When Christian rocker Phil Joel steps up to the microphone at HopeNet’s annual banquet this month, he’ll feel right at home. And why wouldn’t he?
The New Zealand native married a Wichita girl, the former Heather Cozine, whom he met at a radio station here while on tour almost two decades ago. “I came through with the Newsboys, on tour with Steven Curtis Chapman, and there she was, my wife, just waiting for me,” Joel said.
Well, not quite.
“When I met Heather, I had been in the States five weeks,” Joel said. “I was smitten. She thought I was some kind of player who paid attention to girls at radio stations. There was something about her.”
Heather eventually succumbed to Joel’s charms, which include that distinctive Down Under accent and sense of humor. Today the couple live in Nashville, balancing faith, two children, Joel’s music and their joint ministry.
Joel is the featured speaker and performer at “Giving God The Stage,” HopeNet’s fundraiser at the Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview on Sunday, Sept. 20. HopeNet, located at Central and Grove, is a faith-based nonprofit that helps hundreds of families and individuals in crisis through counseling and coaching services. HopeNet will mark its 25th anniversary next year.
HopeNet believes that relationships are important especially to someone going through crisis. Joel’s message will inspire the audience with the hope found by deliberately living and walking in relationships, especially with God, in new ways.
Heather is a well-known figure in her own right. After leaving Wichita — her family owns the Broadway Mortuary and Kensington Gardens cemetery — she went on to host two shows on CMT, “All Access” and “Hit Trip.” She gave that up to start a family. The couple have two children — daughter Phynley, 14, and son Eden, 11.
“Once we had our first child, we just decided to slow down and ask God how to do this thing, how to be parents,” Joel said.
For the Joels, that meant approaching their faith in a “deliberate” way — that is, setting aside time each day to read and reflect on the Scriptures.
The couple’s decade-old ministry is two-pronged, with “Deliberate People” geared toward adults and “Deliberate Children” toward their children.
“This is a noisy world we live in, getting noisier all the time, and there are a thousand different voices getting our attention every day,” Joel said. “There’s really only one voice we need to pay attention to, and that’s the voice of God. I try to encourage peo- ple to clear the clutter and set aside some time for prayers and Scriptures, and asking God to speak.”
Joel plans to play and sing songs from all phases of his career as well as testify during his appearance here. He notes that he was told a couple years back that record- ing a CD of children’s music would be “career suicide.” “So I made two,” he said, referring to the catchy “Deliberate Kids. One” and “Deliberate Kids. Two” recordings.
He’s currently recording songs targeted towards adults but still rooted in faith with his new outfit, the Zealand Worship Group. He wouldn’t be surprised to find Eden on stage beside him one of these days, saying his son is an aspiring percussionist who’s “nipping at the heels of my drummer.”
The family visits Wichita frequently, worshipping at Central Christian Church when they’re in town. Joel’s sense of humor showed through as he talk- ed about his plans eventually to spend time — a whole lot of it, in fact — here.
“I love Wichita, I really do,” he said. “It’s my second American home. They’ve got me a spot picked out [in Kensington Gardens]. Eventually I’ll be living back there, or not living back there.”
For more info about Phil and Heather Joel’s ministry, visit philjoel.com.
To buy tickets to the HopeNet banquet or learn more about the organization, visit hopenetwichita.org.