CLEVELAND, Tenn. (BP)–When Christian musical artist and minister Bebo Norman wants to get away from the busyness of life, he loads up his Wavesport kayak and drives up Interstate 75 from Atlanta to the roaring rapids of east Tennessee’s Ocoee River.
Home of the 1996 Olympic Games’ whitewater course, more than 200,000 rafting enthusiasts maneuver through the churning waters of the Ocoee each year.
Norman, along with Third Day bass player Tai Anderson, joined the TruthQuest: California team for a July 6 trip down the Ocoee. The rafting trip was filmed for FamilyNet Television and will be aired as a segment of the TQ series scheduled to begin in October.
Norman established a consistent following nationwide through several years of touring as an independent artist before releasing his first label project “Ten Thousand Days” in 1999.
Following his critically acclaimed debut, Norman’s sophomore release “Big Blue Sky” was ranked No. 1 on Amazon.com’s list of the 10 Best Christian & Gospel CDs of 2001. After wrapping up as guest performer on Third Day’s “Come Together” tour this past spring, Norman readies for the release of his latest album, “Myself When I Am Real,” Sept. 10.
Not only does Norman like to raft the rivers of America for relaxation, he also finds ministry opportunities along the river’s banks.
“I love kayaking, I love people and I love the Lord,” Norman told Baptist Press. “And it’s great to be able to do all three on the river. I really wished I had started kayaking earlier in life.”
The 29-year-old musician learned to kayak three years ago with his tour manager, Kirk Dahlgren. Dahlgren accompanied Norman and Anderson on their TruthQuest trip.
“Kirk used to guide on a river out in California and he taught me how to kayak,” Norman said. “Now it’s become an obsession. It really keeps my brain free and it’s a very quick escape.”
Norman said he’s always been passionate about the outdoors, whether it’s camping, backpacking or fishing.
“Nature shows me who God is and how he created this incredible world for us to enjoy,” Norman said. “It’s amazing how peaceful it is out here.”
It also reminds Norman of how big God is and how small he is. “If my faith is ever tested, I can stand outside and see what God has made for us and see who he is,” Norman said.
“Having fun in God’s creation is a very intimate way that I’m reminded of who God is,” he said.
Norman said he’s found plenty of witnessing opportunities along the way. After the end of each kayaking run, Norman hitchhikes back to his car, providing for spiritual discussions along the way.
“Out here, there is a common respect for creation among both Christian and non-Christian outdoor folks,” he said. “It’s an absolute common ground.”
And even though he earns a living recording and performing Christian music, it’s fairly common for Norman to give away copies of his CDs to non-believers.
“They are always intrigued that I’m a musician,” he said. “It provides a great opportunity to share Jesus.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: ON THE RIVER and TRUTHQUEST ADVENTURE.