“My father was an Episcopal priest,” said Slater. “I understood the need to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. But I didn’t recognize his Lordship over my life until I was fifteen. That’s when God filled me with his Spirit at a Faith Alive weekend.”
Slater’s commitment to Christ coincided with the rise of contemporary Christian music as a profitable industry. He set a goal to become a famous Christian recording artist, but God gently redirected Slater’s ambition. While driving to an all-day music concert in Dallas, Texas, Slater heard Steve Fry sing “We Can Change the World.”
“That song really struck a chord in my heart,” said Slater. The following month, he traveled to Estes Park, Colorado, to attend the National Music Seminar for Christian Artists. During the seminar, Larry Norman, the father of Christian rock; Steve Fry; and other famous musicians addressed the detrimental direction the Christian music industry had taken. Their message
opened Slater’s eyes to the shallowness of pursuing fame, and he prayed for direction.
“I’m a night person and don’t usually go to morning things,” Slater continued, “but the last day of the seminar, a friend asked me to attend a morning session conducted by Youth With A Mission.” During the session, the founder of the music company at the Montana YWAM base amazed Slater with stories of God’s power. “I wanted to talk to her after the session,” said Slater, “but the line was long and I wasn’t sure it was for me. I left several times but came back. After I returned the third time, Mrs. Foye announced that she had to leave. Before she walked out of the room, she prayed for us, and I heard the Lord say, ‘This is what I want you to do.’”
Slater moved to Montana and spent eight years ministering as a music evangelist. During the summer, he traveled with teams of musicians to perform all over the world, including Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, Belgium, Ireland, France, Scotland, and Canada. He also began a touring ministry in the United States called Troubadour to challenge the Episcopal Church to play a role in reaching impoverished people with the gospel.
In 1997, Slater attended the New Wineskins for Global Mission Conference. Marc Nikkel, a missionary priest to Sudan, Bishop Nathaniel Garang of Bor Diocese, and the Reverend Bartholomeyo Bol Deng shared the miraculous story of the Lost Boys of Sudan and the horrors of genocide. “Their message and the child-sized, coffin-shaped box containing hand-carved crosses decorated with shrapnel and empty cartridges by the Dinka Christians broke my heart,” said Slater. “God and I had a converstion that went something like this:
‘Why don’t you do something about this?’
‘Why don’t you do something about it?’ the Lord replied.
‘I don’t have money, power, or influence, not even a job. What can I do?’
‘What have I given you?’
‘Music and a heart that worships you.’
‘I want you to make the worship of the Christians in Sudan accessible to the church in the West.’”
Slater’s encounter with God at the mission conference set him on a path to work in advocacy for Christians in Sudan. In 1999, he made his first trip to South Sudan to record the Sudanese Christians worshiping the Lord. Their songs are featured on Even in Sorrow, which Slater produced and financed. In 2003 and 2006, he traveled to the Nuba Mountains to record Christians among the tribes who descended from the ancient Nile River civilizations of Kush.
We often stray as we pursue God. Blinded by ambition, we reach for gold and discover, sometimes too late, that we only have pyrite. Slater obeyed the Holy Spirit’s direction for his life and escaped the disappointment of fool’s gold without losing his heart’s desire. As Slater pursued a higher calling, God fulfilled his desire to be a national recording artist. He was featured on Integrity’s Intimate Worship album (2000). The songs Slater recorded for that album were later rereleased on seventeen compilation CDs, including Hymns4Worship (2004) and Heaven (2007).