“I learned a great lesson that day; everybody has a God place in their heart that only God can fill. I don’t have to do as much as I thought I had to do,” these words were spoken by the dynamic gospel singer CeCe Winans during my recent conversation with her. Winans was reflecting back to an experience several years earlier when she performed on the Grammy Awards. Prior to her performance Winans and her husband Alvin Love had prayed that God would use those few minutes to impact the audience, the production crew and those hosting the event. She says some in the audience started to cry as she sang ‘I Surrender All’ and later in the evening numerous individuals approached her saying it took them back to a time when they had attended church. Others said something in the song touched their lives.
Winans says that night God reminded her, “That all I need you to do is be a willing vessel. I (God) know how to touch each heart.’ He knows everybody’s story. He just needs somebody that is going to be available and committed to Him. He will take that and do more than you could ever do in a lifetime.”
As well known as CeCe Winans has become by the Christian and non Christian communities and as talented as she is there has never been a doubt about her life of servitude. How could there be? As one of eight children born to David and Delores Winans in Detroit Michigan the role models were in front of her from an early age. Each Christmas the Winans family would gather and present a free Christmas concert as their present to the community. She says that the imprint has lasted a lifetime.
The Winans have always been a close knit family. I teased her about being a girl growing up with four older brothers and wondering if she had been spoiled or picked on. She responded by roaring with laughter before quietly talking about how special it was to grow up in a home like the one her parents had established.
The tight family bond took a heavy hit however in June of 2005 when her brother Ronald Winans passed away during heart surgery. The family considers it a miracle that Ronald was still alive in 2005 as eight years earlier the doctors discovered serious heart problems and during surgery emerged from the operating room to tell the family that Ronald’s heart had literally exploded on the operating table.
In 2005 Winans was on the set of Touched By An Angel when she received a phone call from her brother Marvin. She immediately left to be with her family and Ronald before he passed away.
She says of that day, “We weren’t expecting to lose him even though he had problems with his heart. He was a big strong guy. We were all in the room when Ronald passed. My father just began to praise God and said, ‘I raised you guys to love the Lord and to give your talent to God. Ronald loved God and he loved us so there is nothing more I could really ask for.’ We knew he had gone to heaven.” In a quietly reflective moment Winans says, “It is hard to explain but it really was joy in the midst of sorrow. It is that peace that passes all understanding. We are making it but I miss him.”
It was only a few months before her brother’s death Winans had finished recording her CD Purified. “When I was finished recording Purified last year I sent two of the songs from the CD “You Will” and “He’s Concerned” out to a couple of my friends who had lost loved ones. I knew it would bring them comfort. Little did I know I would lose a loved one.”
The chorus of the song “You Will” offers comfort and hope to those who have lost a loved one;
“And someday your broken heart will mend, I know it will And you will find your smile again, so take your time For time is what it’s going to take And then one morning you’ll awake and find there’s one less tear And you’ve healed, I believe you will.”
“The whole CD Purified took on a new meaning last year. I had never had lost a sibling and God knows I never want to lose another one. During those times you have to understand that God is with you, even when you lose somebody that you thought would be there all the time. Even when we don’t understand we have to know that God never makes a mistake and he always does what is best. A lot of the time we take things for granted and think the person is always going to be there,” says Winans. She says in losing Ronald, “You realize tomorrow is not promised. You need to love each other well. You need to love hard. You need to forgive and let go. We need to come together as a family. God created us to be together. Whenever you lose somebody life takes on another meaning.”
The boundaries of Purified extend far beyond Winans’ own life. The songs talk about pulling down walls and loving one another. “It is about getting rid of that ugly thing called racism,” she says. The songs on the album also speak about the importance of family and families demonstrating love to one another.
Whether she is singing the beautiful “He’s Concerned” or “Alabaster Box” and taking on the persona of Mary Magdalene there is no doubt that CeCe Winans is right where she belongs reaching others with the love of Christ. As an artist’s popularity increases there comes the temptation to lose perspective. When she visited Toronto Canada during the fall of 2005 the crowd lined up hours before the doors were open and the concert had been sold out weeks in advance. Winans however has never forgotten those seeds of humility and ministry that her parents sowed so long ago.
Those very same seeds have led Winans to establish the All Sister’s Tour which was first staged in Nashville last year and will take place once again in the southern city during August of 2006. The event targets girls thru the ages of fifteen and twenty-six. “We want it to be a multi racial conference. Last year when I looked out into the audience I saw a lot of different faces. That is what we want to establish,” says Winans. The organizers hope to meet or exceed last year’s attendance of seven hundred girls. In 2007 Winans anticipates the conference will tour several cities throughout the United States.
“We discuss topics (that include) living with AIDS, low self esteem, grooming and how to go out on interviews,” says Winans. She says for girls who may not have any apparent life challenges the ministry seeks to affirm self respect. “We really want to make a difference,” says Winans.
For as much as Winans is a very talented singer she is also a gifted speaker. I asked her whether or not she could ever see herself in the role of a preacher. Once again she burst out laughing before responding, “If the Lord wants me to walk down that road I would. I used to run from speaking and preaching. I don’t run from it anymore because I realize it is a responsibility of mine and every believer to preach. (We are) to proclaim the gospel. We cannot go into the closet when everybody else is coming out.”
Copyright © 2006 Growthtrac. Written by Joe Montague. Joe is an internationally published freelance journalist / photographer. Photo Credit Joe Montague, photo (right), from the Rhema concert.