A local church in "Little India" or "Balti Mile" in Birmingham England hosted a dance workshop taught by Linda Wells. Many Muslims and Hindus live in this area. She and those working with her hoped the dance workshops would forge genuine friendships and build bridges with the community. Linda and the church expected that only women would attend, and many Muslim women did. Surprisingly six men also came, one or two also Muslim. "I haven't planned anything for men! I almost panicked", recalls Linda. "I cried out to God: 'What I should do?' He reminded me of a song called 'In you alone.' The choreography is very strong and contemporary which I could adapt for men. For an hour we moved and expressed trust and hope in God's love and assistance, in spite of the challenges life brings."
The ladies danced with a different teacher in a separate room. At the end, Michael one of the men came to Linda and said:
"This was wonderful and very powerful. I am so tired ..., I want to know more about this God of love and Jesus. If you don't call this 'dance' but 'spiritual movement' you will have the whole mosque coming."
"The possibility of the 'whole mosque' coming all at the same time was both terrifying and exciting to me." Said Linda. "But the church where the workshops were held was very positive about the idea, and began planning and preparing for future workshops to reach the community."
Using dance as a bridge for reconciliation, we offered an open door of understanding and acceptance.
In many non-western parts of the world, believers import western music to use in their church and worship meetings. Often the music has a 'foreign feel' and the local language doesn't always translate well and fit with the music. Worshippers use 'foreign' music in the absence of locally written song and music.
About ten years ago the Mongolia church was in its infancy. At this time we started partnering with young Mongolian worship leaders who were dissatisfied with importing worship music that did not resonate with them and their culture. People desired a uniquely Mongolian sound and expression - a 'heart' expression.
The partnership began with Ganchimeg Fyodor and a group of teenagers who squeezed into a shipping container, converted to a recording studio. Ganchimeg was the first worship leader to write original songs in her own language, using indigenous Mongolian instruments. She wrote "Mongolian Warriors" to capture the heart of every Mongolian, tying it to their rich history and their remembrance of Mongolia's expansive former empire. Tumku sang the song for the recording. (He was tragically killed in a car accident 2010). This young church longs to recapture Mongolia and its diaspora with the message of a new Kingdom of love and reconciliation.
There is now a new generation of leaders forming the Mongolian National Worship Council, and audio engineers work within and beyond Mongolia to produce the worship songs flowing out of Mongolian hearts. Tumku was one of the early believers in Jesus and a very gifted worship leader. He will surely live on through the recording of "Mongolian Warriors". May the spirit that Tumku poured into it be long lived, and may his life and death be a seed sown which will flourish in this new Kingdom of Christ in Mongolia.
A team of dancers went to Mondim de Basto in northern Portugal. This town is very Roman Catholic and steeped in tradition and religion and known to be very resistant to the Gospel. The dance team ministered visibly in the streets all over town and at the same time also invisibly, through prayer intercession and worship. The dancers did not see any connection with the local people, any breakthroughs or opportunities to share the gospel. From what they could see nothing was different than when they arrived.
Some months later a different team came to Mondim de Basto to share the Gospel with the people. This team found the people to be very responsive and receptive. They shared the gospel with some young people and others in the street. Marvin (the team leader) was amazed at how easy it was to share with people about the Gospel, and they talked with some teens and even prayed with them! "It was," Marvin said, "like someone had already prepared the way before for us."
Neil, the leader of OM's work in Portugal recalled the story about clearing the birds and shared it with Marvin and the team. They were so encouraged and excited to see how God had gone before them and prepared people's hearts.
"For me [Neil] it was pretty significant in showing how God is using our teams together when we go back to the same places, and also how the dance ministry is significant."
In August 2014 a team of visual artists from OM Arts went to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. The OM Arts team engaged in ministry with a local church. This year marked the third year of this partnership. In Náměstí Míru (Square of Peace) the team created and displayed art, served refreshments, and spoke to many people. Some of the team also had the opportunity to do other types of ministry.
Team member Jim met local Prague resident Tony, who lived across the street from the square. Tony is a professor at the University and was a photographer and documentary filmmaker. Tony had always worked with film, so was intrigued with Jim's digital SLR.
During the conversation an opportunity came up: "Can I pray for you Tony?" asked Jim. Grabbing Jim's hand and looking him in the eye Tony paused and then replied "Thank you, but no. I'm very grateful you asked though." The conversation continued for a while around history and photography.
Bibles were available for people to take, if they wished to. Before leaving, Tony did take the modern Czech translation of the Bible, as the Bible he owned was an old translation. Tony had read some parts of the Bible, but never Proverbs. A team member encouraged him to read Proverbs.
Friday at the Náměstí Míru started with beautiful weather. Early in the day Jim saw Tony sitting on a bench nearby, so went over to speak with him. They had a warm friendly chat and Tony was thankful for the new Bible, which he had been reading. When Jim referred to the nice weather, Tony with a wink said: "A Czech secret. It is going to rain later today." Well, Tony was right. It rained heavily and the square emptied of people very quickly. But the square filled just as quickly once the rain stopped.
Planting and watering the seeds of the Gospel was discussed at one of the team's devotions, and this may be what is happening with Tony. We must rest in the fact that we are fulfilling the planting of these seeds as willed by God during the outreach of just three weeks. While we may not see the results with our own eyes, God will nurture what has been planted in people's hearts. Jim may not know when Tony will accept Jesus, but he continues to pray for Tony's salvation, and the salvation of all the people the team interacted with while in Prague.
