For Fort Worth's Josh Weathers, music is but one way to engage his mission to help orphaned girls in India. Back in 2014, as his musical star continued to rise, Weathers made the choice to halt performances so he and his wife Kady could focus on building the Hope Home, an orphanage and school located about 90 miles outside of Hyderabad, India.
On top of that noble calling, the Weathers are in the process of adopting their third daughter from India. (They also have one biological son, Cooper). It was during the two-year adoption process for their first daughter, Ruby, that the couple began to feel the pull towards the vulnerable orphan population.
In recent months, however, Weathers has revived his gig schedule, all to help promote his cause.
He's played a high-profile show at the iconic Greune Hall following a widely-discussed, somewhat controversial performance as part of the presidential inauguration gala, where newly sworn-in president Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump danced as Weathers sang his popular cover of "I Will Always Love You."
That's the same song that catapulted Weathers into a viral style of musical fame years ago when a video of him performing the classic song at the Kessler Theater in Dallas gained online traction.
It's yet another reason the path he chose shortly thereafter is significant: Instead of kicking his music into a higher gear at that point in an effort to capitalize on the buzz, he used the notoriety to get the non-profit he and Kady operate, Love Like You Mean It, up and running.
That Weathers has hopped back on stage now isn't a sign that a new album is on the way or that a larger-scale tour is nigh. It's evidence that his real mission is getting even more serious.
"Without question, the music is really just the platform to raise awareness for what we're doing in India."
"That's now our life's work, it's the one constant thing my wife and I are always working on, but it takes finances to get it all done," Weathers says. His music will be center-stage on Saturday during the first-ever Hope Fest: Live from Harwood, a benefit show in Dallas featuring Weathers, Cas Haley and Michael Lee and the Wartime Limousine, with the proceeds going to the favorite charity of each performer.
In 2015, the couple set a goal of booking enough house concerts to raise the $30,000 required to buy the land needed for the Hope Home in India. An hour and a half after beginning the calls, Weathers says, not only were several dates scheduled, but the needed money for the land had been raised. It seems the absence of his powerfully soulful voice had made plenty of folks open both their hearts and wallets.
Initially, Weathers hoped for an urban setting in India for the Hope Home, so they would be closer to the most populated clusters. But Weathers says "they wanted nothing to do with us" when Weathers and his wife told people in India that they were Christians who wanted to build an orphanage. That resistance led them to their spot just outside of Hyderabad, a village Weathers says, "is like the land time forgot" due to a lack of running water and scarcity of electricity.
"I've been to parts of Africa that'll make anyone cry," he says, "but the poverty in this part of India is on another level. It hits you in all five senses the moment you get off the plane, six senses if you include your heart. There are 20 million orphans in India. That kind of scenario can mess you up -- and most people don't want to be messed up."
Over the past 18 to 20 months, the Weathers also raised the funds to not only buy the three acres of land but to build a 70,000-foot wall around it ("it's what you got to do with your land there," Weathers says). There's a school building on the property currently being used to teach 20 kids English, with a goal of teaching as many as 500 girls in the future. The next big step they'll take is to start construction on a two-story building for staff housing and for a 10-resident orphanage.
The orphaned Indian girls not living on the street often live in government hostels, decrepit shelters where "the worst of the worst things you can imagine happen to those girls," Weathers explains. In July, The Guardian reported that orphans who make their homes at busy train stations in India are being abducted and placed into sex slavery at alarming rates.
One of the guiding principles for the orphanage is to create a family-style environment and structure for the girls. That type of structure, along with education, is a major key to breaking the cycle of poverty in India, and especially in Hyderabad where much of the population are dalits, or outcasts who are considered so lowly they aren't a part of even the lowest rungs of India's caste system, Weathers explains. About 90 percent of its residents "have never seen a doctor even once," he says.
Weathers challenges Americans to take a mission in order to understand the need he sees in India.
"It's really an exciting way to challenge your faith," he says. "It gives you a deeper appreciation for what you have here at home, and besides, no one waits for a sign from God or spends a bunch of time praying about taking their family on a ski trip. I wish more people would just go. My wife and I don't wait for a green light, we go and wait for a red light."
Hope Fest: Live From Harwood featuring Josh Weathers, Cas Haley and Michael Lee and the Wartime Limousine is Saturday at 3:00 p.m. The Happiest Hour, 2616 Olive Street, Dallas. Details.