by Cesca Janece Waterfield
On Easter Sunday, Richmond-based radio program “Sharing the Gospel with Keith and Lorna” will celebrate its one year anniversary. Beyond its symbolic birthday, the show is also a rebirth of sorts for its hosts, who have battled serious illnesses to emerge with stronger faith and to share an eclectic mix of gospel music and their unique message of healing.
From Shadows, a Rebirth
Lorna Warden grew up in Richmond, and was even one of the three young girls represented by NAACP attorneys who in 1958, sought entry into a then-segregated Richmond public school. With a Communications degree from Howard University, Lorna had been living in New York City for several years, where she was media professional by day and working as a musician in clubs at night. Then one day, mysteriously and suddenly she lost sight in her left eye.
Although she regained vision in a few days, doctors made a frightening diagnosis: multiple sclerosis. As her symptoms multiplied in the coming years, Lorna had to leave her job and return home to Richmond to recuperate and seek treatment. While working at gospel music store Barky’s on Broad St. Lorna met Keith Gardner, who’d stopped in to buy some sheet music. “We had similar experiences in our disabilities,” Lorna says. “And we both love music.”
Keith was raised in Charles City and has been playing guitar since he was three and piano since age five. He also plays violin, bass guitar and drums. But his musical talent is not why he’s known as “Wonderboy” to friends and listeners.
Keith, who is legally blind says, “I was about a pound and a half when I was born. The doctors told my mom that I wouldn’t live to be five. When I turned five years old, then he moved the age up a little more. He said when you turn ten. Then when I turned ten, he said by the time you turn 19, you’re going to die. Here I’m sitting, I’m 47 years old.”
At dinner with Lorna one night, Keith remembers “She said she wanted to be on the radio. That was something I wanted to do too.”
“We are both very spiritual people,” Lorna says. “We decided we wanted to find music that was scripturally based.” Keith was working in sales at Rejoice Radio, and one month later, the duo was on air. In unison, the pair says, “It was a great flow.”
“And we have fun,” Lorna says. “You’ve got to put the personality in it. We have a large following of people who like different kinds of gospel music. Some people like quartets, some like choirs. We try to please everybody. We also try to keep it scripturally based. We’ll go back and get some good old stuff and then play it next to maybe Kirk Franklin.”
Sharing a Message
Lorna will celebrate Easter at Westwood Baptist Church, which she’s attended since she was a child. Lorna credits Westwood for support when she was one of three girls who sat before Federal District Judges in landmark desegregation hearings. “That particular community had a large part in the whole desegregation of the school system here in Richmond.” On Easter, she says, “We’ll be prayerful.”
Yet with her MS currently in remission, Lorna is still vulnerable to relapse. “I fell not too long ago and ended up at MCV. I’ve had a lot of hospital time. There are times when I can’t walk and times when I just deal as I go through things. But God has been good to me and I’m thankful.”
“My journey is faith,” Keith makes clear. “Society did not adapt to me; I have to adapt to society. Basically everything that I’ve done as far as musically and radio, if I set my mind that I’m going to do it, I’m going to get it done, one way or another.”
Lorna urges others “Don’t give up on your dreams. Don’t give up on yourself. I’ve had that experience. I’ve given up on myself. But I would like for people to have faith in God. If they just hang in there a little bit longer, it will eventually work itself out and they may be surprised at what’s on the other side if they just hold on a little longer.”