Almost anything can happen during a live performance. Nothing illustrates this better than the time when a fly landed on Dave’s nose at the same moment he was supposed to step forward to sing his solo in “Criminal on the Cross”! While Dave went cross-eyed, staring at the big black bug on the end of his nose, the rest of us held our breath and just stared at him in disbelief. Needless to say, the song crashed and burned. You might be surprised to find out how often little complications like that really make life interesting. As you read this, please keep in mind that most of the stories in this “history” are still a little bit embarrassing to some of us! (We trust that you’ll guard this information with the strictest of confidence.)
Our group began in the small town of Soldotna, which is located about three hours from Anchorage, in Southcentral Alaska. Most of us grew up in the same church, and we all spent a lot of time together. Daniel and Mikah were attending the Soldotna Bible Chapel when, Dave, and Tim Inabnit moved up from Montana with their family. Ted Inabnit filled the Chapel’s vacant pulpit and pastored the church for many years. Later on, Daniel and Tim met Jeane in the high school choir, and the foundation for the group was complete. Before we go on, we have to tell you that we are all related! Here’s how this works: Dave Inabnit married Daniel Johnston’s sister, Carrie. Then, Daniel Johnston married Shelby, who is Jeane Bope’s sister. Also, remember that Dave and Tim are brothers. Now to make this even easier to understand, we like to say that Jeane is Tim’s brother’s brother-in-law’s brother in law! The funny thing is that all those relationships began before the group even formed.
In the early days, different combinations of us sang special music at our home church and at other churches in the area. Eventually, there was enough local interest in our group for us to schedule an entire summer of church services in Alaska. Now, every good musical group needs to have wheels! Our first “This Hope Mobile” was an old blue and white suburban that was donated to us by Pastor Ted. One weekend we were scheduled to sing at a wedding in Soldotna on Saturday night and a church in Anchorage on Sunday. The wedding went well, and we left very early on Sunday morning for Anchorage. Dave was driving while everyone else slept in the back. As he turned a corner, the entire right front wheel came off the axle and rolled in front of our “land yacht” and right off a cliff into oblivion. The friction of the axle grinding against the pavement quickly brought the “blue goose” to a screeching halt. By this time, we were all very awake, and everybody got out to check for damages. Fortunately for us, the Best Man from the previous night’s wedding was passing by on his way back to Anchorage in a rented minivan. He saw us all hovering on the side of the road, and remembered our stellar performance from the night before, so he offered to help us out. We piled our sound equipment in the back of the van, and away we went. Back then, our sound equipment consisted of Tim’s car speakers and Dan’s computer speakers! We used the car speakers for the mains and the computer speakers for our monitors. (The whole sound system was powered by a little gerbil, chasing after his lunch on a circular gerbil treadmill thingy that we would set up in the baptistry!)
To complement a good set of wheels and a high powered sound system, any musical group has to have a great name. For that first summer in Alaska, we called ourselves “The Watchmen”. Unfortunately, we later found out that we were not the first group to think highly of that name, and we were forced to begin the search for another more unique, but equally meaningful moniker. The task seemed easy enough, but when you put our entire group on a simple project like this, the complexity increases exponentially. We searched for quite some time, and racked our brains for an interesting name that had some degree of spiritual substance. At times we even tried brainstorming sessions where we would all start writing down the first thought that came to mind. This technique generated pages and pages of hopeless possibilities. (Yes, we still have those pages!) To give you an idea of what we came up with, we’ve decided to include a list of our Best and Worst New Group Names. Take into consideration that some of these were generated in the wee hours of the morning!
After all our cerebral effort, the Lord brought someone’s attention to a refrigerator magnet that read: “Hebrews 6:19: We have ‘this hope’ as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure…” Go figure?! Although we all like the name, it does generate some confusion for people who aren’t familiar with our group. Pastors are not excluded from this group of people. We know this because we have been introduced in several creative ways. For example: “New Hope”, or “The Hope Group”, and sometimes “The New Hope Gospel Singers”, and every once in a while “Jeane Bope and his quartet.”
In June of 1996, after a year of prayer and planning, we felt that God was leading us to take the step to full-time ministry. We reached a point where the stress of regular jobs, group recording sessions after work, and weekend church services weighed too heavily on our young families. We stayed in Alaska for a year, and took several tours to the “lower 48” states. During this time, we felt that God was calling us to relocate our ministry somewhere outside of Alaska. So we began searching for an area that might be more suitable and less limiting than our beloved home state. This was also a transition time for some of the individual group members. After a month-long tour in September of ’96, Dan Inabnit left This Hope, after sensing that God was leading him and his family in a different direction. In the spring of ’97, Mikah Boudreaux graduated from college and officially joined the group.
That same spring, we established the Atlanta area as the place we wanted to live! Plans got underway to make the 5,321 mile trek. The Lord blessed us with a 40-foot 1972 Crown bus that we affectionately named the “Silver Slug.” (We have such a good time naming things!) As you can imagine, a 25 year old bus presents its own collection of challenges! For one tour, we had to park it on an incline because our starter had gone out, so we had the privilege of push-starting the 28,000 lb. monster each time! (We’ve also used some creative hotwiring to keep the blinkers functioning.) God graciously allowed the bus to take us from Soldotna to Atlanta without any major setbacks.