Thursday, October 22, 2009

Union SC County Fair

In August my band and I accepted an invitation to sing at the Union County Fair in South Carolina. At that time, the information I received was that this was the fifth year for "Church night at the fair" and that it had been a great success previously. The promoter informed us that thousands had attended the years before and many had come to the Lord during the mandatory invitation (which they informed me someone would do at some point during my set). I was very happy about that and agreed.

However, the weekend before the fair I learned that Michael W Smith and Steven Curtis Chapman would also be in concert at the same time just one hour away at the SC State Fair! Gulp! Don't get me wrong. I adore Smitty and Chappy! But my insecurities began to rise at the thought of disappointing the promoters of the County Fair if no one showed up!

I found myself perusing online to find the fair website and was a bit taken aback to discover that right underneath the picture of my True Beauty album (with my name "Mandisa" as big as day) was the rousing introduction of......"mandEsa". Ugh. Let me pause here to explain that my entire life I have learned to deal with the mispronunciation as well as the misspelling of my name. With a name like Mandisa, you just have to expect some of that...I just wasn't expecting it on a website announcing an upcoming show. Things were not looking good.

On Tuesday October 20th, my band and I boarded our bus for the 7 hour ride to Union. Before we left I led us in prayer. I asked God to protect us on the road, I prayed for my road manager, Sully's health (he had pneumonia), and then I poured my heart out to the Father about my reservations. I confessed that I was not sure what we were in for. I even went so far as to tell God that I didn't know what His plan was, and that He was apparently the only one IN on this plan, but that I knew He had one. I half-heartedly expressed that I trusted Him.

Before we went to bed my friend and background vocalist (bgv), Kisha, showed us a video that put our perspective on the power of prayer. If you have a moment, it is SOOOO worth seeing!

Pray Hannah!

The next morning, before the show that night, another friend and bgv Laura, invited us to Meme's and Pops' (grandma and grandpa) house for a homecooked meal. Mmmmmm is all I have to say about that! Maybe this day wouldn't be so bad after all!...Then we rode to soundcheck. That's when I saw it. One of the night's sponsors, McDonald's, was advertising the show. How wonderful! Or so I thought...

Aghhh! There it was again! mandEsa! I was beginning to get that foreboding feeling again. Why had God brought me here? What in the world did He have planned that night?

On the bus I put on my makeup listening to the flawless sounds of Gold City through the windows. Wow! They were really SANGIN'!

Then Billy & Susan Scott with Checklist Ministries, one of the event's sponsors, came on the bus. As the Scotts told me the story of their son Will, I began to feel convicted about my attitude and humbled that God had called me to be a part of such an amazing vision. Will founded Checklist Ministries to reach people with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then at the age of 18, he went to be with the Savior he had told so many about.

I had completely lost sight of what was important. There I was complaining about the spelling of my name and the possible lack of attendance, while people were serving and praying their hearts out for the lost. My perspective completely changed. I realized that God had surrounded me with some of the kindest and most generous people at the Union County Fair. Everyone met me with a smile and was genuinely excited about what God would do that night.

After prayer with my band, we took the stage with excitement. You can imagine my surprise when I looked out into a sea of thousands of Black, White, and Yellow faces. They came! Not to see see Jesus!

About 40 minutes into our set, after "Not Guilty", I motioned to the man standing by the stage that now was the moment for the invitation. He took the mic and introduced a man named Shep Shepherd. It was then that this 6'2, 300+lbs, former NFL man-on-fire, shared his testimony.

My band and I stood on the edge of his every word, amazed at all that God had brought him out of, and all that He had brought him to! His story is so worth hearing! A brief paragraph is here but if you ever have the chance to hear him live, run, don't walk!

As Shep ended by leading those who desired in a prayer of salvation and re-dedication, 17 new believers in Christ were born! Woohoo!!! My band and I finished the evening with a celebration that God had set people free that evening. I left the stage feeling honored to be a very small part in God's master plan to bring others into relationship with Him.

I re-learned a valuable lesson in Union SC last night. When you feel discouraged with what you see God doing (or NOT doing) in your life, trust in what our all-knowing Father declares in Isaiah 55:8-11 (MSG)

"I don't think the way you think.
The way you work isn't the way I work."
God's Decree.
"For as the sky soars high above earth,
so the way I work surpasses the way you work,
and the way I think is beyond the way you think.
Just as rain and snow descend from the skies
and don't go back until they've watered the earth,
Doing their work of making things grow and blossom,
producing seed for farmers and food for the hungry,
So will the words that come out of my mouth
not come back empty-handed.
They'll do the work I sent them to do,
they'll complete the assignment I gave them."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Birthday video contest winners!!!

Well you've asked for it. So here it is! There were many videos submitted for my birthday contest. If you are not familiar with the contest, basically I asked people to send me videos of them singing, dancing, and incorporating images to my songs. I got the idea because one of my favorite things to do is to get online and view such videos. I knew that it would be the perfect birthday gift for me!

Before I show you the winners, let me show you one honorable mention. I met these crazy girls at my show in Asheville, NC at Billy Graham's Training Center "The Cove" a few weeks ago. I enjoyed meeting them so much and this video will show you why. They're so funny! Here's Sprig of Joy:

Sprig of Joy Definition Dance from Sprig of Joy on Vimeo.

I wish I could have chosen each video that was submitted to be the winner. They were all so great. So much creativity. So many amazing voices. Such great dancing. It was soooooooo hard for me to narrow it down to 3. So hard in fact that I actually COULDN'T narrow it down to 3. I had a 3-way tie for 3rd place!

Here's the first 3rd place winner. I met Megan Carolin a couple of times. Sweet girl! And we have a lot in common. We are both walking through a very similar journey right now. I know where she is coming from with this video. That's why it meant so much to me:

The next 3rd place winner is Julia Colon. I was NOT expecting this voice to come out of this girl. Wow! Not only can she sing her face off, but she expressed the emotion of this song so beautifully. Keep singing Julia. God has gifted you!

Last but not least, the final 3rd place winner is my girl Brittany Brooks. I'd seen another video she created a while back when she sang "Not Guilty" and the girl can sang! But I was blown away by this video she created. She is so creative! And to make it even better, I got a dose of her beautiful voice too!

See what I mean when I said it was hard to narrow it down? And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

I actually just got off of the phone with the 2nd place winner, Blake Rackley. He is so funny and so gifted. I couldn't believe he was only 17! His video made me laugh and it put the biggest smile on my face. (And him thinking I was 27 helped a little bit too. LOL!):

Last but not least, 1st place went to the adorable Laura Smith. I could immediately tell that Laura was a big fan. I was so sad to hear about her missing me at Winter Jam. But guess what? As the winner of my birthday video contest, I'll get to meet her in a couple of weeks at a show I have at EWomen in Columbus, OH! I can't wait to hug her sweet little neck! It took a lot of bravery to sing "(Never Gonna) Steal My Joy" and despite what she says, I think she has a lovely voice!!!

(You'll probably need to turn up the volume on your speakers to hear this well...)

So there you have it! Congratulations to the winners. Keep an eye out for a box a swag coming your way (however, I get the sneaky feeling that most of you already have signed things from me. Hopefully we can stick some new stuff in there for you)!

Thanks to everyone who sent me a video. If you follow me on twitter, you know what a wonderful birthday I had. Honestly, the highlight of that day was sitting down and watching every last one of your videos! Please do not feel bad if your entry is not above. You all did such an amazing job that you made it too hard on me to choose! I love you so much! Be looking for my thank you card in the mail.