Born June 29, 1950 in Minneapolis, Pastor Don Moen made inroad into global scene more than three decades ago through his inspiringly spiritual songs. The America-born gospel songster spoke with Gboyega Akinsanmi last week before he performed at the Experience, an annual interdenominational musical concert put together by Pastor Paul Adefarasin of the House on the Rock church
What was your impression about Nigeria before your first visit?
I was actually afraid of what the production would be like. I got several calls. Ron Kenoly called me. Pastor Paul Adefarasin called me when I was first invited to perform in Nigeria. I did not know we would be able to help the production. A lot of things were giving me concern about coming to West Africa. When I came in, our brother in the House of the Rock set a high degree of excellence.
I don't know if every person that comes to Nigeria has the same experience as I have. But House of the Rock has been so privileged. That is why when Pastor Paul Adefarasin asks me to do something, I do it because he gave me my first opportunity in Nigeria. It was so excellent, and he blew all my concerns and ideas away. I did not really expect the level of excellence I saw in the House on the Rock and Nigeria. That really touched me, and I was really blessed.
Now that you came and saw Nigeria from an entirely different perspective, what message are you taking back to the United States about the biggest black nation?
Nigeria is a country that got a bad name in the rest of the world. A lot of people that think somebody is going to trap you in Nigeria. Every country has people of questionable character. It is not peculiar to any country. But a lot of Nigerians are gifted to do whatever they can do. That is why it is important to come together to have the right experience.
That is why we are asking God to redeem Nigeria. That is why we are also asking God to guide Nigeria in her destiny. There are so many natural resources in Nigeria. A lot of Nigerians are so bright, well-trained and ever-ready to do the right things. It seems there is the existence of some resistance from the enemies to stop Nigeria from walking into her destiny. So, what I tell my people is: I have Nigerians that have been all over the world. It seems wherever they go, God's hands are upon them.
So, there is a purpose to redeem the destiny of Nigeria.
My part might be a small part. I keep coming to Nigeria because worship is a key to redeeming the destiny of any country. I want to see Nigeria redeem her name because some elements have earned this country bad name across the world. And I believe God is redeeming Nigeria. That is why I keep coming back to this country because a small group of people with wrong motive have been allowed to mar the image of Nigeria. I will do what I can do to change this country. Of course, worship is a key.
You have been singing all your life with enormous impact across the world. Did you go into gospel music by a definite call from God or as a career?
Yes, I got a specific call from God. It is a mere career, even though singing is my hobby. It was really amazing and unusual. It was through a night dream, specifically in 1981. I travelled with a team, but I never led worship. In the middle of the night, I saw somebody coming into my room and asked me to open my Bible to Psalm 40 verse 3. The verse says God "has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be astounded. They will put their trust in the Lord".
Before that time, I had been praying about music. I was trained a Gospel singer and skilled in playing violin and guitar as well. Yet, there was more that God wanted from me. I just knew that. I woke up in the night and somebody clearly said to me that "I have put a new song in your mouth and a song of praise, and many will see it and put their trust in the Lord". I opened my Bible and read therefrom. I understand that God was in the room talking to me.
I shared my encounter with my wife the next morning. I said to her something happened to me the previous night and I was there doing something, but I do not know what to do and how to do it. A couple of years later, specifically in 1983, for the first time, I led worship. It was a great thing. It was not because I was the best person. God indeed put something upon me. God really called me.
When you shared your encounter with your wife, did you really get her support? What was her response?
She gave her support absolutely. Initially, I shared this experience with a set of people in Nigeria. She too had an inkling of God's call upon my life through a dream she had. She narrated how she saw me standing before a large crowd ministering. She said she was standing behind. So, she always stands by me. She is my real friend. She is indeed my support. That is why I often take her to everywhere I go. I love having her with me. She is not a singer, but she supports me all the time. You cannot see her on stage. Yet she is somewhere worshipping like myself.
A number of people have listened to your songs globally and have different encounters. What kind of testimonies have you been receiving?
I have got a lot of testimonies from people across the world. I got testimonies every week. A lot of people have written letters testifying to what God did in their lives through some of the songs God gave me. I have a number of tremendous testimonies, especially with respect to my song titled: "God Will Make a Way". That is a song every person wants to listen to all the time. I have got a lot of testimonies of healing with a particular reference to another song titled: "I am thy God that Health Thee". I got a testimony of a woman who had a brain tumour and there was no hope. She began to worship while listening to my music and tumour disappeared. She went for x-ray, which showed that the brain tumour had completely gone. I get all kinds of stories all the time. And that is why I cannot do without worshipping God.
What was your life like before you met Jesus Christ and indeed before you went into gospel music?
I came to Jesus Christ as a young boy. I was 12 years old when I came to the Lord Jesus in a neighbourhood church. And God spoke to me through my Bible in Psalm 27 verse 4, which says "the one thing I ask of the Lord-the thing I seek most-is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord's perfections and meditating in his Temple". That was the 12-year-old boy in the light of the scripture.
Also, twenty five years later, I sang another song with a title: "I Just Want to Be Where You Are". I was already 37 years old then, and God has granted the desire of my heart as a young boy. Before I forget, I came to Christ through my pastor. His name is Richard Schaible. He was a low-key pastor, who was more interested in young people. He was like a father to me.
In church services, he always played guitar while worshipping. He did something that touched my heart when he invited me to come to the church. First, he became my friend. Then, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour. He was my role model. He was so low-key. He was so layback. He was not over-bearing at all. He was a great man. He died years ago, but his wife is still alive.
You have been coming to Nigeria for a while now and have seen clearly the state of the country. What message do you have for the country's leaders?
First of all, like I once said, it takes courage to make difference in leadership. The leaders in Nigeria are supposed to surround themselves with godly and trusted people. By so doing, they make huge difference. My prayers for the leadership of Nigeria and even the United States remain that God will bring godly people to rule the affairs of these countries. People with pure heart and pure love shall come to the reign of power. That is my prayer. I hope God will grant my prayers. You know hope is a powerful weapon. There is hope for Nigeria. Hope comes first; then faith follows. There is need to keep hope high and surround yourself with godly people.
Currently you are 62-years old. Can your share your greatest achievement with me in your years of gospel ministration?
My greatest achievement is no doubt what God has made out of me. God has made a husband and a father. I will be 40 years in the ministry next year. God gave me five children. God gave me a loving wife. Currently, I have one of my children with me on the band. Another one is presently on honeymoon. So, being a husband and a father is my greatest joy.