Thursday, August 12, 2010

Christians in Turkey Introducing Muslims to the Gospel through the Creative Arts

Creative arts ministries are an effective way to reach those who don't know Christ. Visual, performing and technical arts such as music, mime, drama, dance, theater, theater sports, and other creative arts or activities can help break
down prejudice and fear and introduce people to the Gospel message.

Recently a creative outreach team had the privilege of returning to the southeastern Turkish town of Diyarbakir to partner with the local church. The play “Our Psychologist” is styled on daytime Turkish talk shows. Guests come and share their problems with two psychologists. We then see them put this advice into action back home. In between scenes, a live band plays well-known songs. All the actors were Turkish nationals, and the outreach team helped form the band with some of the church’s musically gifted young people. Reaction to the play was very positive but a few things surprised us!

The Church’s Impact

Diyarbakir faces unbelievable social issues left behind from the civil war of two decades ago and also intrinsic to eastern culture. However the church there is one of the healthiest, growing churches in Turkey. They have a passion to reach out amidst such brokenness, hence the vision of the play and also the local pastor’s new booklet. Recently completed, it is the culmination of years of counseling and praying with many people who visit the church looking for answers and prayer. In the play, the pastor acts as one of the play’s psychologists and offers Biblical wisdom and this has had an impact upon home situations. After each performance the pastor makes it clear that the church cares for their city and all were welcome to take a free copy of a Gospel booklet. Overall, it was great to see the performance become more professional this year and the whole church involved in making this event happen, from cooking meals to handing out handbills.

Bridge-Building in the Community

The first two performances were in a sport center in the heart of a difficult part of town. We were probably most discouraged on the second night after two fights had broken out among audience members, one of which was during a song about the value of tolerance! However, it was also that night that we met a Muslim woman and her three daughters who enjoyed the show so much that they came the next night and finally to church on Sunday. Her daughter said the children's program was so good that they should come every Sunday. Her mother was touched as she received prayer and was invited to the weekly ladies meeting. The final two nights the play was performed to packed out crowed in a newly built theater in a slightly more prosperous area of town. Even the mayor attended who was very positive about it. One of the aspects of the show that changed things this year was the singing of two Kurdish folk songs by a young girl that had recently come to faith. When she began to sing the audience cheered and joined in joyfully. It is still a relatively new freedom to sing Kurdish in public places. This girl’s mother isn’t a believer but came to all four performances, proudly supporting her daughter and spending more time with the other church ladies.

The Impact on Us

It doesn’t always work that way however. Talking to a young man, we learned why he has been living at the church for the last year. After last year’s performances and his heavy involvement in them he could no longer deny his church connections to his family. They said he either left the church or had to leave them. We were humbled to learn this, especially as he joyfully and faithfully served us while we stayed at the church with him. This year we were also blessed to have a national intern come with our team, who acted in the play and did some singing. Not only did it help to enlarge her vision for such things in her town but it also gave her a vision to bring some friends back with a heart for reconciliation. One day as she was handing out handbills, a man asked her if she was Kurdish. When she replied that she was actually from an Arab background he was amazed that she would come to his city to serve them due to the ethnic enmity between Kurds and Arabs.

The Future

Musicians, sound technicians, artists, and those skilled in drama, mime, puppets, etc. tare needed to join future creative outreaches in Turkey.  You can use your skills to be part of a team that ministers throughout the Near and Middle East and Central Asia.  There is a training and language study program as well. This is also an excellent opportunity for interns! Contact OM Arts International for more information.

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