NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Lately God has been teaching Nicole C. Mullen about the importance of ordinary, everyday people. So much so that her upcoming album will consist of songs telling stories of the least that God has made greatest in the overall plan of His Kingdom.
“These are the stories that I want to represent in a song in order to say, ‘This is how the Lord has shown His face here,'” Mullen told Baptist Press in an interview during Gospel Music Week in late April in Nashville, Tenn.
“Even through Scripture I’m often reminded that God didn’t necessarily take the kings and the queens of the day to do great things. He took a shepherd boy to make him into a king to do something great or he took the orphan girl to make her into a queen to do something great. But they didn’t start out that way; they started out as ordinary, everyday people. The God that did that is the same yesterday, today and forever.”
Mullen, who won a Dove Award for Female Vocalist of the Year in 2002 and is known for such hits as “Redeemer” and “Call on Jesus,” said faith in Jesus Christ works in everyday life.
“It’s not just something that should work on Sunday while we’re in the pew at church worshiping,” she said. “But it’s supposed to work Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday too. How does that work? What does it look like in the life of a single mom? What does it look like in the life of a blind girl?”
Mullen attempts to show what that looks like in certain lives through her latest music.
“This album has a lot of different flavors” in portraying everyday people, Mullen, a native of Cincinnati, said. “Some of the ideas have come from conversations that I’ve had with people over the years — things that I’ve chewed on for a while — or events and situations that I’ve encountered or someone else’s story or just life.”
Mullen and her husband, David, recently returned from a trip to Kenya and Uganda with Compassion International, and there Mullen picked up more ideas of what ordinary people who are great in the Kingdom look like.
“I saw that we really are a part of the upside down kingdom, where the rich are poor and the poor are rich,” she said. “It’s so obvious that those that we show pity for being poor are a lot more wealthy than we are. They’ve seen the hand of God, where we don’t have a clue. They’ve seen Him provide when we’ve never seen Him provide. Their faith and their hope in Him is so strong. Their gratitude in the small things makes it so obvious that they’re richer.”
And because she believes so much in the potential of ordinary people to be used by God in marvelous ways, Mullen devotes herself to mentoring a group of young girls in her town. Each Wednesday Mullen leads the Baby Girls Club at New Hope Academy in Franklin, Tenn. The girls generally range in age from 5 to 17, she said, and everyone is welcome. The number of girls ranges from 20 to 50 each week.
“We meet for two hours, sometimes it’s three because we can’t get out of there,” she said. “We sing, we dance, we eat, we do crafts, we write songs. We have a talent show almost every week where if they have a talent like singing or poetry, we give them a little time to share. We give tips on being in front of people.”
Mullen said she enjoys encouraging young girls because she remembers what it was like to be not yet a woman but not a little girl anymore.
“There was a lady at our church named Cecilia, and I remember she would take me to her house sometimes and she would do my hair and speak into my life,” Mullen recounted. “She would encourage me or whatever it was. It wasn’t even like all the time but when she did it, it meant the world to me and I could live off those moments for a long, long time.”
Cecilia had the power to influence a young Mullen for good or for bad, though she may not have recognized it at the time. Fortunately, Cecilia chose to affirm Mullen and encourage her talents rather than speak negatively to her and snuff out any hope for the future.
“I made a vow back then that if there’s ever a time in life when girls look up to me the way I looked up to her, I want to be as thoughtful with their hearts as she was with mine,” Mullen told BP. “I thought, ‘If it’s ever my turn, I want to do it like Cecilia did it.'”
Now it is her turn, and Mullen seeks to be as transparent as possible with the girls in her care for a couple of hours each week.
“We talk about life and our struggles and how the God we serve helps us through these things,” she said. “I try to tell them that we haven’t mastered these things yet. We’re still just earthly vessels, but we have the One who has conquered everything who can help us conquer. And a lot of time it’s a daily fight, we have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”
Some of the girls in the Baby Girls Club come from strong church-going families, Mullen said, but others come “straight from the ‘hood.”
“We see it all. We have some girls who, the most they’ve done is probably lie to their mother, while other girls have police records,” she said. “But at the same time I can tell those girls, ‘You know what? You’ve done those things because that’s what you’ve seen done in life. But I’m here to tell you that’s not the right way. What you’ve done at this point is wrong. Is that all you know at this point? Yes, but God’s going to start holding you accountable because I’m about to tell you what you need to do.'”
Mullen and her helpers teach the girls real-life lessons like how to forgive a friend at school when punching the friend would seem more natural. The club’s motto is 1 Timothy 4:12, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.” They even sing a song about what it means to be an example at such a young age.
“I tell the girls, ‘When you all are here, I’m not looking down on you. I’m looking up to you. You’ve got to step up to the plate and set an example. Do you have to be perfect? No. But you do have to try,'” Mullen said. “Some of them are getting it, slowly but surely. I pray for my girls all the time, that they would have hope in their heart and have a personal encounter with God.”
And by putting so much effort into young lives, Mullen may just be God’s instrument to help equip ordinary people for extraordinary Kingdom tasks.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: BELIEVING IN ORDINARY PEOPLE.