Friday, February 26, 2016

Incarnate in Italy

Incarnate 2016 is a Creative Arts school in Italy run by OM Arts. Though it's their 3rd one in 5 years, this is the first time we have had the privilege of joining them. We flew into Rome, took a 2 hour bus ride then a 30 minute shuttle to arrive in beautiful Isola del Gran Sasso, from 23 - 26 February.

We sat in on lectures and meetings and dined with the students and staff. During one morning session we shared with the performing artists about the ministry God has given us in the UniShow and how the creative arts can be used to share His love openly around the world. Then during the second Incarnate Open Studio night of the year, we presented an abbreviated version of the UniShow, including Dustin sharing the clear, simple Gospel message. Staff had invited people from the community and were surprised that many came, even some professing atheists. It was a fun night also seeing students perform dances, music and share art work.

It is our prayer that each of these students at Incarnate not only become whole and healthy artists, but also get inspired to share Jesus boldly and clearly through their art.   

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Bega Kwa Bega

It was a great privilege to partner for the third time with our church, Grace Church Eden Prairie MN to serve Bega Kwa Bega (Swahili for “Shoulder to Shoulder”) with their sister churches in and around Nairobi Kenya from 2-7 February.  After our Laugh For Life events in Minnesota on Friday and Saturday, we pulled an all-nighter to pack up then flew to Africa on Sunday.

In Nairobi, we joined 50 others from our church.  Our team was multi-faceted and some set up a medical clinic at the churches and cared for hundreds of sick people.  Other teams led a women's conference, pastor's conference, kid's rally's and classroom teachings, door to door visitations, and "Big Serve" work project painting meeting and class rooms.

Along with a choir and illusionist, Dustin unicycled and we shared the Good News in prisons, schools, churches and for community outreaches.  The surfaces were less than ideal, but Dustin adapted well to what was available: dirt, grass, gravel, and narrow concrete strips.  He powerfully shared about God's love during each event and it was exciting to see young and old alike respond and choose to follow Jesus.

We were blessed to work alongside Kenyan brothers and sisters who are also eager to share God's love with their communities.  The condition of some locations we served in as well as the stories of some of those we met were heartbreaking.  We know the message of Hope we shared, that God knows each of their names and loves them so much He gave His life for them, is not just empty words but is truth that can change their lives.  We ask God to water these seeds planted in Kenya.

Photo Credit: Josh Flom
Photo Credit: Josh Flom
Photo Credit: Josh Flom

Local accommodations; not ours.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Proclaiming Liberty to Captives and Freedom to Prisoners

One of the highlights of our Kenya tour was presenting at the only maximum security women's prison in Kenya for several hundred women, their children under 4 years old, and guards. Women are sent here from surrounding countries.

The warden was a very wise, compassionate woman who seemed full of God's love.  She greeted us and shared that they don't call these women "prisoners" but "clients" and treat them like they are residing there to prepare for a better life.  She had each from our team, partner with a client to adopt them through prayer even after we returned to Minnesota.

One young and very beautiful client welcomed us after telling us she was there with a death sentence. She led the group in an African song and dance. Then our team performed songs, unicycling, juggling and illusions which transformed downcast faces into brilliant smiles. Team members shared powerful testimonies of how God has radically transformed their lives and given them hope through salvation. The women listened intently and shed heartfelt tears as many responded to the invitation to find freedom by surrendering to Jesus.

The women cheered when they learned we brought gifts of soap and toilet paper (which they don't usually have) and food.  A group of women from a local church joined our team and were so touched by what went on during this visit that they have pledged to build a much needed bathroom with a shower for the prison maternity ward.  The church ladies will also be returning regularly to minister to the clients.

A few days earlier, some from our group had done a presentation in a men's prison. One prisoner was serving a nine month sentence for being unable to pay a traffic violation. A team member was moved with compassion and paid his debt – that man has now been released!  This inspired our host church partners who selected 8 at the women's prison and paid their $50 fines, allowing them to be released.  Each of the 8 women came forward when their names were called and expressed their gratitude.  As we left the prison, these women were all smiles as they stood on the outside of the gates in civilian clothes, as free women!

Days later, the warden contacted our host and said of our team, "We have never seen people minister here in this way before, mingling with the prisoners without fear."  We pray each of the women ministered to during this outreach will grow in their journey with Jesus and begin to extend the love and grace they received to others.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Laugh For Life Minnesota!

New Life Family Services has been a pregnancy resource center for thousands of women in Minnesota since 1973. Among many amazing services they provide, ultrasounds are a big one. Statistically, most women who plan on aborting, keep their baby after seeing their little one in an ultrasound. Over 350 ultrasounds have been given each year since 2000 by NLFS and 94% of those women chose life for their child!

This amazing ministry relies on the support of generous donors. One way they keep going is through fund-raising events. It was a privilege to perform the UniShow for their 7th annual Laugh For Life Comedy Night fundraisers this year. Friday, January 29th, we presented at Autumn Ridge in Rochester MN for 800 people. Saturday, January 30th's event was at Grace Church in Eden Prairie MN for around 2,500.

The UniShow was the opening act and comedian Brad Stine the feature act. Both venues had beautiful, large facilities and stages which made for great productions. Dustin debuted his new Ninebot One electric unicycle to start out the shows and ended by juggling flaming torches on his 10 foot unicycle, with lots of excitement sandwiched in between. Then Brad had the crowd in stitches for the rest of the night, while still emphasizing the serious situations many women find themselves in who need the real help, hope and answers NLFS provides.

It was special to be part of both of these purposeful events and even get to perform at our home church, Grace, and have many friends come out to support and enjoy the evening.

Photo Credit: Jonny Nelson
Photo Credit: Drew Boe
Photo Credit: Jonny Nelson