I would think that any gospel singer you ask would say that the hardest thing about traveling is leaving your family at home. Obvious exceptions would be the Collingsworth Family, Jeff & Sheri Easter, the Hoppers, or the Mylon Hayes Family. What a blessing to travel and minister as a family!
I have not been so fortunate and have seen that dynamic from both ends of the situation, both as a kid growing up with my dad on the road and as a dad on the road leaving my family to go sing. It is just not easy. I often wonder how people in the military do it being gone for months, if not years at a time. They are stronger than I!
If you dig a little deeper into the feelings of one who is away from loved ones for extended periods of time you’ll probably discover reasons why it is so difficult to be away. While I can’t speak for someone in the military or anyone else for that matter, I can say that one of the hardest things for me is getting to a place to sing and the people there look at you like their face would crack if they dared to smile, or like they just ate a bowl of sour fruit and a smile is the furthest thing from their mind. Sometimes they sit there with ‘ATTITUDE’ written across their forehead as if to say, “Okay, show me what you’ve got.”
And sometimes there are people who have grown up in a church where they have been taught that the proper thing to do in church is sit down, shut up, stand when they tell you, sit when they tell you, and by all means, do not, under any circumstances, even consider enjoying any part of the service and, if you do, make sure no one knows it. Obviously, I’m exaggerating, but anyone who travels and sings has stood before congregations who display those qualities. You still give it your best but in the back of your mind you’re thinking, “I left my wife and family at home for this?!”
Then you go to a church like we sang in Sunday night in Bradenton, Florida. We had the privilege of singing at Pastor Bill Bailey’s Happy Gospel Church there, and does it ever have an appropriate name! They understand that “the joy of the Lord is my strength!” Those folks know how to have church! Pastor Bill is about to celebrate thirty years of pastoring there, and it is proof that the local church reflects the attitude of the pastor. If you know Bill, you know that he is a positive, happy guy and a joy to be around.
The audience was receptive and appreciative and we quickly developed a rapport with them. But the real prize came at the conclusion of the service. On the second half of the program we sang several songs from our Classics CD; “Who Am I,” “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power,” “He Touched Me,” and “If That Isn’t Love,” followed by an a cappella rendition of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”
As we concluded I shared some remarks about the forgiveness and friendship Jesus offers us and, as people bowed their heads for a closing prayer, I asked if anyone wanted to receive Christ. Toward the back on the right an elderly man raised his hand and prayed the sinner’s prayer as the congregation joined him.
As we minister the gospel in song we know that people’s hearts are warmed and encouraged and they are reminded of the goodness of God, but the ultimate joy is when someone responds by giving their life to Christ. It just doesn’t get any better than that!
Leaving home and family is never easy, but seeing people come to faith in Christ because we came to share Him makes every mile worth it.