Dustin Kelm has perhaps the most unusual form of ministry within OM Arts. He performs for crowds around the world as he rides a unicycle--usually a very tall one. Dustin, a two-time world champion unicyclist, draws crowds who come to see his amazing stunt, then he uses this opportunity to give a clear Gospel message. His recent tours have included outreaches in Egypt, Turkey, Switzerland, and Kenya.
It was just after a rock concert had concluded in a Mediterranean coastal city. Doyle Bishop and a band was comprised of Jesus-loving musicians from a number of different countries had all gathered to share themselves, their art, and their hope in Turkey – one of the largest unreached countries in the world. The location of this particular concert was a building used for by the small local church fellowship for their meetings, and the band had been invited to give a public concert there.
The prior evening's pleasantly warm weather provided a great opportunity to do some live advertising on the seaside in the form of impromptu acoustic busking, and this had drawn several more people from the community to attend the concert who most likely had never had the prior opportunity to hear the gospel.
One of these was a young man named Emir*. Emir worked next door, and was even friends with a young man who was a part of the church fellowship, but – as Doyle and Emir chatted – Emir indicated that his friend had never once mentioned Jesus to him. In turn, Doyle asked Emir what he thought of the evening's concert and what had been shared about Jesus. Emir admitted he knew almost nothing about Jesus or Mohammed, but believed it was a very important choice to follow one or the other.
Doyle agreed and, since one has to start somewhere, asked Emir if he would consider investigating Jesus first. There were some local church leaders present, and they would be more than happy to continue talking with Emir and walking with him on his spiritual journey. Emir accepted this idea and was introduced to a local Jesus-follower to take this new step.
Earlier this year a team of four worship musicians combined efforts to conduct an historic worship seminar and songwriting workshop with local pastors and musicians in South Asia. The four worship musicians represented a triad of ministries: a large multi-campus church in the Midwestern United States, OM Arts' Heart Sounds International (HSI) and the Webber Institute’s GROW Centre. More than forty local pastors and musicians made a 36-hour journey to take part in this workshop.
Three years ago a team from HSI and the American church visited South Asia to survey the worship life of churches and make plans to do a songwriting and recording project with local musicians and pastors. After taking a three-year hiatus, at long last, a team from the church and HSI decided to conduct simultaneous events—which took place in early February.
During these simultaneous projects, the American church's teaching team took one part of each day to conduct biblical teaching, while the music team held sessions of worship teaching and songwriting facilitation (based on the worship teaching) for the remainder of the day.
There were many significant moments. One of these occurred when the pastors decided that, instead of only attending the biblical teaching portions, they would also join the musicians to be part of both seminars. The workshop leaders followed a routine template, providing worship teaching with songwriting instructions using verses related to the teachings. And each time, the groups of pastors and musicians came back with new songs to share with the entire group. Meanwhile, the recording team captured the events on audio and video, facilitated by the US church's professional videographer.
Perhaps the most significant moment of the week was when the team witnessed a new genre emerge from the pastors. They had learned about worship planning that includes an intentional sending—commissioning people to live out the truths they've heard in the preaching—as part of a closing benediction. Benediction scriptures were handed out and the teams went to work composing something new to them: a benediction song. The first group’s song was in their usual joyous call-and-response style with drums. Remarkably, however, two of the three new songs had no instruments and the songs were in a quieter, slower, more devotional style, sung together in unison—something the team had never heard from them during either trip.
Additionally, these two songs had been written simultaneously in two different locations of the building. The team was speechless. One of the team's members asked some questions about these contemplative songs: “Are these existing melodies?” No, they are brand new. “Do you have other songs like this?” No, we’ve never heard anything like it. “Why did you choose to write like this?” Their simple answer, "We didn't know how to write a benediction in song, so we prayed. We don't know how it happened."
These pastor-musicians instinctively knew they needed to compose in a new genre. The teaching team realized the pastors are sending out their congregations into challenging environments to be salt and light, so the way these benediction passages needed to be sung was different from everything else they sing. All knew it was from the Lord! Everyone was witness to an historic event.
The projects concluded with two days of non-stop recording. Among the songs recorded were a children’s song in English (with students from a nearby school), songs from earlier decades performed by a soloist in her dialects, and the songs from the pastors in their own tribal language and dialect.
The American church will continue to send pastoral teams to work with these pastors. No doubt musicians from the church will also join these teams to see the birth of more indigenous worship songs from the local pastors and musicians.
One of the speakers summed up his thoughts about the future: “We are watching the birthing of new ethnic worship songs. We will likely see these songs sung by the vast numbers of believers around the throne in the ages to come."
