By Sandi Duncan Clark
In 1957, life was more relaxed, things moved a little slower and almost everyone went to church on Sundays and for revivals. This was especially true in the south. That spring, Joel Hemphill met the love of his life, LaBreeska Rogers at a church revival in West Monroe, Louisiana and it didn’t take long for him to make her his wife. The young couple began a lifetime of ministry and they have been sweethearts and partners in ministry for more than fifty three years.
Music played a major role in the life of young Joel Hemphill, the son and grandson of ministers of the Gospel. LaBreeska was part of the famous Goodman family, and when she was nine years old, she sang at the Ryman Auditorium with the Goodmans. Immediately following their marriage, the happy couple began singing together in their home church and for revivals around the area.
When the three Hemphill children came along, they joined the family’s music ministry, forming one of the premier family groups in Southern Gospel music. Joey was only ten when he joined his Mom and Dad on stage playing drums. Trent followed at age fourteen, playing bass guitar. Candy soon joined in and with her strong soprano, she quickly became a featured voice in the group. Her first recorded song with the family was “I Came On Business For The King,” written by her father.
The Hemphills were traveling extensively then, and decided to move Nashville, Tennessee, to be more centrally located. Their music was original, written by Joel, and their close family harmony and exciting band found them much in demand by concert promoters and church pastors. Their many top-charting songs were penned by Joel, and at the same time, the children were honing their song writing craft.
The Hemphills had many number one songs in the industry charts over the years. Joel’s songs were sought after by every artist planning studio time for a new recording. The Goodmans, the first professional group to record Joel’s music, (“Pity The Man,” “He Filled A Longing,” “I Found A Better Way,” etc.), The Blackwoods, The Speer Family, The Gaithers, The Florida Boys and The Cathedrals all recorded songs written by Joel Hemphill.
In 1990, the Hemphill children chose to develop their individual ministries, and once again, as in 1957, Joel and LaBreeska Hemphill were two sweethearts in the ministry. Singing and preaching dates filled their calendar, yet God chose to change their direction.
Joel had successful surgery for colon cancer, yet the enemy launched a battle of clinical depression and for two years, Joel faced debilitating days, for the most part being home-bound, often bed-ridden. On November 8, 1992, his home church anointed Joel and prayed for his healing. From that day till this, Joel and his doctors agree the healing miracle came for God.
Joel and LaBreeska became even more excited about the Lord and pursuing the ministry. Joel’s sermons had new meaning, and where he had not written a new song in over two years, he received two new songs from the Lord on that Sunday, and six new songs the following week.
LaBreeska wrote a book about that dry spell in their ministry, titled, “Partners In Emotion.” She shares that although Joel was the one suffering from the trauma, she and the entire family were greatly impacted. When asked how Joel’s illness and depression affected her, LaBreeska shared, “It hit me in the pit of my stomach. I have prayer time very early every morning and I just talked to God about it. I prayed throughout that battle and was able to be the strength Joel needed to get through till the healing came.”
In October of 2010, Joel experienced a new health issue. He tells the story, “The doctors found cancerous tumors in my bladder, and did two surgeries to remove them. I completed six chemotherapy treatments and will return to the doctor on February 1st for a biopsy,” Joel said. “Unlike my first battle with cancer, I have no depression and no doubt that this is another avenue added to our ministry, whereby we can testify to God’s amazing grace and healing.”
Joel has written several insightful books dealing with Biblical doctrine. His most recent book, “GLORY TO GOD, IN THE HIGHEST,” strips the teachings of many Roman and Greek philosophies from the Christian doctrine, and presents Joel’s research into those influences.
Joel and LaBreeska continue to minister, both with preaching and singing. They find joy in presenting the Gospel as “Sweethearts for a Lifetime,” and as an evangelistic team, “Partners in Ministry,” ironically, the title of one of their recordings!
And to quote LaBreeska Hemphill, the beautiful wife of Joel Hemphill, as she laughingly states, “More correctly, we’re the Sweethearts of the Geritol Generation!”
Contact information: Joel & LaBreeska Hemphill , P.O. Box 656, Joelton, TN 37080-0656,(615) 299-0848 (Office Phone,) (615) 299-0849 (Office Fax,) Joel and Labreeska E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Sandi Duncan Clark
First published February 2011 by SGN Scoops Digital Magazine
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