Finding Hope: A Festival With a Mental Health Mission

Finding Hope 2021

Finding Hope Festival was founded with the intention of meeting people in the midst of their mental health struggles: depression, anxiety, addiction and suicidal thoughts. They meet people first with songs that provide anthems of hope for the hopeless. They follow up with practical ministries and resources to continue to support each person in their recovery journey.

The mission of Finding Hope began with a story— specifically, Kristen Belveal’s own story of how music led her into a relationship with God, and into recovery. It’s the kind of mission near and dear to the heart of Rock On Purpose, and we were honored that Kristen took some time to talk with contributor Matt Sassano about the event and her own story.

Matt: From what I understand, August 28, 2021 will be the kick off of Finding Hope Festival’s first year.  Can you talk about what led to putting an event like this together, who’s involved behind the scenes, and what a new comer might expect? 

Kristen: It’s a pretty funny story. I actually had a background in the music industry before I became a Christian. It was on a small scale, but I would host and judge Battle of the Bands” concerts.

I eventually started my own unofficial non-profit which was basically raising money for the American Cancer Society through concerts and auctions and things like that . But an issue at the time was that music was an idol for me. I wouldn’t have used that term back then, because I wasn’t a believer, but music was an idol. I got a feeling of significance out of doing those types of things, even though I had some of the right heart behind it. My mom had cancer at the time, so I loved the more cause-driven stuff. 

I became a Christian in 2013, actually as a result of music. I loved music. I would go to concerts multiple times a week. There was a place here in Dallas called The Door. I would go to their website, see what bands they had playing, and just randomly go! I did that one night, and the bands happened to be Christians. I wound up connecting with someone in one of the bands. He later saw me tweeting about trying to find a church. Long story short, God put it on my heart to start connecting, even though I wasn’t a Christian yet. This person ended up inviting me to a church that is now my church home.

It’s kind of cool that music went from being this idol to being the means that God used to get me into the church so I could hear and believe the Gospel. At that point, I kinda walked away from music and just stopped going to concerts for a while. I got plugged into a recovery program at my church, because at the time I was struggling with anxiety and depression. I didn’t have the healthiest relationship with alcohol, even though I would have never considered myself an alcoholic. A lot of that was a result of my own sin and brokenness, but also my mom died of cancer, and there was some abuse in my past growing up. I had a lot of spiritual healing and maturing to do.  

Eventually, I got to a place where I had a good relationship with music and started going to concerts again. I started falling in love with some Christian music, bands like Manic Drive and Disciple. At one point I reached out to Disciple, basically to see if I could bring some girls from a sex trafficking safe house to one of their concerts. I thought maybe it would be an encouragement to the girls.  

From there, there was this chain reaction of events. I brought the girls to the concert, they got to go to the meet and greet for free. Later, someone was looking for help with a concert here locally and reached out to me. At that point I was like “sure. Why not? I’ll make it a fundraiser for the safe house!”

Through some of that, I wound up meeting Stefani Hudson, who is now the president of Finding Hope Music festival. I wanted to give the band a thank you note at their next concert, and that’s where I linked up with Mike McDowell, who is now the president of entertainment for the festival.

Matt: That’s awesome! Your mission statement says you exist to bring hope and healing through the power of music and the Gospel. What do you personally think music’s role in that healing process is? What do you hope to see from this event?

Kristen: when I think about the role music can play, my mind automatically goes to the psalms. I think in both modern music and the lyrics that we have embedded scripture in are really great ways that the creators used to express themselves.

A lot of the psalms were very raw and real and didn’t have this nice little uptick at the end… but you also have some that are like “oh , why is my soul so cast down? But I will trust in God.” You see them turn this corner of trusting God through their adversity.  

I think that modern day music tends to do the same thing. Whether it’s a song about trusting God through struggle, or if it deals with deep and dark things like spiritual warfare or depression. Music is a great way of feeling like you’re not alone. I think that’s powerful. 

Matt: You hit the nail right on the head. I think opening the door to make people feel understood through music is very important.

So tell me about the musical acts that will be featured on Finding Hope this year?

