We recently had the opportunity to travel down to Monterrey, Mexico and serve orphans at a children’s home. On that hot day in May, we were tasked with digging a drainage trench for a new set of bathrooms to provide more privacy to the older children on campus. As we began the project our team was joined by a seven year old from the children’s home named Miguel. He came ready to work – fully adorned with gloves, a shovel and his trusty cape!
This little superhero was fully committed to the task at hand. He worked right along side the adults, doing his share of the digging and then some. He used the very best he had to serve our team and participate in the hot, hard, grueling project. Occasionally he would disappear from the ditch, only to return with sunscreen, water or orange slices to lift our spirits and renew our strength.
Our Senior Vice President of Human Resources, Steve Biondo, began to call out his efforts and praise him for his hard work. He took Miguel aside and gave him a big hug. He told him that he was doing great good for every member of our team. Miguel hugged him back hard and said, “Tio (which means Uncle) I am using my powers for good aren’t I?”
Use Your Powers For Good
As we were leaving, you could see the pain in Miguel’s eyes, but even more so in us. We had all fallen in love with him. Our bus began to roll down the dirt driveway and we stuck our heads out the side widows waving farewell to the children, when out of the dust emerged Miguel. He was sprinting alongside the vehicle, his cape flapping in the wind. Our hearts soared knowing his last act of serving was to let us know that we were special. Steve shouted back to him as we drove away, “Miguel, use your powers for good – always!” He stopped his sprint, and with a glad heart, raised both hands in the air as a victor would.
Miguel touched our hearts that day and taught us that we all have the power to do good, serve others and bring glory to the name of Jesus Christ. Size matters not, but only the willingness of our hearts to put our power into action.
Inspired Product Line: Small But Mighty
Miguel’s story inspired our team to put together a new line of products just for kids called Small But Mighty. The collection includes bedding, wall art, storage cubes and even a superhero cape. This line was designed to remind your little ones that while they might be small, their faith makes them mighty — especially when they use their powers to serve and love others.
Thank you World Vision for providing us with this post and the photos.
Summary: Madalena took in her orphaned nephew, but he suffered from severe malnutrition. Then a group of parents from a nutrition group provided her with training and he began to grow. Now he’s a healthy & hearty 3-year-old.
A mother feeds a healthy porridge, which she’s just learned to make at a community training, to her young infant. Then she tries in vain to feed her younger child suckling at her breast. The child refuses to be comforted. The mother herself is malnourished and has no milk with which to feed the child.
In 2011, Madalena Mulimba found herself in a similar situation. Only the malnourished infant was her sister’s boy, Betinho. Her sister died from complications during childbirth.
Madalena took Betinho home to care for him, despite having children of her own. “I felt compassion for the child,” says Madalena. “If God allows it, the child will grow up with us.”
Madalena took cassava root, squeezed the juice from it, and added sugar to feed Betinho. But he failed to thrive. “The baby was so thin,” Madalena says. She puts her hand around her wrist to show how tiny he was. “The other children didn’t want to hold him, because he was so small.”
Then she took Betinho to the hospital to get his vaccinations. Madalena remembers the doctor’s question to her: “Where will I vaccinate him because he’s so thin?”
Hope Through Nutritional and Health Training
Madalena’s first cousin, Anastacia Pais Barroso, came to visit with a group of parents. Thanks to child sponsorship in their area, World Vision’s Derre Area Development Program (ADP), community members had funds to form the Galave Health Committee in 2000. Part of the committee was a parents’ group who received training from World Vision.
This group of mothers and fathers then scouted their community to find malnourished children. They taught the struggling parents or guardians new ways to increase the nutrition of the food they were feeding their children.
The key to the success of the program was that the healthy meals used local foods that were readily available. Parents didn’t have to buy expensive ingredients since these items could be found right in their own community.
Joao Siquissone, World Vision’s Health Assistant, says it’s important that parents learn from other parents within the community. “When it’s moms and dads teaching the interaction, the community is more receptive.” It can be difficult for one World Vision worker to reach as many people as the committee would.
Those committee meets once a month for planning, once a week for training, and each person visits between 10 to 15 families each week to look for signs of child malnutrition and answer questions parents might have.
Joao says that the local health clinic used to see between 15 and 20 malnourished children per month. Now they might not even see one case.
The training also focuses on diseases such as diarrhea, malaria, and HIV. They learn how to prevent diseases but also about the special nutritional needs of patients with HIV.
As a result of this group, the community now understands the nutritional value and importance of each locally grown food group. They’ve even started to change the crops they’re growing. Where they used to grow lots of cotton, now they grow foods like sesame.
Another component of the Galave Health Committee is a group of community volunteers who go into the community to teach about sanitation and hygiene. They encourage people to build latrines to eliminate disease. They teach people the importance of a drying rack for the dishes instead of just washing and drying on the ground. And they instruct people in the proper way to dispose of their garbage.
The final group of the committee is composed of community leaders who support the other two groups. When those nutrition group or the sanitation and hygiene group face problems they can’t solve, they can escalate them to the community leader group.
