God Makes All Things Beautiful, In His Time: Aaron Tippin, Isaiah and Jude Kofie, & Bill Magnusson
Aaron Tippin: I always think about me flying some of the coolest things and getting to see God’s earth, God’s creatures. And I’m just flying along, and a bald eagle looks over at me. Just kept going by it. So it is getting closer to heaven.
God Makes All Things Beautiful, In His Time: Aaron Tippin, Isaiah and Jude Kofie, & Bill Magnusson – Episode #351
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. One of the greatest markers of our adult life is when we fully come to realize that we were designed with intention; created for a specific purpose and mission. Nothing God has ever done has been an accident, and He knows every part of us, even the talents we might not have realized yet. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” No matter where life takes you, you can trust that He knows where you’re headed, and is guiding you through every step.
Our guests this week each have beautiful abilities they consider to be gifts from God. Aaron Tippin is a country music star who enjoyed great popularity in the nineties, but before that, grew up on a family farm, where he learned to fly planes with his father and absolutely fell in love with being in the air, and being “closer to heaven,” as he likes to describe. Eleven-year-old Jude Kofie, who experiences autism, surprised his family—especially his father Isaiah, who worried about his future—when he walked in to hear Jude playing their portable keyboard like an experienced pianist, though he’d never played before in his life. When piano tuner Bill Magnusson heard their story on the news, he was compelled to help this family and gave a gift that would allow Jude to realize his potential in a bigger way, and a beautiful relationship was born that has been a gift to them all.
Let’s start with Aaron’s story.
Aaron: Well, hey, everybody. I’m Aaron Tippin, a country music singer since back in the 90s and heck, an airplane idiot, I love to fly. You know, that’s kind of my passion in life.
Farming, Flying, and Singing
I grew up in South Carolina, the upstate. I was actually born in Pensacola, Florida, but I grew up in the upstate, in South Carolina, and just grew up a farm kid. I consider myself one luckiest hillbilly in the world.
We moved to the farm when I was about five years old. So by the time I was eight years old, I was cutting hay with a tractor and raising fifty head of hogs and 4H, Future Farmers of America. Lucky kid.
I’m a bored nine-year-old out there cutting hay, and I’d start singing, you know, and I guess that’s why I sing and talk so loud because if I was going to hear myself sing over the roar of that tractor engine, I had to sing pretty loud. And because of all that tractor singing, I was not the best singer in the youth choir, but I sure was the loudest. Mom said, “You gonna sing in the choir.” And so I did. But that was probably some of my first taste of music.
Actually, I did not ever consider music as an occupation. I guess every once in a while I’d pretend I was Elvis Presley, but I never thought about it. My dad flew. I adored flying. I was going to be a pilot. I was going to fly. And from four years old, I first put my hands on the controls in an airplane. And when I looked out the window and I saw those cars on the ground looking like Hot Wheels toys, I said, “This is it. There’s nothing greater than taking a ship up into the sky. Nothing greater.”
“From four years old, I first put my hands on the controls in an airplane. And when I looked out the window and I saw those cars on the ground looking like Hot Wheels toys, I said, ‘This is it. There’s nothing greater.’” – Aaron Tippin
My dad was my hero in life, so he was cool. I mean, that guy was cool. He flew airplanes, and I was one kid of his kids that was just airplane crazy because of him. If he said, “airport,” I latched onto his britches leg, and buddy, I wouldn’t let go. I was going with my dad to the airport.
When my dad recognized I dug like aviation like he did, he really did all he could. And we weren’t wealthy. We were middle-class American farmers. Well, we were weekend farmers. My dad was flying airplanes, and his five-day-a-week job was flying textile executives around in corporate aircraft. And then on the weekends, we farmed. Of course, I farmed every day, because when I came home from school, you know, I fed the hogs and fixed the fences so cows didn’t get out. I did all the farm stuff so when he came home on the weekends, we went at it hard from Friday evening until it was too dark to see, until Sunday evening too dark to see.
From Flying Planes to Singing Country
In the late seventies, I was a professional pilot. I was flying corporate aviation like my dad did, and I was trying to make the major airlines, you know? I wanted to fly for Delta or Piedmont at that time. Because I loved it, I flew every day, and my dad sponsored that flying, and gave me enough leeway and money to buy fuel so I could fly every day. It was the late seventies. I was corporate flying [when the] energy crunch hit.
