Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Southern Gospel Love Stories - Retro SGM Radio

In a world of broken promises and shattered relationships, it is always heart-warming to hear of those who have learned the secret of a lasting marriage. The job demands of a southern gospel artist can be hard on family life and often make married life difficult. SGM Radio was able to chat with several artists who have learned the secret to making relationships work and these wonderful couples are sharing their stories this month.
Soloist Mark Bishop and wife Carolyn, Kentucky: “ I met my wife Carolyn back in the early 80's. Mom and dad had decided that they wanted to start taking their boys ( I was the oldest of four boys ) to the church they grew up in and were later married in.

When we first walked in the church house, as folks do, many turned to see who was walking in. Carolyn was sitting on a pew with one of her friends and I can still see her turning and looking over her shoulder as we caught each other’s eye for the first time. We were both high school age at this time and the courtship process that ensued was filled with all of the awkward moments and memorable milestones that many relationships begin with.

Later on, after graduation and employment, we were married in that same church that my mom and dad had been married in so many years later... by the same preacher!
Mark shares these words of advice: “We have now been married 23 years, have two daughters, Courtney aged fifteen and Haley aged eight. I have never, ever regretted my commitment to this woman. She is still the most wonderful person I know. We were given some wonderful advice when we were first married and it was this... marriage is not a fifty/fifty deal. It is a 100%/ 100% commitment. Some days you may feel like you are giving all 100% and the other is giving nothing, but you do it anyway. Because the time will come when the other partner will be carrying you.

In today’s "disposable, fast-food society", folks give up to easily if something doesn't meet their idealized, romanticized ideas. But there are rewards to be reaped from a relationship that endures for the length of two life-times.”
Psalms 101, Angela and Bill Fulkerson, Florida: “I [Angela] am a preacher's kid and being raised in church is all I've ever known. I started singing when I was 3 years old in revivals and camp meetings. My dad was an evangelist and I traveled with my family all over the country. Our home base was Florida and in 1987 our family ministry took us to Houston, Texas. I had no idea that this revival would be such an important part of my life.

We went to a church in Houston that had just lost their pastor. We were there to hold them a revival while they searched for a new pastor. After the first service they voted my Dad in as their new pastor. On the back row of that little church that day was Bill, a 14 year old boy who came from a broken home. His dad left him when he was a baby, his mom raised him from pillar to post and from step-dad to step-dad. Those step-dads were cruel and abusive and told him he would never amount to anything. He dropped out of school, started hanging with the wrong crowd, got addicted to drugs and had just started drinking alcohol. He had already been in trouble with the law several times and sent to the Juvenile Detention Center. Bill happened to be in the service that morning because his grandparents had just decided to raise this troubled teen and this was their home church. It was in this very service that Bill accepted Jesus into his heart, was delivered from his drug addiction and his life was changed forever.

In the year and a half that my dad pastored this church, Bill & I became best friends. We found out he had a talent and he joined our family group playing acoustic guitar. We were only 15 and 16 years old and having the time of our lives traveling around in a big old bus singing with our heroes like Kenny Hinson, the Hemphills and many others.

The time came when my dad was called to go somewhere else. Two weeks before our last Sunday there, I got a phone call from my friend Bill. He decided to inform me that he wanted to be more than just friends. We called & wrote each other love letters every week for 6 months. My family stopped traveling full time and we started doing just weekends. I went to nursing school and tried to get Bill out of my mind. One day he called and said he had been working odd jobs and saved up enough money to get a bus ticket from Houston to Lakeland, Florida and that he would be down to see me in a few weeks. We did not think he was serious. He was only 15 years old.

One month later, we picked him up from the bus station and brought him home for a visit. Well, he did not stay in our house. My dad would not have that. Bill had to stay in the back yard in our old singing bus. He also had to get up at 7am every morning and go to work with my dad & brother in their painting business so Bill & I would never be left alone at the house. Bill quickly caught on to painting and my dad started paying him. After 3 weeks, my dad saw the way Bill and I were looking at each other across the dinner table and finally told Bill it was time for him to go back to Texas. Well he did and this time we both knew that we loved each other and that God had something special for us.

At 16 years old, Bill worked hard for 4 more months and saved enough money to come back to Florida. Daddy was going to make it hard for Bill. He would not allow him to stay with us this time. So, some dear friends of mine allowed Bill to live with them and gave him a job in construction. However, they lived 3 hours away from us. So, Bill & I only got to see each other on a weekend here and there. Bill kept on working and he saved enough money to buy him a car and rent a little apartment 1 mile from my parents house and right across the street from the church my dad was pastoring. At 17 years old, Bill started his own painting business, which he still has today. Nobody could tell him this time to go back to Texas. He was here to stay. We still had never been on a real date and never even kissed. We were never left alone!