World Vision helped set up this type of committee format to encourage the community to take charge of their own health, spreading their knowledge about nutrition, disease prevention, and sanitation and hygiene. This method allows the news to travel faster and reach more people.
The nutrition group taught Madalena to take cornflour, sugar, and egg together and make it thin enough so that Betinho could take it. He began to grow.
They also demonstrated to Madalena how to take sweet potato or cassava leaves to serve over chima, a dish somewhat similar to soft polenta, but with finer cornmeal to make a healthier curry for her whole family.
The new nutrition affected more than Betinho. “All the children have good health,” she says. Madalena, her husband Francisco, and her children all learned new sanitary practices.
They built a drying rack on which to put their wet pots, pans, and dishes. They began to sweep the area around the house so as to make it less appealing to mosquitos and other bugs. They also learned to dig holes for trash to keep away bugs and rodents.
The training has made a world of difference to Madalena, Betinho, and the entire family.
“I was desperate,” says Madalena about when Betinho was malnourished. “But after [the training] I felt a kind of hope.” Now the family jokes that Betinho is so big that he’ll soon be the man of the house.
This past Thanksgiving, Family Christian had the privilege of being part of something amazing. After much prayer, we felt that God was asking us to step out in faith. To take a risk. To live dangerously for His Kingdom. He asked us to not do it alone.
With you, our friends, we dedicated the Thanksgiving weekend to build an orphanage in Haiti. We dedicated the profits that were received on that weekend to God’s Littlest Angels in Haiti for the Family Christian Angels House – a neonatal and infant orphanage.
So, thank you for the generosity and selflessness. Together, we raised enough funding for a year of construction on this building. We join God’s Littlest Angels in prayer and belief that God will see this project through to completion!
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
Claire Diaz-Ortiz leads social innovation at Twitter, Inc., and is the author of several books, including Twitter for Good: Change the World One Tweet at a Time. Named one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company, she is a frequent international speaker on social media, business, and innovation and writes a popular business blog at www.clairediazortiz.com. She holds an MBA from Oxford University and an MA and BA in anthropology from Stanford University. She is cofounder of Hope Runs, a non-profit organization operating in AIDS orphanages in Kenya. Claire has been called a “mover and shaker” by Mashable, “the woman who got the pope on Twitter” by The Washington Post, a “force for good” by Forbes, and “one of the most generous in social media” by Fast Company. She has been widely written about in such publications as the New York Times, Business Week, The Washington Post, and Forbes.
I sat down with Claire recently and talked through her amazing life. How she, as it seems to have lived such great stories in such a short time. What unraveled was not just intriguing, but also thrilling. Here is a women who is constantly living out what it means to be a “hearer of God.” Or – Claire is a women who hears God. Not in a audible way, but in the still small voice kind of way.
Her story is filled with passion for the lost and lonely. Her story is filled with hope running wildly through the middle of life.
John: Claire, I’m wondering, maybe before we talk a little bit about your new book, if you want to just give us a brief history of who you are and what you have done. I think I know what your current job title is, but maybe if you just want to give us a brief overview of where you started and what made you interested in social media, that would be a good place to start.
Claire: Sure. In 2006, I went on a trip around the world. And the last stop on that trip–it was a yearlong trip–was Kenya, where I went to climb Mount Kenya. Someone had told me that there was a guesthouse near the base of the mountain, so I decided to stay at that guesthouse. It was very cheap. The day I went to the guesthouse, I realized that it was actually on the grounds of an orphanage. When I arrived, the orphanage elders invited me in to have lunch at the orphanage. I went in that day and in the middle of lunch, I was in the restroom and I heard God telling me that I would stay at that orphanage. And so I ended up living at the orphanage for a year. My foster son was a child I met that first day, who ended up coming back with me to the U.S. So this book …
John: On that trip?
Claire: Yeah, we met on that trip.
John: Oh, you met on that trip, and eventually …
Claire: We met on that trip. I stayed, living at the orphanage for a year, and then about nine months or a year after, I came back. We brought him to the U.S.
John: So, just to clarify. You were going to stay there one day, and you ended up staying a year?
Claire: Yes. And getting that kid along the way. So, the book, Hope Runs is our story. It’s the story of Sammy’s life before coming to the orphanage, and my life before coming to the orphanage, and then us meeting that day, living together that year, and then the five years that have happened since then, essentially. During the year I lived at the orphanage, I had a blog that was popular. Because I had this popular blog, I ended up meeting some of the folks that were starting a little weird social media thing called Twitter. And so they said, “Hey, you should try getting on Twitter. We think it could be really cool for you to tweet about things.” And so, I started tweeting while I was living at this orphanage in Kenya. Obviously, there weren’t a lot of people tweeting about their lives in orphanages in Kenya at the time, so I started to learn very early on how Twitter could be used for non-profit organizations and missionaries. Eventually, then, about a year later, I started working at the company where I still work today.
John: So to some extent, your career or your life story has two different paths. Because it certainly is philanthropy on the one side, but then it’s also this crazy social media world on the other side. How have those collided, or how have they been beneficial for you in your history?
