Gospel Music’s Floating Family
Ask anyone to list the most important things in life, and one of those answers is bound to be “family.” Those blood relationships are vital.
But I’m learning that genetics isn’t the only thing that makes a family. That’s something God taught me on the 2013 Gospel Music Celebration cruise to Alaska. I’m a huge Southern Gospel music fan...to put it mildly. I guess a more accurate description is that I’m a fanatic. Now that we’re retired and live in Nashville, we can find an amazing quartet or trio performing live almost every weekend.
One of my favorite groups is Legacy Five. I’ve heard them perform in just about every imaginable venue, but when I saw they were guests on an Alaskan cruise—a vacation I’ve always dreamed of, and definitely a new concert venue—well, my husband and I booked a stateroom faster than you can hum “I’ll Fly Away.”
When you follow an artist or style of music as closely as I do, you start to recognize faces in the crowd. Over the years I’ve met so many friends through our shared love for these old standards and timeless music. It draws us together like a family of sorts—and this cruise was a family reunion in so many wonderful ways.
Never mind the fact that many of these artists have histories that go way back. They're singing and performing in the same genre, but there's absolutely no competition between them. Like a family, they celebrate each other's successes. They've "got each other's back," as my grandson might say. From the Booth Brothers to Freedom Singers to the Collingsworth Family (there's that word again), there's something about Gospel Music—the hymns, the harmonies, the down-home feel—that makes us more than just casual fans. Meeting people who share a similar passion means we always have something in common. From fans like us to the artists themselves, we’re a tight-knit group.
For example, one day at lunch I overheard Melissa Brady—who’s married to Jim of the Booth Brothers—begin a conversation with someone she had just met on our cruise. Nearly an hour later, Melissa and her new friend were still talking. And from the looks of it, they were enjoying a serious time of sharing. Judging from the box of tissues on the table, some prayers and tears had been shared, too. It seemed to be more ministry than conversation, and I couldn’t tell who’d been helping whom.
I heard another story about Ken Davis, a comedian on the cruise who is no stranger to the Gospel Music scene. Ken is hilarious. If you’ve never heard him, he has this gift for bringing you into a story with humor only to lead you right back to the Bible. You laugh and laugh until, out of nowhere, you realize some great truth about God, or His Word.
One of Inspiration’s travel coordinators mentioned how wonderful Ken was, and how much she wished her husband could hear him. What a fantastic, non-threatening way to introduce someone to Christ! At one point on the cruise, this travel coordinator was on her way to buy one of Ken’s DVDs for her husband when she ran into Ken himself. They talked for awhile, and before you know it, Ken was giving her a free DVD...just because he thought it might help her husband.
And then there was the whole thing with Stevan Ivascu of the Freedom Singers and the house fire back home, and how everyone on-board was so generous (you can read the story here). My heart is full just thinking about it.
Generosity seemed to be everywhere on this ship. Whether it was strangers giving time and empathy to each other, or an artist hoping his jokes might point a husband to Christ, these acts of giving are the kinds of things that happen within a family. A family shares its burdens. A family helps ease one another's load. That’s what families are for.
It reminds me of the Collingsworth Family’s popular song, “God’s Family.”
"We’re part of the family that’s been born again
Part of the family whose love knows no end..."
Isn’t that the truth? For a week up and down the coast of Alaska, you could find "God’s family" floating on Holland America's ms Oosterdam, sailing along that beautiful Alaskan coastline, bound by our love for Gospel music. We truly are a family whose love knows no end.