Monday, August 17, 2009

Bell Shoals Baptist Church

This weekend was Women of Faith in Tampa FL. I had been looking forward to this particular event for quite some time. First of all, I have loved every show I've ever done in FL! There has always been something memorable that has happened every time I go there (and this was no exception). Secondly, I've been longing to get back to Tampa for a year because of the experience I had last time I was there.

My band and I were scheduled to do a show at Bell Shoals Baptist Church on June 8, 2008. The church was opening a new building and we were to be the first event held there. In the end, we were the second. Monday May 12 the senior pastor, Forrest Pollock and his 13 year old son Preston went missing. On May 13 it was announced that Pastor Pollock and Preston died in a tragic plane accident. The first event held in that new building was their "Celebration of Life" service.

When I received word of this tragic accident I immediately asked God what our role was in coming there just 2 short weeks after these events. I knew God was calling us to minister to the broken hearts of this church, I just felt ill-equipped for the task. This was way beyond me. But surely God had a plan.

Music pastor, Simeon Nix, wanted to speak with me about where the church was in their healing process. That phone call revealed a lot about how God seemed to be moving in the life of Bell Shoals. Simeon told me that Pastor Pollock's wife, Dawn (who still had 5 other children to care for) was instrumental in bringing me to Bell Shoals. He felt certain that God intended for me to be there. When I got off of the phone with Pastor Nix, I felt humbled. Why did God want ME there? What could I possibly say or sing to encourage and bring hope?

I prayed, I fasted, and I pleaded with God to let me in on His purposes. I believe He did. He showed me that it was not my ability but my availability that will make room for Him to work. This wasn't about me. It was about Him...and about them.

That concert on June 8 was unlike anything I had ever experienced before (or since). I sang songs I had never sung before. I was in the middle of recording Freedom but had already written "You Wouldn't Cry (Andrew's Song)", a song of hope that we who are left here on Earth will one day see our loved ones that have gone on to be with the Lord. I had also already recorded "Broken Hallelujah", a song proclaiming that even in our darkest hours we will still lift up worship to our God whom we trust. I added songs my band and I had never done before; songs like "Alpha & Omega" and "Great is Thy Faithfulness". The Holy Spirit's presence was very tangible. My words fail me to describe what we felt that night. But it wasn't just about what we felt. It was what we knew. We knew that God was in control. We knew that He wept with us and hurt where we hurt. And we knew that in the end, He was faithful.

After the concert we went to The Cheesecake Factory (my favorite!) with Simeon Nix, his wife Beth, and their two children Bre'Ana and Sterling. Simeon went on and on about what God had done that evening. We both knew that God was pleased.

My band and I agreed that Bell Shoals would forever be etched in our minds. We felt connected to them in a way that can only be explained as the fellowship of believers.

Then on August 17 I received this message on myspace:
Dear Mandisa,
I am writing to you for 2 reasons. First, I wanted to thank you so very much for coming to Bell Shoals Baptist Church and ministering to our congregation following the death of our dearly beloved Pastor Forrest Pollock. We know he and his son Preston are in heaven but we still miss him so much. Your concert was wonderful and very inspiring. I am so very sad to relay that our dear and wonderful pastor of Worship and Song, Simeon Nix passed away this morning. I know Simeon was instrumental in getting you to come to Bell Shoals, and I thought you might want to know he passed away, leaving his wife Beth and two little children Bre'anna and Sterling. If you remember Simeon, he was our wonderful teddy bear like beautiful Christian leader. Please keep them in your prayers. Both you and Simeon have been richly blessed with amazing voices that you have used to glorify God, and because of that you bless others. Thank you so much, and if you can, please continue to hold our precious church in your heart and prayers. If its at all possible for you to come again, I know we would love to have you. Thank you again. You are a beautiful sister in Christ.
In Christ Alone,
Amanda C. Kaiser, Bell Shoals Baptist Church.

Surely not Lord! My heart was broken! The passing of Simeon Nix was sudden and unexpected. I prayed fervently for Beth, the kids, and the Bell Shoals family. That was an awful lot of tragedy to experience in 3 months time. I immediately made calls to be with them for Pastor Nix's Celebration of Life service but could not logistically work it out, so I prayed from afar. My heart was utterly broken and all I wanted to do was be with my friends at Bell Shoals.

Some months passed and in December I was doing a run of Christmas dates with Matthew West. We had a couple of shows in the south and I was feverishly trying to maneuver a way to get to Bell Shoals. Again, logistically we could not work it out. Months passed but I never stopped praying for them. I felt like Paul in Romans 1:9-13:

And God, whom I so love to worship and serve by spreading the good news of his Son—the Message!—knows that every time I think of you in my prayers, which is practically all the time, I ask him to clear the way for me to come and see you. The longer this waiting goes on, the deeper the ache. . . Please don't misinterpret my failure to visit you, friends. You have no idea how many times I've made plans for Rome. . . But something has always come up and prevented it.