Claire: Sure. I believe that we need to extend access to more populations on the planet for us to gain the change we are looking for. And I think that Twitter is a great tool for doing that. I think the online world creates a level playing field for lots of populations, different populations around the world. So I like being able to work with non-profit organizations from a cool platform like Twitter.
John: That’s very cool. So, going back then to this trip. You decided to climb Mount Kenya. Was this the first time that you had an encounter with God, or were you kind of on a journey with Him before?
Claire: Yeah, no, I’ve always been a Christian. I was raised a Christian but up until that day, I’ve never heard God so distinctly. I’ve never heard him saying to me so clearly that something was going to happen, and I had to keep my eyes open for me to know what that was going to be, essentially. You know, that day in the orphanage, I decided to… I said, “I’m not going to climb the mountain. I’m going to do a 72-hour fast and read the Bible. I read lots of books about things like that, bettering yourself and what not.
John: Yes, I found your list for 2013, I was intrigued…
Claire: So inside I’m saying, “Okay, I’m going to read the whole Bible, and I’m going to fast while I do it, and then I’m going to come up with my decision on if I’m going to stay in the orphanage for a year.” And I like to joke that I fainted somewhere near Leviticus, and they took me to the hospital (literally), because I had actually fainted. They thought I had malaria. But at that point I already decided I was going to live at the orphanage for the year, so it was okay.
John: So going through the book of Leviticus should convict someone [laughs]…
Claire: Exactly, exactly. To do anything.
John: To do anything. That’s amazing. What do you say to the person who thinks that maybe, at some point in their life, God has spoken to them but they may have missed that voice or that sign? How does someone kind of look at their life and question whether or not God is speaking to them?
Claire: It’s interesting, because I’ve often questioned why did I hear God, so distinctly that day, and why haven’t I heard him so distinctly since. I’ve obviously heard God many times in my life, but what happened that day was bigger than anything that’s ever happened to me before since. And, I really think a lot of the reason that it happened was that I had a lot of space in my life for it to come in. I was in a moment of searching, I had some time, there was margin in my life, essentially, and that allowed me to hear. I think probably most of us live our lives so busy and so full that we don’t allow time to hear. Maybe we have 15 or 20 minutes in the morning of our quiet time or something. But that’s not a lot if you’re looking for God to really change your life.
John: That’s very interesting and also very convicting. In talking about the margin, Claire, I just have to ask the question, because in social media, we have access to the entire world at our fingertips 24/7. How do you make time, encourage either somebody who’s younger or older or getting into or feeling addicted to social media, be it Facebook or Twitter, whatever. How do you plan margin in your life?
Claire: Well, I think it’s funny. Some people have thought I’ve been kind of heretical to say, does working at Twitter mean that I take the digital Sabbath? But I do. I try to take 24 hours off in every single week. And I think it completely restores me in ways that would never happen if I just stayed online. I mean, it’s just so easy for us to get caught up in the fast-paced world we live in. And then in the fast-paced world, if you’re spending all your time online, it feels even more fast-paced than ever. So you need to step away eventually and just shut it off and pause and stop.
John: Have you always been a writer?
Claire: Yeah. In my head.
John: Sure. But I mean, you haven’t come out with a lot of books, right, but you’ve probably written…
Claire: Yeah. Sure.
John: You know, unpublished or like you said…
Claire: Right. I wrote a book about Twitter that came out a couple of years ago. And, as I say, I’ve always been writing in my head or something. I have all the Moleskin journals to prove it.
John: Well, that’s good. Encourage somebody who’s on the fence about either foster care or adoption. What signs should they be looking at to either dive in or maybe hold off for that? How do you approach somebody who’s considering that?
Claire: Well, I think it’s interesting, because I’m probably overly encouraging of anyone who’s considering it. I actually …
John: Which is okay.
Claire: I mean, I want people to be in a stable marriage if they’re married, or to be in a stable financial situation, a stable living situation. Those things are important. But, I think that emotional renaissance, or emotional insecurities about the decision to adopt or the decision to foster, will always exist. Just in the same way that many soon-to-be biological parents have insecurities. And I don’t think that’s ever really going to go away. I don’t think a hundred percent of the foster adoptive parents in the world are running around saying, “I can’t wait for him or her to get here this second.” But I think they all find that love very, very quickly upon meeting your new kid, essentially.
John: So it’s said that expecting parents are never, ever … Even before they’re expecting, they’re never ready for a child. Do you think the same is true when they’re expecting an adoption or a foster care child?
Claire: Absolutely. And I think perhaps, even more so. Simply because often times when you’re adopting or getting a foster child, you’re getting a kid at a different age than day one. And you never quite know what day 1,000 might be for a child. And that comes with its own host of challenges.
John: What has been the best surprise about Sammy in your life?
Claire: I think the best surprise about Sammy has been simply the way that when I do little things, I’m amazed by how much Sammy appreciates them. When we were in the process of writing this book, I learned stories I never knew about Sammy. I thought I knew things about him, I thought he knew things particularly about his life in the last seven years since I’ve known him. But I was learning all these new things and one of them was, the emotion he felt the first time my best friend baked him a cake. Because he’d never… She baked him a cake because we were celebrating. He had graduated and he’d never had a cake baked for him before. And he was just so overcome with joy at this little thing. I hadn’t even thought that, I dont’ even know … I guess we had bought cakes for him on past birthdays, past birthdays, I don’t even know. And then the fact that the cake had been baked by someone because they cared about him, he was just like, “This is amazing.” And he wrote this story in the book, and I just couldn’t believe it. I started crying just because I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe that A) no one had baked him a cake, and B) that I never knew that was important, ’cause I would’ve baked the cake years earlier, obviously.
