PAINTSVILLE, Ky. — Marlana Vanhoose has jammed with the Beach Boys, posed for photos with sports legends like Shaquielle O’Neal and Charles Barkley, been interviewed by NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie and hobnobbed with President Donald Trump.
A 4-foot, 3-inch, 21-year-old dynamo, Marlana is quick to acknowledge that with God all things are possible.
Blind, wearing dark-tinted glasses with red rims, she is nonchalant about the level of celebrity she has achieved, whether singing and playing piano at New York’s Carnegie Hall or belting out the national anthem in sports stadiums across the country.
“God gave me the ability,” Marlana said. “It just came natural. So, He gets all the credit.”
Her pastor, Clay Wheeler at Liberty Baptist Church outside Paintsville, Ky., said Marlana can play the piano “as good as anyone with sight.”
“She has cerebral palsy but is very mobile. Every time Marlana plays or sings, it is a testament to her faith and to the God that has blessed her and continues to bless her so the world will hear the name of Jesus and know the love He has for all of us,” Wheeler said.
Marlana lives in rural Johnson County, just a stone’s throw from her church where she surrendered her heart to Christ nine years ago when she was 12.
Her parents, David and Teresa Vanhoose, have provided the kind of nurturing that has allowed her to hone her talents. As a child, she sang every Sunday morning at church, later venturing out to sing at other churches in eastern Kentucky and performing with the Kentucky Opry at the Mountain Arts Center in nearby Prestonsburg.
“I knew she was going to be special but I never dreamed she would be as popular as she has become,” her father said. “We’ve just been awed by what God has done in her life.”
Despite her diminutive stature, Marlana has a powerful voice and a massive repertoire of songs. Just how many she isn’t even sure. YouTube shows her singing everything from gospel to country to rock.
She isn’t bashful about sharing her Christian testimony. In fact, it’s impossible to chat with her long before she mentions Jesus. In Louisville to perform at a political rally, Marlana found herself chatting with Trump, who had won election on his pledge to “make America great again.” Marlana offered the president gentle words of guidance in her sweet, youthful voice: “Jesus Christ is the only one who can make America great again.”
“Marlana tells people about Jesus wherever she goes, whether it is on a stage in a stadium, at a church, on TV in front of millions, or just out in town,” Wheeler said. “Her faith in Jesus is the driving force in her life.
“It is so amazing how God uses her to bring glory to Himself,” her pastor said. “I do have to say it was pretty cool that God gave her the national platform of the presidential inauguration to sing about Him” during the inaugural prayer service in Washington.
“She did such a great job singing that day,” Wheeler said. “It was good to see that her singing, and the Holy Spirit, moved people in such a visible way.” The first lady, tears in her eyes, led a standing ovation after Marlana’s rendition of “How Great Thou Art.”
“She is such a great representative of our church and especially of Jesus,” Wheeler said. “We don’t mind sharing her with the world but we absolutely love it when she is at home at Liberty on a Sunday to sing and share in God’s grace with us.”
Longtime friend, June Rice, said Marlana could hum “Jesus Loves Me” before she could walk or talk and that she started playing tunes on the piano when she was still a toddler.
Marlana’s mother, Teresa, saw to it that Marlana had every opportunity for success, even quitting her job as a school teacher so she could travel with her daughter to events.
“She has sung at churches all over the area for years and has been a regular member of the Kentucky Opry on Saturday nights since she was a child,” Rice said. “She is one of those special savants who remembers everything she has ever heard — especially any song.
“All that attention has not spoiled her,” Rice said. “She sings for her Lord Jesus, and I hope she continues to be a sweet and unspoiled Christian for the rest of her days.”
— by Roger Alford | BP
Alford is editor of Kentucky Today