By ALESHA CADET
Tribune Features Reporter
As award-winning gospel singer Vanessa Clarke battles an incurable, life-changing illness, her friends and fans are expected to come together on Saturday, July 27, for a benefit concert in her honour.
The purpose of the concert is to raise funds to help the mother of two young girls with her mounting medical bills.
Although she still wears a big smile on her face and spreads positivity with her music, Vanessa’s life has forever been changed by a neurological disorder which requires expensive specialist treatment in the United States. The singer said she did not wish to disclose the exact nature of her illness.
“I intentionally do not want to say what the actual diagnosis is because I refuse to be a poster child any kind of infirmity, especially if I am expecting God to heal me. Those who are close to me know what I am dealing with and God knows. I know this is a spiritual battle,” she told Tribune Religion.
Her battle with the disease has affected her mobility and she is now using a walker to get around. She has to travel to the US every three months for her doctor’s visits and has to import her medications because local pharmacies do not carry them, said Navardo Saunders, Vanessa’s social media coordinator.
As the expenses of frequent travel, treatment and medication are very high, Vanessa’s friends, musician Tony Lowe and Rev Clinton Minnis, decided to organise the upcoming benefit gospel concert under the theme “Friends of Divine Lady – There Is Still Hope”. It will take place at the Jubilee Cathedral on Grand Bahama, beginning at 7pm.
Performers will include The Cooling Waters, Shelly Carey, Darron Sturrup and the High Praisers, Monet Bethel, Tony Lowe and Friends, Dora, RSA, Young Heart, Kyle and Stacy King, and more. The evening will be hosted by comedians David Wallace and Will Stubbs.
Organisers are encouraging the Grand Bahama community to attend the show in support of an “outstanding lady” who has touched and blessed the lives of so many.
“I know I have a long, long road to recovery. I have a long way to go, but I can’t help but celebrate how far I have come,” said Vanessa.
“Faith without works is dead and Lord knows I am giving it all I’ve got. I know God is with me and that’s how come I can smile in the midst of my storm. Don’t look at what you see with your natural eyes, my faith is stronger than anything I am going through.”
Vanessa told Tribune Religion she is overwhelmed by the love and support people have shown her. She said people are calling from Nassau, Bimini, and from as far as North Carolina and New York City to show their support.
“What I like about this concert is the fact that all the denominations are coming together – Baptists, Methodists, Catholics and more. And the singers who have come on board, they are my real friends and people in the gospel industry that I respect so highly. I expect to come out of the room walking because I know the calibre of artists that are performing. They are not coming to joke around. They are coming to lift up the name of Jesus Christ,” she said.
“I know that I can’t make it through a day without Him and I am surprised at how strong I really am. God has given me strength from day to day and I know He is a healer and by His stripes I know I am healed. Even though I am battling now, I know that He is going to come through for me.”
Vanessa won the Gospel Music Marlin Award for Outstanding Female Vocalist in 1996. She won three more awards over the course of 10 years, and along with the group Da Fam, won the Bahamas’ Cacique Award for Best Song of the Year in 2005. She has also travelled extensively to the United States and parts of the Caribbean for ministry.
Tickets for Vanessa’s benefit concert are $20 at the door for adults, and $10 for children.