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Monthly Archives: February 2009

20 Years of Stories

Posted on by Ken Posted in Newsletters | Leave a comment

Well, I guess I’m not finished talking about the past 20 years just yet. On February 7th, we will celebrate those 20 years by gathering together at the Marion Cultural and Civic Center with an artist that has spent many nights at that venue, former NewSong lead vocalist Michael O’Brien. While preparing for that evening I thought of many things that we’ve experienced over those years. Obviously, you can’t get 20 years into one newsletter, but I thought I’d reminisce a little.

Many of the memories are associated with concert nights. My first image is of Rich Mullins, barefooted and drinking Coke while performing our second concert, produced July 7th, 1990. That memory will never leave; it was such a terrific evening, being our first concert with Rich. I remember the times at the end of an evening’s concert, Rich would be performing, having gotten the audience into a worshipful mood, joining with him in song (with their eyes closed). We would be singing and Rich would silently, secretly slip off the stage, leaving us to sing quietly and eventually opening our eyes to find no Rich Mullins present at all. That was a special treat and the unique personality of Rich Mullins. It was a bit of his signature humility. I remember a staff member’s son being born again at a Guardian concert. I have a memory I’d like not to have because David Meece got lost on the way to our concert and ended up in Mt. Vernon before figuring out he had missed Marion all together. Similarly, Phillips, Craig and Dean arrived at 4:30pm one snowing evening, just an hour and a half before ‘doors’ at their concert. Randy Stonehill got iced in at the St. Louis airport one concert night in March 1998. He actually hitch-hiked a ride in a rental car to Carterville with a professor travelling to SIU that night. It was a strange evening all in all. Randy finally arrived at John A. Logan and started the concert at about 10pm. Everyone that had come for the 7pm start waited on Randy and he gave us a great concert well past midnight. Bryan Duncan did two concerts in one night there that same year. He is such a dude! He loved every minute of it and the first concert crowd got invited to the second concert. I remember a young artist, not having a lot of experience on the road, running out of material to talk about and just turning around and asking the crowd if anyone had any questions for him in between songs.

I remember a night at the Civic Center when Carla came to see her favorite group, Phillips, Craig and Dean. Carla was just a few days from ‘going to be with the Father’ but wanted so much to see that concert. We have a picture of Randy, Dan and Shawn singing to her that night as she rested in her wheelchair. Brought tears to the eyes of each as they sang. I remember standing back stage with Mark Schultz and he asked me why playing here is so different than any other place he plays. I remember the tears running down Mark’s face as the audience sang “Remember Me” with him at his first concert here on August 1st, 2001. He was so moved that people would know his music and sing with him that night. Obviously, that meant so much to Mark…He’s repaid that kindness over and over to us many times since then, high-water marking with Mark choosing to film his DVD here in July, 2005. I remember Andrew Peterson playing some kind of skinned armadillo or something instrument at Aldersgate Church. Got a picture of that thing somewhere.

I remember our first morning DJ, Sandy Payne, giving away Charlie Teacock P-shirts (actually they were Charlie Peacock T-shirts, but she got a little tongue-tied that day). I remember Sandy giving away an Imperial’s cassette one time and the winner was a CCM artist calling the station to get directions to the civic center for an upcoming concert. He just happened to be the right number of caller! She innocently asked Bruce Carroll if he had ever heard of the Imperials! Of course he had.

Not everything is wonderful you know! I have had some really scary nights in the middle of the night at the tower site. Not fun on a stormy night. We had the software crash on 1/1/2001 that took everything out! For a time we lost all ability to transmit our library of songs. That was a three-day nightmare. But, thank God, we were able to recover the material, something the techs said we would not be able to do.

And, the music…well, the song that changed my life 20 years ago is, of course, Rich’s “If I Stand”:

There’s more that rises in the morning than the sun
And more that shines in the night than just the moon
It’s more than just this fire here that keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger than this room

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs that I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes for the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through
And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace that first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home

There’s more that dances on the prairies than the wind
More that pulses in the ocean than the tide
There’s a love that is fiercer than the love between friends
More gentle than a mother’s when her baby’s at her side

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs that I can sing
The stuff of Earth competes for the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise that you will pull me through
And if I can’t let me fall on the grace that first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy that has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man who is longing for his home

That song still means so much and I turn to it often in times when I’m searching for the comfort of God. I think the most powerful song we’ve played was Mercy Me’s, “I Can Only Imagine”:

And now we’re 20 years from that first song but still finding ways to celebrate the Gospel in music and affect our listeners’ lives. We currently have a song that continues to get requests over a year after its release, the Christmas song from Downhere, “How Many Kings”:

Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe after all we’ve projected
A child in a manger

Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mothers shawl
Just a child is this who we’ve waited for?

Cause how many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts to romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn savior
All that we have whether costly or meek because we believe
Gold for his honor and frankincense for his pleasure and myrrh for the cross he’ll suffer
Do you believe, is this who we’ve waited for?
It’s who we’ve waited for

How many kings, stepped down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
How many Gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that has torn all apart?
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?
Only one did that for me

All for me
All for you

Well, those are some of my memories. This past year we experienced the passing of a dear friend, Larry Burns. Larry was one of 5 early volunteers at the station back in January, 1990. Larry ran a program on Sunday nights called ‘20 The Countdown Magazine’. He continued to volunteer up until his death a few months ago, attending his last concert, so weak that he had to be helped out of the civic center. Many of the pictures in our concert archive are photos Larry had taken for us for 19 years. We miss him, and he in so many ways represented what we wanted to be about at WBVN. And, finally, I remember the people that have been so kind to us for 20 years. Such kind words and strong words of faith and joy expressed from so many listeners. Letters, calls and comments at the concerts. Thank you for that encouragement– we needed that so much. Thank you for financially supporting this ministry for 20 years. I have always said that our testimony at WBVN is that people, by the Spirit of God, have been so gracious to us for so many years. We are so grateful for that help and the provision you have provided so that whatever this ministry has accomplished over the 20 years, the people that have funded it are directly responsible for that ministry. Thank you for that from all of us here and all the listeners that have benefited from your decision to help keep this ministry here that long. We look forward to many more years of WBVN.