Thursday, May 10, 2018

Aloha from Albania!


'Aloha' is the Hawaiian word for love, peace, compassion and mercy, commonly used as a simple greeting. Our team of 8 from Australia, Albania, America and Korea, chose the name Team Aloha and had the privilege of extending these virtues across Albania packaged in a performance infused with the Gospel. We surprised ourselves with how much fun the Aloha show was to perform.


Donning Hawaiian shirts, we hit the stage for 65 minutes of non-stop action combining unicycling, drama, dance, music and most importantly, the Gospel message. We partnered with an Albanian church planter who has used these creative performances over the years to start more than 20 churches. In some cities and villages we partnered with young churches and in other cities we joined nationals who are working on starting a church where none exists.




Our organizer worked hard to secure permission from mayors and officials in each city. Police were present at most events, blocking off streets and diverting traffic, clearing parking lots, helping keep the peace among rowdy kids, and generally keeping an eye on things. On this tour we also had the unique experience to record some of our show at TV 7 studio in Tirana, which aired a week later.



We heard very encouraging feedback regarding our presentations. One pastor said he felt our event changed the atmosphere and showed that the church comes out of their walls to share with the community. He noted that people were very affected by the message. Another long-term partner thought our show was the best he's seen from our group over the years. He was very encouraged afterward with the amount of youth who asked him for details about how to connect with the church. 


 
Another pastor said in his 4 years of leading his church he has never seen so many people interested in taking Bibles and literature before. He was amazed to see how the performance drew people in and opened them to the message. Local workers said it was a beautiful performance unlike anything the community has seen before. 


During a city center show, we were surprised that the nearby cafés turned their music down as Dustin led in a prayer of surrender to Christ. Church members saw a lady who is a known atheist pray the prayer! Another lady said she felt deliverance during the message and a Presence she had never felt before.



In another city, believers are trying to plant the first church. A local Christian lady was so encouraged by our show there and even helped hand out literature at the end. She and her husband were part of the church that fizzled many years ago and their own walk with God went with it. She asked us to pray for the opportunity to fellowship with other believers again. Team members talked to an Imam who started to debate until he was shown verses in the Koran that say Jesus died and rose again. They read to him from John 1 explaining what we believe. The Imam was open to reading the Bible and learning more. And we know of several people who made professions of faith in Jesus during the show! With the great response and so many interested in learning more about Jesus, it looks promising that a new church will begin here soon. 


We performed in front of a Mosque in a city which is half Muslim, half Catholic and mostly in need of a relationship with Jesus. During the invitation and prayer of surrender to Jesus, several people indicated they were choosing Jesus for the first time! One of those people was a 21 year old who said, "Today I changed my belief. I was a Muslim but when I heard the Christian message I wanted to follow Jesus."




We performed in another city which is 95% Muslim and has not had a church in 15 years. There is a Christian couple whom our organizer and a business man have been driving 3 hours each Saturday to disciple and mentor. Since unemployment and poverty in Albania is common, and often the reason new churches struggle, they are implementing a new model of simultaneously opening an electronics business in the city along with the church, to help support the pastor and church. This ambitious couple hope to get both the church and the electronics shop up and running as soon as they are grounded and have a solid team prepared to lead.



Our church planting organizer has a wise strategy of not hastily throwing a church together but waiting until the foundation is strong enough to support a lasting fellowship. He wants to plant churches, not play church, and his methods seem to be working. He reminded us that as we do these evangelistic events we are pushing, fighting, attacking the gates of hell. We are not just preaching the Gospel but breaking mentalities. He said people in Albania think church is stale, boring, lifeless tradition. But when they see dancing, lively music, and a world champion performing and sharing about Jesus, they realize people in the church are normal, fun and it shatters misconceptions about who Jesus is.

After each presentation, many surveys were collected from interested people requesting follow-up. Church members will contact each person and begin discipling them. In summary, we presented to 3,150 people during 11 events plus a TV broadcast that will be viewed by many people in Albania, Kosovo and USA.

Please pray for:
-The thousands of people who heard the Gospel and the hundreds who indicated a first time commitment to Jesus, to keep growing in their understanding of who Jesus is.
-Wisdom as church members follow up with those wanting to know more about the Bible and Jesus.
-The churches to grow in depth, numbers and unity.
-More workers and believers in Albania to serve in the church and reach out in evangelism.



Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
Colossians 3:12

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Shut Down But Not Silenced

From 4 to 15 April, our group of 12 left Istanbul and headed east for our first Turkey tour of 2018. We called this the DDUM Tour since our show consisted of Drama, Dance, Unicycling and Music.


Once we reached Malatya, we paused to rehearse at the church, then moved on to Tunceli with 6 bold and active church members who supported us for events in this part of the largest unreached country on earth.


We passed through several check points on our way to Tunceli, the last one at the entrance to the city where police thoroughly investigated our literature, equipment and passports. We had planned on doing spontaneous shows but after police videoed themselves telling us we could not perform without permission, our leaders went to work seeking approval. Amazingly they were quickly granted permission from all the necessary officials which led to some of the best events we’ve had in Turkey.

