A couple of days before Chris Blue headed out to Los Angeles to take the next step toward his future, he stopped by Peace and Goodwill Missionary Baptist Church to say thank you. Nobody was there, but he stood in front of the church and posted a video to Facebook with the following message:
“Earlier today I had the privilege of going to where it all started when me and my family moved to Tennessee!! You’ll hear me say it till I can’t say it no more!!…. Thank you ALL SO much for all of your prayers Love and support!!!! GOD BLESS YOU ALL!! I love you!!!”
Diane Jordan, whose husband, John W. Jordan, is pastor at Peace and Goodwill, remembers the first time she saw Chris and his family. Her brother Kevin had been raving about some talented kids. The eldest boy, PJ, went to Bearden High School with Kevin’s son. The family was new to Knoxville, and Kevin wanted the Jordans to invite them to sing at Peace and Goodwill. The next Sunday, the Blue Brothers walked into the church and into the Jordans’ hearts.
“They were like the Jackson Five, but they were singing gospel. Chris, the baby, was Michael. He was only 10 years old and he was this big,” she said, measuring out about 4 feet from the floor. “We immediately adopted them as our godchildren – those five boys and the two girls, too.”
From then until now, Diane Jordan has relentlessly promoted the Blue Brothers. Chris would preach his first sermon at Peace and Goodwill when he was 12. He was ordained at 13.
“The whole Peace and Goodwill family embraced us with so much love,” PJ Blue said.
Today, Chris is 26, and poised on the brink of stardom. He’s the crowd favorite on NBC’s popular talent show “The Voice,” and after his first appearance, celebrity judge Blake Shelton predicted he’d win it all.
The Blue family moved here from Florida in August 2000, after their mother, Janice, made a prayerful decision to make a new life in a new place.
“It was a faith move,” she said. “God had been speaking to me, and I knew that with God on my side, I could make it.”
She researched different cities and narrowed her choices to Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville, Chattanooga and Knoxville, but wasn’t certain where she was supposed to go until she encountered a prophet at a church conference in Dublin, Ga.
“There was a man of God, ministering prophetically, and he called me out. He didn’t know my situation, but I’d asked God before I went to the conference – ‘School is about to start. Where would you have us to go? Which city? And when?’
“The Prophet said, ‘I see you and your children moving to the state of Tennessee.’ I said, ‘OK, but which city? I need to be sure.’ The man of God said, ‘I see you and your family established in the city of Knoxville.’ But he didn’t say when.”
After the Sunday service, he told her she’d be leaving within a few days. By Wednesday, the Blues had their U-Haul and everything they needed for the journey.
PJ, whose given name is Earnest, was a surrogate father to his younger siblings (his email handle is IMFirstof7). Today, he is an assistant minister at Trinity Tabernacle Church of God in Christ. His deep, resonant voice gives him away as the basso profundo in the family choir. Next is Julius – nicknamed Maestro (he plays multiple instruments, has earned a degree in music from the University of Tennessee and is minister of music at Peace and Goodwill). Michael (Mookie) plays semi-professional basketball. Johnathan plays drums at Eternal Life Fellowship Church. Ashley is a police officer at the University of Tennessee and is taking college classes in her field. Strawberry is married and raising children. Chris is a worship leader at Cokesbury United Methodist Church.
Janice divides her time between Florida and Knoxville, where she has grandchildren and her pick of places to stay.
They remain close to the Jordans, who introduced them to other churches and relentlessly spread the word when they were getting started. Diane, a former Knox County commissioner and an East Knoxville political powerhouse, remembers only one slight bump in the road. It makes her laugh.
“Kevin told me PJ could really sing. I said, ‘Great!’ and PJ said, ‘If you can afford us.’ If you can afford us – that little smart alec boy stood there and said that to me!”
She and PJ share a belly laugh.
PJ remembers himself as a kid trying to get the hang of the business side of music, but concedes that he could have been more tactful.
“I didn’t realize I was standing in front of the Queen of Knoxville, or I might have reworded it.”