Tony Cummings spoke to Lorena Castellanos of a band birthed in revival, SOULFIRE REVOLUTION
For those who believe that contemporary Christian music is to be a spearhead for revival in Britain, these are thrilling times. The ever-increasing popularity and influence of American musical revivalists like Bethel Music and Jesus Culture and the international recognition of Australia's Hillsong ministries are, I believe, demonstrations that the process of what will become worldwide revival has already started. And in South America there are now clear signs that the long-awaited worldwide revival has actually begun. In Brazil the worship ministry Diante Do Trono have played a key role in bringing salvation, healing and regeneration to thousands once outside the axis of the Church while in Colombia, through the ministry of Soulfire Revolution, the situation is the same. I spoke to Lorena Castellanos of the group based in Bogota about the mighty work of God in which they are caught up.
I asked Lorena whether she thought we were on the cusp of worldwide revival. "Of course. As more evil is starting to rise up in the world, we believe that more good is going to come. We're friends with Reinhard Bonnke and he was saying that, more than ever, especially in America, he felt this was the time to do change, people coming back to God. No matter all the attacks against Christians and against Bible principles we're seeing - especially in the US - he was saying, 'I believe this is the time for revival. I believe this is the time to reach the USA.' He was going to a crusade in Chicago to preach. I believe the same. There's always going to be a difference between good and evil, and you cannot be in the middle: be close to God, or be away from in the world. I believe that's what's going to happen now: you're either with God a hundred percent, or you're in the world. We've seen revival here in Colombia, our church grows in an unbelievable way: we have thousands of people coming - new people - giving their lives to Jesus weekly. We are seeing revival here. We're very involved in the government. We believe the Church has to be the greatest influence in the country."
Soulfire Revolution is comprised of two married couples: Lorena Castellanos (lead vocals, keyboard) and her husband Julian Gamba (bass) and Paola Sanchez (drums) and Anthony Catacoli (lead guitar), plus Lorena's brother-in-law Richard Harding (vocals, guitar). Lorena is the daughter of Cesar and Claudia Castellanos, who 30 odd years ago left their comfortable life in Miami, Florida, to start a church in Bogota. It seemed an extraordinarily heroic endeavour. For decades Colombia has been held captive to the social and political evil of drug trafficking. In a country where the presence of the State has always been weak, the result has been a grinding war on multiple fronts with ordinary people caught in the crossfire. Human rights advocates continue to blame numerous paramilitary groups linked to drug traffickers for massacres, disappearances, assassinations, torture, kidnapping and epidemic corruption. Into this environment Cesar and Claudia started Mision Carismatica Internacional (MCI) with eight adults. The Castellanos' church plant almost cost them their lives. One day en route to their young daughter's birthday celebration two men on motorcycles fired shots at the couple, hitting Cesar five times and Claudia once. As a result, Cesar was in a coma for 10 days and lost so much blood the doctors weren't sure he'd recover. Not only did he recover, he today oversees the MCI church of 70,000 members with hundreds being added each week.
Pivotal to MCI's growth has been the abandoned worship of Soulfire Revolution. The group told universalorlando.com, "We played every weekend mostly doing cover songs. After a while we felt like God was bringing great words to our church from our pastor and we decided to start writing songs and just writing music mostly for the church. That's when we decided to start taking things a bit more professionally and we felt a calling for this."
In 2011 Soulfire Revolution began writing songs which were to be featured on the album 'Revival' (English language version) / 'Aviva' (Spanish). Lorena spoke about the title track. "We were in Nashville with some friends and they came up with the idea for the song. They showed it to me and my husband, and when we started listening to the lyrics, we could really relate to the chorus a lot. What we are seeing in Colombia is a true revival. Thousands of people are getting saved every week. We could totally relate to the message of the chorus. We started to work on the lyrics of the verses like, 'The world is a desert dry and thirsty/Your love is the answer full of mercy.' The song is a message for people that you can start a revival wherever you are. All you need to do is speak out and tell someone about Jesus. The first time we played the song at our church in Bogota at our youth services, the response was amazing. It's a really upbeat song, and people were jumping up and down and really having a good time. We realized that this song is powerful."
