Turin, Italy is thought of as the capital of Satanism in Europe. Christianity in Europe is in decline. Yet people are seeking spirituality, as indicated by the growth of Islam and also the occult. An intercessory team of dancers was invited to come to Turin and intercede with God for people through dance. They danced in strategic places associated with the worship of this fallen angel Lucifer (Also known as Satan or Beelzebub). As the team ministered, they noted that it was like 'dancing in tar', so heavy was the atmosphere.
The workers asked the team to specifically dance in Piazza Statuto, which local legend says is built over "The Gates of Hell." As a principle we do not march in where angels fear to tread, but always enquire of the Lord as David did before engaging with those who were against him. Psalm 149 tells us when we worship God we also join Him against the invisible dark forces of this world, which are 'principalities and powers in heavenly places' as Paul teaches in Ephesians 6.
When the team arrived at this strange place they noticed many people sitting on benches as if in despair or in a semi trance like condition. The Frejus fountain dominates the square and is topped with a winged figure that wears an inverted pentagram on its brow. The team decided to dance at the opposite end of the space with their backs to the monument, praising God expressively and at times loudly, with joy with the figure behind the dancers backs, as they bowed in adoration to King Jesus.
People were pointing at the dancers and smiling; pointing to the statue and shaking their head. They began interacting positively with the dancers and accepted the Gospels, and other information we gave. The entire atmosphere in the piazza had indeed changed, merely by an act of worship to the one true God!
Who knows exactly what God did? We do know as His son is lifted up in praise and worship by our efforts, God will draw men and women unto Him. Instead of this place being regarded by many as a portal to Hell, we pray God would rename it as 'a portal to heaven' and may His kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven!
The theatre team was walking through the streets of Limerick, Ireland to set up for its next street performance. We were coming from a park where I (James) had met a teenager during a performance the day before. As we continued walking, I began to feel a tug in my spirit. "I need to go back and find that kid and talk to him about Jesus." As we moved further away from the park, I became more and more convinced that I was being disobedient by not turning back. I tried to come up with all kinds of logical reasons why not to go: "He's probably not there." "It's going to be awkward." "It will be inconvenient for the team if I turn back."
When I stopped at the next street light, the Spirit inside me won over. "I've got to go back and talk to that kid," I told the group and headed back towards the park.
At the park I saw him playing with a group of his friends. "This is going to be awkward." I thought and began to pray. "If I'm supposed to share you, Jesus, with this kid, please make a way for it to happen." Before I knew it he had separated from the group and was walking alone. "This is it! Lord help me share Your truth with him." I called out and he stopped.
"Have you thought about that stuff we performed and talked about yesterday?" I asked.
"Actually, I have." he replied. "I hear people talking about 'the gospel'. What is that?"
I couldn't believe his question! To him religion was just a class in school. I told him about the truth of who Jesus is for the next twentyfive minutes until I had to leave to rejoin my group.
Before I left, I gave him a New Testament and encouraged him to read the Gospel of John. I pray that God would stir in this young man's heart and he will eventually come to saving faith.
I would like to say that I've always listened to the Holy Spirit prompting me to act but the truth is I haven't. I do know this: if God tells you to do something, he will make a way for you to accomplish that task. The work of saving souls is His. We only have to be obedient and carry the message to a lost world that needs him.
Last November a group of visual artists from OM Arts International spent two and a half weeks with Hope of Life a residential health centre in Zacapa, Guatemala. The artists were there to beautify the facilities by painting art murals and to share God's love with the people, including new mothers, children and the elderly.
Hope of Life started as a home for elderly people who had no place to call home - the 'abuelos' ('grandparents'). The team stayed next door to the abuelos, and Fritz spent a lot of time visiting them.
Fritz (a professional photographer) photographed many 'abuelos' and gave prints as gifts. The responses ranged from "Fea!" ("Ugly!") to many tears of gratitude, hugs and smiles. "I love how art has the power to make forgotten people feel validated, appreciated, seen. It's one of my favorite things," says Fritz.
