(RNS) His voice is strong, but soft. His smile is genuine, butguarded; his music syncopated, but melodic.

Even Alvaro Lopez's life story is a tale of contrast. In the releaseof his first English CD, "The Alvaro Lopez Project," this spring, theMexican Christian singer is more interested in looking forward than inremembering the haunted years when anger and unhappiness culminated in adesperate suicide attempt.

It was 1991. Lopez, in his early 20s, was touring with Luis Miguel,one of Latin America's biggest pop music stars. He was also hooked ondrugs and alcohol, convinced he needed them to feel accepted as part ofthe band.

One night after a show, he walked into his hotel room and found hisfiancée in bed with another member of the band. Bitter, lonely andconfused, he fled.

When Miguel found him later the same evening, Lopez lay unconsciousin a bathtub full of blood after slitting his wrists. He was rushed tothe nearest hospital.

There a friend and bandmate, Heriberto Hermosillo, prayed with himand Lopez became a Christian. He and two other members left the band,forming a Christian group called Torre Fuerte (Tower of Power). WithLopez on drums, Heriberto Hermosillo on keyboards and Hector Hermosilloon bass, the band toured Latin America and the United States. In 1993,Lopez was named one of the world's top 10 drummers by Modern Drummersmagazine. In 1996, the trio won a prestigious Dove Award for BestInternational Group.

"My inspiration of God has become greater through music," Lopez saidin a telephone interview from his Mexico City home. His friend JoseGarces of One Voice Records in Miami patched the call through andtranslated as Lopez talked in Spanish.

"As you know, when you are in music and a musician without God, youmake music for your own vanity and exaltation," Lopez said. "What's moreimportant than anything when you are like I am now is that the more yougive God the glory, the more inspiration he gives you."

Lopez left Torre Fuerte in 1997 to perform solo, winning a 2000 DoveAward nomination for an album produced for Melodie Joy and a 2001 Dovenomination for Spanish Language Album of the Year for a record producedfor Freddie Colloca. Since joining One Voice, he has released twoalbums, "Por Amor" (By Love) and "Suenos" (Dreams). His talent is moreevident than ever on his first English-language CD.

"The Alvaro Lopez Project" showcases a curious and engaging blend ofLatin-flavored jazz, funk and gospel-influenced cuts. In the song"Dreams," he praises a God who saved him from despair. In "Live WithoutYour Love" and "Your Love Fills Me," he offers listeners soulful rhythm'n' blues similar in style to works of gospel great Kirk Franklin. Overand over, in music and conversation, Lopez reiterates his determinationto talk about love and life.

"I'll never stop talking about those two things, for the Lord's lovehas saved me and given me life," Lopez said. "What could ever be moreimportant to sing about?"

In 1997 after his faith had reshaped his understanding of life'smeaning, Lopez formed the Res-Q-Band. It has recorded two albums,including the Spanish language version of "The Alvaro Lopez Project."Its mission is to "rescue people in need," Lopez says. Wherever theyperform, he insists his tour managers work in time for a visit to aprison or a hospital.

Performing for people at such places is essential to hisunderstanding of his mission as a musician.

"When we started our ministry, we started with a vision to rescuepeople from jails and hospitals," he said. "The second part of thevision is to rescue Christians that have fallen. Christians worktogether to do the work of God, but too often when a Christian falls, wecriticize him rather than helping him."

Lopez, 32, has been performing since he was a youth, debuting as adrummer at the Degollado Theater in Guadalajara, Mexico. By age 15, heaccompanied such well-known Mexican artists as Emmanuel, Jose Jose,Marco Antonio Muniz and Daniela Romo.

He tries to balance his music, his ministry and his home life today.In February, his wife gave birth to the couple's third child, a boy.Once again, Lopez saw a life event as a gift.

"The Lord showed me something very special. I wrote a song thatsaid, `I looked for you and I could not find you.' The point is we comefrom God, but we left God. The Lord says, `I looked for you through thestars that I created, through every corner of the Earth, and you werenot there.'

"When I saw my baby, I noticed that God was like a baby," he said."So fragile and so unprotected and that these farmers, Joseph and Mary,they were under God's covering. That was a path I needed to follow tofind myself."
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