Ministering through music
Michael McGee | 12/16/2013, 8:35 a.m. | Updated on 12/16/2013, 11:39 a.m.
The Dallas Examiner
The padded pews at Friendship West Baptist Church neared capacity as young and old, decked out in their casual best or their Sunday morning finery, came to enjoy the concert “An Evening of Thanksgiving” on Nov. 22.
The audience that night may have witnessed the birth of a gospel star.
With an already powerful lineup of performers – headliner Marvin Sapp, along with Cece Godbolt, Odell Bunton Jr. and Terrence Bell – one of the standouts of the evening was Dana Hemphill. The 32-year-old, originally from Wichita, Kan., has been living in the Dallas/Fort Worth area since 2002 where she works as an insurance agent.
“I’m just an average little country girl,” she described herself.
Hemphill sang at FWBC once before when she opened for Tamela Mann and Fred Hammond around 2006. Things were different at that time, however, she explained during a recent interview. She was younger, less experienced and less at ease in her role as a performer.
“I wasn’t as comfortable or mature in the music ministry as I am now,” Hemphill said. “So I can feel the great change and I’m more aware of who I am now as it relates to the ministry.”
Her comfort level wasn’t the only thing different about this most recent concert. Not only was she opening for the nationally renowned Sapp, but Hemphill was also there to support her debut CD, I Will Declare. Currently, the single My Offering is getting airplay on KGGR 1040AM and KHVN 970AM.
Performing live, Hemphill set the auditorium on fire with her talent and passion during her five-song set. Backed-up by a trio of singers, she appeared on-stage clad in black and royal blue, evoking a radiant sapphire under the stage lights. Her first song, Get Up had some members of the audience on their feet.
Hemphill described the purpose of the tune as “just encouraging everybody to get up and praise the Lord.”
As her set rolled on, more and more of the assembled rose from their seats, caught up in her voice and intensity. It was as if Tina Turner was in the hall, holding music fellowship.
She grew up in The Church of God in Christ, where her father was the minister of music and her mother was in the choir.
“So really, music has been a major part of my life,” she said.
Her father died when she was about 10 years old, she said, which left a void within her. When she turned 14, she said things got worse and the intensity of her personality took her into some dark places.
“[I] got into, you know, hanging with gangs, smoking, drinking; all the things that would draw you away from what’s good in the eyesight of God.” She became pregnant when she was 16, and miscarried.
“My life was just really going down a spiral there.” The death of several of her friends caused her to alter the course of her self-destructive road.
Her love of gospel music and that same intensity helped keep her going, dual emotional components that brought her to renewal within the church once again.