Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Loving the people of North Africa

We returned to the land of pyramids for the 5th time mid October.  The first two weeks we were part of TACO's first tour in this country.  It was the first time the local organizers had planned anything like this so it was a learning experience for all.

We had 3 shows combining our band, dance, mime and unicycling with local secular bands and dramas for 6 hour long festivals.  We weren't able to share openly in the shows but delivered a positive message of cultural diversity, which was the theme our local organizer chose.  We were helping the group here build relationships and bridges with the community.  They walk a very fine line with restrictions and laws.  

The first festival was for a school with very excited and aggressive boys.  The volunteers helped out greatly to keep things under control.  The next festival was for a girls school of 1,000.  Many knew English and all were thoroughly enthusiastic about our program.  It was sweet to see them singing along with Drake and band.  After the show a student told the principal that because of the message Dustin shared, she was going to start using her gifts for others and not herself from that day on.

The last festival was at a cultural center.  We did a short set at the beginning of the festival and were supposed to close the festival with another set.  The other bands and dramas between us performed so long that at 11:30p the facility manager cut the power just before we were about to go on.  Dustin still jumped on his unicycle and rode trials on the structures, then Drake and company played and sang songs unplugged.  The crowd that was left loved it.  Some said it was a great testimony that we didn't get upset but went ahead and still shared something with the audience.

Friday night we had a great highlight show at a Catholic church reaching out in a Sudanese refugee community.  This was the only show where we were the only performers and we could share openly since it was on church grounds.  It was refreshing to be able to do a full show and share about the Reason for the hope we have!  The priest told us afterward what a blessing we had been to these refugees and how special it was that we cared for and loved them enough to come share our show.

One of our local organizers said that his life has changed after seeing our show and hearing our message.  He had stopped trying to make a difference with his life but is now inspired to step out and make it count for eternity.  Our whole team of organizers and helpers were great.  They warmly welcomed us and we look forward to working with them again in the future.

Please pray that all who heard and saw our show will take steps closer to Jesus!  Thank you!

First festival.
Second festival.

Fourth show.

Our team.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Streets and television of Turkey

After our second tour of the year in Albania we had a few weeks in Istanbul to catch our breath and do street outreaches.  Along with the UniShow we had 2 guys from Poland and England performing with fire, others doing hip hop dances, music and a puppet drama telling the story of God providing a sacrifice to take to place of  Abraham's son.

When Dustin performed he was able to speak openly about God's Love.  After one of our street shows, Katie shared Jesus with a young Polish couple traveling the world.  They were surprised we were sharing our faith so openly in Turkey and were very interested in why we had given our lives completely to God and what difference He could make.  Katie also shared openly with some German Buddhists and a "friend of tolerance".  Please pray that all those who heard the truth will open their hearts to Jesus!

We also had the opportunity to unicycle and dance for a Kurdish TV channel in front of a live audience.  We weren't able to share much but the show host said more than once on camera that he was impressed that we do what we do for free to share our faith.

Several evenings a group of us rode unicycles along a busy street in Istanbul for fun and to work on skills.  One night a scout from Turkey's largest talent TV show saw Dustin and pulled over in traffic to video him and get contact info.  We didn't think anything would come of it but 2 weeks later we got a call and they asked Dustin to perform for the show.  Very similar in format to America's Got Talent, the show is one of the most watched and well known in Turkey.  It was a very interesting experience, to say the least.  Dustin did a great act and the result was 3 yeses from the judges!  He is moving on to round 2!  We are excited to return to Turkey later this year for the next show.  We are excited about the opportunities this may open up for future events in Turkey.

Next stop Egypt!

Kurdish TV show time.

Street Festival performance in Moda Istanbul.

Patrick and Josh lighting up the skies at a street show in Kadikoy Istanbul.

Street show Kartal Istanbul.

Playing by the seaside in Istanbul.

Dustin's warm up for Turkey's biggest TV show.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Albania - Round 2 in 2012

Our tour organizer providentially met up with a group of Albanian church planters at a cafe in July while leading an outreach tour in Albania. These pastors are training 38 church planters to reach unreached Albanians. They quickly organized a UniShow tour with 12 performances during the first 2 weeks of September. There were 6 of us on this tour: David, Aimee, Lucy and Katie dancing, Dustin unicycling, and Dave fearlessly leading.

We began in Tirana with 2 shows at Lapraka Airfield Park which used to be an airstrip in communist times. We shared openly both nights and many responded, indicating they wanted to follow Jesus! God provided a church group who just happened to be in the area for street outreach to help us with crowd control the second night. This was an answer to our prayers!

In Berat we performed in the city center 2 nights, next to a new church plant location. Earlier this year the pastors saw the UniShow in a nearby city and began praying specifically for some type of creative outreach to help them launch the church. They knew we were the answer to their prayers when they learned we were coming back to Albania. Both nights we had very responsive crowds and many indicated decisions to follow Christ for the first time. We were able to promote the church throughout the shows. The pastors prayed over and contacted each person who responded. At the first service, 60 people came who had never been to a church before. 55 of them were contacts from our events!

After several hours driving on twisty mountain roads, we arrived in Burrel for a show in a center for those with disabilities. The center leaders thanked us over and over again for taking the time to come and they want us back to do more events in local schools.

There is an amazing team in Elbasan who learned about our show only days before hosting us. They are launching Christian Arts Centers in Elbasan and Tirane and thought our show would help local churches see arts outreach in action. First we did a small show for a few Roma boys from a kids club. The excitement on their faces and enthusiasm made our day! Next we did a show on a dusty bridge in a Roma village. The show was interrupted by cars and carts needing to pass on the "stage" but the show went on. That night we did a show in the city center. Locals said they don't remember any Christian event happening in this area before. Many indicated decisions to follow Christ at these events!

Our smallest crowd was at the International Protestant Church of Tirana. During the invitation a teenager raised his hand, as well as 2 kids from a family from India. Afterward we learned that the teenager had been going to church for a while but hadn't surrendered to Jesus until that night. The Indian parents told us they had been praying for a long time for their children. They were so excited about the salvation of their children that they blessed us with homemade Indian food two nights later! Yummm!

During this tour we were able to be completely open with the Gospel and saw people give their lives to Christ at almost every event! It was amazing to partner with church planters and leaders who have such vision to reach their country and are actively engaged in accomplishing this! We all left a bit of our hearts in Albania and look forward to returning to help build on what was accomplished during this tour. To God be the glory!

Lapraka Airstrip Park Tirana

Aimee and Katie

Dustin with fans asking how old he is.

The amazing Aimee Baker!

People responding to the invitation!

Our team.

Dustin jumping 2 volunteers!

The beautiful stage in Burrel.

Enthusiastic children at the Kid's Club in Elbasan.

The bridge show at the Roma village in Elbasan.

Evening show in Elbasan center.

In front of a bar in Lezhe

Our team with the our amazing local hosts.