Finally, 2 months ago I realized that Women of Faith would be in Tampa August 14-15. Could it finally happen? I asked my manager to see if I could come and be with Bell Shoals on Sunday the 16th. You should have seen the smile that overtook my face when I received word that they would love to have me! They had a new pastor, Stephen Rummage, who was preaching a series on "Healing the Hidden Hurts". That was perfect because the song I wanted to sing was "He Is With You". It seemed like God was at work once again!

But that is only part of it. It wasn't until I spoke to Bell Shoals members, Yolanda & Phillip Moore, that it occurred to me that this weekend was the 1 year anniversary of Simeon Nix's home-going. I certainly hadn't plan it that way. There is no way Women of Faith could have known. "It just so happened" that the two weekends coincided, right? Wrong! GOD IS IN CONTROL!!!

It meant the world to me to be able to stand on that stage once again and proclaim God's presence to a body of believers who are simply missing their brothers in the Lord. I spoke to several members who, in addition to the corporate heartache, have also gone through individual pains. It struck me that even though we believe it in our heads, every now and then we just need to be reminded that God is with us no matter what we go through.

My lunch after church (at The Cheesecake Factory, where else?) was the perfect way to top off my weekend in Tampa. To spend time with Beth Nix, Sterling, and Bre'Ana warmed my heart.

This body of believers has experienced pain on an extraordinary level. And I'm sure that many of you reading now are facing situations that seem like they will take you out. I will say to you what I said to my friends at Bell Shoals Baptist Church: God will not put more on you than you can bear. No matter what you face, He is with you.

This morning I watched Beth Moore on Life Today. She is on every Wednesday and I was watching an older episode from July that I had saved on my Tivo. In the series "Wrestling With God" (from Genesis 32), she spoke of Jacob who wrestled with God and wouldn't let go until he was blessed. I wrote down a statement she made that had a penetrating effect on me. Beth said "If God has permitted something painful to come into your life experience, it HAS to have the possibility of ending in profound blessing or it gets a "NO"! You see, when we face circumstances that we don't understand and begin to question God's purposes, we should wrestle it out with Him. In the end, we gain intimacy God and effectiveness to be used Him.

I believe that the greater Tampa Bay area will be largely effected by the powerful ministry of Bell Shoals Baptist Church. I believe God will turn their misery into ministry. And I believe He will do the same for you.



  1. What a beautiful, inspiring story. Prayers for the families and congregation of Bell Shoals Baptist Church. I am currently facing a painful life experience - my 63 year old father was just diagnosed out of the blue with stage 4 lung cancer - he will soon be in a better place and we are grieving with him. But through all the pain God has definitely begun to work in my family. And it is role models like you and the WOF Porch-Pals and others I follow on twitter that are, at this moment, helping to keep me focused on Him rather than the pain. Thank you.

  2. wow, God bless you for availing yourself to Him! Very touching indeed!

  3. Mandisa,
    What a beautiful and touching story. It lets me know that what I'm going through is nothing compared to what others are facing. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Wow. I can't imagine experiecing that kind of tragedy. I am thsnkful that god allowed you to minister to them. You are such an instrument used by his bacause of your availibilty love you Disa

  5. Thank you Disa for your words. I am going to share this with Rich and the Music Ministry. Your availability to our church is a sweet balm to our grief. Although we are moving forward, we have not forgotten the tremendous BLESSING Simeon and Pastor Forrest (and Preston) were to us. I, personally, am a witness to their faithfulness and love for God's children and the lost. You are a treasure Mandisa and the BSBC family LOVES you! We can't wait to have you and your band back with us. Until then, we'll keep one another lifted! Know you are loved.

    P.S. Beth had a good day today. She said she can literally feel the prayers sustaining her! HE IS WITH HER and us!!!!

    Love you,

  6. wow! I have chill bumps because I too Tivo Wednesday with Beth and happened to watch the VERY same episode last night.... I love it when God reaffirms what He is trying to speak to my heart in completely unrelated sources. After a very difficult day (cause it's only the world I'm living in, it's only the day I've been given, there ain't a way I'm giving in)Thanks for the amazing reminder that this current season will result in profound blessing :)

  7. WOW! What a powerfully impacting story of God's mercy and timing. Only HE could have had you there THAT weekend. And He is just that good!

    Thank you for being available.

    AND for being so very able!

