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First Call: Through the Fire

By First Call
As told to Jennifer E. Jones“How have you changed since the beginning of your music career to now?” CBNmusic asked them one question. Here’s what Marty, Mel and Bonnie shared.

Marty McCall: You do the best you can when you’re young and just starting things. All of us had been in other ministries and had already learned things about what it felt like to be on the road, away from our spouses, that kinda stuff. When we formed First Call, we really felt like it was something God put together in spite of us. We just looked at it and said, ‘Oh, this is what He’s doing. Do we really want to do this?’ Then we submitted to it and started doing it. We believed back then that we were really doing something for the Lord. But we were also looking for careers to support our families.

It’s a lot to deal with to think of yourself as a minister and as a breadwinner and how to manage and oversee your career and your image. We were very sincere.

Now, looking back, I still think we were sincere but we’ve all been through so much in our lives that has worked maturity upon maturity on maturity – experience, patience, faith. All of us are really different in that regard.

We’ve continued to work together even though Mel [Tunney] left the group after five years. We did studio work together during that period of time. Then got back together and did some reunion concerts for a couple of years which were just really fun. We’ve been able to watch each other going through really hard things and of course that’s what God uses to really work His will in us.

Bonnie Keen: In our industry artists go through life, and life is bumpy and messy and there are divorces… I went through a divorce. They loved me through that. All of us have kids that have grown up together. We prayed for and loved each other through so many things.

We speak from a humble place about how God’s been so good to us. I know I didn’t have [that] starting out. I was very naïve. Life hadn’t hit me hard yet. What I’m grateful for is that, especially with Mel, that she’s here still in our lives and never has left.

Mel Tunney: Just like it was God putting us together in the beginning, God’s putting us together now. We weren’t looking to reunite and do a new project. I think God needs to use that for each one of us because we all are very driven, very looking-for-opportunities people. When God does it, we have to look back and say, ‘This is from You.’ Then we walk through that door in kind of a different place than our own agenda.

McCall: I think we have more awe now because we see Him putting us together. Now it’s a little scary. Back then it was exciting.

Keen: It was hard when Mel left. It was a transition, and when we went through the difficult times in the ‘90s with Mary Beth, Marty and I kept working together. There was a lot of grief for me. It was hard to see it end the way it did.

But I feel like God has been so sweet to give us this beautiful season of time to work with again for whatever purposes that He’s going to use it. It’s very healing to me. God has something for us now that we probably don’t know that’s going to glorify Him and be used to maybe help heal other people. But I’m so grateful.

Tunney: The songs that we recorded so many years ago, we chose [them] because we meant those words. That was our heart at the time. But now 20 years later, those songs have completely different depth and meaning. To sing that He’s Lord of all… He’s Lord of so much more.

Here we are, and we’re still undivided. We still worship the same Lord and Savior. We still have such joy in uniting together. We’re the ones singing the songs and the words are taking on such fresh meaning for us. I pray that’s how it comes across to others. [I pray] that they hear the songs, and it’s not just a nostalgic thing. But that they hear the words and say, “That meant something to me when I was in 10th grade, and now that I’m married what more does it mean to me.”

McCall: It’s like Scripture. You apply where you are, and the Holy Spirit uses it. It’s so interesting… Now we feel like we could if were called say something about the nature of God and His faithfulness – much more than we could back then. Even though we were sincere. Now we’ve got something to say.

There’s a part of this industry that is ministry. It’s very interesting with the industry focusing in on inexperienced youth to deliver a ministry message. Granted, there is the entertainment side, which is great and there’s nothing wrong with that at all. It ministers too. As artists get older, we have so much more to share from our lives about the Lord and so much more to encourage people with.

Keen: Only in the Christian industry do I see older artists put aside. In the pop world, you still have Billy Joel, Sting, and Annie Lennox. In country and jazz, they will continue to follow artists and see what they’re going to do next. It’s only in the Christian industry, where you’d think would have more content in the songs, that you see, ‘Oh they’re too old.’ What is that about? That disturbs and grieves me.

[Clinging to God] is the only thing that’s kept me alive. I went through clinical depression. I have a book out about that and single parenting [see sidebar]. So many times if I hadn’t had the Word of God and the Lord and a way to express that…

God is so redemptive. He takes all the things we go through that the enemy tries to destroy us with. If we give it back to Him, it turns into something that speaks hope.

Friends and people that cared about me have been my faith. It has survived the fire.

We were talking last night about all the furnaces in our lives – like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. This morning Mel left a note under my door and Marty’s door. She said, ‘I love being in the furnace with the two of you.’

Jesus didn’t promise us that life would be perfect. The older you get your faith goes through that testing. We have in so many ways walked through fires together and we’re in a furnace right now. Knowing our friendship and what God is doing through us personally is so sweet. He’s giving us encouragement through each other, and the music is just the icing on the cake.

Tunney: Yes, there are still great songs out there but in our earlier days, it used to be more about the song than the artist. To be able to bring back these great songs that still have so much life now, I’m excited about that. The words are still valid, and it will minister to a whole new person.

Rejoice (2006)

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