Chilli From TLC Meets The Batchelors!

To borrow a line from one of Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas’ songs, “the dark days are gone, and the bright days are here” for this popular singer who was part of the 1990s pop group TLC.

Ms. Thomas, known to friends and fans as “Chilli,” has been at the pinnacle of the entertainment world—making TLC world-famous. The 2002 death of band member Lisa “Left-Eye” Lopes in a car crash changed the makeup of the group as it was known, but TLC continues to tour and perform. Last year, Chilli teamed up with Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins—the “T” in TLC—to release a new album funded by the crowdsourcing site Kickstarter.

More recently, music took a bit of a back seat to Chilli’s quest to reconnect with her spiritual roots. Calling it a “birthday present to myself,” she reached out to the one preacher she’d seen on television whose messages touched her heart and rekindled a childhood faith learned at the knee of her great-grandmother—affectionately known as “Big Mama.”

That preacher was Doug Batchelor, whom she discovered by watching Amazing Facts on television.

Inspired by Something Different
Chilli, who has always been a believer, said she tried attending some church services but was often hassled by people wanting a picture with her; often, she simply felt uninspired by the message.

“I just didn’t feel comfortable,” she said in an interview, and so Chilli would surf Sunday-morning television seeking for a message of hope that would inspire her. “When I would listen to Pastor Doug, I don’t know … it was something; it was enough to make me say, ‘Hey, he’s different, and his teachings are jumping out at me,’ ” she added. “I was hooked after that. So that’s when I found the Amazing Facts website, and I have been glued ever since.”

Hearing the clear, Bible-based teachings from Pastor Doug and Amazing Facts kindled a desire: Chilli wanted to go to his church and meet him. When she found out the ministry was in California, that seemed to present the best opportunity, since she makes regular trips to Los Angeles. Learning that the headquarters was actually near Sacramento, hundreds of miles to the north, made a quick visit less feasible.

At this point, Chilli turned to Christal Jordan, her publicist, with a simple plea: “I have to meet him. Help me!” That led to a phone conversation with Pastor Doug and the opportunity to connect at the annual National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) convention in Nashville.

“When he called me on the phone, I was so excited,” Chilli recalled. “I was doing something, and I just stopped. I was so excited and, at the same time, couldn’t believe I was on the phone with him!”

Chilli met Pastor Doug and his wife Karen at the NRB event. The Christian Post, an online publication reaching a diverse audience, ran a favorable news story about the meetup. The article featured a photo of a smiling Chilli along with the Batchelors.

“I just love the fact that Pastor Doug is truly doing what he’s supposed to do. I appreciate that as a Christian and love him for [it],” Chilli said. “And I absolutely adore Karen. I feel like she’s my new best friend. … It was a great experience for me. I’ll never forget it as long as I live.”

Sharing Health Values
The following day, the Batchelors and Chilli were at the Nashville airport preparing to return home. A fan carrying a grease-stained bag from an airport fast-food chain came over to ask for a picture with the singer.

“I said [to the fan], ‘What is that?’ And she said, ‘Oh, it’s not [for] me,’” Chilli recalled. “I said, well, I know nothing in there can be good. She had this ginormous biscuit and fries, with grease all through the bag. Pastor Doug was cracking up at me, but he loved my boldness.”

As someone devoted to physical fitness, Chilli is fearless about sharing her health insights, which closely align with the counsel found at the Amazing Facts website. “It’s important to take care of the temple; that’s what God wants us to do. So I spread that word.”

Opening Doors
This spiritual reawakening has helped Chilli find a center for her busy life. “I am working on being an active Christian; that’s my goal,” she said. “That’s what’s very important to me, to truly study the Word outside of a great [message] on the Sabbath.”

She said she takes notes during sermons and studies the Bible verses cited: “I’m getting very familiar with a lot of Scripture.” And even while touring, which she loves to do, the Sabbath remains a priority. Chilli said, “My whole team knew that I don’t do interviews on the Sabbath. … And then I let them know they are invited to my bus and tune in to Pastor Doug with me. I always leave that door open to them; it’s a forever invitation.”

She added that one of her band members and a couple of the dancers have thanked her for the invitation and for her text messages containing links to the Amazing Facts online broadcasts. They “say it’s a blessing that I reached out because maybe they were going through something or whatever the case may be.”

Reaching Out
Chilli’s witness extends to the 521,000 people who follow her on Instagram, an online photo-based social network. She’s also a popular presence on Twitter, where 861,000 people follow her. “I didn’t know so many people on Instagram or Twitter were Sabbath-keepers, because even on Sabbath, I’ll post a picture with ‘Happy Sabbath,’ ” she explained. But “once they saw the picture with Pastor Doug, Karen, and me, it was like, ‘Oh my goodness! I didn’t know [you are a Sabbath-keeper] too, and they were so happy.”

Such encouragement has left Chilli promising to continue sharing her testimony. “I always share the Word as often as I can and have some discussions, but I’ll never stop sharing. That’s not gonna happen.”

Written by Mark A. Kellner

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