Founder & History
John Benham, Founder
John Benham first received the vision for merging music and missions when he was 10 years old. Childhood contacts with musicians from HCJB in Quito, Ecuador and members of his extended family who served in Africa became early influences in his life. Entering Northwestern College (Roseville, Minnesota) as a music major he began his formal preparation for what was to lead to the eventual fulfillment of his call to missions. Later he completed his M.A. and Ed.D in Music Education at the University of Northern Colorado.
An extensive career as a music teacher in rural, urban and inner-city public schools served a significant role in developing cross-cultural understanding and skills. Upon completion of his graduate studies, he served as a member of the music faculties of both secular and religious institutions of higher education. Now semi-retired, he continues to serve as an adjunct professor and consultant in ethnomusicology and worship studies.
Other major contributing areas of preparation included his experiences as a music instrument technician and many years of service as a minister of music and worship in the church. It was the development of his “Biblical Perspectives of Worship” curriculum that led to his initial invitation to work in Indonesia.
His wife, Merridee, is also a graduate of Northwestern College with a major in music. They reside in Blaine, Minnesota, where Merridee maintains a private piano teaching studio, They have three adult children and nine grandchildren.
History of MIWC
Music in World Cultures (MIWC) was founded in 1989 when missionaries serving in Indonesia requested assistance in providing training in biblical worship to a young church on the island of Taliabo. These new believers had composed a body of original indigenous Christian hymns for use in worship, but no written musical language existed to preserve the hymns. By 1990, MIWC had recorded, transcribed, and published these hymns in written form; created a musical notation system for the tribe; trained church leaders in biblical principles of worship; and assisted in the development of a music literacy program for church musicians. With the success of the Taliabo project came multiple requests to work with many other recently planted indigenous churches, and the vision for MIWC was born.
In 1991, MIWC began an educational program to train missionaries, pastors, and church leaders to work in cross-cultural settings. Beginning in 2001, the entire educational curriculum, library, and collection of world music instruments were donated to faith-based institutions that are continuing the equipping of musicians for cross-cultural ministry.
In 1996, MIWC began the Ukraine Project, which continues to serve as a model for cross-cultural ministry and led MIWC to launch programs in Estonia (2005), Latvia (2007), the Republic of Georgia (2009), and Lithuania (2010).
Since then MIWC has grown, with partnerships now in Germany, Jamaica, Nepal, and Zambia.
MIWC is a nonprofit corporation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and incorporated under the laws of the State of Minnesota.