LIMA – While praying for his 12- and 16-year-old daughters, Phillip Morton was inspired to have an event for the entire community to get together for prayer, a gospel music competition and fellowship. That idea will culminate in the Lima Community Gospel Explosion Talent Showcase next Saturday, starting at 8 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Civic Center.
“The vision just came that we really need to pull together, not just one denomination, but the whole city,” he said.
Morton, correctional program coordinator at the Allen Oakwood Correctional Institution, started sharing his idea, and soon others got involved.
“There have been many people who came before me and left a legacy of serving Christ. They inspired me to do this,” said Morton. “As faith would have it, I went to get my oil changed and started talking to Tom Ahl, and it just sort of took off from there.”
A committee of about a dozen people came together to iron out the logistics. They met frequently over the past two months to organize the details.
The event will start with a prayer walk at 8 a.m. Buses will take people to three different locations, including St. Gerard Catholic Church, Lima Memorial Health System, Market Street Presbyterian Church, and the corner of Main and First streets. Participants will then walk back to the Civic Center while praying for the Lima area and its leaders.
When the groups return, a free breakfast sponsored by the Old Barn Out Back will start at 9:45 a.m.
“The breakfast will be free, but we will be taking donations,” said Morton. “Those donations will go to Meals ‘til Monday and the Lima reduced lunch program. There will be a table for pastors and community leaders, too.”
At 12:30 p.m. the music competition will start. Area gospel bands will be competing throughout the afternoon. The deadline for band entrees is Tuesday. Bands must be affiliated with a church and send in a sample of their music to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Originally, we thought we’d have a $10 charge,” explained Morton, “but we had many businesses and individuals step up to cover all of the expenses, including the prize money. Now we can offer the entire day free of charge.”
Even the band entrance fee is now being waived because of the tremendous community support. Monetary prizes will be given to both the top three adult bands and the top three youth bands. The first place adult band will win $1,500, second place $1,000, and third place $500. The first place youth band will win $500, second place $250, and third place $100.
“We have so much talent throughout Lima, we don’t need to go outside to provide great music,” said Morton. “The reason I wanted to include music is that I grew up going to church. I didn’t always listen to the pastor’s sermon, but I sure listened to what the choir was saying.”
While the band competition is free, Morton said that donations are welcome. Attendees are being asked to bring two canned goods to donate to the West Ohio Food Bank. All monetary donations will go toward the National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice mentorship program for area at-risk youth and the Bonita Haynes Scholarship fund.
“The Bonita Haynes Scholarship honors Bonita Haynes, who was killed in the line of duty,” said Morton. “Every August we have a golf outing to raise funds for at least one $500 scholarship, but the last two years, we raised enough to pass out two scholarships.”
At around 4:30 p.m., the awards will be passed out by judges. The judges include Crystal Sellers Battle, director of Bluffton University’s gospel choir; Nicole Carter of Lady Extreme Gospel; Editha Crowdus, singer and songwriter; and Darrel Graves, National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice state president.
The day will end with an ice cream social sponsored by Tom Ahl at 5 p.m. Morton is hoping that a lot of people will turn out to show unity and support for the Lima area.
“It’s such an honor and blessing that I have established relationships with the people on this committee,” he said. “They put in the hard work and saw the vision. We also had people jumping on board and God used many people to meet the needs. Tom Ahl, Rays, Old Barn Out Back, Superior Credit Union, DeHavens, Subway – I hope I’m not leaving anyone out – all these businesses plus individuals really stepped up to help.”
Morton’s hope is that when people leave on Saturday evening they will have a renewed sense of knowing that prayer is powerful and unity is important.
“I want people to understand the power of prayer,” he said. “I want them to continue to pray for the city, to look for the good here, to buy local, but, more than that, to pray locally together.”