Christian music artist Ryan Stevenson will headline the Bland Ministry Center’s annual Bear Jam concert Saturday at the Appalachian Regional Exposition Center. And, thankfully, he will have enough equipment to put on an entertaining show.
He couldn’t say that a few weeks ago when he and his band woke up after wrapping up their West Coast tour to find that their van and trailer had been stolen from a hotel parking lot as they slept.
“We lost literally everything, and none of our insurances are covering the loss,” he wrote on social media.
Stevenson’s home church in Boise, Idaho, came to the rescue with an online giving campaign, and in five days band members had enough money to replace their equipment.
“We’ve had some people asking about it, but he is definitely still coming,” said Susan Keene project coordinator for the ministry center. “It will still go off without a hitch. He’s coming, and he’ll have what he needs; it’s good.”
She said that the concert’s promotion company, SRO Productions out of Roanoke, is helping round up any equipment that the band has not procured before the concert.
Keene said organizers are excited to hold the concert in the APEX Center this year, especially since rain is in the weather forecast. Since the first Bear Jam in 2015, the concert has been held at the Bland County High School football field. But because of weather closings this year, school officials could not guarantee the football field would be available for the concert in case it was needed for graduation.
So the center opted for the APEX Center.
“We were over there this morning and met with them, and we are so excited,” Keene said. “The management crew is so good to work with.”
She said the center left the tarp on the floor that was used for the George Wythe High School graduation so audience members can bring chairs to sit on the floor or opt for the stadium seats inside the center.
The stage will be on the floor.
“If you are looking at it like a football field, the stage will be on the sideline,” she said.
In addition to headliner Stevenson, other Bear Jam performers include Caitie Hurst and Marion’s Forsaken Hero. Stevenson’s hits include “Eye of the Storm,” “The Gospel” and “No Matter What.” His music blends influences from soul, pop and some of the great guitarists to create engaging, acoustic guitar driven melodies. He embraces the idea that some of the most profound moments of worship emerge from difficult, even catastrophic, circumstances.
“We’re all just people, and we all face storms,” Stevenson said in a press release. “Even when it feels like we are lost at sea for months at a time, we’re never forgotten. God is inside every storm we face.”
His song, “Eye of the Storm,” is an ode to the tangible evidence of God at work in the midst of darkness.
Before his musical career, Stevenson worked as a paramedic.
“As soon as I started the paramedic phase of my life, the Lord began conditioning me, opening up my eyes to the reality and fragility of humanity,” he said. “That job totally changed me. But about six years in, it started wearing on me. I knew I needed to figure out a way to make my living through music. I prayed for God to show me how or to help me let go of my clinching grip of these dreams.”
Help came like a bolt of lightning – literally.
Soon after his prayer, Stevenson revived a woman who had been hit by lightning. A year later, the woman reconnected with Stevenson and they became friends. Although not a believer herself, she funded his first project.
Unfortunately, his first record deal fell through.
“I was devastated,” he said in the press release. “It was a pinnacle moment in my life. My mom had just died of bone cancer and my wife had miscarried our twins. I fell apart. But that day, I had a massive encounter with the Holy Spirit. I was sitting on a dock at a lake and could hear this still, small voice saying, ‘I’m so glad we’re here today. Don’t you remember what you prayed for? You’ve been praying to see My heart. I’m trying to show you. I’m not causing these things to happen, but I can cause all of them to work together for good. I haven’t forgotten about you.’ In that moment, I knew I wasn’t supposed to quit.”
Tickets for Bear Jam 2019 are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. To purchase tickets, visit www.itickets.com. Concessions will be for sale from APEX Center vendors Sliders & More, Pigalicious and CJ’s Pizza.
The APEX Center is located at 290 Ready Mix Road, just off of Exit 77 in Wythe County. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. There is a free kids zone from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Forsaken Hero will take the stage at 6:30 p.m.
To reach Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 35, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.