"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:16
OM Arts International/Theater took its first ever trip to Ireland in 2014. The goal was to connect with people and share the Gospel through street theater performances. Most of the actors, experienced stage performers, were excited to enter into an "arts festival" type environment.
God had something different in mind one day as it began to rain. To keep dry, the team headed for the tourist information center with a large covered patio for shelter surrounded by a rod iron fence, known as "the cage."
When the team arrived, they found a large gathering of teenagers also sheltering from the rain.
"It probably doesn't get any better than this. We actually have a captive audience to perform for," said the team leader with a grin.
As the performance began, the audience surprisingly turned verbally hostile. Little did the team know this was a notorious teen hangout for the cities "tough kids" and "druggies." It became obvious the team was on 'their turf' and unwelcome.
The team continued to perform in spite of the cursing and lewd remarks. One actresses, was playing the part of an abused intoxicated girl. A young woman in the crowd, exclaimed "That's me!" The team leader decided to blend into the crowd to try and connect with someone.
He began talking to a young man about the meaning of the sketch that everyone was watching. The young man said he was religious because he prayed to his 'archangel' that was on a card in his wallet. As the truth of Jesus' love was shared with this young man, the crowd was now calm and the members of the team were talking to small groups of teenagers about Jesus.
What seemed like a hostile situation at first turned into an amazing opportunity to share Christ with people who really needed to hear about him. The actors wanted to be on the stage, but God took them to the "cage", for his glory.
Twenty five musicians from across the United States came together to bless people in Cuba. The group travelled to four towns in western Cuba: Cienfuegos, Palmira, Havana and Pinar del Rio. In each community a local church was the venue for the visiting and local musicians to meet and work together.. Music workshops were conducted to teach music in general and focus on a specific instrument. During the workshop people exchanged music techniques, built friendships and shared their stories.
Certain members of the visiting team were experienced in instrument repair and provided this service freely. This was a tremendous help to so many local musicians as they had neither the resources or opportunity to 'properly' repair their instruments. One girl was so grateful she began to cry saying, "It is such a struggle to play because of the problems with my instrument." She committed to use her instrument in worship. At the end of each workshop a full concert was presented to the town by Cuban and American musicians.
Utilizing the orchestral arrangements of familiar hymns and worship songs, we presented the gospel through music. By the end of the visit, through God's grace, we worked with over 400 musicians. Seventy people accepted Jesus Christ as the center of their lives. The Holy Spirit is working greatly across the island and music has been a key element in communicating the Gospel.
The concert was in a facility for mentally and physically challenged men,
- tucked away deep in Central Asia, so that 'normal' society would not have to face or deal with them. These men are forgotten, and regarded as unattractive, useless, worthless, and left here to die quietly - out of sight, out of mind. The conditions are rough. In the previous winter, 70 of the 300 men died from exposure - there was no heating in the facility. Outside this dirty, run-down, concrete location the musicians prepared themselves as they loaded in the equipment for the performance, while the residents watched them as they shuffled in the yard.
The concert organiser was a lady who had faithfully looked after the men here for a number of years. When she first started her work, she was given a roomful of men to look after who were considered too dangerous even for prison. She is unknown, uncelebrated, and quietly and lovingly goes about her work. God is working through her to help transform the lives of these men.
The band set up in the dining area of the facility, fully aware of strange smells, surrounded by concrete and peeling paint on all sides and uncertain of what the next two hours would hold. As the room began to fill, the concert began -- using spoken and sung word, music, and movement to convey to these men that they have value, that there is cause for hope, that life does exist beyond what the eye may see or the hand may touch.
Between songs, the lead singer shared about the reality of a world we may not see, but is in no way any less real: the idea that those living in the shadow of a mountain may not see the sun, yet the sun is no less present, no less real. Freedom is available for all of us, despite and even beyond a physical existence behind walls or bars.
And as it so happened, the residents demonstrated this much better than the lead singer's words could. In the middle of a song called "Make Us One," a few of the men got up and started dancing. Some of the staff encouraged others to join in. Soon the space in front of the band was full of men dancing, all in their unique ways, many with smiling faces that shone with childlike joy. This was a powerful and charged moment coinciding with the lyrics:
"Tear down these walls we've made by our vain and selfish ways; sow compassion in our hearts; open eyes so we might start to find beauty in us all..."
A wheelchair-bound resident shared with the band that he has never known his parents; he doesn't know why his hands and legs are deformed and the reasons for his other afflictions. But he does know that - were it not for these very things - he would not have the same opportunities to be with the other men of that institution and demonstrate the love of God to them.
There is beauty in brokeness. God sees value and worth in everyone and longs to see beauty be a part of the lives, of even these broken men. Even in the shadow of a mountain there exists light and hope.
In Jacksonville, Florida in the southeastern USA, the 'Jacksonville Praise Orchestra' presented a Christmas concert in the city's public square. The festive atmosphere was electric and God clearly had His hands on two situations.
First, during this festival there were people politely protesting about a recent incident unrelated to the concert or Christmas. However, as the orchestra began the song Mary Did You Know, which tells the good news of Christ's birth, the protestors began to chant loudly and march through the crowd. The volume and intensity of their chanting increased, as did the song. Quickly the song arrived at its "big" climax, and drowned out the noise from the protestors.
Secondly, a homeless man was part of the audience. Dan, the orchestra leader had noticed him earlier in the evening. After the concert this homeless man approached Dan and said with tears in his eyes: "I needed to be reminded that God loves me. Earlier today I was feeling hopeless but through the message of the music I now have hope and love." The Holy Spirit through the music gave him the hope and love he needed.