Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bringing the Joy of Jesus to Ecuador

Saludos de Ecuador! I had the privilege of investing 9 days with the missions team that's assembled from UT, OH and CA in Quito, Ecuador.

Our trip was led by Rod and Debbi Bond, missionaries that dedicated 11 years to working in Quito Ecuador. They were called to work in a new mission field, Utah, 2 years ago and this was their first time returning since they left.

Our mission? To encourage the local believers and churches that the Bonds planted while sowing seeds for the children of the communities with vacation bible school (VBS) style community programs.

the Missions Team!

Day 1

Our first day had a late start since the flights from UT and OH were delayed so those team members didn't arrive until 3 am. We had a low key day exploring the Colonial District of Quito, the Artisan Market, getting to know each other and trying to adjust to the altitude (we're over 9,000 ft above sea level). The evening was spent prepping and planning for our events on Day 2!

Day 2 


Praise & Worship in the Park!
We visited "La Victoria" a community an hour outside of Quito. Here, we visited with the local “house church” that the Bonds planted many years ago. One of the women we met was “Angelita.”

She is 90 years old and was the first brave believer to open her home for Bible Studies. The Catholic Church publicly denounced her upon learning this and she received many threats. Despite this, she opened her doors for other believers and, when they became too large to fit in her home, moved to other homes, including her daughters’.

Later in the day set up our VBS in the park. We had about 40 children join us for 2 hours of games, music, clowns, puppets and fun! We also had a church service in the park later in the afternoon and even enjoyed a bit of rain.

Day 3


Pastor Steve from UT with the children
We returned to La Victoria for a 2nd day of programming. We set up in the park once again and the clear skies promised it would be a nice, hot day in South America.

Our morning began with an hour long program for select classes from the local primary school and the kids were so excited about the souvenir "clown noses" they received. We then had a short break for lunch to catch our breath and return to the park for our 2nd VBS program.

Once again, songs, games, music, clowns and fun! In total, we worked with about 70 kids for the day. One of my highlights? When the children were asking us "What time will you be back tomorrow?”

Day 4 & 5

We traveled to a low-income community about 45 minutes outside of the center of Quito, Oyacoto. We had just under 100 kids each day and it was... Wild! We actually had the opportunity to actually work indoors and it was a blessing because it was pouring on our first day.

Catholicism is also deeply rooted in this community. One of our missions team members was chatting with a little girl and asked her if she believed in Jesus. She responded “I believe in the Virgin.”

Still, the children were very excited about having us and enjoyed the opportunity to sing songs, play games, make crafts and hang out with clowns and puppets. Crowd control was challenging at times. Each day was stressful kind of joy with the children and we've not only embraced it, but ran with it!

We also were requested by the leader of the area to visit a home. Despite being very tired, we dragged ourselves to this home… and were reminded of how we can be God’s hands and feet. We met a terminally-ill bedridden woman who simply wanted prayer. The team earnestly prayed for this woman and her grieving family. It was an emotional meeting.

Day 6

It’s my birthday! I was greeted with a slice of cake, a candle and birthday card at breakfast and then.. it was off to work!

Sergio, Rod & Rosa
We headed to another community about 45 minutes from Quito and visited an elderly couple that holds a very special place in the hearts of the Bond Family, and quickly learned why. Sergio and Rosa are over 90 years old and have been married for 71 years. They both now have difficulty walking so are unable to visit their local “house church” and were overjoyed to see the Bonds visiting them.

As a team, we prayed for them and sang hymns together. Before departing, we presented them with a love offering we quietly collected for them during our visit. Upon receiving this gift, they immediately raised their hands, looked to the sky and praised God. Their faith and love for Christ is inspiring.

The Children of Chambitola!
After this, we moved on to La Ruminahui to set up our VBS in a basketball court. Here, the local leader Lucy has been hosting a kid’s club every Saturday in one of the local believers’ homework for over 6 years. As soon as she steps out of our van, the children flock to her to greet and hug her.

Though the team anticipated around 40 children, Lucy revealed that she and the church had printed and distributed 500 invitations to the program and she was expecting around 100… and 100 showed up!

