Bridge to A New Life
Sitting in a restaurant just south of Nashville eating a healthy lunch of grilled chicken and veggies, Candy Christmas doesn’t look much different than the fresh-faced teen who grew up singing southern gospel music with her family, The Hemphills. However, Candy will be the first to admit that girl doesn’t exist anymore.
Reflected on her CD titled On the Other Side and in her book, “On the Other Side: Life Changing Stories from Under the Bridge,” Candy's story is not unlike Erica, played by Danielle Deadwyler in the gmc World Premiere Movie: A Cross to Bear.
Erica, a would-be dancer who finds herself fighting alcoholism and living on the streets with her newborn child after being left by her boyfriend. One ill-fated night, a tragic event shatters Erica's life. Traumatized and at rock bottom, she finds refuge at the home of Joan (Kim Fields) – a former nurse who has dedicated her life to helping women like Erica. Be sure to tune in for A Cross to Bear this Saturday, February 18 at 7, 9 & 11 PM ET.
Just a few years ago, Candy was so depressed she couldn’t function, but she overcame her inner turmoil and focused on helping others with the launch of The Bridge Ministry, a Nashville-based organization that aids the homeless.
“I met this old minister who was laying tile in a friend’s house, and I think he could tell I was in a pretty depressed state,” she recalls. “He said, ‘Hey, I feed homeless people under a bridge’ and at this time he was just roasting hot dogs for a few homeless guys and he said, ‘Can you cook?’ I think he was pretty sure I couldn’t cook, but I was raised in Louisiana and I can make jambalaya. He said, ‘Why don’t you make a pot of jambalaya and meet me under the Jefferson Street Bridge the next week?’ So I did.”
Though she went to the bridge looking to help those less fortunate, Candy soon realized she was the one being blessed. “I’d see these homeless people. Some had bleeding feet because they had no shoes; a couple had no coats. It was so cold but they were very warm and friendly to me, very appreciative, and all of a sudden there was just this feeling, this thing that came alive in me that said, ‘I’ve found purpose!’”
All through the week I was going to Dollar General and buying socks and underwear, toothbrushes and toothpaste. I was going to Wal-Mart and buying gloves and the next Tuesday night I brought my jambalaya and then more stuff,” she recalls. “When I first went down there I was not building a ministry. I wanted to do something tangible, to do it in a tangible way rather than just to write a check to some organization. I wanted to really get involved and make a difference in people’s lives. The ministry part just came. It evolved. People were saying, ‘hey I can’t come down, but I could give you money. Would you take this with you?’”
“One particular Tuesday we cooked what we thought would be sufficient. We’ve never run out of food, but this night we came very close,” Jasmine says. “We were not even halfway through the line and we were already scraping the bottom of the pots. So we gathered around mom and said ‘What are we going to do? We'll have a riot. People came to eat,’ and she said, ‘If God can multiply food in the Bible all those times, then why can’t He tonight?’ and I’m thinking ‘God doesn’t do that anymore. I’ve never seen God do that. I’ve heard about it in the Bible’ and she said ‘no, you watch. God’s going to do it!’ So she just prayed a simple prayer and I’ll tell you we had food left over that night. It was nothing short of a miracle!”
“One day Steven and his girlfriend were walking down to Titans Stadium to go panhandling. There were holes in his shoes,” explains Candy. “He was complaining to his girlfriend that his feet were getting sores on them. She put her finger up in his face and she said, ‘you know Miss Candy said you’re supposed to pray and ask God and God will answer you, so do that!’ So he just stopped, looked up to the sky and said ‘Lord, I need a pair of boots. I wear a 10 ½ and Miss Candy said if I ask you for it, you’ll get it for me.’ As they were heading back to their camp along the river, they came upon a pair of boots on the side of the road, brand-new, $150 work boots. Anybody want to guess what size they were? He wore them to the bridge the following Tuesday and he told that story. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
About the Writer
Deborah Evans Price has covered Christian/Gospel music for Billboard magazine since 1994. She also contributes regularly to Country Weekly, CMA Close Up, Devo’Zine, Christian Single, HomeLife, BMI Music World, and other publications.
A Nashville resident since 1983, Deborah has held editorial posts at Radio & Records, Country News, American Songwriter and Billboard. Amy Grant, Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, Charlie Daniels, 3 Doors Down, Third Day, Don Henley, Bon Jovi, Chris Rice, Sandra Bullock, Mercy Me, Alan Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood and Steven Curtis Chapman are among her many interviews. Additionally, she's a sought-after music industry analyst who has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, TNN, The Today Show, and ABC PrimeTime Live, among other outlets.
Deborah is a member of the Gospel Music Association's board of directors and a graduate of Leadership Music. She resides south of Nashville with her husband, Gary, and son Trey.
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