Born on May 25, 1951, in New Orleans, La., I'm in the middle of 5 children born to Rev. L. Calvin Hazelwood and E. Marie Hazelwood. My earliest memory was watching my dad work and fix the lawn mower while we lived in Kenner, La. Kenner is where my first childhood home was, where dad was the pastor of what is now First Baptist Church in Kenner.
In 1956 Dad had the opportunity to move to New Iberia, Louisiana, to start a church that is now Highland Baptist Church. Those were great years. I started school and learned how to sing. Mom (being a good pastor’s wife) knew how to play the piano. I remember well all the singing at the house and at the church. That gave me a love for music at an early age and by the time I started school music was my dream.
In 1960 Dad was called to a church in Baton Rouge, so we moved from New Iberia to Baton Rouge, La. This move was a major change for the whole family. We went from a small country town in South Louisiana to the state capital city and LSU!! I enrolled in band where I learned to play my first instrument, the trombone, but more than playing an instrument, I became fascinated with music theory. Playing was fun but understanding what and how a tune was written intrigued me even more. Then suddenly it all changed again. Because of political racial issues in Baton Rouge, Dad accepted a pastorate in the small town of Ringgold, La. a community in north Louisiana with a population of only 2500 people.
Ringgold was a nice country town with plenty of hunting and fishing opportunities, but this place did not even have a football team! There were not many things going on in this small town for entertainment. I was on automatic pilot at school. I was not studious, but I did graduate and was awarded a music scholarship to what is now ULM (University of Louisiana at Monroe). Two months before my high school graduation, my dad accepted the position as Pastor at Christ Baptist Church in Houma La. I stayed in Ringgold with a friend to graduate and immediately upon graduation I joined the family in Houma. Fall of that year I enrolled in college, Northeast Louisiana University (ULM) in Monroe, La., but my tenure in college was short. After 1 year I left school and joined the Louisiana National Guard. Upon completing the 6 months active duty training, I returned to college but after a year I found myself really distracted and left school again. I believe it was at that point my life got sidetracked from where God wanted me to go. I found a great job selling cars and was highly successful. After a few years I was promoted into management and thought I had a great career ahead of me. As a result, finishing college was not in my future. During these years I used my musical talents to be the bi-vocational youth choir director at Christ Baptist Church in Houma (where Dad was Pastor) and would do interim work as needed for the music program.
In 1971 I met a young lady who seemed to be the ideal person to share my life. In 1972 we married, but after 12 years of true heartache, disappointments, and lack of respect for the institution of marriage, that marriage came to an end. It was in those years of marriage that my father came terminally ill. In 1980 my father died at an early age of 60. This was a real blow to me. At that time, I was still working bi-vocational as Minister of Music at Christ Baptist with Dad while working in management at the local Ford dealership. My Dad was my rock and source of encouragement. After dad's death, I became disappointed over some decisions made at Christ Baptist Church which led me to resigning as part of the staff. When I left Christ Baptist, I believed that the door in ministry closed, and I would never be a part of a church staff ever again. Upon leaving, I joined another church that afforded me the worship opportunity I was searching for and needed. That same year, I also left the car business and partnered up with a great friend to open an audio and video retail outlet, "The Entertainer of Houma, Inc". While operating the store I was also employed full time with the Terrebonne Parish Sheriff’s Office, where I earned the rank Sergeant with that department, being second in command on a road shift. It was just a few months later when my marriage came to an end and as a result, I had to close my business. After closing the business, I left the Sheriff’s office. For the next couple of years, I bounced around at different car dealerships trying to rebuild my life and support my obligations. In 1986, I moved 300 miles from home to Monroe, Louisiana, (the same town where I went to college) to manage a car dealership. This was an opportunity for a fresh start, but I was all alone, except for the faith I had in God. But the hurt I experienced in life over my losses just continued to grow, leading me into a way of life that drew me further away from God and His will for my life. The only acceptance I could find was with the men that I worked. I allowed their influence to pull me further away from where God wanted me to go.
In 1989 things started changing. In March of that year this beautiful woman came in to buy a car. As was procedure, the salesman turned her over to me to close the sale, and I found myself sitting there in awe of this beautiful woman. Needless to say, since she too was single, I asked her out for a date, and she said yes. Just a few short months later, on August 4, 1989 we were married and now are celebrating over 30 years together. Debra is a Godly woman. She and I have crossed many challenges together, but with her help and encouragement, I began repairing my relationship with God, but, I still had a long way to go.
In 1991, I had a personal encounter with God, and He told me very directly, "If you will commit your life to me, go back to South Louisiana and make things right with the people there and do what I have called you to do, I will restore your life! This was a very real encounter with a very Sovereign God. That day, I rededicated my life to serving God and started living the life He wanted me to live. I left the car business and Debra and I then moved to Houma in South Louisiana where I started my life anew and began the healing process from my past bitterness and disappointments.
While in the healing process, the Lord opened doors I could not ever imagine. I was sitting in a Sunday school class at Christ Baptist Church in Houma and was approached about directing the music for the morning worship service because the interim was unable to make it. I accepted and, low and behold, over the next few months I continued to "fill in" until I was approached to become part of the staff. GOD opens doors! I could not have dreamed that would ever happen to me! I continued to serve as a bi-vocational minster of music different churches in the area for the next 15 years. In 2005 hurricane Katrina hit south Louisiana and destroyed the sales territory of my secular job. As a result, I lost my secular employment. I immediately began searching for the next step God had for my life. I understood that this was God just closing one door to open another. Through much prayer God showed me that our next stop was East Tennessee. Why, I did not know, but He did. HE has opened doors I could never have imagined. We are now in Knoxville, Tennessee. I was honored to serve as Minister of Music at Grace Baptist Church in Seymour, TN for 3 years. God continues to lead me. I serve Him in many different ways and I continue to write the inspirations He has placed on my heart.
Every time I finish a composition, I am humbled by what the Lord gave me. Why me, I do not know, but as long as God gives me the messages in song then I have the responsibility to put them down and share. It is His ministry. I am blessed that He gives me the opportunity to share the message of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I will stay humble before Him as I continue to do His work. I am called to get His message out. All I know is Hebrews 12 1-2 is my life. I run with patience the race that HE has set before me.
Dwight C. Hazelwood