The rousing voices of preachers and gospel singers boomed through the Earleigh Heights Fire Hall Saturday night. Among them were the Spirit Lifters, a gospel group out of Annapolis whose message must have touched many a responsive chord:
I'm just a nobody
Trying to tell everybody
About somebody who can save anybody.
Lee Owens, a Severna Park resident who suffers from a mysterious skin ailment that leaves him with the distorted appearance of a burn victim, watched the show from the front row.
A gospel singer himself before coming down with the disease, Owens later strapped on a guitar to play with one of the groups. He also accompanied his wife, Vonnie, who sang a song in his honor.
The 400 people who paid $10 eachto watch the nine gospel bands play Saturday night stood, cheered and praised God in the traditional gospel way.
"That could have beenyou sitting right there," hollered out Ernest McKnight, a singer forMighty True Ways, a Baltimore-based band. "Because you are healthy right now doesn't mean you will be able to wave your hand tomorrow. Sodon't sit down and pretend you don't know what I'm talking about."
Owens, 33, didn't have much to say about the outpouring of affection from friends and strangers, many of whom came to the show, a benefit for him and his family, after seeing his plight on a local television station.
"It's helping Lee," said his mother, Cinda Owens. "This is all he wants -- somebody to care. And you can see it by the people who are here that they care."
Before he got the disease, Owens,who has a 4-year-old daughter, worked as a gospel guitarist and for the county Public Works Department. Now he stays at home, spending hours in a bathtub trying to ease the pain.
Doctors at Johns HopkinsHospital do not understand why Owens' skin started to peel. He needsmoney to continue treatment that one day could find out what the disease is and possibly cure it.
"Doctors don't know what it is," said Kenny Davis, lead singer for Kenny Davis & the Melodyaires, a groupOwens used to play with. "I thank God I had the pleasure of knowing this young man and working with this young man.
Davis said he is hoping for national media attention, not so much for money but to spread Owens' story. "Maybe somebody will be able to find a cure for him."
The concert was sponsored by a recently formed group called
Christian Men for Christ, composed of four Anne Arundel County ministers and one pastor of a Baltimore congregation who lives in the county.
"A lot of people came for the gospel show," said Donald Mackall,one of the group members. "They all don't know Owens, but when they saw him on TV, they knew it was a good cause."
Mackall said he hopes Owens makes some new friends from the concert, to replace those who abandoned him when he became ill.
"They just don't understand," he said.
Videotape copies of the performances may be purchased for$20 by calling the Rev. Henry Parker at 974-4788.