A recent Incarnate team was based in a small town in the southern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A highlight was a friendship that developed with a local priest. He is an example of a gatekeeper of the culture. Gatekeepers are essential to networking as connections are created within a community. With the approval of a gatekeeper, people trust more easily and ministry is integrated with what God is already doing there. This priest was a bridge between them, as outsiders, and the local people and culture.
Two conversations with him encapsulate the team’s time there.
Conversation 1: After Arrival
The first conversation revolved around what the team would like to do within the community. As the team leader discussed Incarnate and the program, she said they wanted to explore the culture and learn from the people about their unique arts and traditions. After discussing this for a while, the priest asked, “When can we start the workshop with the kids?” That represents exactly what the locals imagined about using art in the kingdom of God. They thought the team would create some paintings and facilitate creative workshops with the kids, and that would be the extent of the community arts project the team wanted to complete.
Conversation 2: Two Months Later
The team leader went to a Folk Festival with the same priest. The festival showcased a beautiful dance, and he explained the dance is about a girl leaving her family and marrying into another. The leaving part is dramatic, like a funeral, but then it comes to the joyful celebration when she goes into the new family. The old family celebrates with her as she joins this new family.
She asked: “What if there was a dance just like that, that is unique to your people, about how God called your people to leave your own selves and your earthly families to join the family of Christ, to call each other brothers and sisters, to celebrate and worship with all that you are? Wouldn't that be powerful?” He did not answer immediately, and it became apparent that something had changed in his thinking after two months of conversations like this.
As the team prepared to end their time in the country, the priest told them, “It's sad to leave, but it's good to go because if you don't leave, you will never reach a new place.” It struck the team leader in two ways: It is literal for the dance and it’s potential symbolism for the church. It was also literal for her. For she had decided to leave her own country and return to Bosnia and Herzegovina for 2 years so she can continue these conversations.
Her hope is that more artists come join the believers working there and the seeds of these conversations blossom to vibrant worship.