It was a special afternoon for me to lead games, puppeteer and bring a message of God’s love to these children on my birthday. Easily the best!

Day 7

Mitad del Mundo
Friday was our 2nd and final rest day and it was very much welcome. We started the at the "Mitad Del Mundo" (Middle of the World) Park and had some time for fun photos and souvenir shopping.

From there, we had a 2 hour drive to Septimo Paraiso, a cloud forest reserve near Mindo, for hiking, hummingbird watching (we saw at least 10 different types) and relaxing in the cold mountain water pool. It was a great day to recharge, enjoy Ecuador's natural beauty and prepare ourselves for Saturday.

Day 8

We had an early start for our 3 hour drive to Chambitola, a very rural community in the mountains. The entire drive was scenic and gorgeous and the final stretch of the drive was up the side of the mountains on very narrow dirt and rock roads.

Once in Chambitola, we joined the local church for a dedication of their new sunday school classrooms for the children. The Bond Family and many of their ministry partners and supporters helped raise the funds for the construction of these classrooms. The inauguration included gratitudes, a Kincha (indigenous language) choir and a surprise for Rod as he was asked to cut the ribbon for the new classrooms.

From there, we quickly set up for our final program. The children and adults alike were all excited about everything: the puppets, the clowns, music, games, crafts, storytelling and fellowship.

We ended our time together gifting 60+ handmade finger puppets (from Kristie Baldwin in PA), clown noses and snacks to all the kids and teens. Bertha, from OH, also gave a big bag of beanie babies to the lead teacher and she was thrilled to have them for future gifts to the children.

We then had to rip ourselves away to say goodbye and begin our journey down the mountain before the roads became too dark. Chambitola was a huge blessing to visit. I've often observed that those with the least give the most and the people of this community were no exception.

Day 9

For our final day of the mission, we spent the morning together with nearly all the ministry partners we had worked with during the week. Our time together included sharing experiences, encouraging the Ecuadorians who work in these communities and eating lunch together.

Ending on this note gave us an opportunity to reflect and celebrate the work we had done with the children and communities all week. The rest of the day was busy with packing and final preparations for the team to go home.

Missions Team from the US and Ecuador
In summary, we worked with somewhere around 350 children with 5 site visits over 6 working days. We even logged around 20 hours of travel time in our van to these site visits for the week!

Each day was an adventure where our greatest reward was seeing a group full of smiling faces as these children enjoyed clowns, puppets, songs, games and crafts. Each day, these children walked away hearing a message that they mattered.

If a group of almost strangers from the United States was willing to come all the way to Ecuador to spend the day with them, how much more do they matter to God, the Creator of the Universe?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Journey to the International Festival in Chicago

Presenting "Children of God" from the
Lightlings 
for the Open Puppet Competition.
Watch the video
After many years of dreaming, praying and (I'll admit) even a bit of doubting, we achieved a long-time goal of taking our team to the International Festival of Creative Arts Ministry(I-Fest) at Olivet Nazarene University in IL... and we couldn't be more grateful! I-Fest is an exciting 5 day conference full of inspiration, ideas and spiritual challenge.

I was invited to lead performance workshops and lectures, including the wildly popular "Secrets I've Learned from Disney and Pixar."

Gabriel's human video class
presents "Love is Here."
Watch the video!
Mitzi, our newest member, proudly attended 15 workshops that included construction classes, lectures, demos and discipleship series.

Meanwhile, Camila and Bibiana both auditioned and were accepted to the "Dream Team." They worked with 16 other young people from across the country under 2 seasoned directors to prepare the I-Fest Finale Performance.. in just 5 days!

The presentation was spectacular but, more importantly, both Cami and Bibi were moved by the experience and the call they felt to worship God with creative ministry.


5 years ago Camila and Bibiana were willing to join me to start a team, without a clue as to what "creative ministry" was. Seeing their growth over the years and watching them lay their talents at His feet has been extremely rewarding. I couldn't feel more privileged as a director!

