Blind since birth and small in stature, Marlana VanHooseâ€™s powerful voice blesses many
By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com
It was more than fitting when Marlana VanHoose told me the first concert she ever attended was one by The Oak Ridge Boys.
â€œI was three years old,â€ she says before breaking into â€œElvira, Elvira!â€ as we sat in a Lexington restaurant. I didnâ€™t know she sang the legendary groupâ€™s most famous hit but I knew the 23-year-old singer could deliver a rousing version of a song the Oaks are also known for today.
The National Anthem.
Marlana, who was born with a condition known as cytomegalovirus (CMV) and has been blind from birth, burst on the scene after singing The National Anthem at a University of Kentucky womenâ€™s basketball game in 2012. The performance was posted on YouTube and since that time, Marlana has been in demand to perform â€œThe Star-Spangled Bannerâ€ at various events across the country. Sheâ€™s sung at Kentucky Wildcat basketball games and at various Major League Baseball and NFL games. She was also asked to sing in Cleveland during the NBA Finals between the Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors.
Sheâ€™s even sung with President Donald Trump in attendance and has given the President some sound advice.
More on that later.
(According to the Center for Disease Control website,Â www.cdc.gov, CMV is a common virus that affects people of all ages. The website says, â€œOver half of adults by age 40 have been infected with CMV. Most people infected with CMV show no signs or symptoms. When a baby is born with cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection, it is called congenital CMV. About one out of every 200 babies is born with congenital CMV infection. Â About one in five babies with congenital CMV infection will have long-term health problems.â€)
It became apparent soon after she was born that Marlana would be one of those â€œone in five.â€ When she was just a few weeks old, it was determined that she was blind as her optic nerve had not formed. The prognosis for living past one year old was not good, but she made it only to be diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy at age two.
Marlana is also very small in stature, causing many to think she is a pre-teen or in her early teens rather than a young woman in her 20s. But her ministry of one of a powerful voice, a powerful testimony and a mature knowledge of Godâ€™s word that overcomes any disability.
The blindness was a shock to Marlanaâ€™s parents, David and Teresa VanHoose, who live near Paintsville, Ky. â€œIt was terrifying,â€ David says of the diagnosis of blindness. â€œIt was scary. I had never been around anyone who was blind.â€
But it wasnâ€™t long before Marlanaâ€™s family knew she was going to be a blessing.
â€œShe was rolling on the floor and humming â€˜Jesus Loves Me,â€™â€ Teresa says. At age two, she was putting notes together to play melodies on a piano.
Marlana was living the words engraved on her necklace the day we met: â€œNever, never, never give up.â€
Even if she only sang The National Anthem, Marlana would be an incredible inspiration. But her burning desire is to use her voice â€” and her life story â€” to lead people to Jesus Christ.
â€œGod gave me this gift,â€ Marlana says, â€œand music is my passion. God called me to sing and he made me special for a reason. He made me little with a big voice.â€
The seeds of Marlanaâ€™s ministry were sewn when her great aunt started taking her to church when she was three. She also spent much time with her great-grandparents, with whom she sang many of the old gospel hymns. David, who worked for the federal prison system, and Teresa, a special education teacher, were not attending church at the time, but that soon changed.
â€œShe reinforced my faith,â€ David says with tears welling in his eyes.
â€œI was saved because of her,â€ Teresa adds, but Marlana quickly clarifies what her mother said.
â€œI didnâ€™t save her. Jesus did,â€ Marlana says.
Itâ€™s a ready answer from a young lady who is blessed by God and blesses people. And make no mistake, sheâ€™s a huge fan of gospel music, citing singer Shirley Caesar as a favorite. Marlana has sung with The Crabb Family and met Bill Gaither.As we talked for the better part of an hour, it became obvious that Marlana believes God continues to direct her ministry. She says she loves being blind because God made her that way and she wants to stay that way. Remember that she learned to put melodies together on a piano at age two? She eventually learned to form chords and now plays the piano or a keyboard to accompany herself in concerts. It prompted nationally-known journalist Maria Shriver to ask Marlana if she was self-taught. Marlana answered, â€œNo, Iâ€™m God-taught.â€
â€œBill, heâ€™s pretty nice and pretty funny,â€ Marlana remembers.
She says she loves being blind because God made her that way and she wants to stay that way until she gets to Heaven. â€œThe first face I will see will be Jesus,â€ she says.
And as we talked about her upcoming concert at Graefenburg Christian Church, Marlana said, â€œI am excited to be able to sing at your church.â€
But that brings us full circle to Marlanaâ€™s rendition of The National Anthem. She loves her country and has been featured at many military events. She says she would eventually like to schedule an event to be held near the Pentagon on the Fourth of July. â€œI would like to involve all kinds of churches as one nation,â€ she says.
It comes back to the advice she gave President Trump when she met him in 2017.
Marlana remembers the moment, â€œI told him Jesus Christ and Godâ€™s Word are what will make America great again.â€
For other appearances by Marlana VanHoose, seeÂ www.littlemarlana.com. Â We will also post her appearances in Kentucky and surrounding states on the calendar at KentuckySings.com
By John Herndon
First published by Kentucky Sings! on June 6th, 2019
John Herndon is a regular contributor to SGNScoops Magazine
John Herndon is a writer for SGNScoops Magazine and also has a website called KentuckySings. John is a Kentucky native who was raised listening to gospel music. As a child, the Sunday morning routine always included the Gospel Singing Jubilee and his summers were filled with all-day-singings-and-dinner-on-the-ground listening to local groups just about every Sunday. He remembers seeing The Prophets at his county fair when he was seven years old and eventually, he became a huge fan of The Oak Ridge Boys, The Imperials and J.D. Sumner and the Stamps. John spent 20 years in the located ministry and during this time, he began writing local sports for The Anderson News in Lawrenceburg, Ky. For the last 16 years, he has been the full-time sports editor of that paper. John has won over 100 awards from the Kentucky Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and Landmark Community Newspapers. He loves listening to gospel music or playing one of his guitars. John lives in Lawrenceburg with his wife, Stephanie, and 17-year-old daughter. He has three grown children and four grandchildren.
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