  8. Mandisa, it has been a joy to watch your journey since your days on AI. My family and I have been blessed by your music and your ministry to Bell Shoals during our loss. I'm on staff at the church and worked with both pastors. Simeon was not only my boss, he was a mentor and friend. He introduced me to my wife Kelly and performed our marriage. As you know, he was one of those bigger than life people who let God use him in any circumstance. Like the Simeon in the New Testament, he was a "listener of God" and he had a great influence on my life. That's why when our little boy was born this year, we named him Simeon.
    I remember Simeon talking about your plans for the concert last year and about the changes you were making in your songs to reflect the loss we had experienced. He was so touched and excited about what you did to prepare for us. It really was a healing time for our church. Thank you again for that.
    Looking forward to hearing you sing "My Deliverer" and "You Wouldn't Cry" again in person soon.
    The Snows--Lee, Kelly, Hannah, Lindsey & Baby Simeon

  9. Mandisa,
    I echo so much of what Lee Snow said. I am honored to be on the Bell Shoals staff and to have worked for Simeon and Pastor Forrest- I don't know that I will ever work for a boss and a friend like Simeon again- I am certainly a better person for the opportunity to work and learn from him. The concert you shared with us here after Forrest and Preston's death was nothing short of amazing. I have often told friends and family that it was the most spirit-filled and encouraging concert I have ever attended or been a part of. Thank you for your willingness to be used of the Lord and help us through that difficult time.

    Your sensitivity to our Music family, Beth and the kids, and our church family has been more of a blessing than I can share with you. You can't know how happy our office was the day you called and said you wanted to visit us again!! Thank you for the song and the message you blessed us with. We constantly pray for you and for your ministry- we are honored you pray for us. Thank you for being a part of our family!
    -Tabitha Bottoms

  10. Words sometimes do not come easily and saying thank you doesn't seem to be enough but thank you so much for being with us on Sunday. Your message uplifted my soul and my heart and I am sure for others there as well.The timing was so God. I am reminded again that His timing is perfect and that we will be richly blessing when it does come and how blessed we were by you. Thank you for choosing to be a part of our family. I can't wait to see you again.
    God Bless!

  11. As someone who has lost a spouse at a young age and is left to raise a child on my own I can relate to going through valleys. It has been two years since my beloved husband went home and while God has lifted me through this I do still go through the valleys of grief. I know God has his plan and while sometimes it is hard to accept my trust is Him is steadfast...He remains my rock!!

    Thank you so much for this post, it was much needed today!!

  12. Mandisa,

    You did such a wonderful job on Sunday. Thank you for coming and sharing your heart.

    James Whitworth

  13. Mandisa,
    As I said on facebook, thanks again for ministering to us on Sunday and a year ago. We can't wait until you return for another concert.
    Claude bowen

  14. Hi Mandisa,

    Thank you so much for coming to our Church, Bell Shoals this past weekend. Your ministry to us has been a huge blessing, we are very grateful. You signed your cd for me and I let you know that I wanted to support you just as you had supported us. I'm not sure if you remember as you had a whole lot of people that you spoke to that day. I felt very strongly that I am to give you my testimony, why? I don't know, but considering the circumstances I am sure you will understand when you read it if you don't mind. I can be reached at you can let me know there.

    My husband and I (I'm not at the moment) are a part of Celebrate Recovery and have gone around the country and overseas doing our testimony and I've been praying over what the Lord would have me do and His will the last several months and when I saw you I knew I was to give it to you. I also love Worship and sing with the Celebration choir. Thanks again for your kindness to us and the love you have poured over us in Worship of our Savior.

    In the Unfailing Love of Jesus,

  15. been thinking about this entry for 24 hours now. i'm amazed, humbled and in awe of what God does when we let Him be in control. Such tragedy and such triumph at the same time...

  16. Mandisa, That is a wonderful post. I am glad I took the time to read it this morning. It definitely was very encouraging!

  17. Simeon Aaron Nix
    October 8, 1960 - August 17, 2008
    "To be known as a man after God's own heart, who passionately loves Jesus, his wife, his children and the ministry ... that's what I want."
    ---Simeon Nix

    Man ... we all loved this guy so much.

    Simeon and Beth showed up at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Tampa in 1995. They hit the ground running, set a vision for continuing ministry and led that army of worshippers for more than a dozen years. Simeon's passion, his zeal, his love for people, his strength of character and face it, his mere presence in the room all made a permanent impact on the people of Bell Shoals and on all of us in the MetroOne Worship Pastor brotherhood.

    What drew you to Simeon Nix wasn't that he was a dazzling musician, though he could nail those monster Brooklyn Tab ballads. I think that the force that drew one to Simeon Nix was simply this ... strength of character. That dynamic, irrepressible, zealous and sometimes Bull-in-a-China-Shop strength of character was unflinchingly linked to the character of God in him. He might not tell you what you wanted to hear, but he truly loved God's people. He had the heart of an evangelist; always desiring to see others come to Jesus. He faithfully loved his amazing wife, Beth, and he willingly walked a very long road with her in order to rescue two kids from a Russian orphanage, just as he had at one time been rescued.