Two nights in a row we presented in Tunceli to over 800 people who were very open and interested in our presentation and we didn’t hear one complaint!





We had many great conversations with people eager to learn more about Jesus. After our first show, one guy who had been encouraged to ask God to show Himself, actually saw Jesus in a dream that night! Our friends from Malatya Church didn’t waste any time following up on dozens of interested people. They are really hoping to plant the first church in the city from those new contacts. Previous outreaches in Tunceli have been met with apathy and hardness so it was refreshing and encouraging to see so much receptiveness and be part of the special work God is doing there. Tunceli was a tour highlight for most team members.

Eleven years ago, 3 Christians were martyred in Malatya. God has turned tragedy into good and this is now one of the easiest cities for workers to serve, since the city is trying to repair their negative reputation. We presented at the Malatya Church for their Easter Outreach. It was a cozy space so we adapted our show but still had the opportunity to encourage church members and help connect 20 new people.

  

In an unprecedented request, we were thrilled to be invited to teach Christianity through seminars and our show at a school in Viranşehir. Though our team drove 5 hours on hilly, windy roads just for this event, the school made excuses and cancelled the event the night before and try as they might, our leaders were unable to obtain permission for any replacement show. A Malatya church member had driven an additional 5 hours to seek permission to present in Ovacık since a policeman who worked there had seen us perform in Tunceli and wanted to help us get permission to perform in his town. Permission was granted on all levels and the municipality even offered to promote our show over loud speakers! However, another official learned of our plan, stating he “knows who we are”, complained to the governor and managed to get all permissions thrown out the window.

We felt a bit deflated, but we know things don’t come easily when we are directly attacking the enemy’s strongholds and dealing with officials who hate what we are doing. Though we were denied performing in a few cities, team members still took opportunities to share Jesus with people they met along the way, so not all was lost.

In Ankara, Turkey’s capital, we presented late at night downtown after the police had gone home. Church members, many of whom are new believers, were very excited to help us present in their community.


Team members had very meaningful, personal conversations with individuals whom God seemed to have prepared for that moment. Though we had a small crowd and our show wasn’t in the best part of town, God reminded us that Jesus came for the drunks, rose sellers and cheaters. This evening showed us some of His generous heart and the lengths He will go to reach people.

We drove back to Istanbul for our final shows. After one by the seaside, we presented without incident to interested people, but afterward police came in a huff and detained us as they looked at our literature. The finally let us go but not before cursing and spitting at a team member.



To wrap up the tour, we partnered with Life Church in a bustling, wealthy area of Istanbul for 2 shows just below their church. Several hundred watched, no one complained, and some were interested in learning more about Jesus. The pastor said it was very inspiring for the church to see bold, public proclamation of the Gospel to the crowds they usually only see passing by below as they look out their window above.





In all we had the opportunity to share with over 1,500 people in 7 presentations. Turkey is a tough place to minister on a good day and with the state of emergency looming over people, it’s even harder. Police and passport checks became routine, we struggled with sickness and discouragement, and we just might be crazy for even trying to publicly share Jesus in Turkey. Yet we saw God at work and use our efforts to specifically reach people with His great love and truth, and that made it all worth it.

Please pray for:

-Those in Tunceli who saw our show and are now studying the Bible with believers. Pray that a church will be planted from these contacts.
-All those who heard the Gospel and received literature from us (police included) to grow in their understanding of God’s love.
 -Many more in Turkey to see dreams and visions of Jesus that will open their hearts to His salvation.
-Churches in Malatya, Ankara and Istanbul to continue to make bold efforts to reach their community with the Gospel.  






Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Texas Times

Moving on to Texas, we had the privilege of presenting a chapel at LeTourneau University in Longview.  This was an especially meaningful event since Dustin’s dad and brother both attended LeTourneau in the 60’s and 80’s.  They have a state-of-the-art theater with a beautiful stage which was a treat to perform on.  It was fun to see posters in the wings of others who have shared this stage: Stomp, Lord of the Dance, Charlie Daniel’s Band, Jewel, Beach Boys, Drakeford, Rick Springfield, Rend Collective, The Oak Ridge Boys, Casting Crowns, Brian Regan and Lecrae to name a few.

A group of high school juniors were on campus for a preview day and joined the chapel.  Advisers told us afterward that they are always nervous bringing potential students into chapel wondering what impression it will give the students.  They said this was the best chapel they’ve ever had for a preview day and they wished we could present every time since we knocked it out of the park.

It was encouraging to later receive this feedback from the chapel coordinator: "What a great, energetic, nail-biting experience, that also took time to share about the importance of salvation with Jesus on the cross. Such a powerful and relatable message for students and adults alike!"



We loaded the trailer afterward in the biggest thunderstorm and downpour we’ve ever packed up in.   Our equipment was completely soaked, not to mention us and those helping.  That night we filled our hotel room with unicycles, packing blankets, equipment bags and clothes drying around the room. 

