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Dove winner Smith supports Boys & Girls Clubs, entertains at Steak & Burger Dinner

Carole Robinson

Michael W. Smith performed for the kids

Although Christian artist Michael W. Smith loves writing and performing music, he has a special place in his heart for children. Besides having five adult children and eight grandchildren – the youngest born May 1 – Smith founded and continues to generously support Rocketown, a Christian-based outreach for youth and teens.

Last week, Smith dined with and performed for members of the Boys & Girls Club of Franklin/Williamson County during its annual Steak & Burger Dinner.

“I think it’s my responsibility,” he said. “To everyone to whom much has been given, much shall be required.”

Smith takes that phrase seriously and he takes the future of children seriously recounting how the idea of Rocketown came about.

“I stood on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Main [in Franklin] watching kids cruising around The Square and up and down Main Street – the idea came for Rocketown,” he said.

Rocketown often deals with “very tough kids fi lled with a lot of hurt,” Smith said. In a laid back atmosphere, Rocketown provides a place where teens fi nd acceptance, a place to be themselves and people who care and listen.

“We want them to have an encounter with God, but it needs to be on their terms,” Smith said. “It may take a year. We love them; we’re like surrogate dads.”

Rocketown offers summer camps in which many members of the Boys & Girls Club participate and find the lessons and values learned at The Club are reinforced.

“There’s something about rooting for kids – it’s a way to give back and change kids’ lives,” Smith said humbly. “You have to catch them early – before they turn 18; it’s harder when they get older, but everyone deserves a second chance.”

Smith understands that well. Like many young people, even though his home life was loving and stable, in his late teens and early 20s, Smith went through, what he describes as his “discovery phase” and “almost lost my life. I knew if I didn’t do something, if I didn’t change, I was going to loose my life.”

The change included a move from his home in West Virginia to Nashville to play and write music.

“When I came to Nashville, I knew I wouldn’t go back,” he said. “I didn’t know if I would get a record deal – I ate a lot of bologna.”

He worked landscaping jobs, bagged groceries, waited tables and had a job at the Coca-Cola plant before he was offered his first songwriting contract in 1979. It paid $200 a week.

Like his music, Smith’s faith was discovered at an early age. He wrote his first song at the age of fi ve. When he was 10, with the help of Pastor Stan Franklin, Smith said he had, “an amazing encounter with God.” Now, he performs all over the world and fi nds his music is known in places he would have never guessed; places like Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Budapest, Latvia, Brazil and Estonia.

While all the above places were “amazing” and enriching, Smith is still reeling from his most recent event.

Six weeks ago, Smith played a Concert of Peace in the Middle East country of Bahrain, a place where all religions seem to get along but where there has never been a faith-based concert.

“I had to get the blessing of the king,” he said. “More than 4,500 people showed up. It was extremely emotional – the people were so sweet. It was amazing – the unity thing. We were so well received. The audience was singing songs with me – I had a hard time getting through it. It was a pretty beautiful thing. We have no idea how many miracles happened there. This was a big highlight [in my life].”

Smith told the Boys & Club members after his performance he still loves pop music, but as he gets older he finds himself trending towards worship albums. Most of the countries he has performed in know the worship albums so,” Why not be a part of a movement? It’s hard to reinvent yourself and still stay true to who you are. I’m trying to write the best songs in my life and have the best time.”

And when that time is up, “I’d like to finish well.”

Posted on: 5/9/2013


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