Franklin is heavenly tool

Gugu Sibiya

Gugu Sibiya

When I finally come face to face with gospel singer Kirk Franklin at Emperor's Palace in Kempton Park, Johannesburg, I am not sure whether to smother the man in a gigantic hug or simply play starstruck.

Franklin is here to perform at the Mapungubwe Gospel Festival at the Polokwane Cricket Stadium on Saturday.

Settling down to his honey- sweetened lemon tea, Franklin tells me he is God's servant.

"I am God's instrument, a father, a husband, a young man who is hungry for God and doing his will," he says.

"As a young man I struggled hard to shed the church image. It was through God's grace that I finally became serious about the church and my belief," says the singer who grew up in Texas, US.

Painting a picture of a troubled youth, in a gangster-infested neighbourhood, he says he used to smoke and get high.

"But come Sunday, I would be in church because that is what my mother expected."

At 15 he underwent a road-to- Damascus experience when his friend was killed.

"This changed my outlook on life. From that point on I placed my trust in Christ. I got serious about my faith," he says.

These days Franklin visits his old neighbourhood twice a month for an outreach programme with the youth.

"It's giving back but it's also important to stay connected."

Having performed in Ghana and Nigeria, he says: "After visits to the motherland, I always inspire African-Americans to be grateful for everything they have because people on the continent are still struggling.

"I am planning a pilgrimage of boys between 10 and and 17 years to come on a work crusade here. This will help them to appreciate simple but valuable things other than the bling."

Franklin's fans can expect the light of God to shine through him at his inspired performance.

"God paints the picture and I simply colour it," he says.