DANVILLE, Illinois — Dan First of Danville is a singer, songwriter and local Christian acoustic guitarist who has a lot of heart for music.
He began writing songs at age 19 — about a year after his conversion to Christianity — so he could share his faith with others.
Move ahead 15 years to present-day Danville. Dan and his wife, Brandy, are raising their family of five children in the same Christian spirit he brought into his life at age 19. Music and the church are at the core of this family's existence, but they are also active and live life to the fullest.
Their children are Nolan, 17, Jordan, 14, Iggy, 10, Charity, 9, and Alexander, 5. Each of the children also has a Biblical middle name of special significance. Dan sometimes goes into an explanation of these names as a good conversation starter with other people.
During the years Dan has performed his guitar music in churches and at fund raisers, coffeehouses, community events, and college campuses in order to reach out to others with the message of God.
His song lyrics are challenging, yet grace-filled and humble — and they are meant to serve as a lesson for all people. Taking his inspiration from the Bible, Dan said, "I want to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable through my music."
Dan has composed more than 50 Christian songs through the years, and his CD called "Jesus Pariah" was recorded by Todd Reynolds of Danville and the Tate Music Group of Oklahoma.
Dan has taught music to his wife and children, and their instruments include the keyboard, guitar and drums. Brandy said, "We feel it's important to appreciate music and give our children that benefit, because you never know what direction life will take them."
In addition to his music, Dan stays busy working two jobs. He is associate pastor at the Hoopeston Church of God, a non-denominational church. Because he lives in Danville, this minister is readily available to visit church members who are hospitalized in Danville.
Dan and Brandy participate in most of the church activities, and Brandy does a personal Bible study with their children every day. Membership in the church has grown in the past years, and today the congregation numbers about 350 people.
"We try to hold events especially for young families — for people who maybe never attended a church before," Dan said. He also preaches at other churches in the area and performed his music locally in honor of the National Day of Prayer.
Dan recently marked his one-year anniversary as co-owner of the Integrity Vending Co. in Danville.
"Since we bought this company the business has quadrupled," he said. "We are one of only two vending companies based in Danville, and it's nice to see that some of the new businesses in town are keeping their vending business local."
The couple married when they were both students at Anderson University in Indiana. Brandy is originally from Portage, Indiana, and Dan has lived in Danville all his life.
Brandy has worked the night shift at Walgreens Accounting for the past five and a half years, but she also has another full-time job during the day: She home schools all of the children, except Nolan, who is attending Danville High School so he can play varsity baseball.
Brandy and Dan feel that home schooling works well for their family. The children attend some co-op classes for special subjects, such as science, history and public speaking that are taught by other home-school parents.
They also are in a variety of extracurricular activities. Dan is involved with the children's sports — coaching American Legion baseball and driving them to everything from tae kwon do to gymnastics, dance, and baseball. Brandy also attends the children's events as often as she can.
"I figure that we have an extra 10 years of time to spend with all our children by home-schooling them," Dan said, "and when you're a close-knit family like ours, this extra time is important. We are also better able to teach them our values and beliefs this way."
Dan said his children are not lacking in social activities because they are home-schooled.
"In fact, they're sometimes in more activities than we can handle," he added.
When Nolan was only 3 years old, Brandy and Dan decided to become licensed as foster parents. They did mainly respite care, where the goal is to get the children back to their parents.
Dan said, "The Bible says that we are supposed to help the widows and the orphans, and we felt that fostering children was a good way to fulfill this ministry."
Dan and Brandy adopted Jordan when she was a year old, but they had been her foster parents since she was 28 days old. Today, the teen is active in Super Soccer and the AMBUCS Challenge baseball program.
Dan and Brandy feel it's important to reserve time just for each other, so they schedule a date night every week. They also have a weekly family night, when they usually watch a movie together.
In the summer, the family enjoys going to amusement parks such as Six Flags, Disney World and Cedar Point, Ohio.
Source: (Danville) Commericial-News, http://bit.ly/10Rp4gx
Information from: Commercial-News, http://www.dancomnews.com