Amy Grant performed at ACL’s Moody Theater in Austin on Sunday December 9th as part of The Bless Foundation’s 2018 Light the World benefit. It was a spectacular event that had some great music, some tearful and heartrending stories and one that raised a tremendous amount of support for six very worthy ministries.
The night began with an hour of mingling on the Moody Theater patio. There were refreshments and tables set up from each of the Light the World five beneficiary ministries (the Five Pillars). Here I got to speak with representatives from Pioneers, the organization that stands behind Enabled. Jim Haase was there with his whole family to talk about the work the Enabled Project is doing to help end the orphan crisis in India. You can read more about the Enabled and their work here.
Global Child Advocates
I also got to talk a little with Ashlee Heiligman from Global Child Advocates. She told me a little about their work to help fight child trafficking among the Burmese migrant population in Thailand. It was chilling to hear her story because of the danger these refugee families face in having no identification, no standing in the community and a tremendous fear of reporting abuse to authorities. Children are in the most danger because they have no legal rights and, with no identification, it is very easy for them to just simply disappear into the world of human trafficking.
Scott Heider with Empower One spoke to me about his organization’s efforts to bring clean drinking water to villages in North Africa. Their main focus is on bringing the gospel to villagers in Sudan and South Sudan. Survivors of the Sudanese civil war still face monumental challenges in obtaining adequate food and water for their families. Of all the stories I heard this night, David Kaya’s simple, direct, message on about Empower One was most moving. I encourage you to read their story on their website.
Ananias House and TWR
I did not get a chance to speak with representatives from Ananias House or Trans World Radio (TWR) because we ran out of time. But I learned more about their ministries in the presentations given to us over dinner. Each beneficiary was introduced with some personal testimony and a short video. Drew Womack and Karol Ann Moore performed a song between each group’s story.
You can read more about Ananias House in this article from last week on Austin Christian Voice. TWR is installing a 200,000-watt medium wave (AM) transmitter along the Silk Road to provide Gospel programs in parts of the world where the open proclamation of the Gospel is forbidden by law. They will reach more than 60 million people in six different countries and languages with this transmitter.
Bringing the Gospel to Wantakia
The Light the World benefit also had a sixth beneficiary set up as a special project. They are outside the 10/40 window (the area of focus for the Bless Foundation) but Ethnos 360 was included anyway because their mission is compelling. Bless Wantakia is an effort to reach the Wantakia people of Papua New Guinea with the Gospel in their own language. This team’s dedication to translating the Bible into the Wantakia language first requires them to invent an alphabet. The Wantakia people, you see, have no written language. This mission to bring them the Gospel of Christ is also going to bring them literacy!
Light the World Live Auction
Following the presentations on each of the five beneficiary ministries, the Light the World live auction began. The Bless Foundation auctioned off some unique items using founder Heath Hale’s Cowboy Auctioneers who made the auction an entertaining event that even rivaled the concert that followed–more importantly, all items seemed to sell to a winning bid of $10,000 or more.
Speaking of which, after the auction, it was time for Amy Grant to take the stage. You may be thinking to yourself: “About time! I thought this was an article about the Amy Grant concert!” Concert-only folks who got there early, probably wondered the same because the Light the World auction ran about 20 minutes past the time Amy was supposed to begin her performance. Early arrivals got 30-40 minutes of auction action while they were waiting (with probably no idea what was going on).
I have to say that the lighting and stage set-up for Amy Grant’s concert was spectacular. The layered background curtain was perfect for the various color scheme transitions of red, green, blue and purple. Throughout the show, moving spotlights also added an extra dimension to the small group of musicians on stage.
Amy began the evening with some traditional Christmas ballads, including Winter Wonderland, Tennesee Christmas, My Grown-Up Christmas List and Silent Night. Following these seasonal favorites, Grant transitioned into some of her older hits like Every Heartbeat, Big Yellow Taxi, and Baby, Baby. Amy told a story here about an emotional conversation she once had with Word Music executive Dan Johnson. Amy was struggling with the record label’s mandate that every song must tell the Gospel.
According to Amy, Dan Johnson (who was in the audience) told her “Amy, you sing whatever you want. Just know that God loves you.” Baby, Baby was her next single.
The highpoint of the evening was Amy’s performance of Breath of Heaven. She delivered a haunting, delicate vocal performance that had the entire room mesmerized. Amy explained that while this song is, of course, the story of Mary, mother of Jesus, she has also come to learn that it has been adopted by struggling moms all over the world as symbolic of their story too.
This is a good time for me to mention the excellence of ACL’s Moody Theater. The entire venue is first-class and the acoustics were perfect for both this rendition of Breath of Heaven and Amy’s earlier acapella performance of Silent Night, which she got the whole audience to sing with her. It was amazing how well everything in this hall functions. From the technical aspect to the staff working the event, everything is top notch. This is a great place to experience an intimate show without sacrificing the quality of either sound or comfort.
The entire evening, from start to finish, was a high-quality affair. Six very worthy ministries were supported in the process and there was some great entertainment from Drew Womack, Karol Ann Moore, Heath Hale’s Cowboy Auctioneers and, of course, Amy Grant. I can’t wait to see what the Bless Foundation puts together for the 2019 Light the World benefit!