Monday, March 21, 2016

What is Your Story?

There are many things that could be done on a Friday night.  For example, teenagers who love Jesus could put together a big event and invite their friends to come hear their stories.  That's exactly what happened on Friday, March 18th at Chanhassen High School in Minnesota.

High school students in Minnesota have gotten fired up to share their faith with there peers.  About 4 years ago the first My Story event took place at Eden Prairie High School.  Since then, half a dozen other schools have taken the template and run with it, creating a fun and energetic evening where Jesus is the Star of the show.

A comedian opened the show and led a few crazy games before a student band rocked a song.  Next, students interviewed University of Minnesota football players who clearly shared that following Jesus is the only way to truly live.  It was a privilege to then share the UniShow.  Dustin tore it up on the unicycle before sharing how only a relationship with Jesus has filled the emptiness in his life and given him purpose and meaning.  Then live and through video, about 8 students boldly and bravely shared their personal stories of how God has changed them.  We are so proud of these students who were real and vulnerable in front of classmates and teachers whom they interact with on a daily basis.  They explained how God has freed them from addictions to prescription medication, pornography and achievement.  They shared that the journey isn't easy but God is with them and has given them healing, hope, joy and a burning desire to see their friends also surrender their lives to Jesus.  

The night ended with youth speaker, Zane Black sharing his story, the Gospel and giving students an opportunity to respond.  QR codes had been placed on the back of every seat in the theater so students could scan and fill in their responses.  Turns out God was working in many hearts and 72 students responded to the call to surrender their lives to Jesus!   

We are so inspired by the bold students who are stepping out and making Jesus known on their campuses.   

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Going Blue and Gold with the Cub Scouts

On March 12, 2016 Cub Scouts Pack 472 celebrated their Blue and Gold event, which marked a right of passage for 5th graders moving on to Boy Scouts.  About half a dozen Cub Scouts and their families were called up front as older Boy Scouts exhorted them to honor God, family and country.  Then an arrow was shot into a target for each boy.

After the ceremony the UniShow took the stage to help make it a memorable event.  Dustin was able to share how God will be there during each phase of life, through the challenges and victories.  He was even able to share about the most important thing he has found to give his life purpose and meaning.  

After the event we heard that this was the best show they have seen in a while!  And someone else reported that the entire front row of boys were on the edge of their seats with their mouths wide open the whole time.   

We congratulate the Cub Scouts who have achieved this goal and pray they will grow to be leaders who will impact the world.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

More than Chocolate and Cheese

When TACO joins OM Switzerland for a tour, good things happen. We're not just talking about the steady flow of incredible chocolate and cheese, nor the beautiful scenery, historical castles and architecture at every turn. Nor did we complain when our incredible Swiss host maximized our cultural experience, taking us also to nearby Germany, France, Liechtenstein and Austria.

Our small team consisted of TACO resident team members David and Misun Graeser and TACO partners Dustin and Katie Kelm. In 10 days we did 10 presentations around Switzerland, promoting OM as well as TACO, inspiring people to action with how God is using the creative arts to reach people around the world.

Our program typically began with a "hip hop violin" act which combined David's edgy hip hop dancing with Misun rockin' the violin. We threw in some world class unicycling from Dustin, a dance duet by David and Katie, a brief history of TACO and inspiring stories of how God is using these creative arts to reach unreached people with His love.

We shared with several youth groups, a prayer meeting, street outreach, 2 Bible colleges and Operation Mobilization Switzerland's staff gathering. Though many of our events were small, it was obvious God was directing our steps and used this tour to make an impact.

After one Sunday morning youth event, we were told the stories and testimonies we shared really connected with the students. One student who hadn't been around in a while because of his gaming addiction, told Dustin afterward that he wants to start attending church regularly again.

Swiss former TACO team member, Susanne, now attends ISTL Bible College in Zurich. It was a happy reunion to join her and her classmates for their weekly street outreach. It was really cold outside and Misun's fingers nearly froze as she played violin. But we did 3 presentations followed by a message from some of the students. Afterward there was a buzz from the students who were really inspired by how the performance drew people and gave a platform to share openly with more people.

Reunion with Susanne!

We presented at The Factory Bible College and then David taught "Street Outreach 101", including a simple step dance for students to use in their future street outreaches. Students really got into the training and step dance and were very excited to put what they had learned into practice.

Because of high crime rates in an apartment complex near Zurich where mostly immigrants reside, the Stjgj student center was created 13 years ago. In this apartment building basement, students know they are always welcome to play fuse-ball, air hockey, chill, get snacks, take photos with available costumes and interact with adults who care about them. Leaders noticed a drop in crime rates immediately after Stjgj was open.
We had the privilege of joining this ministry one Friday night. Most of the students involved in Stjgj come from North African or Middle Eastern backgrounds so it was exciting to be able to share the Gospel with them during our presentation. Though the leaders are believers, they don't often have the opportunity for spiritual conversations with students. Leaders were thrilled with the clear Gospel message Dustin shared and said students were asking about what they had heard. They will be building on what we shared to help students grow in their understanding of what Jesus has done for them.

Our last event wrapped up well at a Sunday morning church service in Bern. We were told we had freedom to preach, present and perform. After the service we received great feedback, including the pastor seriously inquiring about taking his family on a short-term outreach to Turkey. One man also told us he's now thinking hard about the challenge Dustin gave to use what God has given him to share Christ's love. Another church member approached us afterward with tears in her eyes, encouraged by a story David had shared about how God reached a girl in Turkey during a very small outreach which had seemed almost pointless.
Beautiful city of Bern.
We are thankful for all these opportunities to demonstrate how God is pursuing the unreached through the creative arts. We pray those impacted and inspired through these events in Switzerland will take action to know God more and make Him known.