Lily Isaacs (second from left) is the matriarch of the bluegrass group The Isaacs. (Photo: The Isaacs Facebook)
Gospel music star Lily Isaacs says 2020 was a devastating year, not only because she lost loved ones, but because millions of others did as well. Yet as she looks back on 50 years in Gospel music ministry, she sees clear evidence of God’s faithfulness—the same faithfulness that will carry the church through the pandemic and restore what the enemy stole.
A talented vocalist, Isaacs enjoys her role as the fun-loving matriarch of The Isaacs, a bluegrass Southern Gospel music group that dabbles in folk tunes. Her fellow bandmates are her own family—daughters Becky and Sonya; son, Ben; and Becky’s son, Levi Isaacs Bowman.
“I look back over my life, and I can’t help but tear up,” Isaacs tells Answers in Genesis. “And I think of all the things we’ve been through. We’ve been through so much as a family. … But we’re still together, and I can’t help but know that this was God’s will.”
Isaacs got her start in the music industry back in 1968 when she and her friend recorded a folk album titled Lily and Maria. Soon after becoming a Christian, she and patriarch Joe Isaacs launched their namesake band, which has since gone on to win multiple awards and earn several Grammy nominations.
Surviving the Holocaust
You can tell from Isaac’s chunky jewelry and her hair’s blue streaks that she views life as an adventure. And it’s no wonder. The bluegrass singer has survived cancer twice and knows each day is a gift.
But Isaacs knew this truth even before she battled cancer. Both her parents were Polish-Jewish Holocaust survivors who endured more than they admitted to their daughter. After her parents’ passing, Isaacs did her own research to piece together the full story.
She found out that her mother was only 18 or 19 when World War II began, and her father was 27. Although they grew up in the same hometown, her parents didn’t know each other. But their experience was nearly identical when the Nazis invaded Poland.
“When the Nazis came into Chintztahov, they were all immediately taken to concentration camps [in Germany],” Isaacs says. “Many of my family members were killed on the spot. My mother’s mother and her brother and sister were all just exterminated right there. And somehow, my mother was sent to a camp with her sister, away from her family. And she never saw many of her family members again, but they survived.”
When Isaacs’ parents were released from the German concentration camps, they took refuge in a French army relief camp for displaced persons. The two met and married there, and soon after had their daughter, Lily. Two years later, the family packed up and moved to the United States.
Isaacs enjoyed growing up in the Bronx with her family, who were very proud of their Jewish heritage. This presented a small problem, though, when Isaacs married a Kentucky cowboy, the son of a Pentecostal preacher. And it presented an even bigger problem when she got saved and gave her heart to Christ.
“[My cousin] told my family that I’d fallen off the deep end, that I joined this cult and that I was praying to Jesus,” Isaacs says. “And of course, my parents called me right away. It was very hurtful because they told me that, if I didn’t give up this crazy religion I found, I could forget I’d ever had a family. [They said] they were ashamed of me and that I couldn’t come home again.”
Instead of deterring Isaacs, this rejection pushed her even deeper into her relationship with God. She saw the pain as an opportunity to prove to Jesus that she was serious about following Him.
“At that point, Jesus became my best friend,” she says. “He became my father, He became my mother, He became everything I ever needed.”
Looking to God’s Faithfulness
Isaacs’ parents didn’t speak to her for over a year. But by God’s grace, their hearts continued to soften over time to the point that, when her parents were close to death, they allowed Isaacs to pray and read Scripture with them. Though they never made a verbal commitment to Christ, “the spirit was different,” she says, and she knows “God took care of it.”
Isaacs watched that decades-long miracle and saw it as proof God was faithful. That’s why now, even after the suffering of 2020—and the continued unrest of 2021—she’s believing for a revival in which God will rejuvenate people’s hearts.
She has faith that God will stir up this revival during the world’s largest Christian music festival this coming August. The event, 40 Days & 40 Nights of Gospel Music at the Ark Encounter, is exactly what it sounds like—40 days and nights featuring top Gospel music stars and preachers from around the nation.
Isaacs is excited to perform at the event with her family and hopes that the uncertainty, division, death, and disease that the country has faced in recent months will cave as God’s people come together to worship. She looks to the biblical account of Noah’s Ark as an imperfect metaphor of what God is doing now after the devil has stolen so much.
“God saved a few—enough to replenish the earth,” she says. “And I’m thinking the church needs to come together. God’s people need to come together and celebrate a new era in our world, in our church world as believers, that we can take back what was stolen from us for so many months, and claim victory in those 40 days. That’s what I’m expecting.”
Click here to learn more about the 40 Days and 40 Nights of Gospel Music at the Ark Encounter. Reserve your tickets today!