Christian Songwriter Remembered for His Gifts

Indiana Native Rich Mullins was killed in an accident in Illinois en route to a benefit

Eric C. Rodenberg

Richmond, Ind. - Like his song Elijah. Rich Mullins lived a whirlwind life, according to friends who gathered Monday in Whitewater.

Mullins, who died Friday In Illinois, grew up in Whitewater, a small Indiana community about eight miles northeast of Richmond. He went on to become one of the country's leading songwriters and singers of Christian music.

"When I leave, I want to go out like Elijah. with a whirlwind to fuel His chariot of fire. And when I look back on the stars, it will look like a candlelight in central Park, And it won't break my heart to say good-bye," Mullins wrote in Elijah.

"That's just the way he lived his life, like a whirlwind." longtime friend Gary Rowe of Indianapolis recalled. "He lived his life fast, deep, devoted and passionate. He was a (voracious) reader, and a thinker. The more he read, the more questions he had."

On the day of his death, Mullins had just finished a recording project with singer Mitchell McVicker. The two were driving to Wichita, Kansas, for a benefit concert when one of them - it isn't clear who was driving - lost control of the sport utility vehicle outside Lostant, about 75 miles south west of Chicago. Mullins was killed when he was ejected and run over by a semitrailer. McVicker suffered critical injuries.

Kathy Sprinkle of Whitewater said Mullins wrote his first song when be was 4. His great-grandmother taught him a great deal about music. He was very proud of being a 'birthright' Quaker: and although he didn't stay a Quaker, those early years helped mold his beliefs," she said.

Sprinkle said Mullins' father had Appalachian roots and that may have inspired Mullins to learn to play the hammered dulcimer and lap dulcimer.

A 10-time Dove Award nominee, Mullins recorded nine albums and wrote numerous songs for Christian stars like Sandi Patti, Debbie Boone and Amy Grant. His collaboration with Grant, Sing Your Praise to the Lord, and the 1988 recording, Awesome God, secured Mullins' reputation among listeners of Christian music.

Sprinkles said Mullins nurtured relationships. "Rich believed that people's lives don't change by preaching at them or singing to them. He believed that people's lives are changed by loving them and sharing with them. He was very transparent with who he was. He gave people hope."

Rowe, a minister of counselling at the East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, recalled the magnetism, power, and passion of Mullins' message during campus concerts at Cincinnati Bible College in the late 1970s.

"He was not polished at all. There has always been a rough edge to his music," Rowe said. "But he had a rapport with the crowd. They sensed that he was a real person."

Rowe said Mullins never wanted to be a performer but, instead, a pastor, a teacher and a friend. Mullins often talked about going to another realm. 'And looking back, I doubt if he has any regrets about saying good-bye." Rowe said.

Memorial contributions may be made to Compassion USA, P.O. Box 7000, Colorado Springs, Col. 80933.

A memorial service will be Saturday in Wichita, Kan.

Calling will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Sept. 24 in Whitewater Christian Church, of which he was a member.

Copyright 1997 by The Indianapolis Star

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