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'A Compass to Point You to Heaven'

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Jennifer and Derek Nelson of Rockaway, New Jersey, and their friend, Steve Babula of Boonton, New Jersey, discovered the power of God's mercy as they teamed up to create an album inspired by the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska. Their music led to the creation of a program they call "A Divine Mercy Encounter," through which they spread the message of Divine Mercy. The Nelsons, true to their commitment to spreading mercy, donate half of their album sales to the Marian Missionaries of Divine Mercy.

What is "A Divine Mercy Encounter?"
Derek: The whole goal of the program centers around an hour of Eucharistic Adoration and an invitation to go to Confession. Together with some periods of silence and readings from Scripture, I play and sing original songs (which I consider more like meditations). Four of my children sing with me, and Jenn does the readings. The hope is to have people hear the lyrics and meditate on the power of God's mercy and then receive the Sacrament of Confession.

Jenn: When we do this program at parishes, for the entire hour there is a line back to back of people waiting for Confession. Seeing the lines of souls that you know are going to experience God's great mercy in the Confessional, it's really moving to be part of that, knowing that people are coming closer to the Lord. We've been doing this program for about three years and have gone to about 12 parishes.

How did this get started?
Derek: About five years ago, the New Jersey Center of Divine Mercy in Newark, New Jersey, asked if I would play music at a healing service. The person in charge of it asked me to write a song using a specific passage from St. Faustina's Diary. At that point, I didn't know much about Divine Mercy, but I wrote my first Divine Mercy song, "Suffering for Souls." The same person who asked me to write it suggested that I have the song recorded. I got together with Steve Babula, a friend of my wife who owns a recording studio. It was originally just going to be an album. But then Steve had a great idea to use the music to create "A Divine Mercy Encounter."

Steve, how did this project inspire your reversion?
Steve: As the music started coming together, my own devotion and my own faith life took a complete 180-degree turn into the direction God wanted me to go. Just seeing Derek and his devotion in the project — he was clearly not doing it for himself. That's what got me on board. It became a labor of love for me as well.

What have been people's reactions to this program?
Jenn: Someone who lost their job came up to us afterward to thank us. One woman who lost a son in a tragic accident said that this helped to heal her. She told me, "I had been so angry at God." The whole family of a Knight of Columbus who had taken his own life came to the program, listened to this music, and the wife gave us hugs after and just said, "Thank you so much. This helped me so much."

A faith formation director gave us one of the best compliments, saying, "Jenn, Derek, and the kids are not front and center. Jesus is front and center." We set up in the back of the Church. Some people might not even know who's singing. It's about an individual, personal relationship with Jesus.

Tell me more about the music.
Steve: The music isn't a trendy genre. It's timeless and appeals to all audiences. We're hoping that any chance we have to get the music out there, it will move people in some way, maybe to go to Confession and to feel God's mercy and have them change their lives in some way.

Jenn: The message of the music says that all your inconveniences in life and all your suffering is a compass to point you to Heaven, that there's a purpose behind suffering and you can help Jesus to save souls through your suffering. We want people to know that the whole point of Divine Mercy is that Jesus came to be Love and Mercy to others, and that's what we're called to do.

Why did you decide to donate half of your album proceeds to the Marian Missionaries of Divine Mercy?
Jenn: We felt that since the words of many of the songs are from Jesus to Faustina, it's not ours to profit from. We want as much of the income as possible to go to continue to spread Jesus' love and mercy to a world desperately in need of both. We wanted to support Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC, and the amazing work he's doing with the MMDM!

To listen to the Nelsons' music, visit their YouTube channel, called "A Divine Mercy Encounter."

— Marc Massery

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