Our team has returned home energized and with a renewed sense of calling. We are eager to put into practice what we've learned and can't wait to see what God will do in the coming year!

Camila, Gabriel, Mitzi and Bibiana

Sunday, February 28, 2016

the Lightlings now booking!


Based on the story by R.C. Sproul, the Lightlings are a race of beings created in the image of the King of Light. Upon disobeying the King though, their lights dim and they flee into the darkness. Join us as we explore the redemption of the Lightlings and why some people fear light more than darkness.


Puppetry, sign language, performance painting, creative movement and blacklight drama are woven together to illustrate a message that audiences of all ages will understand. This 30-40 minute musical is available in English and Spanish/English for Fall 2016 through Winter 2017. The themes of darkness, light and redemption make the program suitable for Christmas, Easter and any other special event!

Please contact gabriel@CMTministries.org if you'd like to bring the Lightlings to your next event or to request more information.

"For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!" Ephesians 5:8

Monday, February 22, 2016

Rejoicing with the Body at the Regional Ministry Festival



On February 19-20, we had the opportunity to co-host the San Francisco Regional Creative Ministry Festival with our friends at Central Assembly Church. We welcomed pastors, directors, worship leaders, youth and creative ministry enthusiasts from throughout California. What a wonderful time of teaching, learning, sharing and fellowship!

The conference theme, "the Family of Ministry" was first introduced at the 2015 International Festival of Creative Arts Ministry, with the theme verse of 1 Corinthians 12:25-26. 

"there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." 


Friday

The conference kicked off with the opening theme presentation, the Family of Ministry. As the host team, we were able to assist with this presentation.

The story follows DJ, a kid who everyone expects to be a great praise band singer like his Grandpa was. However, singing isn't exactly DJ's talent so he feels that has nothing to contribute. He ends up experiencing a blast from the past as his Grandpa and other relatives show him that a wide variety of talents make up "The Family of Ministry."

Following this, we were off to our first set of workshops in topics ranging from Beginning Puppetry, Sign Language, and Gospel Illusion. We then proceeded to the next highlight of the evening, the Competitions!

5 teams from far and wide presented pieces including puppetry, human video and dowel rods. We presented a blacklight human video set to Casting Crowns' "Set Me Free." This was only our second performance of the piece. We were thrilled to bring this story and message to the conference.

Saturday

Saturday morning began with worship and a devotional led by our director, Gabriel Galdamez. Gabriel shared his testimony and the challenges he has faced in ministry while encouraging the attendees to be like the woman in Matthew 26:6-13. Offer whatever is in your alabaster jar, your best, to the Lord and pour it at Jesus' feet, regardless of what those around you may say.

We were then off to 2 more sets of workshops covering topics such as "Ventriloquism, "Developing a Successful Ministry," and "Children in Ministry," to name a few. 

We ended the morning with a performance by Tim Cowles of Skadoodles! Using illusions and ventriloquism, Tim encouraged us to reach up to God and reach out to our world.

Following the lunch break, it was time for the infamous "Lip Synch Challenge!" A 16-person tournament where puppeteers lip synch to randomly selected songs, which they likely have never heard.

It's always great fun to watch while giving an opportunity to appreciate the talent and bravery of the participants. After 3 rounds, the judges narrowed it down to the top 3. Phew!

We were now off to a fourth and final set of workshops, including "Developing Character Voices," "Drama," and "Creating a Program." Then..it was time for the Closing session!

For our human video "Set Me Free," we were awarded a Silver Award, the People's Choice Award and valuable feedback from the panel of judges. During the Ending Raffle, one of our team members was the lucky attendee to win the final prize, a new puppet!

As we shared in our article "Top 5 Reasons to Attend Trainings", conferences are such a wonderful opportunity for your you and your ministry to not only get ideas... but be equipped and encouraged to continue to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. The road isn't easy, but we are not alone. There are others going down the same path as us... and God is always by our side.

We closed the conference, and we will close this article, with the verse Stacy Divine of San Jose left with us and I leave with you as a challenge:

"Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving." Colossians 3:23-24

Monday, February 15, 2016

Ministering & Teaching in Nicaragua!




