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!
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 mandEsa...to 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)
The way you work isn't the way I work."
"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."