More Than A Song

Maples, Guitars and a Changed Life (from Issue #538)

Richard PaulIt was about a year … after my conversion to the Christian faith,” Richard Paul begins to explain in front of the camera …

“I looked up and said, ‘God, I want something to do. I can’t just sit here.’ I felt like God was prompting me to go back where I started.”

Richard and his wife, Melody, have been guests on our Tribal Trails TV program. However, this time it was on CBC Television News that Richard was telling of his faith.

His words “back where I started” referred to a business that he and his father-in-law had launched years before, sourcing and preparing soft and hard maple from New Brunswick.

The CBC story told how, years before, Richard had come across a photo of the famous guitarist, Les Paul, and the guitar named after him. It had a maple front, and Richard wondered how Gibson Guitar Corp. had acquired the wood. He managed to track down the right person who agreed to look at samples. Richard tells of driving down to Nashville with samples in the back of his truck. That led to the company wanting more.

But Richard was struggling with more than building a business, he told CBC News. He had started drinking and experimenting with drugs at age 11.

On Tribal Trails TV, a few years ago, Richard had shared more of his story. He told of progressing to heavier drugs, including cocaine. Though often in trouble, Richard managed to graduate from high school and community college. He and Melody were married in 1991. By his late 20s his addictions were taking a toll.

Melody had been raised in a Christian home. “Whenever her mother had a chance, she would speak to me about Jesus,” recalls Richard. “One day she invited me to a youth gathering at their church. I remember a sign at the front that read: ‘Jesus is alive.’ They were playing songs on guitars. I thought, ‘Wow, this is great!’ Music was a part of my life, and I had never heard people sing songs like that. I was used to organ music in church, and hadn’t expected to hear music that would appeal to me.

Richard and his wife, Melody, on Tribal Trails TV.

Richard and his wife, Melody, on Tribal Trails TV.

“I was brought up going to church,” says Richard, “and I would see Jesus up there on the cross … dead. I couldn’t quite grasp that Jesus was alive. I thought, if all the people in this church believed that, they must be crazy! I never went back, but I found out later that Melody’s mother was praying for me.

“So I knew a little bit about Jesus because Melody’s mom had planted the Seed. I kept drinking with my friends every chance I got. And when you drink a lot, it makes you feel guilty when you sober up.”

Richard knew that God was speaking to him. He recalls TV preachers who got through to him. He made some promises, but refused to give up control of his life.

“But Melody’s mother was refusing to give up on me. She was still praying, even though to her it all looked quite impossible,” he realized later. “Then in 1999, when I truly confessed that Jesus is Lord, and believed in my heart that God raised Him from the dead, I started to see God working in my life!”

The years his addictions were out of control he had left the maple wood business and it had ground to a halt, Richard told CBC. Now, with new purpose in life, he convinced his father-in-law to try again.

“The business just began to grow!” says Richard. “Gibson and other companies, including the makers of Fender Guitars, were calling us. We weren’t even calling them.”

Specialty Maples now employs five people. “We provide some of the maple components used in the construction of over 1,000 guitars each year,” he explains. “The guitar companies do the rest.” (Most acoustic guitars, including Richard’s, have tops made of spruce.)

“Richard Paul credits God for his renewed life,” the CBC report concludes, “and he credits his father-in-law for keeping things going throughout. And he credits the beauty of the maple for catching the eye of some of the best guitar makers in the world.”

Richard Paul is Wolastoqiyik (Malecite) from St. Mary’s First Nation, Fredericton, New Brunswick. In 2000 the Pauls began weekly Bible studies on their Reserve, first in homes, and then in a larger facility as the group grew. Our missionaries, Venus Cote and others, have been privileged to minister with this group known as First Nations Christian Outreach.

The CBC news story remains online. Search “CBC Richard Paul guitars” … and you can contact Tribal Trails to request a free DVD with Richard & Melody’s story.

You can also visit Richard’s website to listen to samples of his original songs, and to purchase CDs (or call our Bookstore at 306-764-4490).

(from Northern Lights magazine, issue #538)