Mercy Hope: What led The Crabb Family to start traveling and singing?

Kelly Bowling: Well, I started having a real desire to sing as early as three years old. I would sing when I was that little and then as I got older I got a little shy about it. I’d been in church and stuff, but it wasn’t until I was fourteen, I really dedicated my life to God. I realized how serious it was to walk with Him every day and that it was more than just going to church, it was a lifestyle, and it was a personal relationship with Him. So, once I felt that in my heart, then I really started getting that desire to sing once again, because I wanted to minister to people. My brothers and sister felt the same way so we sang every week, one of us, or a few of us, or all of us, sang every service at the church our dad pastured. It was a burning desire deep down inside, we would go to see other groups sing and it was very inspiring to see others, especially younger people, up there doing it. And we just felt very compelled and called and my dad would preach for revivals and we would do the singing and it just kind of all happened from there, but first and foremost, we all felt very called to do it, because we wanted to see people’s lives changed. And if I didn’t feel like it was a calling, I’d like to sing, but I don’t know that I’d want to do it, almost every day of my life. I love it, but what drives me to do it is that hopefully someone will get to know Jesus or their life will be changed through Him. So it’s definitely a calling.

Mercy Hope: Do you feel like your main thrust as a group is more to reach unbelievers or is it more encouragement for believers, or is it kind of a mixed bag?

Kelly Bowling: Of course our number one priority is almost always to give an alter call for sinners. That’s such a priority, because if you walk out of there and you know Him and you didn’t introduce them to Him than what good have you done? But there’s also always Christians that are on the brink of giving up all hope because their hearts are hurting and they’re going through things and I feel like, as a Christian, it’s our job to encourage one another. So, our it’s definitely both. When somebody gets saved that is awesome, but when someone comes up to you and tells you that, ‘I held on because of that song’ or what one of you said tonight, that’s great too. They’re both so fulfilling. So it’s definitely a mixed bag.

Mercy Hope: Will each of your family members be out there ministering one-on-one after a concert or what is your set-up?

Kelly Bowling: Like most groups we have a product table where we get to talk to people before and after the concert. Sometimes that’s a little hard before the concert because there’s 15 people on our bus, so to all get ready and get in there that early, is a little difficult sometimes, but we try to, and for the most part most of us do manage to get in there. But during the intermission and then after the concert, we are always all out there at the table talking to people and if they need us to pray with them or if they just want to talk, we’re just there to ‘meet and greet.’ I think it’s part of the job and you get to know these people and it’s very fulfilling to get to meet all these people that are coming to hear your music. And it’s interesting, we’ve made so many friends across the nation – it’s great.

Mercy Hope: I was at a homeschool convention, and I met a girl who really felt like she knows you guys just from talking with you at events and that’s neat.

Kelly Bowling: Oh, I have so many friends. This is kind of funny, but we were doing a baby shower for my sister-in-law, and of course we invited our family, but we invited so many friends that had we not been singing, we would’ve never known and they feel like family. Half of the people at that shower were there because they had come to a Crabb Family concert and we ended up just meeting with them and talking with them and getting to know each other and they’re family now, so it’s so neat and we so appreciate people who are just so willing to go out of their way to hear our music. That’s very humbling and it’s an honor. I have two great friends from Oklahoma who come to see us every chance they get, and every time I see them I just light up because I’m like, “You have done it again, you’re here again, I can’t believe it,” so, it’s great.

Mercy Hope: I’d like you to share a recent ministry moment that you’ve had.

Kelly Bowling: I have a story that’s not just about me personally, but about our family. It is probably my favorite story since we’ve been singing, and the most powerful. It never ceases to amaze me when I think about it. It’s about a little boy from Oklahoma that was in a bad four-wheeler wreck. He was really badly burnt on his face, I think all over. He was a Christian boy I think 10 or 11 years old. He was in a coma and they didn’t even know if he was going to make it through this, and when he did eventually come out of the coma after a few weeks they asked him, “Do you remember anything you were thinking while you were in the coma?” And he said that he was thinking of the words of a song called, ‘Through the Fire,’ which is a song that we sing. To think that that was going through his mind, something that God would allow us the privilege of singing every night, and it ministered to a little boy, it’s an honor, and we don’t hardly sing that song that I don’t think of that little boy. And you know, you could be having a bad night, and think that you’re not doing any good for anybody, and you can think about that little boy and you think, “You know what? God’s good. And even though I might be having a bad day, it’s gonna be okay. And that’s going to keep me going till tomorrow because there might be another little boy someday like that or a little girl, or whoever.” I think it’s so important to always remember those people. They think that you’re helping them so much when they come to the table and they say, “You’ve helped me so much through this song,” but when they’re telling you that, they’re helping you to get through what you’re doing, so I think that’s my favorite story ever. We get to see him a lot and he is just the sweetest little boy. It’s a miracle.