A guest on 'Revival/Aviva' was Jesus Culture's renowned Kim Walker-Smith. Lorena explained how that came about. "After we decided who would produce the album, we chose Jeremy Edwardson and he has produced all of the Jesus Culture albums. The last part we wrote for the song was the bridge, 'Send Revival Fire'. We were listening to that part of the song in the studio and we were thinking it would be awesome for Kim to sing that part. Then, since Jeremy is really good friends with her, he asked her to sing that part and she recorded it in three languages and did a great job. For us, because we really admire her and how God is using her, it was a privilege to have her sing on our song. It adds something really special to the song. When we play this song at conferences, we sing that part 'Send Revival Fire' over and over again. It's a really powerful part for the Church."
Another top talent guest on 'Revival' was TobyMac who adds a rap to "Spirit Break Out" ("Espiritu Ven"), the song popularised by Britain's Worship Central. The album went on to win a Dove Award for Spanish Album Of The Year in 2014. About the English language version journalist Timothy Yap wrote, "The major reason attributive to the success of 'Revival' is that it is never static. Never exhausting one style, the MCI worship team fluidly transits between traditional worship to dance to rap to contemporary pop. Taking a lesson from Hillsong United, 'Glorious' combines the cinematic unfolding of the song's melodic line with an ethereal balladry feel that makes this ode to Christ's resurrection power a piece of worship art. Also, 'Count The Stars' (featuring Martin Smith) is easily one of the most melodious pieces of worship balladry released this year. While on the Jason Ingram co-write 'Place Of Surrender' the gears shift back to those gorgeous hymn-like worship ballads that are so fitting for congregational singing."
Lorena told Jesusfreakhideout what she hoped the tens of thousands of purchasers of 'Revival/Aviva' would take away from the album. "We are not just worship leaders but we are also very involved in ministry as pastors and leaders in the church. Our heart behind the album is for people to really encounter God through every one of these songs. In their prayer time, we hope that they could listen to these songs, and have an encounter with God. We don't want people to leave it there. We want people to do something for a revival, and believe that they could do something. You can bring revival to your friends, because it has already started in your own heart. The album has songs like 'Awaken My Heart'. That's the first step to experiencing God, asking him to 'breathe life on the dry bones' that I have. Just one drop of the blood of Jesus can heal any circumstance or sickness. We've seen miracles as we've played these songs live. Our prayer is that as people listen to these songs, they will experience miracles as well in their own lives. We believe that God wants to bring a message of joy and that church services should be something fun for everyone. We like to keep people dancing and praising God with our songs."
Now Soulfire Revolution's second album 'Afterglow'/'Tu Luz Brilla' has been released through Dream Records. Said Lorena, "'Revival' was recorded in California but with 'Afterglow' we decided to record in our home church in Bogota. The best thing was the worship atmosphere there. My favourite worship records are live, so we wanted to capture that worship atmosphere. That's why they're very different: because 'Revival' is a studio album. It was worship-driven as well, but this one is VERY worship-driven. For 'Afterglow' we wrote two songs with Martin Smith. He wasn't featured, but he did write with us. One of them is called 'We Will Rise Up', which is a powerful worship song we sing in church; the other one is called 'You Have Won My Heart'."
Lorena continued, "Our first single is called 'Set the World On Fire'. It's very happy; when we sing it love, people go crazy and start jumping. Beyond that, it's more the message; people are saying, 'We want to set the world on fire', but it starts on the inside: revival needs to start in you first. We believe that right now that's what God's bringing back to Church - that freedom to dance, have fun, get a lot of young people together. It's that type of vibe: very happy, electronic, and people are able to dance. We just released another music video called 'Fire Fall Down'. Elijah had to prove who the true God was - the one who would respond with fire. It's based on that passage, and it's very powerful when we sing it live."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.