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
"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness"
Have you ever found yourself in a place of deep sadness, wondering when the storm will relent and the sun shine through? These seasons are marked by intense waiting, praying, and trusting but also by profound growth as we draw closer to the Lord. In this unpredictable and bleak time, many of you may find yourself in similar contemplative seasons of growth. It is with great joy that we can press into Jesus, the One who gives us reason to dance and promises to walk with us in our sorrow.
In the following video, artist Linda Wells, director of Compass Dance Academy and on staff at Inspiro Arts Alliance, shares her story of how the Lord used the artform of dance to bring healing and deepen her walk with Him. Check out Linda's story by clicking on the link below:
Some time ago, I attended a retreat with our Inspiro Arts team. We spent four days, working through different activities, exercises, spending free times and meals together — the kinds of things you would expect for a team-building retreat. One of the activities involved spending an extended time in individual prayer and listening, using our different artistic gifts to respond to whatever we sensed God bringing to our attention.
This piece is called “Hope in a Darkened World.” I made it while I was confined to my fifteen square meter room in Pisa, Italy during the lockdown. The longer the lockdown in Italy lasted and the more COVID-19 measures were taken, the more I felt anxiety and fear was growing globally. As a result, there was also a growing spirit of mistrust and doubt.
How are you feeling during these unusual times?
Restricted and constrained. That is how I was feeling when the COVID-19 measures were first introduced in Austria. During the prayer time of a YouTube service from my church in Vienna, I told the Lord this. Suddenly, I realised that He understands what I’m feeling! He willingly restricted Himself far more for us when He became a human and even let Himself be nailed to a cross – all out of love for us, to save our lives.
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.
“The imperfections show that a person made this.” Someone recently said this to me in a conversation about arts and perfectionism, and my breath caught in my throat for a moment. She was right – the little imperfections in our art make it more accessible, reminding others that we are just like them. Yet, so often, I find myself hesitant to engage in creative expression because of a deep fear of imperfection. Thoughts such as “Will it be good enough?” “What if it’s awful?” and “Maybe no one will like it,” stomp all over my creative spark, putting it out before I can even begin.
COVID-19 has been difficult for so many for a variety of reasons. One of these is the cancellation of events that many people have looked forward to and feel the loss of keenly. Read below about how one of our ministry partners is bringing joy into peoples’ lives by expressing the hope of the gospel through a traditional artistic practice.
Did you grow up as I did, looking towards 2020 as the “year of the future”? I remember reading science magazines and watching TV shows that imagined video calls, pocket computers, robot household assistants, automated self-driving cars, immersive VR headsets… I was stoked to see what the future had in store for us and watched earnestly as one by one these technological fantasies entered the realm of reality. I just didn’t really anticipate… well, this.
For all our bold innovations improving and enhancing our everyday lives, it turns out humanity remains brutally fragile.
In a small country in Europe nestled between France and Germany, a stirring is taking place to see the healing of a fractured and divided church. With three distinct languages and a diversity of culture, Belgium has long been divided into the French-speaking Wallonia, Dutch-speaking Flanders, and the German-speaking East Cantons. Clashes over politics, government, and federal funding have kept these areas apart. A ministry partner working with OM Belgium, Matt Swanton, says, “You cross from one side to the other and it feels like entering a different country.”
“Does God really love me?” I think it is a question we have all asked at one time or another, and one that is particularly relevant in the midst of the current times. I have recently found myself frustrated and anxious, as I cognitively understand that God loves me but have struggled to believe it in my heart.
While recently discussing my frustration with my husband, he asked a question. “How do you know God loves you?” Slightly tongue-tied, I rattled off something about Scripture, the Gospel, and salvation. There was a moment of silence. He said, “Right, that’s good…how do you know God loves you today?” This time, I was speechless. “What do you mean?” He explained, “Well, today, what has God done to show you He loves you?” I started listing off all the possible things I could think of, and, wouldn’t you know it, they were all the “ordinary” things about the day that I had taken for granted. Tears sprang to my eyes as I thought about the Lord’s love in this new light.
Recently, our world has been reeling as we have been brought face to face with the stark reality of racism. The truth that many of our brothers and sisters around the world have had to deal with this reality their entire lives is sobering and hopefully prompts us to engage in meaningful conversations, take time to listen and seek to understand, and consider how the Lord might desire us to respond. We caught up with Whitney Peck, a musician serving the Lord in Albania, to ask her some questions about her story and experiences.
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.