Mercy Hope: Okay, so that is one thing that encourages you to keep on. What are other things that help you stay “fueled up”? I know in our ministry, there are times when it’s just non-stop outgo. You’re with your family and you’re just pouring your life out for people. And when you go to the table and it’s just a sea of needs and you pray with people and you cry with people, like you said, it can be rewarding but it can also be very draining. What do you have to do when you hit those times? How do you stay refreshed? Because if you don’t have anything in your well you’re not going to be able to give out.

Kelly Bowling: Yeah, and that’s a bad feeling to feel empty and like, “I have nothing to give.” There have been moments where I’ve felt like, “Okay, God, you’re really going to have to help me” because you’re mind just gets mentally drained from all the giving like you said. So I have a few things that I do. When we are home, which we’re not hardly ever home on Sundays, but on Wednesdays, or whenever it’s possible we try to go to church. That’s really not possible as much as I’d like it to be, but maybe someday. Of course I try to stay in the Word, which I don’t always get to do this because I have a baby and it’s really hard sometimes, but I notice that, if I start my day off with the Word it seems like my day always goes better and I know that’s not a coincidence because I think it helps your mind to stay focused on what you need to be focused on. We try to listen to preaching whenever we can. Sometimes we’re singing with a preacher that’s preaching, and of course we always try to get in to hear that. When we’re with other groups, I love to go in and be ministered to by those other groups, because even though that’s what I do every night, it’s good to sit in that audience and receive from them. We were with the Freeman’s the other night and I got to listen to every song they sang and it totally ministered to my heart. So that’s a really good thing for us that we can go in and listen to the other groups.
I think also because there’s so many of us, we can encourage each other. If I’m having a bad day, a sibling can come to me and I can tell her and she can say, “Kelly, God’s in control.” All of my siblings are very encouraging to me and we keep lifting each other up. Music-wise, you can always put your favorite gospel song in your CD player that really helps you through a bad day and that can pull you through, because that’s the Word of God in those songs. I also read a lot of Christian books, which helps too. So those are my tips. You have to make the effort, you really do. I think God expects you to give a little and then He gives a whole lot.

Mercy Hope: Who are some authors or some books that you could suggest to women?

Kelly Bowling: I was having a really bad night one night and I shared with Deborah Talley about it and she recommended a book by Neil T. Anders called “The Bondage Breaker”. I read this book and it changed my life. Even though nobody knew it, because I didn’t act shy, I used to be very intimidated just by everything around me. I knew God had called me to do what I was doing, but I would let circumstances intimidate me. I still have to deal with it a little bit, but I now know how to take control of it through God’s help and it opened my eyes that God’s with me on that stage every night and I don’t have to be intimidated by anything. If He’s with me that’s all that matters. So, that’s a great book. I’d recommend to anybody.

Mercy Hope: One thing I appreciate about your family is that you’re open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. In your concerts you leave room for the Lord to work. I guess I feel like if it becomes rigid or just a show, then what’s the point?

Kelly Bowling: When it feels like maybe the Spirit is not even welcome to be there, that’s when I’m so intimidated, like, “You know what? If He’s not here, I have no business being here myself.” You know what I mean? If you don’t feel that He’s welcome, then what’s the use?

Mercy Hope: Yes, I really do understand and agree completely.

Kelly Bowling: That has to be first and foremost. When we do our singings every night, we start out planning on what we’re going to sing, but that can be changed at any point. Whoever’s doing the talking tries to go with whatever they feel led in their hearts and that’s always really worked out for us in what we do and like I said before, we were all raised in church so that’s just kind of how we started in revivals and things like that. So even though we might be in a concert, we still want it to feel like church and like we’re there to worship and no other reason. I think that’s important. I’ve seen a lot of services turn because somebody felt led to follow the Spirit and it ended up being a great service and people might’ve gotten saved… I’ve seen that happen a lot and I think you have to be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. That’s so important.

Mercy Hope: A lot of times with life on the road, I’ve noticed that the kids just get lost in the shuffle and kind of left to basically raise themselves. One thing I’ve noticed about your family is that you and your siblings seem to have an exceptional relationship. I know you said that you’ve had your spats but overall you can tell there’s a real love for each other, and an honor for your dad and mom. What did your parents do to help keep you from the competition and all of the things the end in sibling rivalry?

Kelly Bowling: I think in our family we’ve always been made to feel very equal. Everybody has been recognized for their own gifts and talents. I have an older sister that doesn’t sing and she’s the only one in our family that doesn’t sing and you know how that could be at times. People come up to her and they’re like, “You don’t sing?” and she’s like, “You know, I don’t,” but she runs our office and that’s such an important job and what would we do without her? How would we go every week and not have somebody taking care of things at home? And she’s the smart one but we’re not made to feel bad because maybe she’s more book-smart than maybe other ones of us, like me. So, we’ve all been taught that nobody is more important than the other one because of certain aspects of what they might have or what the don’t have, as far as talents or gifts go.
In my family you just don’t squabble over real silly stuff, I mean if we wanted to fight we had to do it behind our parents backs because they just didn’t put up with any of that. As far as the kids go, you share and you share alike and when there’s that many children around, you stick together, there’s just a unity about it. I’m sure because we have a Christian home, we were very fortunate and we’re just so proud of one another. I don’t know what I would do without any of them. I think they’re just the greatest and I think they’re all so talented from Crystal to Jason and Adam, and Aaron, and Tara, every one of them, they’re very talented and I think they’re great, great people and I can say that I totally trust their Christian morals and I have confidence in them as people. That’s such a great feeling and they are my backbone I don’t know what I would do without them. They’re my strength, I love them so much and we’ve always just stuck together. You know, when there’s six kids sometimes the other kids don’t like you because there’s just so many of you so you say, “You know what? We’ll just be each other’s friends and we’ll stick together and that’ll be fine!” And I think the singing and the practicing and the long nights of staying in there and trying to get it get it right, it kind of just makes you bond. When you’ve worked so hard together and you’ve traveled so much together, there’s memories upon memories and that just bonds you for life.

