A few weeks ago I took Cathy and Mikey to see Newsboys at Mabee Center. As we were on the way into the parking lot, we saw something on the huge LED marquee out front: a picture of none other than legendary Christian songwriter and performer Andraé Crouch! I was stoked... we love his music (who doesn't?) but then we saw that it was a fundraising event with tickets costing anywhere up to $75 or more... it was going to be a night featuring a number of sports figures, and we quickly ruled it out based on lack of funds and generally lack of interest in sports. They handed us a postcard about the event on the way out... it featured pictures of Olympics superstars Carl Lewis and Madeline Manning along with the picture of Andraé and a guy I'd never heard of named Alfred Lee. I dropped it on the dining room table and basically forgot about it.
Fast-forward to about a week ago. My wife got a call from a cousin of hers who had some extra tickets to the event, which my wife didn't even remember until I showed her the postcard. Cathy always seems to become more enthusiastic about things when someone else is interested, and especially someone she is as close to as this cousin, so suddenly we were going!
...And we were SO GLAD we did. The baby stayed with her Meme, but Mikey came along with us. Here's the whole story: since Madeline's Olympic career ended years ago, she has continued to support the teams every year as a volunteer chaplain. However, because there are no certifying organizations for sports chaplains, she goes on her own dime, pays for her own accommodations and meals, etc. while other support staff is allowed much easier access. Training for chaplains is nonexistent, so sometimes they are ill-equipped to deal with things that are peculiar to sports figures' spiritual needs. Madeline has started an organization called United States Council for Sports Chaplaincy (USCSC) (no Web site that I could find) which will be dedicated to training, certification, and then continuing education of sports chaplains. So this was a fundraising event for that, and we did give some money on the way out because we believe in Madeline and what she is doing. But it was FAR from a dull fundraiser. This party was HAPPENING!
It turns out Alfred Lee is an incredible concert pianist, but last night he was doing something very unexpected... he had a keyboard set up in such a way that he could play what sounded like a fully-orchestrated piece, all by himself. Live. No sequencers, no backing tracks. He did it while people were on the way in, and then he did it again at the end as the olympic stars... but I'll get to that in a minute. Suffice it to say that he was amazing.
So were the other entertainers! There were singers, including Madeline herself, Sara Jordan Powell, and Ernestine Dillard (you may have heard Ms. Dillard sing "God Bless America" at the Oklahoma City bombing memorial service years ago; there was the amazing Souls A' Fire Gospel choir/band from ORU; there were dance groups, a drum corps (think marching band without the horns), and of course, the incomparable Andraé Crouch. And that wasn't all! After the intermission, greats from Olympic games in years gone by started coming down to the stage, one at a time, and they kept coming and coming and coming! There must have been almost two dozen of them up there. And these weren't the Olympic losers, either... Carl Lewis is of course legendary, and others included people like Wyomia Tyus, the first Olympic athlete to win a gold in 100m dash at two consecutive Olympic games, and Dick Fosbury, who was the first high-jumper to discover that going over the bar backwards led to better results than going over it forwards, revolutionizing the sport. There were a ton of athletes from the U.S. 1968 Summer Olympics team, and Madeline gave each of them (and the athletes from other years as well) a chance to briefly share something from their heart. It was inspiring, and awe-inspiring.
At the end Andraé came back out, and he and Madeline started singing "My Tribute (To God be the Glory)" with a CD track. Everybody from the whole show was on stage. Then I heard the CD skip once, then again. At first it seemed like it wasn't going to be a problem, but then, horrors... it went totally haywire! What were they going to do? Then I saw someone in the shadows on the edge of the stage make a throat-cutting motion, and the track faded out... and the Souls A' Fire band came in, sounding 100% better than the track, to my ears! The Souls A' Fire choir knew the background vocals, too, and the finale was incredible! My wife looked over at me during the finale and said, "Why are you smiling like that?"
It was friggin' ANDRE CROUCH! Singing MY FRIGGIN' TRIBUTE!! I was in heaven! :)
I'm so excited about what USCSC will accomplish. If you read this and think you might want to help out with a donation, here is some contact information I found on Mabee Center's Web site:
P.O. Box 419
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74101-0419