As I got older, I used to pray to God that if He would raise me out of my situation, I would bless my grandmother with the money she needed to save Mercy Outreach. God answered my prayer by blessing me with "American Idol," and my grandma's church still stands today.
Being in church was – and still is – my most peaceful place. When I'm there, I go over a lot of things in my mind. If I have any worries or stress. I let them all go the moment that I walk into the church. Church is also the place where music came to life for me. It was the place I could have a good time, hear good music, and clap my hands.
All this shoutin', witnessin', and praisin' all looked normal to me as a child. My family talks about how my mother was shoutin', prayin', and singin' when she had me in the womb. People used to say she was going to shout that baby right out! Even though I could be a part of everyone singin' and praisin' God, I still had to experience it within. One Sunday, when I was around five or six, I was up singin' and something just hit my body. It was like a violent strike to my soul. I didn't know what it was. I couldn't explain it. The feeling took me to my knees. I don't know what I looked like kneeling up there with that feeling rushing through me like warm water. I will never forget it. I asked my mother what had happened, and I remembered her saying, "You have the Holy Ghost. You now have a relationship with God." She was right. That was my very first love affair. I was anointed. That anointing made me see that music was my gift. Back then, church and music and God were all connected as one. By recognizing that God was within me when he gave me my voice, I finally knew that I was special.
Praisin' God with song is the main reason for bein' in the Holiness Church in the first place. Holiness is the only way I know how to be. When someone feels the presence of the Holy Spirit, they need to let it out! Sometimes, the spirit makes us run up the aisles of the church; sometimes it makes us sit still and cry; sometimes it makes us faint. I have fainted. But most of the time it just makes me do my dance, the BoBo.
People who have never experienced Holiness often ask me, "What is it like?" I get that question a lot. Holiness is not somethin' that I can easily describe, but because I'm tellin' it all, I'll try my best.
When I walk into the church, I'm always moved by the sense of order in the room. Church is the only place that people seem to act like they have some respect. Everyone is always dressed neatly and modestly. The walls of the sanctuary are starch white, like new Easter clothes. The mahogany pews are always polished in anticipation of the high emotions that will fly around them, wetting them with sweat and tears. The same wooden cross that was part of that first basement church is hangin' right there at the pulpit. It's draped with the same purple velvet that Grandma saw in her vision. The pulpit is small, with six white upholstered chairs arranged in a semicircle where the ministers sit. The choir sings below the pulpit when they are called. The church has an impressive sound system and features a bandstand, which shows that music is a part of my family's ministry and is a part of every aspect of our family's life.