John: What is God teaching you lately?
Claire: God is teaching me an incredible amount of patience right now.
John: And how is he doing that?
Claire: One of the ways .. There are different ways in my life, but one of the ways is in relation to Sammy. You know my parents sometimes say I got kind of the hardest end of parenting ’cause I started this with a teenager.
John: How old was he when you took …
Claire: I met him at 13. He came over at 14 and a half, 15. You know that is a challenge. I think any teenager is a challenge. A parent of a teenager faces challenges and I’m facing all that. So without having had the years to kind of set him up for success in many ways, we are tackling those things. And that’s hard.
Sammy Ikua Gachagua had lost his father to AIDS, his mother to abandonment, and his home to poverty. By age ten, he was living in a shack with seven other children and very little food. He entered Tumaini Children’s Home seeing it as a miracle with three meals a day, a bed to sleep in, and clothes on his back.
When Claire Diaz-Ortiz arrived in Kenya at the end of an around-the-world journey, she decided to stay the night, climb Mt. Kenya, then head back home to Maine. She entered Tumaini Children’s Home seeing it as little more than a free place to spend the night before her mountain trek.
God had other plans. Hope Runsis the emotional story of an American tourist, a Kenyan orphan, and the day that would change the course of both of their lives forever. It’sabout what it means to live in the now when the world is falling down around you. It’s about what it means to hope for the things you cannot see. Most of all, it’s about how God can change your life in the blink of an eye.
After five years away, Audio Adrenaline is back – by popular demand and with a renewed mission. The faces may look a little different, but the heart and passion of this GRAMMY-winning band remains unchanged. Yes, that’s Kevin Max of dcTalk and solo fame at the mic and founding member Will McGinniss on bass. The new lineup is rounded out by CCM vets Dave Ghazorian (Superchick), Jared Byers (Bleach), and singer-songwriter Jason Walker. Former front man and co-founder Mark Stuart remains very involved and contributed to many of the songs for the new album.
This talented group of like- minded musicians share a common goal: to be the voice for orphans in Haiti and around the world. Lead single, “Kings & Queens” is an orphan anthem that celebrates the transformation God can bring about.
I had the opportunity to have a phone conversation with both Will and Kevin one late afternoon. What follows is a real and honest conversation about where these guys have been and where they are going.
All within and by the grace of God.
John van der Veen (FC):
First of all, I did send out a couple of tweets to the people that follow us on Family here, and there’s a few questions that came back to us, and I’m going to throw those out to you first and then we can kind of just build on those.
First question is: Did you guys ever think about bringing Bob Herdman or Tyler Burkhum back to the band when Audio A was basically trying to rejoin back together again?
Will McGinniss: Uh, yeah, I’ll take that—this is Will. I mean, basically, Bob has been out of the band for a number of years. He came off the road in the 90s actually to start a record label. He ran that for a number of years and then he also, of course, helped us start hands and feet and then worked for H&F for a few of years as well. He‘s on the board of H&F too, still permanently. So, Bob’s obviously in ministry with Mark and I and has been through the years and will continue helping us with Hands & Feet.
He really probably wouldn’t have been one that would have been one of the core band guys. After he came off the road, the band kind of took on a whole new kinda shape and format and just kept on going. And so we did go back to the band members that we had on the road in 2007 when Mark’s voice went out and we shut it down. And we went back to Ben (Cissell) and Tyler and we asked them if they’d like to redo this thing with Kevin singing and they’re just at different places in their lives right now. Ben’s more in a corporate setting. And Tyler’s got his own band and is traveling around playing guitar for other groups as well, so he just wasn’t able to make it work. But both of them were very amicable, both of them love what we’re doing and that we’re getting back together, especially with the connection to Hands & Feet, which both of them helped start. So, very amicable and very excited for us and they wish us well.
FC: Will Mark (Stuart) join you guys when you go on tour. I mean, how involved is Mark in all things Audio A right now?
Will: Well, you know, he’s super instrumental. He was the heart of Audio A. He was the lead singer and kind of the main speaker for H&F, if you will. He and I spoke a lot on stage. He’s been writing a lot on this new record. He’s got writing credits on almost every song. He is the exec dir of H&F. He and I had plugged into H&F and were doing ministry outside of Audio A in Haiti. So, he and I are still in ministry together. I’m on the board and it was for that reason that Audio even got back together. I mean when Wes Campbell, who is our manager, came to us with the idea of putting Audio back out there, you know with this idea of putting Kevin at lead singer, you know, we didn’t go for it at first because just to go back out there and play our instruments again or to rock out or whatever for no reason just wasn’t that exciting to us.
