Whether you know it or not, as our friend you are part of the best community any morning radio show could have. Seriously, just take a minute to glance through these memories with us and you’ll realize what a unique set of friends we all are!
For instance, Carmen just got back from taking thousands of pairs of shoes to dozens of orphans in Peru. These are kids who would not have a new, clean pair of tennis shoes ever, except that our JOY FM listening community made it their mission to provide for these children. Carmen took a small group of listeners and the band MIKESCHAIR with her this year. Perhaps Mike Grayson, lead singer, said it best when reflecting on the trip: “for that few minutes, I was that child’s family giving him a new pair of shoes and watching him open his Christmas gift”. The children received shoes & gifts. But the biggest gift was ours, to be able to touch part of the world with the love of Christ in the form of 7409 pairs of shoes.
While Carmen was in Peru, Dave was making quite an impact with the Broadway-style musical outreach he wrote and starred in called Humbug! Hundreds filled the seats for each of the eight performances and were treated to Dave’s acting, singing and dancing talents as well as a meaningful message of God’s love, skillfully portrayed. Meanwhile, Bill was burning the midnight oil preparing teaching outlines to train pastors next month in India, in the area where the JOY FM community has built hundreds of homes for devastated families.
In February, 150 listeners, along with Mark Schultz, once again pedaled over 130 miles in the a 2nd Bike Ride for the Homeless. The ride was a blast, but it got real personal when Carmen tried to run Mark off the road! Of course it became a “He said. She said.” The Ride raised more than $50,000 to help clothe, feed and support some of Florida’s poorest families (yes, “families” – many homeless are children). The Ride’s inspiration, Denver Moore, along with co-author Ron Hall, of their autobiographical Same Kind of Different As Me, released their sequel this year, What Difference Do it Make? A chapter was devoted to Carmen called “Bossy White Lady”. Denver said it. Who are we to disagree?
Our listeners’ compassion didn’t end with the Bike Ride for the Homeless. Even though unemployment rose by several percentage points in 2009, The Morning Cruise community gave more, fed more and loved better than EVER before.
T-Shirts for Turkeys produced 9,742 frozen turkeys for area food pantries, providing tens of thousands of holiday meals. Producer Kris P. Kreme took the spotlight in that event, dethroning Carmen as “The Turkey Queen” by collecting more turkeys in a single stop (Lakeland) than she had in her home turf, New Tampa. Everybody wins.
In 2009, we had the pleasure of spotlighting some of the best artists in the most unique ways, in up-close and personal settings. That’s what community does. It all started in April when our BWL, (short for Bossy White Lady) called Summer Cruise Alum, Brandon Heath, and invited us over to his house to broadcast LIVE from his kitchen table the morning of the Doves. It didn’t take much arm-twisting.
The same month saw the first visit in 23 years of Jars of Clay to The JOY FM. Jayar took a small group of listeners bowling with the four, and we invited ourselves to that, as well. Before we left for the bowling alley, the band made themselves at home in Bill’s office, which you can see on an episode of The Station (our video parody of The Office online at www.themorningcruise.com).
New artist Josh Wilson auditioned for Bill’s job in May. He didn’t get it, even with a poem in his pocket!
Two events happened in June that really emphasized how this community has erased the distance between “celebrity” and “fan.” First, The Summer Cruise brought thousands of listeners into intimate diner-settings to meet Dove Award and (as of December) Grammy nominee Francesca Battistelli. The best part of that event was seeing dozens of young girls flock to a positive role model. Meeting “Franny” was a memory for life for them.
Second, and a memory we will cherish for many years, was the participation of freshly crowned Male Vocalist of the Year Brandon Heath in the reunion of a daughter with her estranged father. For over 30 years, Scottie Camacho had not seen or talked to her dad. Married with children, a police officer and listener to The Morning Cruise, Scottie had written Carmen to share how she finally got the courage to contact her dad after listening to “I’m Not Who I Was” on The JOY FM. Scottie wrote, “all I had was a photograph and he was standing right above me”. That was it! The scheming began. Brandon flew in and hid out with Keith, Scottie’s dad, until it was time for their eyes to meet – daddy and little girl – for the first time since she was a toddler. The reunion happened the Friday before Father’s Day. Oh the tears of happiness….
And speaking of “Oh Happiness”, we accepted an invitation for an inside-the-barn broadcast from David Crowder’s Dr. Pepper Studios for the release of Church Music. We boarded the plane to Waco, along with Jayar and a couple of listeners and attended the release party at David’s home church. We’re still deciding what we were most impressed with…Church Music, Steve3PO (David’s robotic drummer) or the larger than life mural of Queen Elizabeth that stares back at you in the loo. ‘Nuf said.
There’s so much more to celebrate! The fun, on-air moments, like juicing with Brandon, Franny and Leeland at “The Follow You Tour,” inviting listeners to coffee with Casting Crowns and watching the pounds fall off Heidi Schultz, The JOY FM’s “Biggest Loser,” are all great memories of the year gone by.
But maybe, in God’s goodness and grace, it was fitting to wrap up the year with songs like “Let the Waters Rise” by MIKESCHAIR and lyrics like “What hope we hold this starlit night / A King is born in Bethlehem…” from Chris Tomlin running through our heads. The reality of the self-giving Savior was celebrated in lyrics like these, which Carmen had sung at the Glory in the Highest recording sessions in Nashville, and the three of us got to enjoy at the TV special taping at the Gospel Music Channel in August. Maybe it was good to turn the spotlight on songs like these for such a time as this.
The last half of 2009 was tough for Carmen. In July, her mom was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. At first, no one knew what do to. Her symptoms were intense. She wasn’t responding to any therapies. There were other pressures too, financial and practical. Carmen’s priorities quickly shifted, and she was solely-focused on the woman who raised her as a single mom. This was a time of spiritual testing as well, and Carmen shared her journey openly on the air. No emotion or thought was off limits: Doubts, questions, confessions, but ultimately the acknowledgement of God’s presence being physically felt. Carmen too had heath issues, tests and treatments in September, October and November. Regardless, she’ll be the first to tell you that joy surely does come in the morning.
Lots of well-meaning members of the community stopped by and offered their solutions and prayers – we acknowledged that the latter is more important than the former at such a time. It wasn’t easy for Carmen to keep her normally positive attitude and upbeat disposition. But we got through it as a family. Things are better for Carmen’s mom under an experimental treatment regimen, and Carmen was feeling better just in time for Chris Tomlin to bring his Glory in the Highest Tour to Clearwater to a sold-out show that transformed thousands of concert-g
oers into God-worshippers, celebrating the reality of God’s moving “into the neighborhood” in Christ, as told to us that night by our friend, Louie Giglio.
That night was special. There was nobody in that building who had more reason to offer the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips giving thanks to God for his sustaining grace and exalting humility, than yours truly. Carmen and her mom were there too. A fitting ending for all that He has done this year. We sang with voices and hands raised and hearts overflowing with gratitude for all He is, and all that YOU, his followers and our friends, have meant to us this year.
So, with full hearts, we wish you the Happiest New Year ever. Our hope is that we see you a bunch in 2010!
Your friends, Dave, Bill & Carmen