Thursday, February 03, 2011

farm girl to Phoenix

Do you want to hear how a farm girl from Wisconsin ends up in Phoenix, AZ in 1977?
Well, I recently posted my story on the new Hand in Hand blog. Hand in Hand was a concert ministry in Phoenix that God used powerfully to bring many to Christ back in the 70's. We are having a Hand in Hand reunion in April and have asked those that were involved back then to submit their stories to be posted on the Hand in Hand blog.

This is my story.

"So what's Hand in Hand?" I asked.
“Well, it’s a place where kids go and hear bands and sit on the floor and then someone shares the gospel”.
My friend Linda had heard about Hand in Hand the year before and had high hopes that we would sing there some Saturday night.
She also said we’d be going there that first Saturday night upon arriving in Phoenix.
Well, she might as well have said we’d be going out for Mexican food when we arrived, (which we did, by the way- cheese crisps at Don Jose’s on Thomas) because seriously, I had no idea what she was talking about. It was 1977 for crying out loud. I was not familiar with Christian music… or Mexican food.
I was a Norwegian farm girl from Wisconsin, in a two-door Opel, with all my worldly possessions, on my way to Phoenix with my best friend. The other Linda Larson.

Let me back up a bit.
Linda & I grew up in the same farming community in Wisconsin. Linda was two years older. We went to the same school, both cheerleaders and played on the same fast-pitch softball team. And we had the same first and last name.

But after Linda graduated from high school in '73, our paths took a drastic change.
Linda took a walk on the wild side. I started my walk with Jesus.

Linda eventually ended up in Phoenix and wrote me a letter that blew me away. She had found Jesus and she was on fire! God had done a miracle in her life. She was coming home for the summer and she wanted me to think about coming back to Phoenix with her in the fall.

Well, long story short, Linda came home and we began to sing and write music together. We sang everywhere we could. And we spent hours together, forging a spiritual friendship that would prove foundational in my resolve to “deny myself, take up my cross and follow Jesus (and Linda) to Phoenix.”  And I can honestly say that I have never been more sure of anything in my entire life.

Linda and I sang at our little Lutheran church that beautiful September morning in 1977. And yes, that's Linda & I wearing the matching denim outfits that I made from old blue jeans... just moments before hugging our family and friends goodbye and embarking on a journey of faith that would rock my world. We had 2 cassettes on board... 2nd Chapter of Acts and Keith Green. I had never heard such music. It would change my life.

We immediately found a furnished apartment. The next day we bought brand newTakamine guitars from DC Seville at Melano’s Music... who, unbeknownst to us, would be our record producer 6 months later. Then while trying to find Hand in Hand, we got lost and ended up at another Sat. night concert venue at People’s Church in Scottsdale, where we met Don Burchfield who was also a concert promoter. We sang for him two days later and he immediately booked us to open for Barry McGuire.

When we, Linda Larson & Friend weren’t singing somewhere, we were attending Hand in Hand. And yes, we were major groupies. We loved the bands, the ambiance and the sweet sense of family.
And all the while we were trying to get an audition so we could sing there someday.

Well, it was at that Barry McGuire concert months later that the guy who did the auditioning for Hand in Hand, came up to us and said he'd put us on the schedule. And it was at that very first Hand in Hand concert that I met my future husband. Yes, we were scheduled to open for Randy Thompson! 
Think about it, that very first week in Phoenix literally set the stage, pardon the pun, but literally set the stage for me to meet my future husband at that very first Hand in Hand concert 6 months later! Still blows my mind!

And the only reason Randy asked for my phone number that night… Linda and I were in the studio recording "Quiet Times" and he wanted to get some studio info. So when he called, he sorta accidently asked me out. Which can be rather confusing when you consider that Linda and I had the same first and last name... so thankfully he thought to ask for the Linda Larson that was not engaged. haha!

Anyway, that’s how I heard about Hand in Hand. And it would change my life. I would experience God using me in ways I never thought possible.

*** So excited for the reunion, because Linda & I will be reunited and singing some of our music from back in the day. That will make for a memorable weekend and I will be sure to blog about it!


Dianna said...

That is an amazing story. It reminds me of the country song "The Broken Road" by Rascal Flatts. ("God blessed the broken road that led me straight to you.")
Are you still in touch with the other Linda?


Laura Ingalls Gunn said...

What a wonderful story Linda!

I wanted to let you know that I am currently organizing a Bloggers Tea for March 26th.
All the details are on my current blog post.
You are welcome to grab the button and spread the word.

I hope that you can make it. It should be a fun day.

Cindy (Applestone Cottage) said...

What a cool and amazing story Linda!
You were one brave girl to just head to AZ. and never look back!
And it worked out beautifully for you!
Hugs friend,

Judi said...

How fun to read your Hand in Hand story! I never got to hear you play. I went to HiH in high school but my attendance trailed off after that, which was right about the time you must have played. I started attending ODF, though, in 1978 and still remember my friend, Pam, and me being invited over to the 11th Way house for Thanksgiving. You must have gone home to Wisconsin but that's where I first met Randy, at Gracie's house. (I'm sure he wouldn't remember.) Fun memories of days LONG ago!