Monday, December 21, 2015

They're Already Rolling Around the Bend (Oregon)!

We had the privilege of helping Pine Ridge Elementary in Bend, Oregon start off their last week of school for the year. On Monday, December 14 we joined their unicycle club practice before school. It was amazing to see 50 kids riding and learning to ride around the gym.

The coach has been running the club for 6 years. She said on club practice mornings, kids are up early, excited to go to school to practice unicycling. Dustin shared briefly with the students and demonstrated a few tricks before helping kids individually with specific skills.      

Next we presented the UniShow in an all school assembly for 520 students. Dustin told the students there were enough of them in that very gym to change the world if they never gave up and used their abilities to help others. Afterwards students lined up to meet Dustin and get his autograph. Hopefully when they see his signature later they will be reminded to press on and never give up.        

Dustin with a class from Pine Ridge Elementary School.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Eastern Oregon Trilogy

We traveled to beautiful Wallowa County in Eastern Oregon for a trilogy of events December 10-11. Building Healthy Families sponsored two UniShow school assemblies and a community event.

It was a snowy Thursday morning when we presented at Joseph Charter School for an elementary assembly. 

After seeing our set up in the gym, the upper classes asked if they could join in on the fun, which we welcomed. The student's enthusiasm made for a fun event, enhanced with the excited screams of the younger grades throughout. Dustin encouraged students to practice never giving up so when challenges come along, they will already know how to persevere.  They can then face the challenges and grow through them. 

After the assembly, we had a quick turn around, packing up in Joseph to zip over to Wallowa Elementary to set up for an afternoon assembly. We we're equally well received in Wallowa by enthusiastic students. We were encouraged at the end of the assembly when it became obvious that they had been listening to Dustin's message. As students were filing out of the gym, they spontaneous started repeating in unison the theme of the the presentation, "Never give up! Never give up! Never give up!"

Sometimes we just don't know how he does it!  He even gets the unicycle to balance by itself!
Students at Wallowa Elementary interviewing Dustin for their school paper.
Friday we returned to Wallowa elementary for a community UniShow presentation. It was great to see so many come to the event. Dustin challenged young and old alike to use their abilities to impact the world. The only complaint we received after the show was a concern from the event organizer, wondering how they were going to "top" our program for their next community event.

It's a bonus to have family in the area.  Katie's nephew gets a ride on Dustin's shoulders during the community event.
UniShow Shop on display in Eastern Oregon.  If you missed it at the show, you can still get a few favorite items at our online store:

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Shababeek Means Window

UniShow Team North Africa 2015
After our first two school shows in North Africa, we drove south for a pleasant surprise. We were told to expect rustic conditions and even the occasional water buffalo. Instead, when we arrived in this "village" of 300,000 people, we were greeted by priests who had organized a four day festival at a small theme park.

Though our stage was directly in front of a swimming pool, the shows became quite a production with lights on rigging, a huge camera boom, a big screen and huge posters of Jesus as our backdrop.

The theme was Shababeek which means "window" and came from Song of Solomon 2:9-10 which says, "My lover looks through the window...arise my beautiful one and come away with me." The goal was to communicate to students that God is seeking them and wants them to follow Him.

Our first festival show started off well and the students obviously loved the rock style music, dancing and unicycling.

However, mid show we were told not to do anymore music or dancing, only unicycling since apparently some of the older priests were offended by our music and dancing and had left. We are the first foreigners they have welcomed into their circles and the priests were a bit wary of the way we were praising God.

Even in the midst of these challenges, we know God was at work. After our first show, a girl said she heard a word from the Lord and really wanted to talk to “the guy in the green glasses”. When she finally made her way through the aggressive picture taking crowd, she told Rob, “Jesus spoke to me and wants you to know that He is proud of you and the music you are playing is touching the hearts of the people here.” This was especially meaningful in the context of what happened that night with our show nearly being shut down.