From January 25th through January 31st, Create, Minister, Teach! had the opportunity to travel to Terrabona, Nicaragua, a small rural town 2 hours outside of the capital. What was our mission? Several!
  1. To spread the message of the Gospel to rural Nicaragua 
  2. To provide support for FestiNiños, a children's outreach festival
  3. To plant a creative ministry team
  4. Anything else that was needed!

Rehearsals

I focused on directing the 9 youth from Iglesia Jesucristo Es El Señor Terrabona who had committed to working together for the week. Our first meeting and rehearsal was on Wednesday. The goal was for them to be ready to present a program for both FestiNiños... the first one on Saturday!!!

I immediately dived into prayer and rehearsal with them. I took time to explain the purpose of our ministry, the delicate task and privilege that we had been given, and a general overview of the program we'd be presenting, a Spanish adaptation of "the Original Love Story." The program featured video segments narrating Creation and the life of Jesus and I served as a bridge for the video and performance pieces with illusions and stories. Our songs included Spanish-language versions of:

  1. "Indescribable" by Chris Tomlin (featuring Blacklight Hand Mime) 
  2. "Superhero" by Hillsong Kids (featuring Blacklight Puppetry) 
  3. "Alive" by Hillsong Young & Free (featuring Choreography) 

We began by tackling our most challenging song: the hand mime piece. If you're unfamiliar with hand mime, using white gloved hands, dark clothing and blacklight performers can combine their hands to create a variety of images and words. If you're having trouble understanding what I mean... try being those youth! 

By the end of that first hour of rehearsal though, I video'd the 30% of the song they had learned and was delighted by their excitement when they finally saw what they were twisting and forming their hands into. 

Fast forward through a Friday evening rehearsal, a bit of stress from feeling like I was too short on time, freaking out over the stage we built failing to stand up, a Saturday morning rehearsal where I felt much better... and our first FestiNiños was upon us!



FestiNiños 

FestiNiños is an annual children's ministry event that Iglesia Jesucristo Es El Señor Terrabona hosts as an outreach to the children of rural Terrabona. It is their way of offering these children an afternoon of play, treats and a message of God's Love through Jesus Christ. 

Imagine my joy when I learned that one of the members of our ministry team, Freddy, was a product from FestiNiños! And now he was serving in FestiNiños and reaching out to the next crop of little ones.

We had 125 children (many unchaperoned) join us for what proved to be an immensely rewarding but beautiful afternoon of kid mania. We kicked off with songs and a devotional and moved into tournaments and carnival-style games for prizes. They were each sent back home with a goody bag and an invitation to come back after supper with a friend and their parents for a creative ministry spectacular!

Presentation Time!

After only about 6 hours of rehearsal, and with no formal dress rehearsal... or tech rehearsal... and without being 100% sure if our stage would even stand... it was showtime! 

Our first presentation was in Terrabona on Saturday night and what a joy it was to see little ones raising their hand to accept Jesus as their savior! Our second presentation was in Chaguite Grande, the site where our church, Iglesia Jesucristo Es El Señor, has been building a church and community center.  This is a very rural mountain community about 5 hours outside the capital.

We left at 6 am to arrive in Chaguite Grande by 9 am... to find the center already packed with about 200 people waiting our arrival! We quickly divied up tasks so the adults could prepare and host a FestiNiños and we could set up for our presentation. 

After years of supporting the construction of this building, it was very gratifying to finally see the vision coming to reality and walk the grounds of the church. Our team worked to quickly assemble our stage and set up our show. Meanwhile, the adults worked with somewhere near 150 children to host FestiNiños Chaguite Grande. Each child received a goody bag and a t-shirt proclaiming "Jesucristo Es El Señor" (Jesus Christ Is Lord).

By showtime, nearly 300 people had packed into the center! After a few hiccups with the power (they had just installed electricity the week before our arrival), the second run went beautifully. More beautifully, many, many hands of both children and adults alike were raised to invite Jesus as their Savior.