And when I started seeing Delta furlough senior pilots, I went, “I’m not going to make it.” Because I grew up with aerobatic airplanes and stunt flying and flipping and flopping in the sky, and that was fun to me. So my dream was to be an airline captain and then fly airshows on the weekends one day. But I just realized I wasn’t going to make it to the airlines.
So I went home. I told my buddies, I said, “Hey, you know, we’ve been playing bluegrass a long time”—old banjo picker. And I said, “Come on, let’s start playing honky tonk clubs.” They said, “Aaron, ain’t nobody gonna pay us to play bluegrass.” I mean, back in those days, the only people that really liked bluegrass music were hillbillies like us. So I said, “Well, okay, so what do you think?” They said, “Well, let’s do country.”
And I was a country music fan anyway. I was a sure enough redneck at my high school. I’d come in the parking lot in my Jeep playing Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn wide open, I was proud. And George and Tammy were my country heroes, you know. And so anyway, we started a little country band.
And so in the daytime, I ran a bulldozer and drove a dump truck and drove a semi around our upstate, running that bulldozer track loader. And at nighttime, we played clubs. And so that’s kind of how I got into the music thing, and really didn’t have any aspirations other than just hobby playing on weekends. But anybody would always say, “Oh, Aaron, you ought to go Nashville, you ought to go Nashville.”
Took off to Nashville, and found a job working in an aluminum rolling mill in Russellville, Kentucky overnight. And in the daytime, I’d go and write songs, thanks to old Charlie Mount, Charlie was my first champion and gave me my first songwriting job.
I knew nobody. And boy, that’s getting close to Christ during those days. I mean, that’s when that happened, because I was by myself. And so that was very comforting, very comforting, you find out you’re not alone as you think you are.
“Getting close to Christ during those [early days in Nashville], was very, very comforting. You find out you’re not as alone as you think you are.” – Aaron Tippin
I started getting songs put on hold and one thing led to another. By that time, my voice was getting around town. Because I was so poor as a songwriter, I sang my own demos, and one day I’d sent something over, and Jim Veno had sent over one of my songs to see if Clint Black would be interested in it. And Mary Martin heard me singing, and said, Who is that? Who’s that hillbilly?” And Jim said, “Oh, you know, that little muscle guy down there, that Aaron Tippin guy.”
It was a great feeling and it is still a vein in all of my music. I think probably the major difference in my career and most of my colleagues is these songs are about Aaron Tippin, and the lifestyle he lived and the lifestyle he lives. I always say this: I can walk in in a tuxedo backstage at the Opry for the awards, and they’ll probably ask me for an I.D. But I can get off the bus at a truck stop, walk across a parking lot, and some truck driver will say, “You’re Aaron Tippin, ain’t you?” I match my music and match my songwriting.
Love of God & Country
I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to entertain our troops downrange. I’ve gotten to do it multiple times. “You’ve Got to Stand for Something” was just a big song. But I didn’t realize what that song was going to mean eventually. It became an anthem for our troops. It’s the song that got me on the Bob Hope Show, Christmas in 1990. That song was playing on country radio as Desert Shield was going on. I have been lucky enough to write inspiring songs—”Where the Stars and Stripes and Eagle Fly” for one, is important to me.
And one time sticks out in my mind. The first time I got to play it live for the troops was in Afghanistan, and they were so excited, man, they had to make a stage. There was nothing. I mean, they just got through a battle, so there was nothing. When you land there, they brief you.
They say, “Do not touch anything, you know, because there are mines all over the place.” And so they made a little stage about as tall as a coffee table, and we got up there and played. And that night I ended the show with “Stars and Stripes,” and I’m looking out across the desert and there was smoke from destroyed buildings. And I can see all of that behind these guys and gals that are seated down in front of me. And when I start playing that song, they start singing it. That’s a big deal. That’s the first thing that pops into my head U.S. troops standing up to say nothing more than, “We’re proud. We’re proud to be warriors.”
Flying Closer to Heaven
Even after I got into the music business, I thought that I’ve kind of flown all I want to in life. And as the years rolled by, I started catching myself looking up every time I’d hear an airplane go over. And there was a day when I flew every day or worked on airplanes every day I could look straight at you and tell you what kind of airplanes were flying over. I mean, I can tell by the way the engine sounded.
