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Lyrical Testimony

Ministering through music

Michael McGee | 12/16/2013, 8:35 a.m. | Updated on 12/16/2013, 11:39 a.m.
The padded pews at Friendship West Baptist Church neared capacity as young and old, decked out in their casual best ...
Pulling from within her soul, Dana Hemphill shares her spiritual journey during “An Evening of Thanksgiving.” Mike McGee

“When I turned 17 that’s really when life kind of just made a change and I accepted Christ into my life,” Hemphill noted. “And here we are.”

Through the song I Shall Not Die, Hemphill shared her change and spoke to the audience about its Ezekiel 37 origins.

“God spoke to Ezekiel and told him to talk to some bones,” she said as she referred to the biblical story of God resurrecting the dead. “I told you earlier I was in a place where I wanted to take my own life.”

The audience praised aloud as she discussed how God resurrected the spirit within her.

“That’s one of my favorite ones,” Hemphill later said during the interview. “That’s my testimony.”

She called it a way for her to use her spirit to declare God’s work.

One young man in the audience that night, Martavius Avery, felt her words stir him.

“I think she has a really amazing testimony. For her to have wanted to take her own life and for God to [have] given her, basically, a mission to change other people’s lives through her testimony,” he said.

Hemphill appreciated the love she was shown by those gathered.

“The crowd – I definitely believe they came to praise the Lord. And I’m a worshipper at heart,” she explained. “So when the crowd is participating with me, I think that helps me a little more.”

Southern gospel music is rollicking at times, and Hemphill brought that aspect to the stage in a big way. Small in stature, she took the stage in 5-inch high heels. Whenever she had a tendency to get worked up during a song, she’d clamp her hand around the microphone and leap straight up and down rapidly, jumping in her stilettos with the joy and excitement of a child celebrating the best day ever.

“You know what, people tell me I transform into something else … I’ve always been into gospel music and it just gives me energy when I think about everything God has done for me,” she said with a laugh as she discussed her signature move, adding “And trust and believe I pray before I go on that stage with them heels, ‘Lord, please don’t let me fall today.’”

The last song of her set, I Will Declare, held special meaning to her.

“I’m declaring who God is to the world. He’s a father, He’s a provider, He’s a friend,” she remarked. “He’ll be everything that we need him to be.”

With a buoyant stage presence and her heart fully charged with conviction, Hemphill put on a show without being showy. It was her skill as a songstress and her authentic testimony, not gimmicks or over-stylized vocals, that captured the affection of the audience. She entertained; she also moved.

“I’m just excited. I’m looking forward to 2014 because it’s going to be an amazing year for me. I just love to praise the Lord,” she exclaimed. “That’s it.”