Kristen:  We actually have 10 different acts that are performing, which is so exciting! We have Social Club Misfits as the headliner. We also have Relent. Relent actually played a concert that we did back in 2019, so this is our second time working with them. Same thing with Drive Thru Society. They played some of our smaller shows before. Zahna is gonna be playing, Spoken, Manic Drive, Aaron Michaels, Hnry and We Are Vessel. 

Matt: That sounds like an amazing time! I hear Finding Hope Festival will also have mental health professionals to connect people that may be seeking help. Can you outline what that may look like at an event like this? 

Kristen: there’s two sides to it. We’re going to have some speakers there in addition to the bands.  You’ll hear a couple of sets, and then there’s a speaker, and that cycle will repeat. We have John Arroyo from Reverb Evangelistic Association. He’s a veteran and has a really cool story. We also have Ryan Young. He’s a former NFL player that is now a recovery minister at The Hills Church.  

We are also gonna have something I like to describe as a ministry fair. It’s designed to connect people with the right kind of help that they need for their specific situations. We have those, and also some more local mental health non-profits involved. We have a partnership with One Share Health which can help you get access to mental health more affordably. We basically want to connect people with resources they may not even know exist. Even on our website there’s a tab that says Get Help, and there are a variety of resources on there!

We want people to come and feel loved and supported, and to hear the Gospel. That’s a large part of why we are making the festival free. 

Matt: I’m curious: where do you think the church has done well in confronting mental health issues? Where do you think we could improve?

Kristen: I think what some churches (not all churches) have been guilty of is kinda “over-spiritualizing” mental health. Where it’s like “hey, just pray and you’ll be fine!” I think really good churches don’t do that.  

I go to Watermark Community Church in Dallas. I think they just happen to model it really well. A lot of other churches do too, but this is just my experience at my home church. I love that people tell on themselves and are really open with their issues. Like “hey, I was short with my wife last night and was yelling at her and had to ask for forgiveness.” Or “I used to be an alcoholic, and this is how God brought me through it.” Or “I used to struggle with porn addiction, and it was hard, but I had to get rid of my cell phone.” 

They also have a really amazing recovery ministry for a range of issues. There are so many great churches that are focusing on helping those in extremely dark places. I love to see churches really entering into the brokenness, but also being realistic about what that brokenness is, mentally and even biologically. 

Matt: In the future, how would you like to see Finding Hope Festival expand?

Kristen: I think our dream would be to do this every year. Something I personally would love is if we actually had people leading recovery groups, or actually acting out some of these healthy things at the festival. If we could bring help a little closer each year, that would be amazing. I’m not sure how we could do this, but even giving away therapy scholarships or something would be really amazing. 

Matt: So, what have some of the struggles been in putting on Finding Hope Festival?

Kristen: The pandemic was a big struggle. We were actually supposed to have this event in 2020. We had bands booked and a location, but then COVID hit and we had to completely squash it. We lost a year’s worth of momentum, because before that, we had been having some smaller shows in Fort Worth getting our name out there. So yeah, COVID was really difficult and discouraging.  

Also, since we are a newer organization, fundraising has been a struggle. We are all still praying through it while using our own money to make it happen! 

For me personally, I do all of our creative end PR for the festival, and got pregnant in the process of all of this. So if you could imagine like working full time, doing this part time, and then building a human, it’s been a little crazy. But even through all of it we have really seen God’s hand present. 

Matt: How can people get behind the mission of Finding Hope Festival?

Kristen: The best place to go is our website at findinghopemusicfestival.org

We are also on Facebook and Instagram. If you go to our website specifically, people can help sponsor the festival if they are interested. If people wanna donate, they can do that to help bring this mission to life. We are very dedicated to this being a free festival all the way to the end, so donors and sponsors can really help us make that happen. If people also want to volunteer, there’s a spot on the website for that as well. Please also remember to pray for us! 

Come to the festival August 28, 2021 at the Oasis Community Worship Center in Fort Worth, Texas. The festival starts at 2:00 PM. It’s gonna be a really fun day! 

Find out more about Finding Hope Festival and how to support their work at findinghopemusicfestival.org.

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