The year 1974 started the ministry of Dave & Brenda Cole. Dave was traveling and singing with his family, the Cole Family Gospel Singers and I was singing with our Youth Choir at the Calvary Gospel Tabernacle that was pastored by Robert Webb Jr. Dave and I felt the calling to spread the gospel in song together. We had been dating since 1971. That is when we started a group called the Singing Testimonials. We started out as a quartet consisting of Chuck Ash, myself, Kim Webb and Dave. We were young and sang mostly on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sunday afternoons, trying not to leave our home church on Sunday mornings and evenings. We also worked a lot with Rev. Webb’s television ministry including many telethons and weekly programs.
Then Chuck’s family began to grow and he wasn’t able to commit to traveling as much, so we started singing as a trio. We made our first recording "Come To The Water" in Blacksburg, SC. As shown on our 8-track tape, there was Kim, myself, Dave and Alan Walker played the drums and Gene Walker played the bass and electric guitar. We sang together for a while then more changes took place. We still remained as a trio. My cousin, Marnie Scott began singing with us and Joey Thornton played guitar. We then made our 2nd recording "In All Kinds Of Weather" in Cowen, WV.
We made this project into a long play album, 8-tracks and cassettes. Then in 1981, Dave and I got married and then our ministry began to launch out to other states. We traveled in a conversion van for a while then felt the need to get a school bus and convert it into a place where we could sleep on long trips. God always met our needs. When Marnie was no longer able to travel with us, Dave’s cousin, Stacey Dickey sang with us. By this time we had a band that consisted of Joey Thornton on the lead guitar, Jim Birch on the bass guitar, Sherri Coon on the 12-string guitar, Michael Todd on the drums and Dave on the rhythm guitar. By this time our schedule was staying booked and we were out-of-state through most of the weekends in the summer and in Ohio during the colder weather. Since Dave was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of thirteen, he was experiencing hemorrhaging of the blood vessels in the eyes. With many lasers and surgeries, this left Dave completely blind in his left eye and partially blind in his right eye. This didn’t stop him from working for the Lord. He continued to push forward in the song ministry that we started.
As the years went on, we had several others singing with us as a third part, trying to keep a trio. We found out that the dedication for traveling and singing for God was left up to us. We decided that our ministry would just be Dave & Brenda Cole. Little did we know that Satan was going to fight us even harder because of our determination. Dave started battling kidney failure due to the diabetes. With a strict low protein diet, he felt good enough to continue traveling for the Lord and in 1988, we made our 3rd project "Sunday Afternoons". Then in 1989 we made our 4th project "Shepherd Of My Valley". We made these projects as cassettes only.
In 1990, Dave had a kidney and pancreas transplant. He had been on the waiting list for only three weeks. He was in the hospital for approximately 18 days and everything was great. He no longer had diabetes or kidney problems. But we traded these for other problems but God was always there to help us through each one. After being on the steroids for a few years, this depleted the calcium in his bones and he got osteoporosis. Dave had to be real careful. He broke several bones in his feet but with the determination to sing for God, this did not slow him down. Our ministry had exploded by this time and we were booked most every weekend. Dave would go with casts on his feet. Walked to the platforms to sing with crutches and sometimes he was even carried to his stool. He continued for the Lord as though nothing was wrong.
In 1997, we recorded our 5th project "Living Lessons".
Then in 1998, we recorded our 6th project "Trimmed In Gold". We made both of these projects in cassettes and CDs.
In 1999, Dave battled skin cancers because of the transplant medication that suppressed the immune system. Dave started having MOHs surgeries on his face including the lip, nose and ears. He had Basal Cell Carcinomas and Squamis Cell Carcinomas. Some of which had to involve plastic surgery. Dave was then traveling with bandages all over his face. One incident he even sung two days after surgery on his lip. He had stitches in his lip and it was swollen. But nevertheless, Dave went on just the same.
In 2001, we recorded our 7th project "The Walk Back Home". We made cassettes and CDs. As you can see, during this time frame, we couldn’t use a picture because of the cancers that Dave was having removed from his face.
In 2002, we recorded our 8th project "Life’s Highway" in which we made cassettes and CD’s.
In 2003, we started discussing our new project for the year and instead in February, Dave got sick and was down most of the year with a virus that had attacked his liver. This also started kidney failure on his transplanted kidney. Dave was able to do some singing but we had to cancel a lot of engagements that year. By November, we were told that we would want to look into another transplant. But the waiting list would be much longer. The need for kidney donors was great and he might even have to wait up to 5 to 7 years. We knew that Dave couldn’t wait that long. So we just trusted in God for a miracle - a live donor. Dave received his kidney from a live donor in May of 2004. Both were in the hospital less than a week and Dave was singing and playing his guitar within 2 ½ weeks after his transplant.