And so anyway, I got the fever again, thought, Man, I need to fly again. Went out, got checked out again, started flying, and got current again. I have a company called Tennessee Flying Machines, we really enjoy the old antique airplanes, the warbirds.
I think when I am flying an airplane, I am truly closer to Him. And I always think about me flying some of the coolest things and getting to see God’s earth, God’s creatures, and I’m just flying along and a bald eagle looks over at me. I just keep going by it. So it is getting closer to heaven.
I don’t know where my next blessing is going to be. I’m not sure I want to know or need to know. I believe that He does have a plan. God’s not through me yet.
“I don’t know where my next blessing is going to be. I’m not sure I want to know or need to know. I believe that He does have a plan. God’s not through me yet.” – Aaron Tippin
Narrator: To learn more about Aaron, please visit www.aarontippin.com, and be sure to follow him on social media.
Stay tuned to Isaiah, Jude, and Bill’s story after a brief message.
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Our next guests are Isaiah Kofie, father of eleven-year-old Jude Kofie, and their friend, Bill Magnusson. Jude, who experiences autism, has had many challenges in his young life, but one amazing day, Isaiah heard the sounds of music drifting up the stairs from their basement. He went down to investigate, only to find Jude playing the most beautiful, complex melodies on their little portable keyboard as if he’d been playing his entire life, despite never having been taught to play. A news station picked up the story of Jude’s miraculous talent, and Bill Magnusson—a local piano tuner—heard the Kofie family’s story on the local news, and he was compelled to bless them with a gift that would set in motion a beautiful path for Jude and his family.
A Tough Beginning for Jude Kofie
Isaiah Kofie: Jude was born at Ruth Medical Denver, so they had to do an emergency C-section. And Jude’s oxygen kept going down even as they kept bumping it up. He was on a ventilator and all those machines, he was going through a lot. He was on the G tube going to school, and at night we had to hook him up to the machine to be pumping the milk through the tube all night. So I have to stay awake watching because I don’t know when the machine is going to stop when his oxygen is going to come off his nose and all that. So it’s been tough.
Jude Kofie: It has been tough.
Isaiah: With him being diagnosed with autism too, we were so worried about his future as to what he’s going to do, because the rest of his siblings do their homework all by themselves. But for him, that’s why he even happened to go to preschool for two years. He had to go earlier so he could have two years of preschool and then he had to be moved from his regular school to a school where he can get help.
I taught him how to play the drums. He played the drums very well, but he just happened to get himself on the keyboard with no teacher.
A Kind Stranger Becomes a Part of the Story
Bill Magnusson: It was in September of this last year, 2022. Our local channel seven television station aired a segment on Jude and Isaiah and showed Jude playing. And I do not know how they found out about Jude, but they aired the segment multiple times.
Just immediately, I could see what his extraordinary talent was. I could see that he was playing on an electric keyboard—which electric keyboards have many advantages—but when an electric keyboard tries to imitate a real piano, it’s like the moon trying to be the sun. It’s just no contest.
I am an amateur pianist myself, and so I know how important it is to have a good instrument to practice on and how lovely it is to have a wonderful piano to play on to make beautiful music.
“I know how important it is to have a good instrument to practice on and how lovely it is to have a wonderful piano to play on to make beautiful music.” – Bill Magnusson
So I contacted the TV station and said, “I might like to acquire a piano.” And they contacted Isaiah and we met up. And I looked on Craigslist for three different cities around here and almost everything—well, pretty much everything on there—was the junk that you would expect to find, with one exception. And that was this piano.
So I contacted the seller and he had it in a climate-controlled storage facility. So I went to see it. I did a quick tuning on it to make sure the tuning pins were not loose. Everything seemed okay. So that’s when I asked Jude and Isaiah to come to look at it, which they did, and they thought it seemed okay too. So I agreed to buy it.
Jude: It seemed awesome!
Bill: To get it up to concert level, it needed a lot of work. So I went over to their house on three occasions and spent about eighteen hours of very technical work to get it up to the concert level.
Jude: Mmm-hmm! Yeah.