Mercy Hope: And you can keep each other accountable.

Kelly Bowling: You sure can. When you’re fifteen people on a bus you can check up on each other and don’t think that we don’t. If someone is having a bad day we’re not afraid to tell them, “You need to get your act together. That’s not the way you should be thinking. You know better. Don’t be depressed, that’s silly” and you can take it because you know they’re doing it in love. That is such a great thing to have – someone who will be honest with you. It’s great because we’re all about the same age, and the older we get the more fun it is.

Mercy Hope: Getting married and being a new mom must add a new dimension and a lot of new challenges. How are you managing it all?

Kelly Bowling: Well, at first when Lauren Hope was a tiny baby, I knew the Lord was going to have to help me because it changes your road-life. Road-life is hectic anyway, but it gets twice as hectic with a baby. I was very blessed to have to husband Mike with me, so I didn’t have a lot of room to complain because it wasn’t like I was out there by myself, I had my husband by my side. With so many of us on the bus I have a lot of help.
I always want to make Lauren happy and I hope she always enjoys doing this like I do, but she’s my top priority over anything and if there ever comes a time when she’s just miserable doing this, I would totally have to pray and think about the whole deal. She seems to be very well adjusted. She’s got some cousins on the way that are going to be on the road too, so that’s going to give her some other children to be around which makes me very happy. We’re all married now, and the in-laws have just fit right in. When it’s this big of a family, I’m sure it’s intimidating for an in-law to come into this large of a family, but everybody has just blended in and we stick together and if you have a bad day you just kind of leave them alone and they leave you alone and you learn each other. But with my little girl, it’s made my life so much happier and she’s mine and Mike’s everything. I often think, “What did we ever do before we had her? How were we even happy before she was born?” It’s been an adjustment, but it gets easier every day and you learn more and more about it each day. I know she sacrifices things that maybe some kids don’t, but we always just try to do little things to make up for that. She does get to see both of her parents all the time, which I think is great. She’s with her daddy and myself almost all the time and that’s a blessing. I know she spends a lot of time in singings and stuff like that, but I always try to make up for it when we are at home and make that real quality time. I’ve had to learn how to really prioritize everything and be less selfish about me and she comes first but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Mercy Hope: What’s on your heart. If there’s something that the Lord has been working in you or you’re learning something or encouragement, just take off and preach it for a while and then we’ll wrap it up.

Kelly Bowling: I’m still learning every day, about life and even being a Christian. Like I said earlier, I got really serious about God when I was 14. That’s when I decided that you don’t just do it because your parents tell you that you have to do it, but because you want to do it. That’s such a changing point in your life. I think I’m just learning more and more everyday that people are people and you know we can’t judge one another and we have to look at one another with love. Everybody’s been through things. There’s not anybody that we see at that table who’s not been through something in their life, whether they’ve chose to go through it by making a bad decision or whether they were just given a circumstance out of their control and they had to face it. The most important thing that you can know that we all face things and it’s kind of a scary thought that you don’t know what life is going to hand you, but you know if you’re a child of God and you live for Him and do your best for Him every day, He will not leave you, He will never fail to be there just when you need Him the most. It’s hard in our most difficult moments to remember that He is so real and it’s hard to remember that He is working for us. He is working everything for our good even when it feels like everything’s going wrong. So I’d just would want to say, and I’m learning this every day, but just stay true to who you are as a Christian. Live your life the best you can and try to help everyone you can around you. Try to put Him first in everything you do and He will make the rest work out. I think we try to control our own lives way too much, when He’s in control, He can take care of it. We worry ourselves sick about problems that are not in our hands. He can take care of them, give it all to Him. Live your life and do what you’re called to do and do it to the best of your ability and He will bless that. My goal is just to be a good mom, a good Christian example for my little girl, and I want to be a good wife. I have really bad days and I know, my husband’s like, “Oh Lord, help me. She is so moody!” but my goal is to always be an honorable wife, and an honorable mom and a good Christian example to all these people who have chosen to come and hear us. I just want to encourage people to stay true to what you know is right and to God and He will bless that. There are days that you think, “Where are you, God?” but He’s always there. He’s never ever left you, so just stick with Him and stay true and He’ll show up and lead you through whatever you’re going through!

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