Being David Wilford is fast becoming a busy line of work. The 24-year-old Millsboro native is balancing his own ministry with a burgeoning gospel music career, his work for Delaware Hospice and his upcoming marriage in March to his fiancée, Dee.
Born in Miami, Wilford’s family moved to Millsboro when David was 14 in 1998. He said moving to Delaware was a challenge after living in Miami and upstate New York.
“The diversity issue was a challenge. I was used to a lot of diversity, not only racial diversity but in music, different tastes, the food, everything. The culture here was much different. But as I’ve lived here for a while and things have also progressed, I’m kind of comfortable in it, and now it’s my home. I’ve acclimated to the area,” Wilford said.
What has people recognizing Wilford these days is his gospel singing career. Wilford recently finished in the Top 7 on the BET program “Sunday Best,” a reality gospel singing contest a la “American Idol.”
“I’ve been singing ever since I can remember,” Wilford said. “The crux of my singing has been in church. I’ve always been singing in ministry and in church.”
With both his parents being pastors, Wilford has always had gospel music in his blood.
“It’s always what’s been played around my house, it’s always been what’s in the car. It’s what I’ve been familiar with,” he said.
Although he’s dabbled in inspirational music and sang at weddings, gospel is what’s in his blood. While he’s never been shy about singing in church, it took some prodding to get Wilford to audition for Season 3 of “Sunday Best” in Philadelphia.
“A lot of people had been encouraging me to do it for years, ever since the first season. I said, ‘No, I’m not really a competition type of guy,’ and I had a lot of fear with going there and knowing there are thousands of people there. This season, I thought and thought about it and kept saying, ‘No, I’m not going to do it.’ We actually waited until the day before, and I made the decision the same day we were going to leave to go to Philadelphia and camp out, my fiancée said to me, ‘David you should really do it.’ I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to take the opportunity and go and do it,’” he said.
He credited the support of his family and fiancée with pushing him to take a shot at auditioning. Wilford said he wasn’t intimidated by the pressure of pleasing the show’s judges.
“I got the adrenaline rush before I went on the stage, but once you put the mic in my hand, I’m comfortable,” he said.
Wilford said the competition was not cutthroat, with the contestants generally being supportive of one another. He said show rules prevent him from trying again, semifinalists are not allowed to audition again. However, Wilford said past contestants are typically asked to sit in on judging auditions during the next season.
While gospel music is typically associated with Christianity, what makes Wilford’s story even more interesting is he is a Hebrew practicing Messianic Judaism. Wilford was introduced to Messianic Judaism when he was 14 years old.
“Messianic Judaism actually is a branch of Judaism that believes in Jesus as the Messiah and as the Lord. So there isn’t much difference between mainstream Christianity, except for the fact that I observe Jewish customs. So it wasn’t much different at all,” he said.
A graduate of Sussex Tech, Wilford has a degree in social work from LaSalle University in Philadelphia. He has parlayed that into a career working for Delaware Hospice, helping to provide end-of-life care for the
“It can be emotionally challenging, but I think the rewards of doing the work far outweigh the days that may be a bit more emotionally challenging. I would say that for me personally the work isn’t difficult. Expressing love, period, even without the mention of any specific religion, doctrine or creed, just relating human-to human, spirit-to-spirit is an excellent opportunity. That takes away some of the challenging aspects of the work we do,” Wilford said.
He said he always wanted to have a job helping people, but came into social work after being inspired by a social worker treating his parents after a stint in the hospital.
“I walked out of the hospital and it was like an ‘Aha!’ moment,” Wilford said. “I thought to myself, this was something I really wanted to get into. I feel like I found my niche.”
During college, Wilford supported himself working at the Nike outlet.
His celebrity proceeded him; during our talk one of the Nike employees got his picture taken with Wilford for his girlfriend, who is a big fan of “Sunday Best.” Wilford said he does get noticed more these days, especially while he’s been traveling over the last year.
One would think this would be a lot for one guy to have on his plate, but Wilford is has also founded his own ministry. Called Kingdom Crusade Covenant Church, Wilford started the ministry on Route 24 four months ago. He said the church is still in the bible study phase and has a congregation of 10.
“We’re really trying to be a force in the community, be a beacon of hope for young people and show them a better way of life,” Wilford said. “We’re doing a lot of ground work. Every fiber in me breathes ministry.”
The show has helped open a lot of doors for Wilford. He’s been invited to sing at various churches around the country, and he has begun talks with producers to record his own album. Wilford said the album would be a mix of original songs with some gospel cover songs. Despite not being musically trained, Wilford writes his own songs, and is soliciting songs from outside songwriters.
“Hopefully we hope to put Delaware on the map,” he said.
As far as what the future holds, Wilford said, “In the future I see myself as being very multifaceted, which is what I’m growing up into being now. Everything I have my hand in now, I love,” he said.