Bill: So after I got it up to a concert level, I got a hold of the original TV station and said, “Hey, so we’ve got this pretty much wrapped up. The Piano’s in place, he’s playing it, and I’ve got it all fixed up. Would you like to come back and do a follow-up segment just to show, ‘Hey, look, this is what happened as a result of our first segment’?”
My motivation was not worldwide publicity. They came in and did their follow-up. And that was on a Tuesday. And on Thursday, CBS called and said, “Hey, we saw that and we want to get out there right away next week and do our own segment.” So it’s just been one thing after another.
Jude: Oh, so wonderful.
Sacrificial Kindness Makes Friends into Family
Isaiah: In Ghana, everybody who is older than you qualifies to be your dad, your mom, uncle, or grandpa. That’s why I can confidently say that Bill is Jude’s grandfather.
If somebody can do this for your child, what else does a person need to become Jude’s grandfather? You know, it’s enormous. And we so very much appreciate that.
Isaiah: Like Bill said, after CBS did that story, it has gone everywhere. And he’s been in Hollywood, on The Kelly Clarkson Show.
We are so blown away because that’s why we always pray that the good Lord bless Bill and his family so much. Because just think about that amount of money, somebody that you don’t know and just see on TV and they decide to spend that amount of money. And again, remember I told you earlier on that we were worried about Jude’s future. And again, look at when the piano came in, CBS also came in. And if I told you where this has taken Jude, all I can say is God bless Bill so much.
Jude: And even your program.
Jude: We love your program.
Isaiah Yes. Because that wonderful gift, that selfless act, is what has secured Jude’s future. It was taking all our worries away.
“That wonderful gift, selfless act, is what secured Jude’s future. It was taking all our worries away.” – Isaiah Kofie
You Never Know Where a Good Deed Might Lead
Bill: We seem to live in a world where people are utterly desperate for a little bit of good news and to feel a little better than they feel right now.
“We seem to live in a world where people are utterly desperate for a little bit of good news and to feel a little better than they feel right now.” – Bill Magnusson
When CBS showed up and said, “We have five million viewers, so this is going to make a bigger splash,” I realized that this is going to cause other people to perform acts of kindness that they would not otherwise have done. And so when you think of the ripple effects in three or four dimensions, going out to places that we cannot even ever know about or even imagine, that’s pretty cool. To me, I just bought a piano, that was all I did. All the rest of this stuff is God, it’s not me.
“I just bought a piano and that was all I did. All the rest of this stuff is God, it’s not me.” – Bill Magnusson
Jude: Yes, of course, it’s not you. It’s God’s work.
Isaiah: He’s been busy working on some songs for people and he’s been using the grand piano to do all those works for them.
Jude: Oh my gosh, a big thing is coming!
Bill: Would you like Jude to play just a few notes?
Isaiah: Yes. Yes. Okay, so he’s playing “Goodness of God” by CeCe Winans.
Jude: [plays piano] [clapping]
Jude: Thank you.
Isaiah: And we give the glory to God. And we can’t thank Bill enough.
Jude: God bless Bill.
Isaiah: God makes all things beautiful in His time.
”God makes all things beautiful in His time.” – Isaiah Kofie
Narrator: Isaiah closes our time with a prayer from the Jesus Listens devotional while Jude chimes in.
I belong to You forever! Nothing in all creation will be able to separate me from Your loving Presence.
Please keep me aware of Your Presence as I walk with You through this day. Help me to stay alert so I can find the blessings and pleasures You scatter along my path. The greatest treasure is You, Jesus, for You are the indescribable Gift!
In Your treasured Name,
Narrator: To follow along with Jude’s musical journey, follow him on social media and YouTube.
If you’d like to hear more stories about being made for a purpose, check out our interview with Jodi Stuber.
Next week: Walker Zimmerman
Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we’ll hear from the star of Nashville SC and the United States national soccer team, Walker Zimmerman. Walker shares how growing up the son of a pastor shaped his life and his motivation to bring others to Christ, and how his faith has given him the fortitude to succeed both on and off the field.
Walker Zimmerman: When you release things to the Lord and you trust Him with it, I think a lot of it is understanding, again, that bigger purpose in life, am I here for me? Am I here for the Lord? Am I here for others? You know, I think when you change your lens from being so much about me, me, me, and all about, Okay, how can I show the world who You are? I think something changes and we’re able to handle those moments in a much healthier and better way.