All sorts of images come to mind when one mentions the Arabian Peninsula. But how often are those images connected to local artistry and opportunities for vibrant artists? They should be.
Dubai is typically thought of as the standout of modernity and elegance, and for understandable reasons. Being chosen as the host for a World Expo in 2020 only underscores its position in the Gulf. But creativity and exciting advancements with the arts in the AP go far beyond this one city.
This is a story of a painting in Sanzhi, Taiwan in August 2019
Written with Amy C (in italics)
For Sanzhi, it’s the sea. The vibrant blue colour is so calm. You can see even a very small part of the sea from the church
Almost every day they gathered to jot down what they saw or heard, from God, from people.
And when they listened it was water
Water is what people spoke about
Water is what the group, praying, saw: the blue sea,
the clean water that runs through the city and springs into water bamboo and cherry blossoms. Water for growing food to share, as people do, though sometimes there is hardship.
Water bringing harmony.
And people value harmony;
I recalled a conversation with a local food stall owner. Most of the locals have an ethnic belief which is somehow a mix of Buddhism, Confucianism and Animism and local culture. The food stall owner shared that he thinks all creatures has the responsibility to develop a better world. People worship different spirits to look for a balance and ask to work well together.
It was for these artists to tell him God’s harmonious mandate for his Creation at the world’s beginning.
And it is for these artists to discern what God says in this moment and place, to a world of rivers and rain, life and lack, blue sea and harmony and the confusion of spirits.
When they speak to the pastor in the church about all they had noticed, he tells them a well also sustains the church- as the blossom and water bamboo are sustained- with water coming up! The living water from God poured down and flows into all around… and overflows in the church…
God is nurturing this land and is always present in Sanzhi. The Living Water flowing in the whole city, immersed into their daily life, gives…It is not the other spirits they are worshiping who build up what they are proud of,
Or provide what they need…
To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Revelation 21.6
So with water in their thoughts, the living water they know thirsty people here need, a design formed between them;
and underneath the strong sun and under shelter from the mild rain, fast before the typhoon came, they painted together...
They served with their strength together, with kids and elders working in harmony.
During the whole project, I saw a lot of connections. Connections within the church, between the church and the restaurant nearby, the community, the government, the people passing by… The wall is just beside the main road, open to public, so they could witness the birth of the mural painting...they were so curious and willing to come to chit chat…
The paintings are held together by a strong blue thread welling up in images of Sanzhi suggesting abundance, and hope and joy.
The group leader said:
"The production of this mural is God inspired and woven with His threads and purposes. The blank wall that physically hid the church is now a piece of art that connects people via the visual imagery and relationally as people ask questions and converse about it."
"My hope is that it becomes a land mark that people will come to see and then God will touch them as they soak it in and think about it..."
""Customers at the steak house next door can eat their dinner and discuss the imagery and inherent symbolism. I look forward to following up with my friends in Sanzhi in a few months, six months, a year and trace what God is doing as an outcome of painting a piece of art on a wall”
I praise God for his continue work in this little town. Sending missionaries here to proclaim His presence in Sanzhi.
Swarms of living creatures will live wherever the living water flows. There will be large numbers of fish, because this water flows there and makes the salt water fresh;
so where the river flows everything will live. Amy C
To learn more about how you can serve with art on short term projects such as this: click here
Written with Elise Ha (in italics)
Brittany, Morbihan. August 2019
Brittany is also this: the sea, the seagulls everywhere...
For every 60,000 people, one church. But in cafes and chapels Christ’s light will shine, as songs in the darkness;
in Lorient, Vannes, Concarneau and Cléguérec….
After praying the first day…we wrote a song about a Fisherman and the Samaritan.
24 people including 11 musicians, through OM, gathered this summer to write and perform songs; writing in the musical language of people’s hearts, learning the sounds and culture, praying for the themes…
The second day it was the seagull. We were out in the sun, and a real seagull was walking beside us….
Without many hours to write, they brought their fragility and nervousness to God’s power. And songs were written! One song was written by French singer Elise and Texan musician J.
The time was very very short to write it, just 2 hours!
There is no doubt that God was with us and protected us through everything. It is thanks to Him that we could compose our songs.... Glory to God!
The musicians were thinking about the chords, while Elise wrote the words. She found the melody thanks to guitar chords and violin notes for the verses. They wrote in French and English, singing one part each; because here, in France, people like those who speak in English. And that did not fail. The public liked to hear him sing!
So in His strength and not their own, this song was composed and sung to glorify God in concerts, showing His love and sharing the gospel.
People love this song even if they do not understand the meaning right away. They also like our attitude. We tried to adapt…to use a theme that speaks to them. We are always asked at the end where this idea comes from...