When I turned 18, my dad let me go on a first date with Bill. He had finally earned my parents trust and they saw how much Bill loved me. You better believe we kissed on our first date! We were both each others first love and we knew God wanted us to be together for a purpose. We dated for 2 more years and finally daddy performed our wedding in 1992. My dad went evangelizing full time again and Bill & I were the music part of his crusades for over 6 years. Our travels took us to over 40 states and 6 countries. We had the opportunity to sing to our military at the service centers in Germany. We saw many miracles and many folks saved.

In 2003, the Lord called Bill & I to our own music ministry, Psalm 101, and we are now raising our son on the road as well. September 15th of this year Bill & I will celebrate 15 years of marriage and we are still each other's best friends and he still makes me laugh. We have just produced our 2nd CD and we are still having the time of our lives traveling and telling others about the love of Jesus. The name of our new CD is Worth The Wait. We get invited to churches, youth events and marriage classes to share our love story of how we stayed pure and waited for each other. God is so good and we thank him everyday for bringing us together for His glory.

Soloist Melinda Hand and husband Paul, Missippi: “Melinda and I met at a Mike Warnke (Christian Comedian) concert in Jackson, MS. I was 15, a sophomore in high school and had talked my parents into letting me take my car and some friends to the concert. We were basically going scouting for girls! Anyway, when we got to the concert hall, I spotted a gorgeous blonde all the way across the foyer. I punched my buddy next to me and said...."Do you see that girl over there? I'm gonna marry her!" I had never met or seen her before. A couple of minutes later after watching her from afar, I saw another girl approach her and start talking...I recognized this girl, so I decided that this was my chance to meet this dream girl! After meeting Melinda( and her boyfriend that walked up later), we all proceeded to our seats...our seats somehow ended up being directly behind hers! She ended up flirting me most of the night...I have no idea how I avoided a fight with the boy friend! I did not see or talk to her for the next six months, but did find her when school started back in the fall as I had moved to the school where she attended. I asked her out a couple of weeks later and we have been together since....boy, she sure is lucky!”

Paul’s recommendations: “We both would agree that the best advice for other couples: Christian couples must remain focused on God. Priority to Him is a must. When we each are where we need to be in our relationship with God, then there is no way He will let it (marriage) fail.”

Paul and Melinda’s story is more than just a fairytale of ‘happily ever after’. They will be celebrating their 16th anniversary this May, but there was a time when they thought that might not happen. They told their story in a quarterly church publication and they have agreed to share it with SGM Radio readers.

Melinda and Paul married young and were both working and going to college during the first four years of their marriage. Starting a family, beginning careers and building a home left little time for togetherness. Both were extremely active in their church and they appeared to be the perfect Christian couple.
Despite appearances, Paul says that this was not a good time for him spiritually. “There were so many things in my life that were not God’s will, things that kept me from getting close to him. It took almost losing my wife for me to finally ‘get it’”, Paul explains in the article. The couple was drifting apart spiritually and emotionally.

At this point, Melinda began to develop a closeness with her boss, which ended abruptly when a minister from their church confronted her. She immediately quit her job and confessed what had happened to her husband. Paul knew he had to make things right with the Lord and with Melinda. They asked forgiveness of each other. Then they asked forgiveness from God. “We asked God to restore all the love we had for each other [and] He did”, says Melinda.

Since that point, Melinda and Paul have developed a strong, growing marriage that is founded on the Lord. Their focus has switched from a big house and material things to family and relationship. The Hands attend a yearly marriage retreat, schedule regular date nights, and take time to get away as a couple, twice a year.

Prayer is a strong focus for this couple as well. Paul and Melinda pray together every morning. They never pray alone with a member of the opposite sex. Each night, they re-affirm their love and faithfulness to each other verbally before retiring. They are bonded spiritually and emotionally, and their marriage grows along with their relationship to Christ.

Anyone spending time with this lovely couple can see the deep love and commitment they have for each other. It’s a blessing to see how a marriage can not only last but even become stronger despite being dealt a hard blow. They are living out the reality that the strength of a bond between husband and wife is only as strong as each individual’s bond with the Lord. And that is the secret of an enduring, Christ-centered marriage.

We thank each of these couples for sharing their love stories with us this month. It’s great to know that even with the demanding schedules of artists in Southern Gospel, building a strong relationship with God and each other is not only possible, but also necessary. SGM Radio salutes all those couples whose commitment to marriage and family demonstrate the love of God. Your lives are a witness to the message you sing about. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Southern Gospel Love Stories By Lorraine Walker First Published February 2007 on http://www.sgmradio.com

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