I remember the first time I saw the Perry’s in concert. It was the inaugural year of Silver Dollar City’s Southern Gospel Picnic, we sat in the center section of Echo Hollow as the sun dipped below the horizon and Tracy, Libbi, Nick Trammell, Joseph Habedank and Matthew Holt took the stage. It was a wonderful evening…they sang some of their most popular songs like I Wish I Could’ve Been There and Tracy had us laughing hard with his jokes. Who would have known that seven years later we would gather at Christ Church in Nashville, Tennessee not only for a benefit concert in his honor, but to support Tracy and Libbi with our presence and prayers? As many already know, Tracy Stuffle suffered a massive stroke on January 21st of this year (2013) and is currently in the hospital. His faithful wife, Libbi, stays by his side every day and keeps their prayer warriors updated through a journal on CaringBridge.com. On March 19, Joseph Habedank and Jason Crabb hosted a benefit concert for Tracy and Libbi at Christ Church with a number of other artists who freely gave of their time to support the Perrys. I was honored to be among the many in the audience that night and hope to relay the wonderful atmosphere present when the body of Christ gathered together to lift up Tracy and Libbi.
The crowd was on their feet when I walked into the sanctuary of Christ Church and slipped into a pew on the left side of the building. All eyes were focused on the man standing before them, and the story he told. Center stage, Bill Bailey stood and spoke of the day that Tracy called him for help. Tracy had just dropped Libbi off at the hospital to visit a friend after a Predator’s game, and suffered a stroke a few minutes down the road. Bringing the story to a close, Bill asked Tracy and Libbi’s pastor (from College Heights Baptist Church) to come on stage and open the evening in prayer. With our petitions and praise ascending to the throne, we were introduced to the evening’s hosts, Jason Crabb and Joseph Habedank. After greeting the crowd they beckoned all the artists that were there to come on stage to sing the opening song together. The lyrics to We Need Each Other were a perfect way to begin the night. As different vocalists were featured on different lines, the audience began to stand to their feet and before the song ended, the whole auditorium stood united in one purpose. “What a great song for the night!” exclaimed Jason Crabb. Thanking the artists for taking the time out of their week to come and support Libbi and Tracy, Joseph reminded the audience that, “Some of them traveled a long way, but they’re here – and that’s what we do, pull together.” Joseph introduced his pastor, Dan Scott, to the crowd and had him sing a song for us. Pastor Scott sang a Bluegrass rendition of Whosoever Will May Come acapella back to back with Something Got a Hold of Me. After the audience not only clapped along to the up-beat tune, but also applauded the pastor’s singing, Joseph said, “I feel like we’re about to have church up here.” Then he thanked everyone for coming, and not only that, but for praying for the Stuffle’s as well. Getting ready to reveal a special surprise, he smiled and announced that one of Tracy’s nurses, Kay, was in attendance, and asked her to stand. I wish you could have heard the applause!
Jason Crabb introduced the first group to sing – the Bowlings. A song called I’ll Be Alright As Soon As I Touch Calvary was their first song. Kelly stepped forward and told of how honored they felt to be there that night. The Perry’s are special to the Bowling’s because Mike was singing with them when he and Kelly met…that was 16-17 years ago. Since then, the Perry’s have been like family to them. They’re also no strangers to trials, after their bus wreck in 2010, they can fully relate to what the Stuffle’s are going through. “We are proof that miracles still happen,” Kelly declared, “and we believe with everything in us that Tracy Stuffle will be able to stand and testify!” Then they sang Your Cries Have Awoken the Master. Throughout the song people popped up from their seats all over the sanctuary. Jason walked to the edge of the stage and asked, “How many know that to be the truth? When your emotions and circumstances look different, the Word of God says, ‘I will never forsake you.’ Aren’t you thankful for the truth?” He went on to state that we didn’t come that night because we were curious to hear what they were going to sing, we came to praise God. “Tonight is a night of praise!” Jason exclaimed, “For, by His stripes we are…” The crowd completed the phrase with a triumphant, “HEALED!!!” Joseph introduced Gold City, who came out and sang Cast Your Bread Upon the Water. “Aren’t you thankful that you don’t have to give up?” Danny Riley asked, introducing their following song. “We want to do this song for Tracy, Libbi and all the Perrys.” I’m Not Giving Up was that song – standing ovation. The message really resonated with the crowd and GC encored it. As Gold City left the stage, Joseph began to say something but was quickly cut off by a loud “whoop” from Jason. “Yep, he’s Pentecostal and I’m the Baptist,” said Joseph. LOL Jason pointed out that this part of the program was set up really well, “Some of the lowest notes you’ll hear – Tim Riley…some of the highest notes you’ll hear – this gal right here. It doesn’t get any better than this! Karen Peck and New River!” Karen came down and sang Four Days Late. At the first line hollers could be heard all over the building – the crowd kept responding throughout various parts of the song. Before going into the next song, she offered up a brief prayer, and then descending off the stage as she began singing My God Will Always Be Enough. As the crowd stood, she walked down the middle aisle, taking people’s hands, singing words of comfort. When the trio ascended back into the choir loft to sit among the other artists, Jason mused, “God is here walking up and down the aisles blessing folks.” Joseph added, “It’s amazing how faithful you find God when He’s all you’ve got, when He’s all you have.”
