MARYVILLE, Tenn. -- Evan McCrady is wearing a necklace. He says he’s been wearing it since he appeared on stage at Resurrection, Holston Conference’s annual youth ministry experience in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
On Jan. 21-23, McCrady played guitar and sang in the praise band before almost 4,000 people in LeConte Center. One of the highlights of the weekend was McCrady’s testimony of a near-death experience, followed by his soulful solo on the praise song, “All I Have is Christ.”
McCrady explains how he ended up with the necklace. “It’s the trinity,” he says. After McCrady’s testimony at Resurrection, a boy from the audience was so moved by what he heard, he asked to go backstage to meet him. The boy gave McCrady the trinity-shaped pendant as a gift.
“You hope, in a sense, there is no one in the crowd who has to go through what you’ve been through,” McCrady says, “but it’s a broken world.”
Evan McCrady, age 21, has a rare kidney disease – crescentic IgA nephropathy -- that has made him a candidate for a kidney transplant. To stay alive in the meantime, he undergoes dialysis three days a week.
When McCrady sang on the Resurrection stage along with Roger Williams and the All Mixed-up Quartet on Jan. 22, he testified how his faith in God has carried him through the two years since his diagnosis, including a recent hospitalization he almost didn’t survive.
“My entire attitude throughout all of it is -- it’s not about me. I am put on this earth to share the Gospel,” he said from the stage to a hushed crowd. “If you have anything health-wise or anything else going on in your life and you don’t know the Lord, it gives you a peace like nothing I have ever known.”
His emotional story and song inspired several people to seek him out, including a 15-year-old with cancer and a 30-year transplant survivor.
“It’s a chain reaction. You tell your story, and it gets other people to share their stories,” he said.
McCrady grew up in Fairview United Methodist Church, where he has played in worship bands since age 12. McCrady now leads the praise band at Remedy, Fairview’s contemporary worship service where Roger Williams is pastor.
"I’ve been playing music all my life,” he says. As the son of local musicians Rob and Amy McCrady, the younger musician says he learned to play guitar at age 4, drums at age 11.
At age 8, he committed to Christ at “The Jesus Rally,” a summer worship festival in Pigeon Forge. At age 14, he played on the Resurrection stage for his first time as a youth member representing the Maryville District during the talent part of the annual winter weekend.
McCrady was 19 years old when his health took a turn. “Any time I would play basketball or volleyball, I would come back home feeling like I got run over by a truck and didn’t want to move,” he says.
Months of biopsies, diagnosis, medication and chemotherapy followed. “I wasn’t getting any better." At first, his impression from the doctors was, “We’re putting you on these medications and it should clear things up.”
Later, he along with his family and medical team realized that wasn’t going to be the case.
In October 2021, the patient wasn't doing well. His body weight had ballooned with fluids his kidneys couldn’t filter, 40 pounds over his usual weight. In a decision he now regrets, he decided to go anyway with his family on vacation to Destin, Florida.
Midway through the week, McCrady couldn’t catch his breath. He started vomiting and then aspirated, which led to him being placed on a ventilator in intensive care.
“It’s kind of hard to be scared when you’re sitting there and you can’t breathe and your brain is trying to figure out what’s going on,” McCrady says. But as he watched his parents, he could see they were very scared.
“When I was conscious, my mom was staying with me, and she was crying,” he said. “I had an oxygen mask on, so I couldn’t say anything. But what I wanted to say was, ‘If am going, I know where I am going.’”
Two days later, McCrady came off the ventilator, and dialysis pulled the toxins from his body. He eventually returned home, returned to his music and began a regular dialysis schedule.
“You can live a pretty good life with dialysis,” he says, but his prayer is to get on a transplant list soon.
In the meantime, the great-grandson of the late Rev. Roland Aytes, a Holston United Methodist pastor, is sensing a call to ministry. His passion to share the Gospel “really clicked” in high school and has only intensified throughout his illness.
“It just got to the point where I don’t want what I want anymore,” he says. “I want to do whatever I can to build the kingdom.”
When McCrady first heard the song, “All I Have is Christ” by Sovereign Grace, he was stunned. The song immediately became one of his favorites.
"If you read the lyrics, it’s a journey of a Christian’s life,” he said. “It shares the Gospel in such a beautiful way and a simple way that anyone can see it.”
It was the obvious choice for a song to sing on a cold winter weekend in Pigeon Forge, with thousands of teens listening and watching:
O Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose,
And let my song forever be.
My only boast is You.
Hallelujah! All I have is Christ.
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life.
See Evan McCrady's testimony on Vimeo from 1:15 to 1:29 mark
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.
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