Have you ever stopped to think about Heaven? It is a place where there is no sickness, no pain, and no death. In Heaven there is perfect peace without the worries of this world. It is hard to imagine, isn’t it? In April of 2001, Danny Gaither left this world and joined many other Southern Gospel Music legends in Heaven. Although we will miss these legends greatly, they are “Singing in the Heavenly Choir.”
After a five-year battle with lymphoma, Danny Gaither joined the Heavenly choir on April 6, 2001. Although he will be greatly missed by his parents, George and Lela Gaither, his wife, Vonnie, and his three children, Nicholas, Mitchell, and Trina, he is safe in the arms of Jesus.
Danny traveled and sang with the Gaither Trio for thirty years. Danny also served as driver and mechanic while on the road with the Trio. At one time, he also served as Worship Leader of Chesterfield Community Church of God. His travels took him all across the country and he was loved and admired by millions. My fondest memory of Danny is a time that his brother Bill called on Danny to sing after Danny had been ill and off the road. Danny sang, “Since I started, for the Kingdom. Since my life, he controls...the longer I serve Him, the sweeter he grows.” There was a sweet, sweet spirit that surrounded the auditorium and continued to flow through my television. Now Danny is living in the Kingdom about which he was singing.
"What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see. When He takes me by the hand...." These were the last words of a young boy who grew up in Texas. Most of his life he wanted to sing for the glory of God and he continues his dream even today. The only difference now is that he can see the One that he is singing about. Glen Payne was seventy-two years old when he crossed over Jordan on October 15, 1999, after a battle with cancer.
Glen had a marvelous testimony to go along with his kind and gentle personality. He was quoted once as saying, “The more services I was a part of, the more Sunday school classes I attended, and the more I spoke with Rex Humbard, the more convinced I became that what I was looking for in life was not a chance to sing gospel music, but an opportunity to let God use Gospel Music to bring people to him.”
Although he is no longer with all of the ones that love him and the ones that he loved, his memory remains. His laughter, tears, and the impression that he had on millions of lives around the world will live on. He is singing in that Heavenly choir with all of the others who have crossed over Jordan.
Rex Nelon is another legend that has gone home. He passed away on January 23, 2000, at the age of sixty-eight. Rex and his wife Judy were in London appearing with the Gaither Homecoming Tour. Rex Nelon was one of the greatest Bass Singers in the history of Southern Gospel music. When we lose someone like Rex, we lose more than a low voice or a face on a video. We lose a kind and gentle man who was also a husband, a father, and a grandfather.
Born on January 19, 1932, just north of Asheville, NC, Rex Nelon first became acquainted with Southern Gospel through the radio. Rex was quoted as saying, "Everything I have in this world, I owe to Gospel Music. I never tried very much else, and what I did try, I wasn't very good at. I'm not very good at this, but I am happy! What more could I ask for? I'd do it all over again. I'd never give up living for Him for what the world's giving. You betcha. I'd do it all over again.”
As the old expression states, Wendy Bagwell wore many hats. He was a United States Marine during World War II and they decorated him twice for bravery. Following the war, he was a furniture auctioneer and he even owned his own furniture store in North Georgia. In the late 1950's, Wendy started his own trio. Over the years, Wendy Bagwell & The Sunliters earned international acclaim for their many songs, stories, and success. On top of these responsibilities and successes, Wendy was also an official spokesperson for Standback Headache Powder. Still, the best thing about Wendy was not his awards, his accomplishments, or even his funny stories. The best quality about Wendy was his love for the Lord. He did not let all of his success block his view to the cross and his love for the Master came first.
Having a Grammy and a Gold Record will not get you into Heaven, but serving God, spreading God’s word to the world, and knowing that he is your Savior will. I believe that this is the kind of testimony that Wendy Bagwell had. Wendy Bagwell passed away in June of 1996. However, I know that I will see Wendy again one day and you will too if you know Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Won’t it be great to hear Wendy tell one of his stories or hear him say, “That’s a fact with my hand up?” I hope we are all there sharing those joyful and happy times together, singing God’s praise, and of course, laughing.
Another member of the Heavenly choir is Brock Speer. His life was filled with many trials and victories. Yet the greatest victory of all occurred in March of 1999, at Baptist Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. This is when Brock Speer went home to be with Jesus. For seventy-eight years, Brock encouraged millions of people through his ministry with the Speer Family. No matter who you were, Brock was a gentleman and would take the time to share your thoughts. Now, his legend lives on.
Brock was respected by all and loved by millions. He stood up for what he believed in and he was always there to lend a helping hand or sing your Speer Family Favorite. One of my favorites would be the Mosie Lister Classic, “While the Ages Roll.” I can hear Brock singing in the Heavenly choir right now. ”While the ages roll I'll keep on praising him, And my voice will never tire or grow old. And my song shall ever be praise the Lamb who died for me. And I'll sing it while ages shall roll."
I believe that Danny Gaither, Glen Payne, Rex Nelon, Wendy Bagwell, and Brock Speer contributed to Southern Gospel Music in their own special ways. We should always remember them for their kindness toward others that reflected the love of Jesus Christ. If a tear swells up in your eye as you think of the memories of these legends, keep in mind that Danny, Glen, Rex, Wendy, and Brock are “Singing in the Heavenly Choir.”
What about you? When your time comes and you arrive at Heaven’s gates, will you leave this kind of testimony? Will you join the Heavenly choir and hear our Saviour say “Well done?” If you are unsure of the answers to these questions, I want to personally invite you to read “The Priceless Corner.” A relationship with Jesus Christ is truly priceless.