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A life focused on God

Anybody who has ever meet Chelley Odle likely remembers two things about the gospel singer who has lived her entire life in the Parkland — the ever-present smile and her incredibly beautiful voice.

Theresa Michelle “Chelley” Nelson was born in Farmington and spent her earliest years living in an old farm house with her parents, Vernon and Theresa.

“We moved to Desloge when I was 4,” Odle said. “My dad ran for sheriff in my junior year of high school. He won the primary, but lost the general election to Jack Cade. After that my parents moved with both my brothers to Hillsboro and I stayed behind because I only had one year left of high school. I stayed with some family and graduated from North County in 1990.”

After graduation, she attended Mineral Area College for the next two years and ended up marrying her high school sweetheart, Chuck Odle.

“I dropped out of school to get married,” Odle said. “I didn’t really have it in me to go to college at that point. It was only later, after I’d had my first baby and really started getting serious about career and what I’d really like to do that I went back and finished. I got married in 1992 and had my oldest son in 1994. We’ve lived here and raised both our boys here. My oldest graduated from North County and my youngest is a sophomore there now.”

While Odle is well known for her exceptional singing voice, she said people might be a little surprised to find out that when she was a child she wasn’t dreaming of becoming a singer — she wanted to be a businesswoman.

“What really got me singing was that both of my parents sang,” she said. “Back before I was born, my dad lived in Bakersfield, California, and he started doing music with Buck Owens and Merle Haggard before they were legendary. He was an amazing singer, but he was a really good acoustic guitarist too.

“Dad started playing in the same studios where they did and Buck Owens’ producer sent my dad some demos and asked him to play. He was going to, but in the interim my grandfather called and told Dad that if he wanted to come home, he had a job waiting for him.

“My dad had been homesick for quite a while. His parents lived in Elvins, so he and my mom decided to go home. That producer chased him all over the country trying to get him to just record the guitar portion for Buck Owens, but he never did it.”

Odle said that, as a child, she remembered her parents had the Nelson Show-Me Family Music Show and sang with both the Wilkinson Brothers and Plummer Family in Branson.

“I was raised in it my entire life on Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Merle Haggard, John Denver and Linda Ronstadt,” she said. “Linda was really the one I tried to hone my craft after. She had such a powerful voice. I think I just molded myself around what I heard all the time, and that was her.”

According to Odle, while her family didn’t attend church when she was a child, it was in a church where God revealed his purpose for the young singer’s life.

“When I met Chuck, his family went to a Pentecostal church,” she said. “Of course, being a music person and coming from a family where both of your parents sing and music is such a huge part of your life, it was like going to a concert every single Sunday. What first attracted me to the church was the music, but in the interim God got a hold of my heart.”

As her gospel music career began heating up, Odle started receiving a lot of good word-of-mouth. She formed a traveling band and they put out a CD.

“Things were going really well and we had been booked at this park,” Odle said. “When we went to the park, hardly anybody had shown up — maybe three or four people. I got so mad about that. Not at anyone specifically, other than really myself. I was thinking, ‘You know, I’ve been doing this long enough that I should be drawing more people than this. I just got really agitated over it.’

“We went on as if there were 100 or a 1,000 people out there, but the spirit started moving in that park. There were a couple of people listening at a picnic table 100 yards away. We had a few people over here. I was asking myself what I wasn’t doing right and what should I be doing differently, but the spirit started moving in that little concert.”

Before the end of the concert, people were crying — and so was Odle who was feeling convicted for how she had reacted so negatively to the small crowd.

“I’ll never forget that there was a couple there with a young baby,” she said. “The man came to me and asked if I went to church and I told him where I was going at the time. Then he asked where I was singing next and I told him. The next weekend we were at the Labor Day Picnic in Desloge and he and his wife showed up with their little child. I instantly recognized him and went to talk to him. Next Sunday, they showed up at church. I thought, ‘Wow, God, this is what it’s about. This is why we do what we do.’

“Then he told me that he had been in the church a long time ago, ended up with cancer and had been prayed for and healed. Unfortunately, he had backslidden and was no longer in the church and was battling his second round of cancer. He said that he knew if God could heal him once, he could heal him again. His first step toward getting back to God was at that concert in the park.”

Odle recalled that the Bible says God chastens those whom he loves and said that in this instance God gave her a good “spanking.”

In the years that followed, Odle has continued to have a God-centered music ministry. She has had the opportunity to open for such acts as The Crabb Family, Gold City, and The Bowling Family and has performed with Michael Boggs and Jason Crabb. She also worked twice with Grammy and Dove Award winning producer Tre’ Corley of Oak Tree Productions. Odle’s self titled debut album came out in October 2008 and her sophomore project, “Incredible Love,” was released in March of 2012.

“I actually haven’t done another one since 2012,” Odle said. “Life just got kind of busy, but I’m hoping to. We’re actually having a conversation now about doing a worship album.”

Asked where God is leading her ministry now, Odle said, “I am the Wednesday night worship leader for Harvest Christian Centre in Park Hills. Every Sunday I’m usually doing singing of some kind. We have teams, so we rotate. One of the things that I’ve always prayed is ‘God, if you provide the opportunity, I’ll do it.’

“There’s also lots of TV stuff happening which is super duper exciting. I’ve had the opportunity of being on TBN three times — two times through interviews where I shared my testimony and one time singing live. God opened that door. It was a lot of fun.

“My nephew, Dustin Bannister owns a recording studio in Patton called Blue Creek Productions and he does a great job. He made the connection for me to be on a show called ‘The Spiel’ on Fox in Marion, Illinois. So, we went there to sing live on their show. In the interim, the producer called me to ask if I’d ever heard of the TCT network. She told me she’d watched my TBN interviews and told me she thought I’d be great for the show.

“She called the producer of that show and told her about me. Sure enough, within 24-hours I got a phone call from that producer. She told me she would love to have me on the show, which is kind of like ‘The View,’ except it’s a panel of Christian women and we have guests. I told her I’d love to do that and that will be on March 28.

“Then while I was singing on a cruise a couple of weeks ago, I got a text from TBN wanting me to come back and do something else there. So, I haven’t been given any details about that yet, but several different television gigs are coming up that I’m excited about.”

Odle still remains open to God’s will for her life and ministry. She has come to learn that it’s all about letting God use her for his purpose and not showcasing her talent.

“Once I got saved and started singing in worship and for something bigger than myself, I felt like I found my purpose in life. You wonder why God gives you talents or why you’re good at one thing and horrible at another. I knew at that time this was why God gave me that gift and this was what I was supposed to do with it. I’ve devoted my voice and my life to God, to his service and to his kingdom and that’s all I use it for.”

For more information about Chelley Odle, go to her website at www.chelleyodle.com.

“Once I got saved and started singing in worship and for something bigger than myself, I felt like I found my purpose in life.”

Local gospel singer Chelley Odle knows that she is an instrument by which God communicates the good news of salvation to the world. Several upcoming television opportunities are going to give her the chance once again to tell others of her faith in Christ.

Local gospel singer Chelley Odle knows that she is an instrument by which God communicates the good news of salvation to the world. Several upcoming television opportunities are going to give her the chance once again to tell others of her faith in Christ.

Chelley Odle uses her singing gift in a number of ways throughout the Parkland. Above she sings the National Anthem at the start of Relay For Life of St. Francois County.

Chelley Odle uses her singing gift in a number of ways throughout the Parkland. Above she sings the National Anthem at the start of Relay For Life of St. Francois County.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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