A man invited us into his home after (one) concert. I was really touched, especially because we had learnt earlier that the people in Brittany take a bit of time to open up to others. Ever since, it has been on my heart to pray for him and his son.
Here are the song lyrics:
This song speaks of salvation in Christ. Oil is sin. The Savior is Jesus who cleans us of our sins,
and we can fly free like this seagull…
Elise still sings this song today in her concerts in Paris with her band EsperanCiel: www.esperanciel.fr
To learn more about ways to serve in these type of art outreaches with OM arts, go to https://omarts.org
Taught silence, learning not to express herself, then this lady met Jesus. Now she was wondering- through what art might she speak about him, where expression may be so restricted?
Artists, pastors and worship leaders from seven ethnic groups in South Asia came together to learn more about praising God and sharing truth with art from their culture. They read scripture and created, from songs to dances, dances to drama
During the workshop, this lady wrote and sang her first recitation of scripture; and, she re-imagined mehndi, a beloved art allowed for women: a way to share the gospel without getting them in trouble.
Here is a picture of her women’s group’s hands the very next week - covered in Bible stories....
For more about this workshop by OM arts, read https://heartsoundsinternational.tumblr.com/post/185436943446/the-tree-of-lifeand-worship
To Mon people with a Buddhist worldview, local Mon churches in Myanmar are culturally foreign in nearly every aspect (heavily westernised). Therefore, the Gospel is viewed as ‘a foreign religion,’ and evangelical Christians are small in number as is church growth. Our host recognized that redeeming local arts expressions for God’s Kingdom would resonate with the heart of the people and largely eliminate or minimise existing barriers to the Gospel. For the local Church, this is a very radical concept. Many discounted traditional sounding biblically-based music as being ‘Buddhist’ without listening long enough to hear the lyrics!
“In this internet age, we have noticed that people also want to
see these songs, not just listen to them.” -M, our host
In January 2020, a small team went to Myanmar for twelve days to film footage to make music videos for eight Christian Mon songs – using traditional instruments and musical styles. Since 2012, this represented the fourth trip to this area to produce contextualized music and media for the Mon people. As in previous installments, collaboration with local artists was critical for success. While these artists were Buddhist, they seized the opportunity to uphold and celebrate their culture’s art forms, as did we. Dance would largely be the center piece for these music videos - beautiful, graceful, subtle, elegant and highly expressive.
While the immediate goal was to film dancers, musicians, singers and footage for the songs, God also infused this pursuit with many other wonderful outcomes. The dancers (from the same village) invited us to visit their village, which was a great honor. We spent the better part of a day meeting their families and neighbours, eating, hearing their stories and learning about their interests, culture, hopes and dreams. This was a very special time that built bridges of trust and friendship that local workers will follow up on.
This production required the team to be in an almost constant state of planning and adapting. The team also filmed a documentary about how the whole project has come together and why. A lot of ‘behind the scenes’ footage was filmed along with interviews. We clearly experienced God’s presence and work beyond the focus of the video production. As these music videos are shared, our expectation is that God’s Spirit will open the hearts of the Mon people to see and understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ is for them.
Written and Photos by Dileep Ratnaike, East Asia Arts Catalyst
Are you a visual artist or musician looking for a unique opportunity? Our partners in Belgium are hard at work planning and preparing a traveling art exhibition using the early Christian motif of the labyrinth to feature both historic Flemish and contemporary artwork.
In Luke 10:5-7, Jesus talks of a “Man of Peace” to be found each time His disciples entered a new town to share the Gospel. In 2007 on a trip to Albania during our “war room” worship and prayer, someone mentioned this verse, and we began praying to find such a man. My friend, Pat, said she had been in a park the day before, and an Albanian believer commented that an old man sitting on the wall was listening to a Bible study on his radio.
Earlier this year, the newly combined OM Arts and Heart Sounds International (HSI) team announced that we were now “Inspiro Arts Alliance.” This change has been reflected on our website, in our literature, and anywhere and everywhere the names OM Arts or HSI once existed. However, you might have one simple question: What on earth does “Inspiro” mean? It is an excellent question, and one for which we thought it was high time we provided a broader answer.
We are absolutely thrilled by the recent release of our 20th Anniversary edition of VIVID Magazine. This edition looks back at the twenty years of history since the founding of Heart Sounds International (HSI) and OM Arts (now collectively known as Inspiro Arts Alliance) in celebration of all the Lord has done through arts ministry. It also looks forward in anticipation of all the Lord has in store for Inspiro Arts Alliance. To receive your copy of VIVID, please visit our giving page.