And personally I’ve gotten some great family rhythms and all that with my family and it would take something pretty special to get me back out there. And so that component that was the special piece of the puzzle was that we can broaden Hands & Feet’s reach. We can broaden the story of the orphan and widow in Haiti. We can broaden the work there and so for me that made all the difference in the world. My family is plugged into H&F at a deep level, my wife works for them and I take my kids there every summer, and so that’s the piece that really made sense and so Mark’s gonna go out when it makes sense for him to speak on behalf of H&F and to be able to represent [them] in that way. We’ll use Audio in that way whenever we can and he’ll have some comments in the album art about H&F and what he’s doing. We have several webisodes that are out there that kind of explain it in depth. How Mark’s handing off this thing to Kevin and how we’re all connected as one big family still.
FC: Kevin, let’s talk a little bit about that. What are your thoughts as you’re stepping into the role of what Mark has done for a number of years. I mean, what is that feeling like for you?
Kevin Max: It’s interesting because you know it’s familiar and yet it’s not at the same time. So if that makes sense. We traveled quite a bit together back in the day and you know I was friends with the band for many, many years. I’m a fan of what the band’s done and I’m a fan of all of the guys in band—all of the previous members. The only guy that I really didn’t know was Tyler Burkhum, but I know Bob really well and I knew Barry really well and I knew Will and Mark and of course Ben Sisal, and so I feel like putting me in the group was kind of an easy fit. But I feel like what Mark did as a lead singer is very different from what I do. But, in cool ways it’s different, you know, and I can learn a lot from Mark. I can really kind of watch what Mark does and what he says about what he would do in different situations. I’m still learning actually from hanging out with mark as a friend. Will and Mark still live here in Nashville, so it’s kind of cool to be able to hang out quite a bit and we’ve been doing a lot of radio tours together. And Mark has come out and has been there with us on all of these trips. So what’s going to be kind of odd in my opinion is to go out and perform without Mark being there, because he has been still even though he’s not singing like he was back in the day, been a part of this the whole way. But I take this job very seriously and I have absolutely wanted to be in a rock band since I was a kid, and I guess maybe this is the first time I’ve been able to do that.
FC: Kevin, what is it like singing Audio Adrenaline songs? I’m assuming that once you guys go on tour, there’s going to be some catalog songs as part of that. How does it feel singing older, classic Audio A songs?
Kevin: It feels great!
Again, Mark and I have a very similar range, so when I’m singing these tunes, you know, they’re not out of my range. Actually my range is very strange. I can sing pretty low. People don’t realize how low I can sing. I’m kind of known as the guy who sings kind of high, but I’ve actually got kind of a low voice as well. So it’s fun to sing these songs and put my spin on them. And they’re all really great. I mean, Will is careful and so is Mark about picking what songs we do from the past. The songs that I’ll be singing for the new album and performing from the new album, I think that they’re also some unbelievably great songs on this album. So we’re all excited about what kind of packet we can throw together from a live standpoint, and, you know, uh, we’ll just shoot for the stars and hopefully hit somewhere on the horizon.
FC: When does the tour begin, or has that been nailed down yet?
Kevin: Wait, wait, that was a really weird quote. I apologize.
FC: I liked it, actually.
Kevin: Uh… I’ll let Will pick it up from here.
Will: Yeh, no, you’re all good. We have the album dropping March Tuesday, March 12, so we’re finishing that up now to get it out. And then the tour, I believe, kicks off March 1st. We do have a handful of dates in January, uh, and then we move into summer festivals after a short spring run. It’s not gonna be too crazy, just wanta get some shows under our belt to refine and connect as a band and get some things nailed down and then I think that summer festivals are really the big kick-off. We’re headlining some of those, and also are opening for the mainstay acts that are headlining for some of those festivals and then looking to the fall after that, so.
FC: Are you guys gonna be playing “Big House”?
Will: Heh, heh. Yeh, actually that is one of the ones we’ve been playing. I’ll tell you the ones we’ve been playing. We’ve been playing “Ocean Floor,” “Our Hands & Feet,” “Get Down,” “Big House,” “Never Gonna Be As Big As Jesus,” but we’ve also talked about including like “Mighty Good Leader” and maybe “Some Kind of Zombie,” “I’m Not the King” and a few more of the rock side, and remove some of those others, or “Chevette” that’s been one that’s come up. So that’s kind of the quiver that we have at our disposal of the old catalog. There’s tons to go through, I don’t know, we may go through more and come up with more. I mean the set’s gonna be, depending on the length of the set, maybe 50/50, or 60 new / 40 old, or 50/50, whatever, so we’ll have to play it by ear and see how much time we have to play and all that kind of stuff. If we’re doing an opening set of 40 minutes, then obviously we’re limited by that, but we’re going to give the fans old and new, things that they can relate to and connect with.
FC: That’s great.
I’m going to switch gears a little bit. I’m gooing ask some questions about how you guys sort of came back together again. Just, because it’s not just the reforming of a band, but it’s also, as we touched on earlier, Kevin stepping in and doing vocals. I mean, what was that like for either one of you guys? Uh, was it like this “Paul” kind of experience, where this bright shining light was being cascaded down on Kevin, and Kevin you were knocked off of your donkey and you said, “Oh, I have to start singing for Audio A now”? You were doing your own thing and successful with that, making a solo career and now this. How did this whole transition kind of fall into place?
