Itinerate ministry can be somewhat distant, but together they find a common purpose

Singing On The Road
by John Yeats

What kind of life does a Southern Baptist family have when they spend most of their days on the road going from one concert to another? For 28 years, the Talleys have ministered through song in churches, concert halls and any place the Lord would give them an opportunity. They recently appeared in Oklahoma for a concert.

The Talley Trio, Southern Gospel group, today consists of husband and wife, Roger and Debra, and their daughter, Lauren. While they make their home in Morristown, Tenn., they rarely spend any time at home. Normal for their family is 180 days per year on the road.

"We usually leave Wednesday night late and sing in a local church Thursday night," said Debra.

Currently the Trio is one of the featured groups with the Bill Gaither Homecoming Tour, which involves most Friday and Saturday nights. Before they travel home to Morristown, they usually minister in a local church on Sunday.

"It's so important for us as Christian artists to be connected with our local church," Debra explained.

"When we are able to be there, we come in and they treat us like we are one of the gang."

The church has several traveling Christian artists, Jane Green Johnson, who was with the Speer Family, and Jerald Wolf, a popular voice among gospel music enthusiasts.

Growing up in a local church and community was not an option for Lauren.

"I felt like I belonged to the bus. It was hard to get used to not being planted somewhere every week. I don't know what it is like to grow up in a church with all your friends around you," said the 18 year old who is regularly featured on the Gaither Homecoming Videos and has appeared as a guest on the CBS program "Touched by an Angel."

"I was 11 years of age when God showed me He had a special job for me to do. He has given me something so that I can be productive for Him," Lauren added.

The call of the Lord to do a specific ministry is an important part of the life message of the Talleys. Debra remembers being called at age 19 to do something for the Lord.

"I told the Lord what ever He wants me to do, I'll do it," Debra said. "Whenever I look back on that experience, that is a scary thing to pray. But the Lord knows what our capabilities are. He's going to put you where you're best suited."

One month after this experience, Debra starts to sing with her first group.

"Here I am 28 years later, still doing the same thing," Debra said.

She said she really didn't have much of a strategic life plan in place to accomplish their ministry.

"I'm just available... whatever He wants."

Maintaining a viable marriage relationship is a challenge without the complexities of living so much of the time on the road. However, Roger and Debra say they work at demonstrating their love for each other. Debra shared that Roger came to her last month and asked her," Will you go out on a date with me tonight?"

"I'm telling you what," said Lauren. "There is nothing more embarrassing for an 18-year-old than when your parents are going out on a date and you are the one at home."

"You just have to carve out time for each other," said Debra. "There are things that scream out for attention and yet, our relationship is much more important."

However, the couple does have a bit of fun by talking in front of Lauren about going to Lowe's Building Warehouse for date night.

The concert in Oklahoma was just five days after the terrorist attack in New York City. There was some concern about canceling the concerts. However, The Talleys are convinced there is no other hope for America than Jesus Christ.

"I think this is a wake up call for America," said Debra. "It is my prayer that the church will begin to stand up now and be counted and heard."

"In my lifetime, I've never experienced more talk about the Lord in national media," said Debra. We talk about prayer. People are praying on television. That is an encouragement. We have no other hope but Jesus."

Lauren drew from her reading in the Old Testament, "Esther was to become queen instead of Queen Vashti. Her cousin, Mordecal, told her that who knows, but you have been made a queen for such a time as this." She explained that if she could tell President Bush anything, she would attempt to reassure him that he has been called to be our nation's leader for such a time as this.

"Being President is not just a position of power, it is his ministry."

Sometimes in a traveling ministry, people have unique experiences or divine appointments. The Talleys are no exception. Debra told of an experience where she was at the automated car wash. When she arrived, she noticed that they were not as busy as they usually are. When she went to the waiting room, she saw a lone elderly gentleman sitting on a bench. She was just walking around in the room until she made eye contact with the gentleman. She smiled. He smiled back.

Although people in our nation have become leery of speaking to each other, Debra greeted the man and quickly learned that the man's wife had died just two weeks ago. During the next few minutes, she had the opportunity to visit with the man and tell him about the promises of God and minister to him.

"I cannot ease his suffering and his grief, but it may be that God put me there this specific time to help this man," She said.

The Talleys have returned to their East Tennessee home to help their neighbors raise funds to buy a new fire truck for New York City. They are using all the proceeds from their T-shirt sales to give to the East Tennessee firefighters' project. The Talley Trio's latest recording "Testament" has proven to be their most celebrated recording to date. It has produced three Top Five hits on the Southern Gospel music charts.

Reprinted by permission, Baptist Messenger.