A long meeting followed that first performance as we reevaluated our show content and humbly submitted to the wishes of our local partners so as not to burn bridges. The band was very gracious and for the remaining 4 festival shows replaced half of their songs with slower, older worship songs that the priests knew in Arabic and we eliminated some of the dancing. This went a long way in uniting us to our local partners.

Throughout the festival, God’s presence was felt and He did something special in many kid’s lives. A girl’s high end smart phone had gone missing during one of the shows and she was sobbing, absolutely devastated, certain to face a beating as a result of this loss. Turns out a boy had stolen it, but after the show realized how much God loved him and had been convicted so he returned it! Also, four boys had snuck into the show without paying the entrance fee. Afterward they said they had felt God’s love, confessed to the leaders and paid their fee. The incredulous locals told us these acts of repentance are unheard of and were a sign that God was at work.

The owner of the production company that provided lights and video for the festival was from a different religious background. He came one night and was very affected. He said he'd never seen this kind of event and this much joy before. He asked our organizer, "How did you get these people so happy?"

At the end of the final show, not only did we not get complaints, but the priests presented each of us with a special plaque with our names and Shababeek inscribed, nested in a red velvet box.

Then we were whisked away to the manager's office to prevent mobbing from the enthusiastic audience. Some of the kids were really disappointed that they were not allowed to take photos with us so they asked the manager to give us a message: "We are so sad you are leaving. You have left your fingerprint on our hearts. You have shown us Jesus in a new way. You have taught us about Christ in a new language."

In our 5 festival shows, we presented to 11,000 people, posed for almost as many selfies and know that God impacted the entire community. Not only did several of the servers shave their facial hair to match David the dancer, but the economy was boosted by people from the villages coming and eating, paying for transportation and food. But what really matters is that the Spiritual climate was impacted. Each student who came to these events received a book with 101 Bible Stories to take with them so they can continue to grow. New Bible studies have also begun for students in the area. The organizers are hoping this will be the first of an annual festival, even replicating it in other parts of the country.

One afternoon we had a special opportunity to share at a drug rehabilitation center. We joined 30 guys in a circle of chairs on the lawn. Some of the men shared their amazing testimonies of how God is changing them and giving them a fresh start. A few of our team shared how God has turned their lives around as well. Dustin did a unicycle demo in the rough grass and David danced some hip hop. Over cake and sodas, each resident gave feedback about how our visit had ministered to them. One guy said that he was so blessed that we would even come meet them. Another said they usually think Westerners are spoiled and fancy, but when we shared from our hearts he saw that we have struggles like they do.

We were so blessed by the hospitality and partnership we experienced with those whose hearts were unified with ours during this exciting tour. We thank God for his protection and blessing on our events and for the privilege of sharing His love with so many receptive people. We look forward to more outreach tours in North Africa in the future.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Rockin' and Rolling' in North Africa

After the Count It Right Festival in November, we joined a different team for outreach events in North Africa. Along with Dustin unicycling and Katie dancing, the UniShow in this context was comprised of an electro pop band and dancer with members from Canada, Turkey and USA.

We performed 9 shows in 10 days for over 13,000 people.  Our first and last shows were for 2,600 students at a school located in the heart of a garbage recycling community in a large city.

Before each show, the students performed for us, with a team favorite being a choreographed "Spongy Bob" song.

Because the students were from mixed religious backgrounds, we were not able to be open with our message from the stage but we were able to distribute 2,000 of Dustin’s Arabic testimony track cards to "Christian" students. During the assemblies we presented encouraging truths of perseverance, dreaming big, choosing the right path and using God given abilities to impact the world. The kids listened well and got into the show, waving, clapping, shouting and even doing cartwheels before it was all said and done. We pray God used these programs to point students closer to their Creator and show them His love.

Throughout the tour some of the band experienced sickness and Dustin’s knee was swollen from riding on rough surfaces. God’s power was evident in our weaknesses and no one missed any shows. We thank God for His answered prayers and for uniting our team with wonderful Egyptians to share His love.

The band.