Heart Sounds International, a ministry of OM Arts, was recently in Mongolia to record Christian songs composed by one of the nation’s leading Christian songwriters. For one of the songs, the team needed a man’s voice. They knew that Tumku, who had recorded previous projects, was up to the task. He sang into the mic with conviction. The lyrics were written to reach deeply into the souls of Mongolians, recalling a time of fierce pride when warriors on horseback rode in the conquests of Genghis Khan.
One of my favorite exercises that we do here at Incarnate is the worship session that happens right before we unpack the concepts of Unity and Diversity. The Students sit around tables in groups of three, and have to work together to paint, pastel, pencil, marker, whatever (!) on pre-drawn ancient symbols of the Trinity. The artwork that gets produced in this just over 30 minute collaboration is inspiring, even if is is Dancers and Musicians doing the work as well as Visual Artists!
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.
In keeping with the theme of VIVID magazine’s issue number seven—doing more with less—we asked musician Pete Hicks to reflect on this topic, sharing from his experiences in the band Aradhna:
Since all the band members lived in different locations, we toured in a very interesting style: we would basically fly into a big city, get in a van and tour around for two weeks to areas within 500 miles or whatever. So we travelled really light. We had the sitar, an acoustic guitar, bass, a small bass amp and tablas, and the four of us would travel around that way.
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."
Equipped with a harmonium, a rich voice and a straight forward testimony, Anwar has called many to follow Christ and is helping shape the culture of worship in Pakistan.
To find out more about Anwar and his music ministry follow the weblink below.
Ken Davidson, co-founder of Heart Sounds International (now part of Inspiro Arts Alliance), formed a connection through unique circumstances with a university student who wanted to compose new Christian worship songs. In East Asia, at the end of a recording project of songs from an ‘underground’ group of Christian university students, a shy young lady mentioned she also had new songs to record. With no time to prepare fully-arranged songs, Davidson recorded her songs without musical accompaniment. This resulted in one of the most unusual and historic HSI projects—once back in his home studio, Davidson used music ensemble software to create indigenous instrumental tracks to accompany her songs. The Asian instruments you hear include the erhu, guzheng, and liuqin.
This song was created out of this young woman's personal times of devotion. She is caught up in the love of God as witnessed to in the beauty and provision of His creation. She wants to offer God a sincere heart, for she knows that God is interested in inner beauty more than that of outer appearance.
Listen to this piece here: https://youtu.be/_niALejo4O0