Kevin: I actually was kind of brought into the idea of it slowly and there were probably a couple of different scenarios. One was me singing on the Newsboy’s project, God’s Not Dead, I sang on two of the songs on that album. And when one of those songs started charting, they asked me to come down and go on the road with them for about six shows, and I was singing on stage with them for the Newsboys. And we had such a great time, I think the manager for the Newsboys at that time was just like, “Wow, I’ve been basically bugging Audio Adrenaline for some time to do the same thing, so we get Audio Adrenaline back up and running, because it’s such a great band. And it’s a shame—or, not a shame necessarily—but kind of a group tragedy that they’re not able to continue because of Mark’s voice and we wanted to get them back out there with another singer. And Mark has given his blessing, and we’re looking at guys to do it. So, well, my take on that immediately, was “Absolutely!” I’ve know these guys from the very beginning. At dcTalk, we found them early on in Kentucky and basically brought them to the label at the time, which was Forefront, and they went on to great success.
Um, and so I feel like I’m a part of that story and after that, throughout the years we’ve toured together and we became great friends, and so it’s a very, very good fit, you know, even on paper. But I think that what really kinda got me was that mark was so passionate about making the right decision, and so was Will. And, also including Hands & Feet into the story of what’s happening now. So that when we go forward with albums, we’re actually raising awareness for H&F project, which in my opinion is much cooler than just being a rock band. So we’ve got lots of different things that are happening here that are just exciting and that just make sense to me.
FC: Kevin, did this decision involve you saying, “Okay, I’m putting down my solo career for a time being, or this is just the new path that God has for me?
Kevin: My solo career has been from one moment to the next both somewhat successful and completely tragic (laughs), in terms of success. In terms of personal gratification and what feel like I’ve been able to do, I’m extremely happy with what I’ve done on my solo career. Even though I haven’t reached even close to the numbers we did with dcTalk, I think that I’ve reached a completely different crowd. And that’s primarily what I set out to do as a solo artist. To create music that I wanted to create and not necessarily follow the rhyme and the rhythm of what Talk did from the beginning. You know? So, in way, personally, I feel like I’ve covered a lot of ground and am extremely proud of what I’ve done.
At this time when I decided to do this, I wasn’t really taking my musical career very seriously because I’d been writing a novel. What a lot of people don’t know – they will know at some point – is that I wrote a sci-fi novel about angels and basically it’s going to publishers now. I spent close to two years writing this book. I’ll be pretty transparent and say during those years I really wasn’t interested in being on stage anymore. I kind of went through a period of not self-loathing but I just didn’t want to be the guy on stage. I gained a certain amount of weight and I was just a family guy and I wanted to get into books and I didn’t want to be the front man necessarily. So when this was brought up to me, I’d kind of written the book and was kind of going through a different period in my life, you know? When Wes approached me and Mark and Will, I had to go back to my wife and go, “How serious are we going to be about this? We have to do some major shifts in our life to make this happen. I’m going to have to go on the road.” I’ve got four kids that are under the age of 7 so I really had to make a decision. So I got serious and I started writing songs and lost a bunch of weight, basically talked about getting back to Nashville. I’ve lived in Nashville for over 20 years but sold our house in East Nashville a few years previously, so we basically had to move back to Nashville. So, there’s been a lot of changes, but It’s interesting, you know?
FC: Is Audio Adrenaline all about taking care of the widow or the orphan right now? “Hands and Feet” – is that the banner that is being raised up by Audio Adrenaline right now?
Kevin: Yeah, it’s one of the major we’re raising. It is Hands and Feet because the idea of doing this in the first place was to raise awareness for Hands and Feet. I think Mark and Will were hesitant at first about even putting it back on the road of that wasn’t a part of it, so of course, we’re all extremely excited about raising awareness. Also, it’s something that we can connect to on so many different levels, from the live show to Internet to merch stands. It’s something that we’re not ashamed of at all. In fact, we’re proud of. And just to get people to understand what’s going on over there right now is huge. So definitely, it’s a huge part of what’s going on right now.
FC: Will, are you back? (Dropped call with Will)
Will: Yeah, I’m here. Sorry about that.
FC: No problem. I was just asking the question if Hands and Feet were basically the banner for Audio Adrenaline. I think Kevin did a fine job in answering it.
Audio Adrenaline – Kings & Queens
What are you guys most looking forward to doing in 2013?
Will: Oh man. That’s a big one. I mean for me, I feel like what you’re saying is true. I feel like the momentum we have right now is incredible, nothing short of miraculous. I feel like God is doing something way bigger than us. And just the favor I feel that we have…I feel like if you compare it to Michael going to The Newsboys…they were up against a lot more. They had a lot more criticism, a lot more opposition. It was a totally different scenario, I understand that, but this is similar in the fact that we’re adding a lead singer to a pretty significant brand that’s already been out there. And even new other members. I’m the only member of Audio A in this thing.