(To see how God made a miracle from this transplant, click on the above picture and read the article "A Miracle in the Making" that I wrote. This was published in The Gospel Herald of the Church of God Mountain Assembly – July 2004 issue.)
One month from Dave’s transplant, he was doing well but the skin cancers continued. This time he was diagnosed with Merkel Cell Cancer. This little spot about the size of a pencil top eraser that was on his forehead was removed and within months had spread over most of his face. Through this process, he continued to sing from June 2004 until the middle of April 2005 when he couldn’t sing any longer.
In March 2005, Dave’s brother and our pastor, Faron Cole brought the recording studio to our house and we laid down 10 songs to be released on our 9th project "The Gate". Dave always strived for perfection and wanted to go back and make changes on the songs before this project was released. His health never permitted him to do so. In June 2005, Dave knew that he was dying and told me to release this project just like it was. Dave went home to be with the Lord July 28, 2005. We played the song "The Gate" as the closing song at Dave’s funeral. This song was truly his testimony after approximately 31 years of ministry traveling and singing for the Lord. Dave’s new home is the place that he has sung about for so long. No more pain and no more suffering. His body has been made whole. Our 9th project, "The Gate" was released in October 2005. We only made CDs on this project. This CD has been a great seller for those that wanted a keepsake to remember Dave.
(To see the wonderful write-up that my brother-in-law, Chuck VanHoose wrote in memory of Dave, click on the above picture "The Gate". The words to the song "The Gate" are also included. This was published in The Gospel Herald of the Church of God Mountain Assembly – October 2005 issue.)
I knew that our ministry had to continue, but after Dave died in July, it took about three months until I was able to sing again. I have continued and the Lord is still blessing. Elizabeth and Julie are still traveling with me. Julie runs my music and Elizabeth runs the sound and helps me drive on long trips. Both have been a real blessing for several years. Since Dave went home to be with the Lord, my nephew, Bryan Langley has stepped in and travels with us. He has encouraged me to press on and he has helped me with new songs. Bryan sings with me and has been a great inspiration to my ministry.
Even though, Dave is gone, he has left a legacy behind. He has taught us to keep going on even when you don’t feel like it. Dave still lives in my ministry. Last but not least, we have released our 10th project “Dave & Brenda Cole – Legacy” in June of 2006. This is a DVD in honor of Dave. This includes an interview and eight songs that we sung with the Master’s Voice on Down Home Gospel and a slide show to tribute Dave’s life for the Lord.
Dave might not be with us in body but his spirit lives on through my ministry. The songs that he sung for thirty-one years and recorded in these projects are still being sold today.
In April 2007, I released my first project “Traveling On” without Dave as Brenda Cole Ministries. Both my nephews, Bryan and Jon helped me with this project. Dave sang the song “Three Wooden Crosses” so in his memory we recorded it. Jon leads this song and Bryan and I back him up. Dave and I used to sing “Something Out Of Nothing”. So Bryan and I recorded this song also in his memory. I named this project “Traveling On” because after thirty-one years of ministry, I had to continue.
Since Elizabeth and Julie both started lives of their own, they are not able to travel with me any longer. My Father-in-law runs my board now and helps me drive on long trips. When I need a back-up, my cousin Della Casto runs my board and drives for me. God always provides and I have been really blessed.
I retired in January of 2010 from my public job of thirty-five years and love it. I work a few days a week as the Assistant Administrator at our Christian School and have more time to work for our church. When I’m not booked, I teach the young adults at our church. Ministry is the most important thing in my life whether it is singing, teaching or just spending time in worship.
In March 2010, I released my second project “Nail It To The Cross”. I tried to release it in the Spring of 2009, but my schedule was so busy, it didn’t happen. Again both my nephews, Bryan and Jon, sang back-up on several songs on this project. One in particular that has become a favorite to many, “The Potter Knows The Clay”. God knows how much we can handle, and to make us stronger Christians, we may face a lot of trials as we walk this Christian walk. But we don’t have to walk it alone and if we can endure these trials, our outcome will be victorious. God doesn’t look for a wealthy or famous person to do his work but he looks for a willing vessel to do His will. That is my desire to always be that willing vessel to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
God has continued to bless my ministry. He has opened many new doors and I have been able to worship with many new brothers and sisters in Christ.
I want to thank all of my family and friends for their ongoing prayers and support and I hope to see all of you in service sometime in the near future.