By PHIL ANDERSON
Mitch McVicker, critically injured in a September 1997 auto accident that claimed the life of Christian singer Rich Mullins, is coming to Topeka on Friday night for his first concert in his hometown.
Although his singing voice isn't quite where he would like it to be, McVicker decided it was time to resume his singing career in July and in the past month has toured in Illinois, Iowa, California, Arizona, Missouri, Kansas, Indiana and Kentucky.
He said he will be "interested" at the reception he receives in Topeka, where he will perform contemporary Christian music in concert with Sparrow recording artist Michelle Tumes at 7:30 p.m. Friday at First Church of the Nazarene, 1001 S.W. Buchanan.
There is no admission charge. A freewill offering will be collected.
McVicker also will perform an acoustic set at 2 p.m. Friday at Lemstone Bookstore in West Ridge Mall, 1801 S.W. Wanamaker.
Speaking by phone last week from Indiana, where he was on tour with the group This Train, McVicker said he hoped for a good turnout in Topeka.
"I'm excited about it," he said, "but I think I'm just going to approach it like any other concert."
McVicker, 25, continues to recover from injuries he suffered in the accident, which included a severe closed-head injury and collapsed left lung. He was at a Peoria, Ill., hospital before being transferred to the Kansas Rehabilitation Hospital in Topeka.
"I'm doing OK," he said. "I feel pretty good. But there's a couple of things that aren't great that I base my recovery on.
"I still see with double vision, and I'm told that will clear up someday. The other thing is my singing voice isn't where it used to be. I'm told that will come back someday, too. Other than that, I feel great."
In spite of his injuries and ongoing recovery, McVicker said, "I have a lot to be thankful for."
Although not completely back to where he wants to be physically, the singer-songwriter decided it was time to take the plunge and get back on the road about a month ago.
There have been a few all-night car rides from one concert city to another, and McVicker acknowledges he tires more easily than he did in the past. He also was somewhat apprehensive about his performance level.
"I was a little leery about getting out on the road again, but people have been real receptive," he said, "and that has built my confidence."
At the time of the accident last September, McVicker and Mullins, 41, were on their way to Wichita for a benefit concert. They had just completed studio work on McVicker's first solo album that day in Chicago.
According to reports, Mullins lost control of the Jeep he was driving south on Interstate 39 about 100 miles southwest of Chicago. He and McVicker were thrown from the vehicle and landed on the road. Mullins subsequently was struck by a semi-trailer truck and killed.
Considered one of Christian music's most influential artists and songwriters, Mullins left behind a legacy that continues with the June release of his last album, "The Jesus Record," on the Myrrh label.
McVicker will tour this fall with the Ragamuffin Band, which had played with Mullins for years, to promote "The Jesus Record."
McVicker was a former All-City basketball standout at Shawnee Heights High School. He continued his basketball career at Allen County Community College in Iola, then at Friends University in Wichita, where he met Mullins.
In 1997, McVicker opened several concerts for Mullins, including one about a year ago in Overland Park. He and Mullins also collaborated on the musical "Canticle of the Plains," based on the life of St. Francis of Assisi.
Before the accident, McVicker and Mullins lived on an Indian reservation in New Mexico, where they taught youngsters about music and their Christian faith.
McVicker, whose self-titled album was released independently about a month ago, said he has grown closer to God over the past 11 months as he has dealt with the lingering effects of the tragedy.
"I think my faith has grown through this whole experience," said McVicker, who grew up in the Shawnee Heights United Methodist Church. "But I'm not sure if I'll be able to tell that until a couple of years later.
"In a lot of respects, I think I'm closer to God than I was before. I know I have a more direct line of communication than I had before. I have talked to him about my frustrations and how angry I am about the way things are going, and I also tell him how grateful I am.
"There's a little less hiding behind a mask and
trying to be somebody I should be and instead just being whatever I am."