From music section to musical tour, he finds fulfillment

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Hector Cervantes has missed a lot of work lately.

Cervantes typically works on the floor in the music area as a sales associate for LifeWay Christian Store in Morrow, Ga. That's not surprising since music is what brought him to the Atlanta area in the first place. But it's music that's taking him on the road along with six other band members who make up Casting Crowns, a Christian group whose self-titled album was co-produced by music heavyweights Steven Curtis Chapman, a multiple Dove-award winner, and Mark Miller, lead vocalist for the country group Sawyer Brown.

"Hector is an excellent employee with a great sense of humor," said David Bowens, manager of the Morrow store. "We're really proud of him for following his heart -- he believes in what he's doing."

Casting Crowns began their group four years ago as the student ministry worship band at First Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, Fla. When the lead singer, Mark Hall, accepted a position as youth pastor at Eagle's Landing First Baptist Church in McDonough, Ga., the other members of the band moved as well to continue the group's ministry. That included Cervantes.

"We prayed and fasted about it and decided God was leading us to Atlanta," Cervantes said.

It was shortly after moving that he took the job at LifeWay.

"LifeWay is a great place to work and has made a big impact on me, that's for sure," said Cervantes, as he waited with the rest of the band to perform in a special showcase at LifeWay's downtown headquarters in early October. "There were some good Christian guys there my age that have become my accountability partners and it's nice to work in an environment where you pray and have devotions in the morning before you start the day. That's normal for a church but to have that in a place of business, it's a real blessing."

Cervantes says the pace has been frenetic since signing with Beach Street Records earlier this year. They joined their first national tour -- Rebecca St. James' "Let My Words Be Few" fall tour -- and are slated to travel to 16 different cities through the end of October.

"It's been exciting and kind of surreal how everything came together all at once," said Cervantes, noting that the first phone call from Miller came only eight months ago. "I think everything has happened because we didn't pursue it -- we never sent out demos or tried to get a record deal. We were just playing praise and worship for our church."

Their album released nationally and debuted at No. 1, garnering the highest first-week sales of any debut artist according to the Nielsen SoundScan Christian market sales chart.

The Morrow store helped with the CD-release party held at the group's church the first weekend in October. Bowens, the store's manager, said sales have been high.

"We sold 1,300 CDs at the CD-release party and all of the LifeWay stores in the Atlanta area sold out of the CD the first day," Bowens said. "It's been really exciting. We've just been swamped with people buying 30 or 40 at a time to take back to their youth groups and churches. We hope to have the band in for a signing in the store once the tour is over."

One of the band's guitarists, Cervantes helps with vocals and is also responsible for the band's website (www.castingcrowns.org).

The group hopes that God will be honored by their efforts.

"We pray [the album] challenges people," Cervantes said. "We've already seen God work through this entire process and we pray we'll continue to see Him."

The 23-year-old insists he'll be back at LifeWay after the tour.

Cervantes said Bowens "has been great, and it's been really neat to see their excitement."


Casting Crowns' self-titled debut is available online at www.lifewaychristianstores.com or at LifeWay Christian Stores nationwide.

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