    Beth, Bre'Ana and Sterling, we want you to know this MetroOne group will deeply miss Simeon's presence in our room this week. He was one of us, but he was also one of the most unique men of God we have ever met. His permanent imprint on our hearts will always stir up memories of a man who truly loved Jesus and a man who truly loved us.

    Michael Adler - Host MetroOne February 9-13, 2009

  18. "Disa"
    I love that nick name by the way....I follow you on Twitter, I saw you in Seattle at WOF, you rock and I love you.
    My dear sister (in-law and in the Lord) is dying of cancer. She had fought long and hard and is the end stages now. Your song, "Broken Hallelujah" has been my life song for the last two weeks, I play it on the way to work each morning as I drive to my job and I cry. Jaynie is my husband's sister. He and she are very close and I am trying hard to be strong for him. He is suffering with the idea of losing his best friend and sister, so I try not to cry in front of him. She is my hero and I ache with the knowledge that she will be gone soon. (I had her name tattoed on my shoulder with a pink ribbon, when she goes to Heaven, I am going to have the dates put on.)
    Disa, that song is my prayer each morning as I stuggle through the grief that is to come and the praise to our Lord that she will soon be with him and not be in any pain anymore. I know that we have to let her go so she can be healed. Thank you for your life, your testimony, your love for music and for our Lord. You are a beautiful lovely role model for my daughters, (I have three), and I love you.
    Maureen (Kensgrl on twitter)
    Seattle WA.

  19. Words can't express my appreciation to you for what you have done for us at BSBC... Simeon was not only a choir director and Pastor, he was my mentor, and friend. Simeon had a way of taking a song apart, then doing a mini sermonette on it, and you knew down deep in your heart what you were singing and why! You could truly worship our Lord!
    He made me step out of my comfort zone in so many ways! I still miss him so deeply...
    I am so humbled and honored to have served the Lord under his leadership.
    Thank you Mandisa for being part of our family! i look forwad to your next visit!

  20. Mandisa, I did not buy a ticket to the Women of Faith Conference nor had I ever been to one before. A very good friend of mine was not able to attend so she had given her ticket another friend and told her to ask me if I would like to go. I was thrilled and I knew when I went that it was all in God's plan that I be there. It was very inspirational to me as I have had a very hard life. When I saw you perform and heard the words of the songs, I immediately felt a connection to you. I couldn't wait to see you the next day at my church, Bell Shoals. You touched me and everyone there with your words and your song. I waited patiently like a little school kid just to get your autograph and to give you a hug. I pray that God will place me in your path again. If you would let me I would like to send my testimony. If so, please email me at and I will forward it to you. You will then be able to see what miracles God has performed in my life. I miss Pastor Forrest and Simeon. I know one day I will see them both again. Thank you for all you do, what a blessing you are from God.

  21. What a blessing out of heartache. I will pray for the folks at Bell Shoals Baptist Church. I have seen tragedy in my own church family in the past and it felt so dark for me for a long time, but God was with me through it all. I have learned to really intercede for those who are grieving from these events. Even when it all doesn't make sense, even when it hurts, He can be trusted.

  22. I've got goose bumps. I just found your blog and was reading through your posts...I went to Bell Shoals as a teen and have never forgotten the people and experiences I had there. Especially after my mom (who played the organ) and my dad got a divorce. I had my first crush sitting in those pews...
    So I just had a little goose bump "it's a small world" moment ~ Your music which my mom and I discovered at WOF in Denver has become a touchstone in our realtionship. Through your cds you have created paths to each other that we hadn't had before and we love you and are forever grateful.

  23. Mandissa,

    I am from BSBC and just came across this post. I am honored to be a part of the BSBC family. I believe that over the years God has tremendously blessed our church with amazing leaders that love Him and only want to be in His will.

    Before Pastor Forrest passed away he preached a sermon that touched my heart very much. Long story short, God used this message to lead us on an adoption journey to China. In turn we have now started an adoption and orphan care organization, Loving Gods Children.

    It amazes me how God uses people and circumstances, that never would have crossed paths, to fulfill His will. I have felt led for many months to contact you. I don't know what God has in mind, but I do just want to thank you for loving my church.

    I have been a memeber of BSBC for 15 years and there is no better group of people in the world. We all come together and truley love one another. You see, it is not Pastor Forrest's church or any other man's church. BSBC belongs to the Lord and that is why it will do great things! Thank you for being a part of the BSBC family. You are very loved and appreciated!