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Growing up, Jeff Whisnant always figured he’d drive an 18-wheeler for a living.
But sometimes childhood plans don’t quite work out. Only part of that one did.
“I just drive a bus, instead,” he said.
When that bus crosses the state line into Lancaster County today, he will be behind the wheel. His wife, Susan, and their sons, Austin, 16, and Ethan, 13, will be on it, along with Aaron Hise and Eric Ollis.
That bus has become a way of life for the Whisnants, one of the leading trios in Southern gospel music.
The Whisnants will be in concert at 7 p.m. tonight at Second Baptist Church as part of the 2010 GlennMark Concert Series.
This is the fifth time in six years The Whisnants have returned to Lancaster.
“We haven’t missed but one,” Whisnant said. “Those guys (GlennMark’s Mark Blackmon, Dennis Nichols and Glenn Totherow) do a great job. We’re grateful that we were invited back.”
The Morganton, N.C., group has been ministering through song in the United States and Canada since 1973.
In that time, the Whisnants have racked up eight No.1 songs and numerous Top 40 Southern gospel hits. Their song, “What You Took From Me,” was the Singing News’ Chart Song of the Year (2003). Another song, “Even In The Valley” (2004) attained the same milestone in 2004.
One of their latest songs, “I’ll Pray for You,” has been nominated by the Singing News as “Song of the Year.” Their last two singles have climbed to No. 1 on the Southern gospel music charts. It’s no wonder that bus stays on the road.
Finding a balance between family, business and ministry is the hard part of life on the road.
“Having the boys traveling with us, now, if there’s something we want to do, we try to work it in,” Whisnant said. “They’re homeschooled and both of them are pretty disciplined with their studies. That just works better for us.”
On Aug. 3, The Whisnants performed at a fundraiser for The Bowling Family at the Trinity Music City Auditorium in Hendersonville, Tenn.
The Bowlings, a Christian music group, was involved in a July 1, three-vehicle crash on Interstate 85 in North Carolina.
The trio includes Mike Bowling and his wife, Kelly, and Terah Crabb Penhollow.
There were 10 people on The Bowlings’ tour bus at the time of the accident.
The Bowlings were on their way to a concert at the City of Light at the INSP (Inspiration Network) headquarters in Indian Land.
After the benefit concert, Whisnant said his family spent the day with Jeff and Sherri Easter at their lake home in Georgia.
“We swam, rode Jet Skis and just had a great time,” Whisnant said. “We try to take time to do things like that as a family to keep the boys from getting bored.”
Whisnant said it’s all a matter of keeping the “main thing the main thing.”
“Scripture plainly teaches us if we seek the kingdom of God above everything else, and live righteously, he will give us every thing we need,” he said.
“I have to remember the people. Ministering to them is the most important thing we could ever do,” Whisnant said. “If we keep our priorities right, God will add to everything we need otherwise.”
Those song honors don’t include numerous individual music awards and nominations, 15 appearances at the National Quartet Convention, television performances on the Inspiration Network (INSP) and inclusion in the Gaither Video Series.
Jeff Whisnant said in a recent interview that he hopes the trio will be remembered as a group faithful to their calling, no matter what happens in the music industry.
“I’ve asked God to allow us to be the very best that we can be so that he can use this ministry to touch people’s lives,” Whisnant said. “He’s done that.”
Jeff Whisnant said their priority is for the message of their music to be clear and clearly point people to the cross of Christ.
Some goals and aspirations may change, but Jeff Whisnant said that one won’t ever change. It’s a message that stands the test of time.
“We placed our ministry in God’s hands 37 years ago and have watched him do miraculous things,” he said. “There is no doubt in my mind that God has his hand on this ministry.”
Want to go?
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday; doors open at 6 p.m.
WHERE: Second Baptist Church, 1426 Great Falls Highway.
HOW MUCH: Adult tickets are $12 in advance or $15 at the door. Tickets for children ages 7 to 12 are $5 and can be bought at the door. Children under age 6 are admitted free. Advance tickets are available at Cooper Furniture, 311 S. Main St; Mahaffey Funeral Home, 201 N. Catawba St.; and Mungo, Nichols and Hess, 1107 Chesterfield Ave.