Marvin Sapp: Life After MaLinda

By Lisa Collins | senior editor,
Posted: Wed, 10/12/2011 - 13:00

Marvin Sapp

For pastor Marvin Sapp, one of the most successful Gospel artists of all time, 2010 was a year of unfathomable loss as his wife of 15 years, MaLinda, lost her courageous battle with colon cancer. It was a battle he was convinced they’d win, right up to her very last breath.

But on September 9, 2010, the mother of his three children, his manager and business partner, his co-pastor, a licensed psychologist, and all-round helpmate passed away.

Four short months later at the Stellar Awards, Sapp—named “Artist of the Year” (for his CD, The Best In Me), dedicated the award to his late wife, later breaking down.

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In the year since MaLinda’s death, grieving has taken somewhat of a back seat to managing his growing Grand Rapids-based church, Lighthouse Full Life Center Church, and business investments including the opening of a full service salon/spa; touring with Verizon’s ‘How Sweet The Sound’ National Choir Competition, recording his ninth solo CD last week in Washington D.C.; making sure homework is done and everything else that comes with rearing his three teenaged children, one of whom, Mikaila, at age 13, released the book, The Girl Behind The Mask.

That, he says, is how MaLinda would have wanted it.

“I always kept it moving because that's something my wife was about,” said Sapp. “That was one of the expectations for our children. That was her expectation of me. My wife died on the ninth of September. On the 10th, my children got up and went to school. I asked my 11 year old why they were going to school, and she said, 'Well Daddy, that's what Mommy wants. She would want us to keep it moving.” For us, the best way to hold on to her memory is to keep living and keep her vision and her memory for people.

“It's a lot to be thrust on one individual” Sapp states. “But mothers have done it for years, so it's not like it's impossible. You just have to learn how to manage and prioritize what is and what isn't important.”

What is important to the 45-year-old performer is his kids.

“My focus has really been on trying to make sure my kids are great and just really trying to gather my life together because when the person you have been with for all of your adult life ends up leaving, you really have to try to find yourself.

What isn’t important is dwelling on the past. Instead, he has learned to channel those memories positively as with his “Marvin’s Motivational Moments,” uplifting daily insights transmitted to over 500,000 of his fans and followers via Facebook and Twitter.

“I started doing Marvin's Motivational Moments because it was therapeutic for me right after the passing of my wife,” Sapp states. “I began to fill my wall with things MaLinda and I used to sit in bed and talk about because I couldn't sleep. It was difficult adjusting to sleeping by myself.”

He had known her for most of his life, having first met his late wife in the third grade.

“We went to high school together. We double dated for the senior prom,” he recalls. “She went with another person and I went with another person. The reason why I talk about it is because even though I'm a pastor/preacher/teacher, my wife was a psychologist by profession so it was a natural thing for my kids and I to go to counseling. That has been a major help for me and my children in our process of grieving.”

It was, however, a process.

“When my wife was first diagnosed,” Sapp reflects, “we listened to healing tapes and CDs and began to recite and quote scriptures. We did it throughout her illness and I even did it up until the time she took her last breath.

“When you are a person of faith, you don't believe in God when it looks bad, you believe God in spite of. God was showing me that he was allowing me that time to deal with my faith so that even after she had transitioned my faith would still be in tact. Although I was hurt, I believe in God now more than ever before.”

Suddenly single, gospel’s hottest selling artist has not only had to find himself again but has found himself to be a hot commodity amongst his female fans.

“I've learned a very valuable lesson,” Sapp observes, “21st century women are very different from 20th century women. My wife and I started dating at 23. I come from a day where there was something called 'the chase.' I'm realizing now that that's a gone. I'm being chased now. We've had to do three restraining orders.”

It is hardly a priority for the newly single father, whose recently adopted slogan, “us four, no more” says it all.

“At this point in my life I'm just going to focus on my kids until I get them out to college or wherever. My son (Marvin II) is a senior in high school. My daughter (Mikaila) is a freshman. And I have another one in seventh grade. By the time I'm 49, I'll have an empty nest. When I'm ready I will date, but I'm in no hurry.”

As it stands, he has his hands full with ministry and music. “God has given me a platform in a very difficult season to say things that will edify the believers.”

It is the process of overcoming his grief that inspired his latest album, recorded earlier this month just outside Washington D.C. “It's an introspective look into my process in moving forward in my life understanding that even though I've lost some things I'm not a loser,” Sapp says. “Most importantly that they made it through every trial, every test, every heartache, every situation and God's been there the whole time.”

Set for release in March of 2012, Sapp’s I Win CD is already getting buzz, particularly for the single dubbed “My Testimony,” which is sure to deliver some of the same vocal power and depth that has endeared him to audiences the world over.

It is a formula he is sticking with.

“I consider myself to be the Frankie Beverly of Gospel,” Sapp says. “I know what my listeners and audiences enjoy, so I'm going to keep it the same. The production may be a little more current, but I've got the same people I've used for the last two albums, and we're just trying to keep it Marvin.”

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