Pint-Sized Sensation Honors God through Song

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DALLAS - At first glance, 8-year-old Rhema Marvanne looks likes a typical third grade kid. She's social, playful, and daddy's little girl.
   
But tucked inside her is a powerful gift described by many as simply amazing.
    
Rhema has been called a gospel singing sensation, and her music career quickly took off after a video of her rendition of "Amazing Grace" was posted on the Internet.    
    
Despite having boundless opportunities, Rhema is focused on what she wants to do -- bringing others to God through her music.

"What's important is what you believe in," she said. "We don't believe in the devil. We believe in God because He is the true God. The devil, he likes death. He likes ugly things, right? But God, He loves people."

Triumph in Tragedy
    
In the last year, Rhema has traveled around the country singing at concerts, churches, and nursing homes. She's even taken her show overseas, singing in front of a live studio audience in South Korea.

This fall, Rhema released her second album, and her YouTube channel has more than 15 million page views.
    
But Rhema's success was born in tragedy. She was only three years old when her mother, Wendi, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Rhema had just turned six when Wendi died. Rhema was at her side to the very end.

"I love her," she said. "Whenever I think about her, I feel like she's right beside me. Sometimes when I sing, I can hear her voice."
    
Rhema's father Teton Marvanne said his daughter's gift had to be uncovered.

"I used to tell people that Rhema was tone death because she could not hold a tune," he recalled.

Marvanne splits his time between being a full-time dad, running his own personal business, and managing Rhema's increasingly demanding itinerary.
    
A Special Trip

On a road trip shortly after her mom's passing, Rhema and her dad visited Nashville in Wendi's honor. She loved country and gospel music.
    
It was on that trip that Rhema's father taught her the words to "Amazing Grace."
    
He said that's when everything changed.

"I don't know if Wendi petitioned God and said you know, 'Hey, give her my voice, let her sing,'" Marvanne said. "I can see a lot of Wendi in Rhema, and I really feel that Rhema has picked up where Wendi had left off."
    
He added that Rhema also has a big heart -- evidenced by her most recent birthday. 

"I said, 'Daddy, I want to do my birthday at a retirement home," she recalled. "He's like, 'Wow!'"

"I'm so appreciative that God chose Wendi to be her mother to instill in her a lot of the things," Marvanne said. "The values and teachings and the love of God."
    
Rhema credits her mom, too.

"I don't really believe it's me that's making people believe in God," Rhema added. "I think it's really half and half of me and my mom doing the work."
    
Rhema wears her mother's ring to remember her by.

"It has three crosses," she said. "I use it as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and I use it as dad, me, and my mother."
    
What's Next

Marvanne said they've turned down several contracts and offers for reality television.

"I tell her all the time, 'Yes, I'm your earthly father, but God is your Father," he said. "He'll make those decisions and we'll know when it's right."
    
Meanwhile, Rhema said as long as she has her voice, she'll sing for God.

"I want to show people that God is the light," Rhema said. "The way and the truth."

Originally aired December 23, 2010.

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