The last night of the Indian Creek Memorial Day Weekend Gospel Singing featured a line-up with The Kingsmen, Whisnants and Brian Free and Assurance. For me, the three days we spent in Georgia went by too quickly and I tried to keep the thought of packing up and driving back home at bay. Like each night before, the program didn’t start until we recognized the veterans from each branch of the military, said the Pledge of Allegiance and had a word of prayer. Friday night, Pastor Bill’s son-in-law, a soldier, conducted that routine and Saturday, Melvin, a member of Indian Creek Baptist and Veteran of Vietnam who served in ‘69 and ‘70, led us.
On stage, Danny introduced the first group of the evening, reminding everyone that Ray Dean served in the Army four years in Germany. The Kingsmen began with Traveling Home, He Took Away My Burden, Battle Cry and I’ve Never. During the group introductions, Randy announced that this June, Ray would be celebrating 50 years with the Kingsmen! Ray thanked the crowd and said that they were looking forward to hearing the Whisnants and Brian Free and “Insurance.” LOL Of course, he corrected himself to say “assurance,” but the crowd still enjoyed the little joke. Their next song featured Ray and was simply called, I Know. Afterwards, Ray said, “Let me hear you say amen.” It didn’t take much encouragement to get the audience excited and before you knew it the quartet was going into an encore and asking folks to wave if “they knew.” Arms swayed back and forth in response. Bob looked at the crowd and asked, “Has anyone swallowed a love bug yet?” Ray exclaimed, “Those aren’t love bugs! Those are flies!” LOL Bob went on to talk about honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so we could have the freedom to gather like we were – then they sang (Stand for the) Land of the Free.
The Whisnants were the second group to sing on Saturday; a soft ballad called, I Call Him Lord, opened their set. During the Whisnant’s set I was in line at the concession stand, ordering a delightful dinner. There is a second tent set up with tables and chairs beside the main one where you can eat your meal. So, I enjoyed a moist grilled chicken sandwich, lemonade and a peach pie while I listened to the Whisnants sing. As you can imagine, my fingers were occupied so I couldn’t take many notes, but I can tell you that they sang songs like Glorybound, He Can Move That Stone, Be Not Afraid, 1+2+3, (a new song that Ethan sings), I Lean On You Lord, I’ll Trust The Potter’s Hand and New Day Dawning.
Once again, it was that time in the evening when the offering was taken. But before that happened, Pastor Bill called up all the volunteers from the church and recognized them. The head of the cookshed, the electrician for the tent, those who drove folks to and from their cars on the carts, the sing wouldn’t be the same without the ministry of these faithful workers. Standing next to Bill, Danny Jones pointed out Bill’s mom in the crowd. He couldn’t help but tease Pastor Bill, “Without her, there would be no Bill Stacy!” Bill added, “…and she’s been my mama all my life.” Pastor Bill went on to talk about how the Lord meets their financial needs every year. In 2011, there was a night where they needed $1500 to meet the budget for that night. They had taken the offering and it just wasn’t enough – but before the night was over a couple from Alabama pressed a check for $1000 into his hand and a man from down the road said, “Count on me for $500.” The Lord took care of every need. As Gary, a volunteer from the church said, “Learned a lot about faith that night.” This year, the offering for the first night ended up being $200 more than what they needed for that evening and second night was $200 under. “All in all,” said Pastor Bill, “The Lord took care of it.”
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Danny began, “from Douglasville, Georgia, Brian Free and Assurance!” What A Beautiful Day and If the Lord Says Do It kicked off BFA’s set. “Even when you’re low in the valley the lord will lead you out,” lead singer Bill Shivers said, introducing his solo, If It Takes A Valley. “This one here goes back a few years,” Brian announced as the music for Just a Little Talk With Jesus began. After the hymn, Brian asked the crowd to yell, “Praise the Lord” if they were happy to be there and the crowd was happy to comply. Brian mentioned that three of them were from Georgia as he went into group introductions. Brian also used that moment to update the crowd on their bass singer, Jeremy, and his recent stay in the hospital. He had internal bleeding two weeks ago – when he went to the hospital his stomach was so full of blood the doctor said if he would have waited 24 more hours like that, he would have been dead. Scary!
Their next song was Tell It Like It Was. Brian expounded on the message of that song, “Our country has been through a lot of changes down through the years, and not many for the good. But, if we want things like they were back in the day, we have to do them like they were done back in the day.” He went on to say that they had a lot of requests for this next song, “Some of you are facing things tonight that you never thought you would face and you don’t know why you’re going through them. Whatever the need is, as this song says, no matter what you go through in this world you will never ever walk alone.” The ballad, Never Walk Alone, featured Brian and their up-beat A Little Bit of Me and You followed. The next song they were going to do had quite the story behind it. Brian explained how BBC filmed a documentary to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the first song Elvis recorded in Sun Studios in Memphis…and BFA was invited to represent the Gospel Music Elvis recorded. “Christ came here for the sick and not the well. And we had an opportunity to be a witness that day,” Brian explained. Millions of people saw it on TV, but that night, under a tent in Georgia, we saw it live: they sang Elvis’ version of Peace in the Valley. To hear it done live is a special moment. Next Bill addressed the crowd saying, “I’m sure everyone under this tent tonight has something to be thankful for, am I right?” Say Amen and Long As I Got King Jesus closed out their program.
Conclusion: After intermission all the groups came back and each sang a few more songs. I was very moved by the testimony that Brian shared about his son, Ricky. It reminds me that these artists have very real trials and heartaches just like everyone else – they need our prayers daily as they go out and minister both in the world and in the churches. All the groups did a great job! It was hard to comprehend that the weekend was already over, it seemed like it had just begun.