But, to me, God has orchestrated a thing here that’s just crazy. You couldn’t have wrote this. He’s an amazing author. So many redemptive stories at play with the different guys in the band and our stories and our families and Kevin’s story. So, for me, I think the Hands and Feet component is what’s the most significant, I think by and large. Mark being so involved in this thing, so attached to it with Hands and Feet and also writing a lot of the songs, being a part of that process, being a part of putting the record together, being a part of the future. For me, I’m just excited to see what God does. Like I said, it’s going to be bigger than all of us can imagine. It’s gonna be great music and all those things as well, but I think there’s gonna be surprises along the way that we couldn’t expect. Little turns He’ll write into the story that we didn’t expect, you know? But for me, we’re just going to try to, with as much grace and with as much love and mercy move into this thing and tour it and leave our families again and walk through all of those situations with as much grace and mercy as we can and just see what God does with it. I think each show we want to take one at a time and really be intentional about connecting with the people that are there backstage, the people in the crowd, whatever, and giving them our full attention and just doing it in a way that is excellent and that you know that we’re there for you and to serve you that day.
FC: Are either one of you coffee drinkers? Or is it Mountain Dew? Or Red Bull?
Kevin: I’m huge into coffee. I’m drinking like my fourth cup right now. Just to stay awake during these interviews. You’ve done really well asking some really great questions. I will say sometimes the questioner can lead me down a path to deep slumber.
FC: Well, I certainly appreciate both of you guys taking the time to talk with me today. And as I said, I just want to echo what the feeling is in our building and with a lot of our customers: we’re anxiously waiting for March 12 to come around. I think it’s going to be an exciting day. And then, of course, the tour.
Will: It’s crazy, the favor we have. I always liken it to the Bad News Bears, where we’re so bad but everyone wants us to do well.
FC: Oh, come on!
Kevin: I don’t know if I like that one either. Don’t sell yourself short, man.
Will: Just trying to be humble. But “Kings and Queens” is the biggest single out of the box in Audio A history ever. So something big is happening and it’s abnormal for even Audio things, so I’m just stoked.
FC: Well, congratulations to you guys. God bless you and thank you again for taking the time to talk with me today.
Because Mark is on a continual voice rest, I had the chance to email him a few questions.
They are listed here:
FC: Mark, what is the transition like for you? Moving from you to Kevin being the lead singer? How do you feel that you were the voice for AA and now someone else is?
Mark: It would be very strange for me to give the reigns over to someone else if I wasn’t able to contribute to the record making process. I definitely miss being a front man and the excitement of leading an audience. But to be able to help craft a record and collaborate in writing is a huge thrill for me. I miss the creative process much more than being on the road. I feel as much a part of this record as any previous Audio Adrenaline album. It’s a blessing to be in the mix!!!
FC: Is your voice getting better?
Mark: Unfortunately, my voice continues to get weaker, even though I’m not singing. It can be frustrating for sure. However, I truly believe that God is directing my path. My focus, on a daily basis, is no longer being in a band or getting my voice back, but becoming a better leader, and stronger voice for the orphans of Haiti.
FC: What is your involvement with AA going forward?
Mark: I will continue to partner with the guys in writing and producing records, but the bigger partnership is with the Hands and Feet Project. The heartbeat of Audio A moving forward is furthering the cause of the Hands and Feet Project and the children of Haiti. The Audio A guys and I are always dreaming of ways we can use our music and our platform to bring hope to the next generation of Haiti.
Family Christian Management Team Partners with Christian Businessmen to Acquire National Retailer
New Ownership Commits 100% of Profits to Faith-Based Charities.
Family Christian, the nation’s largest Christian retail chain with 280 stores in 36 states, announced today that its management team has partnered with a group of Atlanta-based Christian businessmen to acquire the company from its private equity owners. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
Under the new ownership, Family Christian’s pledge is to contribute 100% of its profits to Christian causes and, specifically, ministries serving widows and orphans both in the U.S. and abroad. Family Christian has always been committed to providing resources for the Christian community, but the new ownership structure will allow the organization to not only equip Christians in their daily walk, but to increase the organization’s impact by providing substantial financial support to faith-based causes.
“The management team and our investors are buying Family Christian because of our shared belief that the Company is uniquely positioned to be both a best-in-class Christian retailer and a significant source of financial support to help those in need,” said Cliff Bartow, President and CEO of Family Christian.”While we have long been committed to giving to Christian causes, we felt called to multiply our impact. We have been on a journey for several years to find potential like-minded Christian owners who share our passion and calling, and believe it’s the providence and sovereignty of God that we met and now partner with our new co-owners.”
The investment group is comprised of three Atlanta-based Christian businessmen, each of whom give substantially of their time, talent and treasure to Christian ministries, including several focused on orphan, foster care and adoption causes. Richard L. Jackson is the founder and CEO of Jackson Healthcare, the nation’s third largest healthcare staffing company, and is deeply committed to bringing hope and opportunity into the lives of undeserved children. Jackson serves in a number of ways including as the Chairman of FaithBridge Foster Care. Larry Powell is the president of Powell Family Enterprises, LLC, a private equity investment company and is actively involved in a number of ministries, including serving as Chairman of the Board of Generous Giving. Michael Kendrick has used his success in investment banking as a catalyst for founding, developing, and funding organizations dedicated to Christian service, including Blueprint for Life and Ministry Ventures, a non-profit organization dedicated to launching new ministries.