The Hoppers were next. Kim and Dean were not there so TaRanda filled in the soprano spot and Joseph and Jason shared Dean’s position. Before they sang, Claude said, “I could never forget the Perrys and their legacy.” He went on to tell about a time years ago when their bus broke down. He called George Perry. George brought a tow-truck for their bus and gave them a van to drive until it could get fixed. In honor of the legacy the Perrys have, and in dedication to Libbi and Tracy, he sang If I Could Help Somebody. Following, Connie sang I’ve Come Too Far To Look Back, and added some encouragement of her own. She said, “God has never seen a hopeless case in any situation.” Then they encored the song and Tim Riley came down and sang bass. As the Hoppers took their seats, Jason and Joseph teased how their dreams just came true – they both got to sing with the Hoppers! LOL Anyway, they pointed out that not only were the artists on stage present to support Tracy and Libbi, but in the audience there were more singers, songwriters and record labels. Jason brought the Booth Brothers down and they sang I Will Serve Thee. “I am a big proponent of proclaiming the Gospel in spite of your feelings,” Michael began, “we have a Savior who will ride the storms with us…and He will take us to the other side.” Jim sang Every Cry Is Heard – the lyrics were a perfect fit for the evening. (Especially the beginning of the second verse, “Rest, just knowing He cares.”) Taking a bundle of flowers from Les Butler, Jason asked us to stand and welcome Libbi to the stage. Immediately, the crowd shot to their feet and clapped for at least two full minutes. Taking the mic, she walked out and sang their song Through the Night. Tears caught in my throat as I watched her sing that ballad with so much conviction and faith. The crowd was back on their feet in minutes. Jason delivered the flowers to Libbi and she took a few minutes and poured her heart out to the folks there. (I caught this moment on one of my social cam videos; if you’d like to watch it, click HERE.) She ended with these words, “At the end of the day nothing else matters as long as you have each other. I haven’t heard his voice in 57 days, but I know beyond the shadow of a doubt, I’m going to hear it again.” As she explained that she would never want to get on a stage without Tracy by her side, the screen cued up and we watched as they found a special way to bring his presence to the stage. Libbi, Joseph and Bryan’s voices blended with Tracy’s through the speakers as they sang live while a video from Quartet Convention scrolled across the screens. They sang Plan of Salvation. Everyone stood and Libbi shared with the crowd how George Younce and Tim Riley shaped Tracy into the singer that he is. The Perrys sang one more song, If You Knew Him – and Libbi stepped aside and let Miss Page (the young lady who had been filling in for them) sing. The message of the song was so pertinent and powerful it brought the audience to their feet long before it reached its end.
At this point in the program Pastor Phil Hoskins came up on stage and explained that they were going to anoint Libbi. He quoted the verses in James 5 that commends Believers to do so and though that custom is often debated in the church, Phil reminded us, “It’s still in the Word of God.” Turning to Libbi, he asked her to give us an update on how Tracy was doing. After sharing how their doctor is also a Christian (what a blessing that must be!) and the things they were facing at that time, Libbi called for a fast to begin on Thursday morning and end on Monday morning. She asked all who were physically able, if they would join her, (mentioning that you could fast other things besides food). Libbi and Tracy’s pastor joined Phil on stage and then Phil asked for all the artists to come down, gather around Libbi, and pray. He also asked the audience to stretch forth their hands and pray with them. For several long minutes, every soul in the building was quietly lifting their hearts to the throne on the Stuffle’s behalf. The Spirit was present in a mighty way…and it was very evident. No one moved, made noise, rustled about – all was focused on the prayer at hand and the One whom it was made to. As the prayer came to a close, Libbi began singing Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus. The audience joined in, softly at first…but then, escalated to a triumphant end that resounded with conviction. The audience remained standing as the artists walked back to their seats and Phil said, “Libbi wanted this to be more than a sing, more than making money…she wanted the Spirit to fall.” He went on to say that more than anything else, Tracy would want someone to come to know the Lord through that evening. As a result, Phil asked everyone to remain standing and bow their heads as he went into the alter call. That night, 20-30 people recommitted their lives to the Lord and 10 surrendered their lives to Christ Jesus! We all sang a big chorus of Amazing Grace!