The artists also painted two murals of Diego and Yolanda (both local people) which frame the second story front window bay of the hospital. The team of artists poses in the finished space with a few mothers and babies.
Despite her young age, Maria has arthritis. She lives at the hospital so that she can receive proper care, which isn't possible at home. The team found her smile infectious, uplifting and joyful. So her smiling face in the mural now permanently welcomes other needy children (and their often traumatized mothers) to a place of healing.
While the team was there, Hope of Life was completing a leadership training centre, to help train local pastors. As the Hope of Life leadership saw and experienced the transformative power of the art, the team received a new assignment! They asked the artists to paint the portraits of four Christian leaders in this new center, along with inspiring quotes.. At first the team wasn't very excited. "Once the Lord told us to quit whining and be servants, we completed the work in two days."
While this panoramic photo makes the murals seem small, they are actually about 2.4 m/8 feet tall, 6+ m/20+ feet above the floor. They are huge, and are the crowning piece of the training centre. "In retrospect, we were pretty glad that we obeyed, because the result was pretty amazing, and will inspire leaders for generations to come."
For the final mural, we went even bigger - three panels at the entrance of the hospital. Fritz is painting two sisters who were rescued from severe neglect, abuse, and malnutrition at a young age. (There are 'before' and 'after' photos of them at the hospital; they are difficult to look at.) The girls were the original inspiration for Carlos Vargas, director of Hope of Life, to begin their baby rescue program. They now take in nearly 1000 children a year in need of serious medical attention.
After much conversation and prayer, the team decided on the themes of love, hope, and growth for the mural. This mural brightens the entrance to the children's hospital. The left panel features the smiling face of Maria. There's a dove in the middle, representing hope and the work of the Holy Spirit. The tree on the right represents growth, with the faces of teenage sisters Leidi and Alicia, who have spent most of their life here. We trust this will be a beautiful welcome to all the children and parents and volunteer staff for years to come.
Speaking of volunteer staff, if you are a medical professional and would be interested in serving at the hospital at Hope of Life, they would gladly welcome you. The few medical staff there work long hours to care for these precious children, and they would love any help they could receive.
The situation was complex in the Peruvian jungle. We were told those we were visiting would turn away and not want our involvement. This people group of about 4000 individuals is spread across forty communities with only two churches. Half the communities have no believers among them. The indigenous leaders said, "No, we don't know any local music." We knew we had to gain the trust of this isolated group in just one week's time. How were we going to facilitate these fellow believers to write worship songs and choreograph dance in their own indigenous art forms? We asked God for a miracle.
Leaving our teaching notes in the tents, we asked the local people to teach us westerners about their culture. The men took the males in our group monkey hunting and the women taught us beading and weaving. We sought to value what these people valued. Soon, smiles and laughter broke out. Simply being with each other without an "agenda" allowed a spirit of friendship and trust to develop, which paved the way for open dialogue.
Then we heard it, "We have written our first song and dance to God. We want to record it!" Our entire group of ten gathered, and the equipment was hurriedly set up to capture their song and dance - a heart expression of worship to the Lord - in photographs, video and audio recordings. The men began circling the women playing a makeshift drum. The women danced their steps in pairs and they all began singing this song which they wrote:
Thank you my Lord God
Creator of the World
United like brothers we will worship.
Like the huangana*
Turning around, turning around
We worship, my brothers!
"We thought you didn't know any songs and dance styles!"
One of the men sheepishly grinned and said, "We do now!"
Their first original song and dance performed for the Lord was born. Through, appreciation, friendship and understanding the Lord helped and guided us to help these people find their own unique voice and way to worship their Creator.
*The huangana is a wild pig, which is common in the jungle. They walk in a line from biggest to smallest and circle-up to protect their youngest when threatened.