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Discovering Eureka

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Gospel song welcomes son home

For the past year, Lezlie Foley has often gone to the Gospel Sunday Brunch at the New Delhi Cafe and requested her family's favorite hymn, "In the Garden." Foley asks that Rachel Fields sing it in honor of Folye's son, Ben, who is in the Navy.

"She calls Ben and holds up the phone up so he can hear the music," Fields said.

On Sunday, Aug. 13, Fields sang "In the Garden" in person to Ben at a welcome home party celebrating his return from his first deployment. Before she did, Foley explained why the song is special to him and the family.

"This is the song I sang to you when you were a baby, and the song my mother sang to me, and her grandmother sang to her, and on and on," Foley said

Ben Kohnke, 24, enlisted in June of last year, and after completing basic training, was stationed at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station in Washington State, where he spent two weeks. Then he joined his ship, the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, in San Diego for a tour in the Arabian Gulf. An aircraft structural mechanic, Ben works on the aircraft carrier's flight deck, a busy job in a dangerous place, he said.

"We were out for eight months," he said. "It's good to be home."

For the welcome home party, his mother, an O.R. nurse at St.John's/Mercy Hospital in Berryville, decorated the tables with red, white and blue balloons, plates and napkins. Vickie Ginn made the chocolate cake and decorated it with flags and an anchor in gold frosting. Guests were friends of Foley's from work and St. James Episcopal Church.

"She has her church praying for me," Ben said.

The Gospel Sunday Brunch, which serves as church for many of the regulars, started three years ago when New Delhi owners John Wiley and Bill Sarad asked Fields and husband Larry Brick to create something with a spiritual vibe. Since then, it has attracted people of all faiths and none.

"People come up to me and say, 'I'm not a believer, but I love coming here on Sundays,'" Fields said.

The gospel band is a version of the band Brick-Fields, which two weeks ago advanced from round one of the King of the Roots competition in Springfield, Missouri. Fields and Brick also lead the Sunday night service at First United Methodist Church, which starts with dinner at 5:30 p.m. For Gospel Sunday Brunch, they play with the band's saxophonist, Casey Terry; Johnny Ray on bass, Daniel O'Brien on guitar and Lindy Ray on strings and vocals. The musicians plays traditional gospel, old hymns, African-American songs and original songs, Fields said.

"I pray all the time I'm singing," she said. "I draw from the spirit of the Lord."

Fields, who is originally from Pine Bluff, said she grew up singing rock-and-roll and blues, and has only been singing gospel since she met Brick, who has been in Christian music for 30 years. According to the internet, "In the Garden," which starts "I walk in the garden alone," was written in 1912 by Charles Austin Mills, a pharmacist turned gospel music composer. Mills wrote 18 hymns, including "Dwelling in Beulah Land," and the music for "Somebody's Praying for Me," which would also have been appropriate for the occasion.

"Today we're celebrating Ben being home," Fields said. "We're glad he's home and safe."

Foley said Ben's family has a record of military service stretching back to the Civil War. Ben was always patriotic, she said, and has been talking about join the military since he was four years old.

"He memorized the Pledge of Allegiance by the time he was in kindergarten," Foley said. "He saluted the flag in the garden."

Foley wore her "Proud Navy Mom" T-shirt, which has a picture of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln on the back. Sitting next to Ben, Foley noted that Fields sings "In the Garden' better than she does.

"I always cry when I sing it," Foley said.

While he's on leave, Ben plans to visit his older sister, Kristin, and his niece, Cadence, 4, in Oklahoma. Then he'll head back to Whidbey Island, where he will be stationed stateside about a year. His next eight-month deployment will be on the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan.

When he returns, his mother will undoubtedly throw a party.

Gospel Sunday Brunch is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the New Delhi Cafe and Patio, 2 North Main Street, Eureka Springs. Indian buffet or order from menu, which includes American food. For more information, call 479-253-2525 or go to www.newdelhicafe.com.