Jason came to the front as everyone sat down and reminisced about the first time he saw the Perrys in concert and how they have played an important part in his life. Then he asked the folks in the crowd a few questions, “How many have been to the doctor’s lately? Had a prescription? Checkup? Fifty-seven days in the hospital…can you imagine? Not including payroll, bills, the bus, everyday living, taking care of the house.” He asked us to dig deep and give big when the offering plates came around, and Matthew played Great Is Thy Faithfulness as the offering was taken. Joseph introduced the Isaacs, who came out and sang three wonderful songs that ministered so well; Walk On, Waiting in the Water and I Will Praise Him. The Collingsworth Family was next, taking the stage with Fear Not Tomorrow. (What a promise!) Just Another Rainy Day followed with the Healer Is Here. That last one received a standing O. Joseph took a moment to recognize Tracy’s parents who were in attendance, George and Grace, and also brought Jared up on stage to be acknowledged.
“The greatest thing you’ll ever hear,” Jason said, “is Daily and Vincent with the great Ricky Skaggs.” As those guys walked out on stage, the crowd stood, screamed and hollered! Noah Found Grace in the Eyes of the Lord was their opening song, and then they went into a ballad called I Believe. In between that and their last song, Ricky Skaggs sang one of his own songs – That’s A Work of Love. He reminded us that God blesses those that bless Him and that he believes when it comes to a relationship with the Lord – we’re as close to Him as we want to be. Quoting the verse in James, he said, “Draw nigh to God and He will draw nigh to you.” Daily and Vincent finished their time on stage with They Wouldn’t Bend, They Wouldn’t Bow, They Wouldn’t Burn and received a standing ovation. Before they left the stage, Jason had a special word for Ricky Skaggs and commended him for taking the time to be there when he could be doing anything, anywhere. (I agree!) Mark Lowry came out and did his comedian act. He had an accident recently and is walking with a cane…two actually! He sang Mary Did You Know before leaving the platform and received a standing O also. At that time, the president of NQC, Clark and the president of the GMA, Jackie came up and gave a word of encouragement to Libbi. I like what Clark said, “When the church cares for each other, people notice.” Ernie Haase and Signature Sound came out and sang three songs. (Someday, Glory to God in the Highest and Get Away Jordan.) They received some standing ovations but honestly, and this is just my personal opinion, so please don’t take offence if you don’t agree, there’s something not right about Gospel singers jumping and twirling around on stage like ballerinas! (Okay, off that soap-box now…I promise!) Les Butler appeared on stage and brought a special gift to Libbi from the Predators (the Stuffle’s favorite team!) Then he showed everyone a special guitar that all the artists signed.
Last, but certainly not least (well, not quite last), the Oak Ridge Boys came out and sang a few old Gospel songs like Where The Soul Never Dies and Farther Along. After a word of encouragement to Libbi and another chorus of Farther Along, the crowd stood almost reverently, honoring the Oaks. But the atmosphere quickly changed as Joseph teased the crowd with a line to Elvira. Well, they couldn’t help but sing it! The funniest thing was, on the first line they had the audience sing and the crowd came through singing clear as a bell! Everyone knew the words! LOL After everyone was on their feet Joseph clucked his tongue, “Singing Elvira in church…” Jason closed out the evening with his new single.
Conclusion: What do you say about a night like this? I’ll begin with this: the evening was wonderful! The night ended up being a 3-4 hour concert with no breaks, and with so many artists, it was difficult to write about because so much happened! I couldn’t possibly record it all in this one little review! It was so precious to watch all of the artists come on stage and sing a special song that not only is one they’re known for, but ones with lyrics that applied to the Stuffle’s situation. One that was my favorite was Ricky Skaggs “That’s a Work Of Love.” Another thing that stood out to me was how supportive Karen Peck and New River were! When the artists weren’t singing they sat in the choir loft. At the beginning of the concert, everybody was up there – but as the night wore on, some of the artists went backstage…but KPNR sat in there for the whole concert! I commend them for that because that was a LONG night to sit in one spot! Anyway, I also appreciated how the emcees and artists kept the evening about Tracy. Not only did they sing songs that applied to what Tracy and Libbi were going through, they kept their stories and comments about him too. Now, there were a few things I noticed that came across inappropriate for the night. There was a certain artist (who I’ll not name) who cracked a joke about “dying.” I’m not sure if they realized how it came across, but when the man we came to honor is fighting for his life, well, that’s not the classiest thing I heard said that night. Another thing I’d like to mention was the “IMC concert” papers taped everywhere. Nowhere in the building did it say, “Tracy Stuffle Benefit Concert” – just “IMC Concert,” which I thought was highly inappropriate considering the fact that Joseph Habedank was the one who organized the concert, not IMC, and this night was about TRACY. So, other than those few mishaps, the night was perfect! It was priceless to walk out of the church and scan my Twitter feed and see all the folks who couldn’t be there tweet about watching the live feed! It truly was a successful night! The concert raised $75,000 to help offset medical costs, which as you know, are ongoing. It’s times like these, where the body ministers and cares for one another, that we shine as lights in our dark and fallen world. Please keep praying fervently until the day we all rejoice over Tracy’s complete healing! Nothing is impossible for our God.