Last year, Mike Marchese addressed the Southern Christian Writers Guild, and I requested to write his story. He invited me to visit his recording studio. Mike plays rhythm and lead guitar for Counting the Day; a Christian band he formed with a friend. He built his studio to record their music and to service Christian artists. I arrived expecting to record Mike’s story and received a bonus. He wanted me to Keva Fontenille’s story as well. Keva is the lead vocals for Counting the Day.
Keva always had an awareness of God. A benefit of attending Catholic schools until the eighth grade. But an awareness of God did not satisfy the deepest need of her heart for guidance and a consistent loving relationship. Her parents had divorced when she was a year old. During the school year, she lived a model 1950’s sort of life in New Orleans with her father and step-mother. She made good grades in school. Her family ate dinner together, but her father was often absent. Her summer months, living with her mother in Texas, were filled with stress. Her mother and step-father had a volatile relationship. Memories of fleeing the house with her mother for safety created fear and insecurity.
Her mother dramatically changed when Keva was seven years old. An uncle had shared Christ with her mother. That summer Keva attended church with her mother every Sunday. Instead of fearing an eruption of violence, she was surrounded with love. She liked attending the church full of people who sang happy songs and were kind to her.
One day, Keva and her mother were alone in the living room. Her mother asked her to join her on the couch. She gave Keva a beautiful children’s Bible and told her the story of salvation. Keva didn’t pray to accept Christ that day, but she thought about Jesus and his love for her.
After she received the Bible from her mother, their pastor preached a sermon on water baptism. Keva listened intently as the pastor explained how being submerged in water was an outward symbol of what happens spiritually. Christ takes away our sin, and we rise to newness of life, spiritually clean and adopted as a child of God. Keva wanted to be a child of the loving God her mother had told her about, so she asked her mother if she could be baptized in water.
Her mother wanted to be sure Keva understood what it meant to be baptized in water. “Tell me what water baptism is?” Her mother queried.
“It’s like a locust,” said Keva. “Sometimes I find their shells on a tree, but the locust is not there. When I go in the water and come back up that old, yucky shell will stay in the water. I will have a new shell.”
Her mother laughed. “Yea, that’s kind of what it’s like.” Satisfied Keva had grasped the basic concept of water baptism, she made an appointment for Keva to speak to the pastor.
Their pastor questioned Keva and shared scriptures with her until he was convinced she understood what she was doing. Then he led her in a prayer for salvation. Keva left his office excited about her new found faith.
Keva’s voice filled with emotion as she described her experience. “I did more than believe that day. I was truly persuaded from the inside out that there is a living God who loves me, desires a relationship with me and would be an attentive father. It was an intensely personal and intimate moment. I knew I was making a pact with a best friend who would be my friend forever. In him, I found the peace, guidance and security I longed for.”
She returned to New Orleans at the end of the summer excited about sharing her faith with her father and grandmother. They listened politely but remained neutral about their daughter’s experience. Lacking the understanding of God that Keva had acquired, they were not able to encourage her in her walk of faith but neither did they discourage her.
Keva’s mother encouraged her daughter through the letters they exchanged when Keva lived with her father. Keva asked her mother what she should read in the Bible. Her mother knew that her young daughter was not ready to read the longer books of the Bible and offered her a workable solution. Knowing one or two sentences would be easier for Keva to read and understand, she instructed her to read one Proverb daily.
Every morning Keva opened her children’s Bible and read a Proverb. She also thought about it and prayed God would tell her what it meant. She often received insight, which helped her apply the proverb and gave her guidance in dealing with life. When she read “a wise son listens to his father’s rebuke”, she understood that it was okay for her parents to correct her. Instead of rebelling or resenting them she should think about why they corrected her. The result was an unusually well behaved child.
Keva also learned by watching the life of her siblings. They did not receive Christ until they were adults. Consequently, their journey to maturity was very different from Keva’s. “I spared myself a lot of trouble just watching them. I could see the lack of God’s word in action, and how that ends up. I learned that biblical principles work. They can give you a life of peace, stability and direction when life does not make sense,” said Keva.
Five years after Keva accepted Christ, her mother and step-father returned to Louisiana. Keva attended church with her mother on weekends. They joined the church choir where Keva’s talent for singing developed. In high school, she took choir as an elective.
“Music was not a lifelong dream, but it was always around,” said Keva. “Both my parents sang. I chose choir in high school because I needed an elective to graduate. I continued singing because my choir teacher told me to keep singing.”
Keva found her niche in music when her pastor asked her to sing a solo. She was nervous but didn’t think telling the pastor “No” was an option. After her performance, she received many request to sing and became a regular on the church’s worship team.
Ten years ago, she joined First Baptist Covington. She found a place to serve on the church’s worship team where she became acquainted with Mike Marchese. He was in the process of forming a Christian band called Counting the Day. One day, he showed up at her place of work and asked if she would be interested in singing with the band. “I said yes, and ever since then I have been singing with them, and I love it,” said Keva.