to raise funds for Exchange Life Ministries will feature a 25-year-old musician from South Africa whose talents were discovered by an Athens woman.

Noa Milan performs at “Music on a Mission”, at the Henderson County Perfor­ming Arts Center, Dec. 19 from 7-9 p.m. Tickets are $20 and all proceeds go the ELM, a counseling program that seeks to see lives transformed by God’s truth.

Amanda Whatley said the goal of the concert is to honor Christ as the “reason for the season,” and to show off the gifts he’s given us.

“In this case, he’s given me the gift to see and launch talent and her the gift of an angel voice,” Whatley said. “I have a program called Exchange Life Missions which is a counseling program. I was doing an internship in South Africa for the program when I discovered Noa Milan on a theater stage. It was the first concert she had ever done.”

Whatley was born and raised in Athens, grew up in the Little Theater and went to Trinity Valley Community College on an acting scholarship.

She said she was heavily involved in the world of theatrics and the arts, that played a part in her desire to help Milan launch her career.

“I grew up in a small town and had big dreams, but I didn’t have the opportunity to be discovered in that way,” Whatley said. “I saw this girl in that small town and felt I was looking at myself on that stage. There was too much talent to be sitting in that tiny little town.”

Milan is a theater teacher from Melkbos­strand, South Africa, a city about the size of Athens outside of Capetown. Whatley was in an audience of about 200 when she was inspired to do something to Milan her share her talents.

When Milan walked off stage, Whatley took the microphone and called for her to come back on stage.

“Little did I know that her dream had always been to come and play in the United States,” Whatley said.

Milan said being a part of the project has been one of the most amazing experiences of her life.

“Being able to share my music with people is rewarding on so many levels,” Milan said. “I often find myself wondering if this is just a dream, but if it is, that is all right. I just never want to wake up.”

Milan said for years playing to the four walls in her room was her only outlet.

“Thanks to my creator and the ELM project, I’m able to play in front of a much bigger crowd,” Milan said.

Whatley said Milan is proof that dreams can come true wherever you are.

“God has given us gifts that can be used,” Whatley said. “It’s for the bigger purpose of seeing ourselves in light of who he wants us to be vs who the world says we are. The world would say she’s just a school teacher with a dream of coming to America. God says you’re coming to America and puts an American girl in the crowd to make it happen.”

 Whatley said she is partnering with Michael Lenz on the event, who has been bringing talented musicians and vocalists to Athens for several years. ELM, she said, grew out of her own life experience.

Her father, Randy Whatley was shot and seriously wounded. She required extensive therapy and counseling in the years that followed.

“This is the only thing that worked, this Exchange Life program,” Whatley said. “I got set free and I want to help other people get set free.”

ELM is a tax exempt 501c3 non profit, non denominational ministry. The purpose of ELM is to see people “transformed by God’s truth becoming a living reality in their own experience.” The ELM mission statement says “In the process of understanding one’s true identity in Christ, people find freedom from unhealthy patterns and fears that may be stifling their relationship with God and others.”

For information about ELM or the concert, contact Whatley at 310-467-1681.