“Each of these men have been blessed with professional success and share a mutual calling to give back to help those in need. This alignment of business acumen and Christian calling led them to the collective decision to join with us to acquire Family Christian and move it from an organization that contributes 10% of its profits, to one that contributes 100% of its profits to faith-based charities and ministries,” said Bartow.”It is the hope of all involved that this transition can be a model of Christian business and ministry excellence that can be replicated by other organizations that wish to use their business resources to maximize Kingdom impact.”
Family Christian reported that while its ownership structure and financial purpose has changed, there will be no impact on its core operations, stores or staff. The company has ambitious plans to grow its revenue and increase financial support for faith-based ministries around the world. This includes maintaining store update efforts and looking at new product assortments and resources to better meet the lifestyle needs of customers. Family Christian will continue to carry a wide assortment of Christian products ranging from Bibles, gifts and home décor to books, children’s and family resources.
“We are excited about what this ownership change means for our customers, staff and vendor partners who join us in the ongoing Christian pursuit of putting faith into action,” said Bartow.”In many ways, we are returning to our roots as a Christian family-owned business focused on making a significant impact in helping those in need. Since our founding in 1932, we have established a relationship of trust and safety with our customers, while enjoying a reputation for providing great service and quality products. We intend to continue to uphold the high level of retail excellence, while applying the full operational and financial resources of the Company for the benefit of widows, orphans and foster children and Christian charities – all for God’s glory.”
William Blair & Company, LLC acted as exclusive financial advisor to the investors.
Amidst the speculation and rumors that have been circulating for weeks, Audio Adrenaline officially announce their return. With the same heart, passion and infectious musical prowess they developed as a band in the 1990’s, multi-GRAMMY® award-winning Audio Adrenaline is indeed back and putting together a new lineup of like-minded musicians with the same common goal; to be the voice for orphans in Haiti and around the world. The Know Hope Foundation, supporters of Audio Adrenaline and Hands & Feet Project, as well as record label Fair Trade Services, have joined them in this renewed mission to fund and market a new record from which net proceeds will go to Hands & Feet Project to continue growth and support of the nearly eight-year-old charity.
Five years ago, the band gathered in Hawaii along with their biggest fans for what they thought was their last performance. Since that emotional finale concert, founding members Mark Stuart and Will McGinniss have tirelessly worked to raise awareness and support for the 100 orphans currently being cared for in Jacmel and Grand Goave, Haiti. Now, with additional new band members and a larger mission goal, there is no question the world is ready for the “new” Audio Adrenaline.
Stuart and McGinniss are still very much a part of the re-formed band. McGinniss continues his role as the band’s bassist while Stuart, although stepping down as lead vocalist due to his spasmodic dysphonia, causing involuntary muscle spasms of the larynx, is very much a part of band decisions and writing on many of the songs for the new album. Taking over lead vocals is former dcTalk member and industry mainstay Kevin Max, while CCM vets Dave Ghazarian (Superchick) is on guitar, Jared Byers (Bleach) is the band’s drummer, and singer-songwriter Jason Walker plays keys.
“I’ve never been more excited about an Audio A record,” shares Stuart. “We’ve collectively poured into each song for months, and I love every track. Being able to help write and direct the process of putting the band back together has been an absolute joy. I can’t wait to see our fans sing along with Kevin on the AA classics and fall in love with the new songs.”
As just released in Billboard, the brand new album is slated to release March 2013. The first single, “Kings And Queens,” will hit Christian radio in November. “It’s just an incredible song about this idea of when we love the least of these, God wraps these little orphans in his majesty and they can become kings and queens,” Stuart says of the song. “It gives you that idea that these are God’s favorites, these little kids that have been forgotten. There’s going to be a special place in heaven one day because of what they’ve been through here. It’s just a triumphant, majestic song that just connects so deeply with Hands & Feet and the message of Audio A right now.”
When the decision was made to re-launch the group, there was a lot of thought to who would be the right selection to carry on the mantle of lead vocalist for Audio Adrenaline. When conversations were had with the band’s new manager, Wes Campbell of First Company Management, the idea was raised to talk to Kevin Max, a long-time friend of the band. Most of all, Max understands the passion for orphan care and Hands & Feet because he, just like many of the children at Hands & Feet Project, had been orphaned as a small child.
McGinniss shares, “We have joined together under the new banner of Audio Adrenaline, yet the common thread that brings all of us together is for a much greater reason. We are beyond excited to finally share why we are putting the band back together.”
Fair Trade Services, the new label home for Audio Adrenaline, could not be more excited in their unique partnership with Know Hope Foundation and the Hands & Feet Project, and name the band as part of their stellar roster. Shares Jeff Moseley, Fair Trade Services President, “We would like to see the orphans in Haiti taken care of and given a chance to succeed in life. As believers and leaders, we must do good while we are doing well. This is our mandate as followers of Christ and this is our mandate as humans.”