By Dustin Luca
---- — Andover Baptist Church is scheduled for an afternoon of "lots of deliverance and God moving through the people" with the arrival of Sheila Raye Charles this Saturday.
Charles, daughter of music legend Ray Charles, will share her story in song and sermon at the church beginning at noon. The event is free to the public and will be followed by a luncheon.
"We're really looking to open up the doors to our church to Andover and the surrounding community," Denise Wynn, missions ministry chairwoman at the predominantly African-American church, said. "We want to share this amazing gift that we've been blessed with in the community."
Sheila Raye Charles' story is one of personal pain, and then triumph through a relationship with God. After being sexually molested as a child and battling a crack cocaine addition for more than 20 years, Charles eventually lost custody of her five children and found herself in federal prison three times.
It was there that "God reached out in a pit of hell and pulled me out," she said.
"When I reached the darkest part of my life, Ray Charles couldn't save me," Sheila Raye Charles said. "I couldn't find my way out of a wet paper bag, that's how hurt I was, how distraught I was... God did for me what I couldn't do myself."
Her stop in Andover falls in the middle of a tour through New England that started Sunday, March 17, in Revere and ends on March 26 in Auburn.
As soon as the church found out she was in the area, members reached out to Charles to bring her to Andover, according Wynn.
"It was just one of those things that just happened to fall into our laps," Wynn said. "The timing was right. Everything just aligned."
Charles will bring with her "an intense story but, all the while, going through this process, we're going to have a good time too," Charles said.
While Sheila Raye Charles' story is one of triumph, her presentation in Andover will also focus on her father, she said.
"If there's one thing you should know about Ray Charles, Ray didn't just let anybody in his very close-knit circle of music. The fact that he even let me in to record with him let me know I had something special," Sheila Raye Charles said. "It wasn't until my relationship with God that I knew what that special something was."
To honor her father, she will also perform some of her father's hits — albeit with her own flair.
"When I do his music, I kind of portray him inside of that," she said. "It's a pretty exciting moment within my testimony when I do my father's music."
Sheila Raye Charles' books and music will be on sale at the event, but everything else is "a free showcase."
The church is located at 7 Central St. in downtown Andover, essentially across Essex Street from the side of Memorial Hall Library. For more information, visit the church's website at andover-baptist-church.org.