Mission Nicaragua: "Indescribable" (ft. Hand Mime)

We only had about 3-4 hours to rehearse this song with 9 volunteers. This was performed in Chaguite Grande, a rural community about 5 hours from Managua, as part of FestiNiños. Our church has been building this community center and they just had electricity installed the week before our arrival! Want to support our mission? Visit https://www.gofundme.com/67bff3jq

Posted by Create, Minister, Teach on Monday, February 15, 2016



Home

Our drive back to Terrabona from Chaguite Grande was another experience. I forgot to mention that in order to transport our team of about 30 volunteers 2.5 hours up the unpaved, rocky hillsides, we rode in the back of a large cargo truck.

Riding back high on energy and encouragement, our group joyfully sang praise and worship songs back down the slope. Can you imagine what it must've been like for the communities we drove through to hear a mobile choir passing through their roads? I thought it was so fun to see adults and children poking their heads out of their homes as they heard us driving by and singing praises to our God.

I'm so grateful for the opportunities I've had over the years to use my gifts for ministry and encouraging others. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my ordinary self being a part of such extraordinary things with our God. 

"God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another." 1 Peter 4:10

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Top 5 Reasons to Attend Trainings



Each year, one of my team's most anticipated traditions is attending the regional creative ministry festivals. For some, it motivates them to "step it up" as they prepare to compete. For others, it's the idea of spending the weekend with the team out of town. For maybe just one of them... they like the idea of getting out of school early.

What about for the leaders though? Sure, it's a lot of work to coordinate overnight travel, budget everything and rally the troops (and their parents) behind the idea of going. But (there's always a but) I strongly feel that it's a worthwhile investment. Here are my top 5 reasons for taking yourself and your team to a training conference this year and every year:

1. So many ideas to steal errr— use!

 The feature performances, competitions, workshops and resources can't help but leave your brain chock full of ideas and eager to take some home to use with your team or church. Some ideas you can put into practice as soon as you get back, some you can file away for future use. It's good to always have ideas handy to keep things fresh for your ministry.

2. Get (re-)equipped

Whether you're just starting out or have been at it for 20 years, the workshops, resources and workshop leaders at conferences provide many opportunities for you to continue to polish your technique, learn a new art form or just hear sage advice/confirmation from seasoned leaders. As leaders, we should be constantly learning and in the pursuit of excellence in ministry.

3. Give them some motivation!

Nothing like some good ole "competition" to kick your team's energy and drive into high-gear. The competitions at these festivals aren't pitting teams against each other but challenging each ministry to continue improving. I know my team is most driven with polishing a piece when they know people are going to be critiquing their performance.

Also, the feedback you get from competing is so much more valuable than any award. The comments the judges provide, mostly pointers for improvement and reinforcement of things well done, can help push your ministry and team closer to excellence.

4. Get connected!

Perhaps one of the things I treasure most about festivals is to find myself surrounded with people who "get it." They've been in my shoes, are wearing those same shoes or chucked them out and took it to the next level. 

Many times though, as we rally the team to go to lunch, or are nervously preparing for the next competition, we are missing our opportunity to connect with the leaders surrounding you that could be your next best friend. Even for your team, seeing other people their age also engaged in ministry can be so encouraging. I can't tell you how valuable it is to make and maintain

5. Be Challenged, Be Inspired! 

As directors or members of a ministry team, it can be easy to lose sight of the "ministry" part of "creative ministry" when we're so immersed in rehearsals, making props, or keeping our cool.

Conferences are a wonderful retreat from the "norm" and this, along with the devotionals and spiritual challenge, provide you an opportunity to reflect on your ministry and remind you of who you're serving and why. I am always most refreshed, energized and eager to serve when I return from these conferences because of the spiritual battery charge I get. Don't let yourself miss out on this opportunity to be refreshed in your ministry!

So there you have it!

I could keep going on and on but those are my top 5 reasons for hoping to challenge you to either continue or begin to participate in training conferences. If you participate in conferences, what are your reasons? Feel free to share in the comments section!

For more information on creative ministry conferences in your area, I recommend checking out www.creativemin.com