Looking for a great Christmas gift for friends, family or your pastor? “Here’s One” is a story of God’s faithfulness throughout 40 years of international ministry with Jon Stemkoski and Celebrant Singers. Just $20 + $5 shipping for a SIGNED COPY of this pre-publication edition! Simply let us know to whom and our founder Jon will personalize each book.

Email celebrants@celebrants.org to order today! Enjoy an excerpt below…

“It was a very early morning…especially for a guy who always wanted to be, and occasionally got to be, a ‘morning person,’ but most of the time lived life somewhat nocturnally.

The night before yielded precious little sleep as seemingly thousands of thoughts cycled through my mind. This was not my standard de rigueur. Normally I slept very well. When my body was tired, my brain virtually always cooperated by turning off the days’ events and sleep usually came quickly and easily. But not last night.

How could we possibly be here? What components lined up to lead to this extraordinary opportunity? It was, at least, tremendously surreal.

We showered, dressed, had our morning coffee, got our nearly six-month-old daughter, Chelsea, fed and clothed and made our way down to the lobby of the Hotel Argentina. Our bus was waiting. I’ve always loved the smell of diesel in the morning but today it was particularly exhilarating. Our Luxembourg driver, Clement (Clem), greeted us warmly and made over Chelsea, giving her his customary morning hug and kiss, while the team finished last-minute packing. Did we have all the equipment — all the proper cords and connectors? Today there was no room for error. Thankfully, years of practice and a deep-seated philosophy of daily excellence paid off. We did have everything and we were ready to go.

With amazing skill and seeming ease Clem began to navigate the narrow streets of the ancient city, making our way to that morning’s venue. We were headed to the Vatican.

Speedily ushered through three levels of security, Rome police, Vatican police and the iconic Swiss guard, I was taken by how quickly it all transpired. It was as though they were expecting us…and, of course, they were! Soon we stood at our assigned spot on the hallowed, revered steps of St. Peter’s Basilica, overlooking the massive expanse of St. Peter’s square. Was this really happening?

It was still early, only 6:00a.m. or so. As we’d done thousands of times before, we went to work like a well-oiled machine setting up our equipment, laying cords straight, testing microphones…testing 1,2,3…testing 1,2,3…. We hooked up to the main Vatican sound system hoping and praying it would all work. This was not a day to have something go wrong!

Hours passed unnoticed and before we knew it, the immense crowd had gathered, loudly buzzing…pressing tightly against the heavy white wooden barricades. The air was electric. Anticipation mounted as the most popular Pope in recent memory arrived to the adoring cheers of thousands. So many thousands! Rome police estimated one million people in the streets that day, with nearly 500,000 within earshot of what we were about to do.

In a seeming instant, the announcement came booming over that massive sound system….. ‘We welcome today, the CELEBRANT SINGERS, from…from…from ViZalia in California!’ The young priest-announcer had bobbled the name of our beloved hometown! But no time to quibble…we were on! It was time to sing!

‘We have come into His house, and gathered in His
Name to worship Him,
We have come into His house and gathered in His Name
to worship Him,
We have come into His house, and gathered in His Name
to worship Christ the Lord,
Worship Him, Christ the Lord!

So forget about yourself and concentrate on Him and
worship Him,
So forget about yourself……’

It was an amazing morning. We sang and shared the gospel with half a million people on the steps of St. Peter’s in Rome. The entire event was broadcast worldwide via Radio Vaticana, reaching untold millions more. A Vatican official approached us and said, ‘We want to put a little wire into your sound system. And when we do, you’ll be on worldwide radio. What would you like to sing?’ And then, with a wry smile he added, ‘Don’t be nervous.’

We had about two minutes before going live. My mind was racing through our repertoire. If I had to pick one song to be heard ‘round the world…what would it be? What message does North and South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and the islands of the sea need to hear? Instantly it came to me. I informed the team and on the official’s cue we began to sing…

‘Above His Name there is no other Name,
The One who is eternally the same,
There is no other Name.

The first and last beginning and the end,
He was a king who made the common man His friend,
There is no other Name.
Let every tongue proclaim and praise the Name of Jesus!’

Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Confucionists, Shintoists, Jainists, Taoists, Zoroastrians, Bahais, Tribals, Atheists, Agnostics and multitudes who identify as ‘non religious’ all heard the gospel that day as through that song Jesus was proclaimed for who He is…the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

When it was all over, we found ourselves at a lovely Italian café, savoring pasta al dente and discussing the entire affair. Did we really just do that? Did we really sing to half a million people – the largest crowd at a Papal audience since 1951 – from the steps of St. Peter’s? Did Pope John Paul II really come by to greet us all personally, hold, kiss and bless my precious daughter, Chelsea, and stand right next to the team, listening admiringly, smiling and nodding approvingly to our songs? Did all that really happen? How many doors for sharing the gospel would this day open? None of us could possibly know. It was God’s secret, only to be revealed in His time.”