CHARLESTON, Maine — Christian singer-songwriter Matthew West will bring his concert tour, An Evening of Stories and Songs to Charleston Pentecostal Church, 185 Main Road. at 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 15.
West, 44, of Nashville, Tenn., will encourage concertgoers to pack empty shoe boxes that will be distributed during the show with small toys, hygiene items and school supplies for needy children around the world through Operation Christmas Child.
West has hand-delivered gifts to children living in the slums of Bogota, Colombia, as well as in the most remote places of Panama, according to a recent press release issued by the church. He was inspired by the project’s commitment to reaching the world’s neediest children to ask others to join the effort.
“Operation Christmas Child is going to great lengths to reach these children, to find these children and show them love through these shoe boxes,” he stated. “And to me, I felt like God was saying, ‘That’s just a glimpse of the great lengths I go to to search out each and every heart, each and every soul, and let them know that they are loved.’”
Saturday’s concert will include songs from his album, “The Story of Your Life,” released late last year. Instead of writing songs from his own experience, West asked fans to tell him their stories, according to information about the album on his website at matthewwest.com. He began collecting the stories in February 2010 and spent the next two months in a cabin outside Nashville composing. In the first two days alone, he received 1,000 responses.
“I’d be at the cabin and my manager would bring me a shipment and would just dump these stacks and stack of paper,” West said of the 10,000 stories he received from around the world. “I would sit in this cabin and read these stories. I had a big dry erase board and I would write down ideas.”
The stories people shared with West were personal and outlined the greatest challenges and trials they had ever faced including life-threatening illnesses, divorce, the loss of loved ones, abuse they had endured and the addictions with which they were dealing. The many stories of abuse, physical and sexual, sent to him by women made West sad and angry.
“I’m a dad, a father of two little girls, and I found myself getting angry and asking, ‘What kind of a world do we live in?’” he said. “These people are sitting in church and these people are at my concerts and they’ve got this part of their past that is not their fault, but yet they carry it with them their whole lives and they don’t feel like they have anyone to talk to.
“I found myself writing songs out of a different emotions than I’ve ever had,” he continued. “‘Broken Girl’ is inspired by all of those stories and I wrote it really out of anger. You can hear the anger in the song, in the chords, the melody. When I sang it in the studio, I could feel how upset I was writing that song.”
Many of the things people wrote to West about involved family strife and dysfunction. “Family Tree” was inspired by a girl identified in the liner notes to the album as Rebecca. As her gay father was dying, his male partner told Rebecca her legacy was the strife, anger and bitter arguing of her mother and father.
In her letter to West, Rebecca of Tampa, Fla., said she heard God speak to her heart.
“‘No, that is not your legacy,’” she recalled hearing. “‘You have my legacy because you are my child.’”
“That truth, made all the difference then, now and for eternity,” West said of his song, “Family Tree.” “To me, that’s one of the most defining moments on the record.”
West closes the album with “The Healing Has Begun,” which ends with the lyrics: “Just lift your eyes, and lay it down. What once was lost, has now been found. There’s a world full of people dying from broken hearts, holding on to their guilty, thinking they fell too far. So, don’t be afraid to show ‘em your beautiful scars, ‘cause they’re the proof. Yeah, you’re the proof.”
The book, “The Story of Your Life: Inspiring Stories of God at Work in People Just Like You,” was released last month. It is a collection of many of the stories people sent West that could not be included in the album.
Jonny Diaz, a 26-year-old native Floridian called from baseball to Christian music, is touring with West.
Tickets for the concert are $40 and $20. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit mathewwest.com/tour.