Twenty-three years ago, Winter Jam got its start as a one night only attempt to offer families an affordable event to experience live Christian music. What started out as a leap of faith from Newsong at the Memorial Auditorium in Greenville, SC has since turned into what is now consistently one of the biggest first quarter tours in the world. Although the venue size has increased, more dates have been added to the tour and equipment has been upgraded, God's hand in this ministry mission has remained constant. A few weeks ago, audio was released of an emotional phone call from a mother describing Winter Jam as a “life-changing” event for her 13-year-old son saying he is now “fired up for the Lord.” With that sentiment in mind, we sat down with GRAMMY-nominated tour creators and hosts, NewSong, as well as Winter Jam's Tour Pastor and author Bobby Joyner to explore further the impact of this truly spectacular tour.
Pastor Bobby shared with us a remarkable story of a mother of two young boys who received a life-saving phone call from a local radio station offering up Winter Jam tickets just as she had prepared a suicide note. "Her two little boys were looking up at her, and her husband was there, and she starts tearing up, and so do I. She said she had planned to kill herself last Thursday or Wednesday because she said she just had no hope. She said she had been on pain pills and had gotten hooked on those, but had gotten off those. She had written the note though and the afternoon that she had, a radio station called to tell her that her family had won Winter Jam tickets. She's now crying and her little boys started hugging their mother and the dad just had his head down. And they just had the best time. I told her to never dare think about taking her life again because God had done this for her and orchestrated the whole thing. And she said she agreed that this was nothing but a miracle."
Offering up another recent and emotional encounter with Winter Jam attendees from the night prior in Evansville, IN, Pastor Bobby recalled the healing that took place at Winter Jam following a deadly sledding accident. "Three weeks ago, two 16-year-olds had gone sledding at 10PM. One of the girls slid out into the road and was hit and died in her best friend's arms. So we got a letter through the NewSong office asking if I would host them and do something for them. And I told them I would love to. The girls were cheerleaders and Bible students and leaders in the school. And the mother of the girl who had her held her best friend as she died texted me to tell me that her daughter hadn't been out of the house more than twice since her best friend's death. So I told her I would have front row tickets to Winter Jam for her and her daughter, as well as the mother of the other girl . Well, sometimes they back out at the last second, but sure enough, they showed up. I took them with our radio winners, so they got a tour, went backstage, and got to meet some of the guys. And I knew this was going to be tough for the mother of the girl who had died, so I told her at before the music started, 'I know this is going to be tough. Your daughter is more alive than you or I. You do realize that?' And we both grabbed each other and cried. So I told her we would celebrate her daughter being alive. So I told Russ and he told some of the other artists, so all night long the artists would make sure to point to them. And at the end of the concert, they were still there."
A faith-filled Pastor Bobby remarked about the pure awe of seeing God move through this tour. "Week after week, things like this, it's just amazing!" Newsong's Russ Lee added that hearing stories like this make it all worthwhile. "When NewSong first started, their desire was ministry. They just knew God was calling them to do something that would bear fruit that remains, so anytime we get those stories, it’s meaningful. This year is different than past years because we’ve been getting those types of stories early on...We’ve been getting those stories and sometimes looking back we think of this as an exhausting experience, but this year has been amazing because we’ve already been hearing about how it impacts people’s lives. And that’s what makes WinterJam different. The star of WinterJam is the Lord, Jesus Christ. So to see Him glorified, and to see that relate in people’s lives and transform is what matters about what we do."
Check back later this week for our full interview with NewSong as well as sit downs with John Cooper of Skillet, Kari Jobe, Cody Carnes, Jordan Feliz and Dan Bremnes.