By Jenny Neyman
No matter how many albums they release, how much international travel they do or how intertwined they become with their ministry in the Lower 48, the gospel singing group This Hope hasn’t forgotten its roots on the central Kenai Peninsula.
Daniel Johnston and Mikah Boudreaux met as kids through Soldotna Bible Chapel, where their families were members since the boys were in elementary school. They met Dave, Tim and Dan Inabnit when the Inabnits moved to Soldotna from Montana so their father could be pastor at the church. Jeane Bope grew up in the Soldotna-Kenai area, and met Johnston and Tim Inabnit when he started attending Soldotna High School and joined the school’s choir.
“We just started singing together in church there at the Bible Chapel. Different variations of the group of us would sing special music, like for Christmas,” Boudreaux said.
Eventually they all started singing together. Word of their talent spread and they began to book performances in other churches on the peninsula and around Southcentral Alaska. They spent summers performing, and became even more intertwined — Dave Inabnit married Johnston’s sister, and Johnston married Bope’s sister.
They began to consider singing professionally.
“It definitely wasn’t all of our ambition to go into this like as a career or as a full-time ministry,” Boudreaux said. “I think that the Lord just slowly brought us along. As the doors of opportunity opened and continued to open it kind of came to a point where the singing was becoming more and more of a time focus and it was too much to do all of that and continue to do regular jobs, and those kinds of things.
“We really prayed about it and sought the Lord’s will about what he wanted us to do. Over the course of those years the Lord impressed on all our hearts that he could use us with the singing, so we started to plan out into the future with that in mind.”
It took awhile to get there, but the good thing about humble beginnings is there’s nowhere to go but up. Their group’s first tour wheels was an old blue-and-white Suburban given to them by Pastor Ted Inabnit. It proved to be an adequate, if not faithful, steed, until the passenger side front wheel came off while rounding a curve on a trip to Anchorage, rolled in front of the Suburban and off a cliff. Luckily, they were able to hitch a ride with a passing acquaintance who had enough trunk room for their economical sound system — Tim Inabnit’s car speakers for mains and Dan Inabnit’s computer speakers for monitors.
Naming the group was another early challenge. Middle-of-the-night, stream-of-consciousness brainstorming sessions produced some not-so-catchy monikers, including Next Exit, For Reservation, With That In Mind and Five Guys in Bad Pants. This Hope came from a quote from Hebrews 6:19, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
By 1996 This Hope members was ready to see if they could support themselves through their musical ministry. They decided to try it for a year, and traveled around Alaska and to the Lower 48.
“We were able to provide that first year. It was kind of funny because our expectations of the budget were like two or three times less than what we actually spent, but the income that came in also surprised us, so the Lord really provided for us,” Boudreaux said.
By 1997, Dan Inabnit decided that his path in life lie in another direction, but Boudreaux had graduated from high school at that point, so he joined the group in Dan’s place. Later that year they moved to the Lower 48, eventually settling in the Atlanta area. Alaska was too expensive and spread out to support their ministry, so they wanted to find an area with a large number of churches and where major cities were closer together.
Since starting their ministry over 10 years ago, this Hope has performed at the Southern Baptist Convention and has taken their ministry international, to Cuba twice and to Spain, Ukraine and Romania.
They’ve released 10 CDs, including two new ones that are available on iTunes. One is “Final Destination,” and the other is a new compilation of Christmas music. Both albums are a combination of a cappella music and tracks with singing over recorded instrumentation.
They make it back to Alaska every year and a half or so.
“Most of our immediate family moved away, but we still have some extended family and just a lot of friends from all the years we lived there,” Boudreaux said. “Even though we’ve been gone for 11 or 12 years, it’s still a homecoming for us, of sorts, coming back to Soldotna, and even Anchorage, Wasilla and Palmer. We look forward to it with great anticipation.”
This Hope will perform Christmas music at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 17, at College Heights Baptist Church and 7 p.m. Thursday at Soldotna Bible Chapel.
“This is a fun time for us. It’s kind of a change of pace, and our Christmas music is really upbeat and fun and it’s really a neat concert,” Boudreaux said.
Admission is free. There will be a free-will offering.
For more information and samples of the group’s music, visit www.thishope.org.