Because of friends we met and served with in Egypt over the years who live in Texas, we were invited to present at First Baptist School in Dallas.  We arrived at the school before daylight to set up for a bright and early assembly.  The students were enthusiastic and on their feet at times jumping up and down in excitement.  We love sharing a message of hope with all these students.




Here's a recap video of this USA tour January - March 2018: 


(YouTube link: https://youtu.be/8l-L6RaGNMU)

California and Colorado start with C

From Oregon, we drove south for a return visit to Valley Christian Elementary School in San Jose, California. Last year the rain forced us to present a very abbreviated UniShow assembly on a small shag carpeted stage in a chapel the 450 students barely fit into. This year was dry and sunny so the UniShow was in full force in an outdoor basketball court. The principal has become a big advocate for the UniShow, stating our assembly is the best he has ever experienced and is promoting it around the region for the future.



Our tour then took us to Colorado Spring, Colorado where Dustin’s lungs were put to the test presenting an assembly at an elevation of 7,000 feet for 320 middle schoolers at Eagleview Middle School. We heard afterward from a student that it was the best day of her life. A teacher said that it was the best assembly they've had in his 20 years teaching at the school and he knew students would never forget it. Another student thanked Dustin for what he shared, saying it's people like him that motivate her to not give up in life.



Friday, February 9, 2018

Boring UniShow and Beyond

The UniShow was as close to Boring as it's ever been on 24 January 2018.  We presented at Barton Community Church in Boring, Oregon for their Family Night.  Church members were amazed by Dustin's presentations at Mission Connexion in Portland last year and were looking for an opportunity to bring him to their own church event.  This was the night and the UniShow was a hit.  During Dustin's Gospel presentation and invitation, at least 5 people indicated they were giving their lives to Jesus for the first time.  Jesus isn't boring and apparently the UniShow wasn't either!  Afterward we heard, "This is not some hum-drum show!" and "Even the 'cool' teenagers were eating it up!"


The next morning, on 25 January 2018, we rolled on over to Cherry Park Elementary in Portland for a school assembly.  The gym was packed with 600 in attendance and the students could hardly contain their excitement as Dustin performed on one exciting unicycle after another.  They quieted down enough to hear Dustin's challenge to persevere even when things get tough and use what they have to help others.  Before the assembly was over he had them shouting in unison, "Never Give Up!"  Afterward, staff enthusiastically told us that this was the best assembly they have ever had.

During our training week in Georgia when we joined OM in 2008, we met a couple whom we've stayed in touch with over the years.  They have now settled in Portland and have kids attending Cherry Park Elementary.  They had passed along our information to the principal, thus the assembly on 25 January 2018!  We are thankful for personal connections which lead to expanded opportunities to impact people's lives.



To complete our Oregon shows, we presented at Elmira High School for a Sunday afternoon community outreach on 28 January 2018.  It was encouraging to see multiple churches and ministries collaborate to bring their community together to hear the Good News.  About 250 came and heard the clear Gospel message and several responded to the invitation!


Thanks Oregon! Now on to California...

Saturday, January 6, 2018

UniShow Christmas Circus 2017

Early December, we flew back to Washington DC from Brazil and a few short days later began a crazy and amazing week with McLean Bible Church.

Look up! The UniShow is that-a way!
First, we had 3 outreaches scheduled at local schools where MBC is building relationships with families. On Friday night, 8 December, students came to Hutchinson Elementary for a UniShow where they heard the Gospel. They also had fun with bouncy castles, dodge-ball, making gingerbread house, then they received gifts of hats and gloves before heading home. This event was scheduled to repeat at two different schools on Saturday, but due to a snow storm forecast, the school district closed their facilities which meant our events were cancelled. 


Our assistants, David and Misun arrived Friday night. They are workers in Turkey whom we’ve performed with countless times in numerous countries for the past 9 years. They were on home assignment in the States during this time so we were able to recruit them to join us for these events. None of us had any idea the fun that was in store this week as we joined forces to create the UniShow Christmas Circus for McLean’s 2nd annual Christmas Village Outreach. We surprised even ourselves with a show that packed a Christmas punch with purpose.


We spent the Saturday snow day prepping ourselves and the stage for 22 shows in the next 7 days in one great location. We hung giant stars, banners, and bungees; assembled and decorated silver and lime green Christmas trees; lined the stage and props with bright green rope lights; put a candy cane twist on the white 10 ft. unicycle; marked prop and equipment locations; and ran through transitions for our 30 minute show.


Come Sunday, we were ready to go for our first 3 UniShow Christmas Circus shows of MBC’s Christmas Village 2017. Misun started the show rocking her violin to some Christmas Dubstep. David soon appeared on stage to hype the crowd with his hip hop moves. Then Dustin rolled out on his electric unicycle as the crowd couldn’t help but smile and cheer, even if they didn’t quite know why yet. Welcome to the UniShow Christmas Circus! 








For 7 nights straight, we presented 22 shows for 8,000 of the 20,000 people that came to the Christmas Village. Two of those shows were translated into Spanish for Latino night, two had sign language interpretation and one was sensory friendly for guests with special needs where we toned down the music and eliminated juggling fire.

The purpose of the entire Christmas Village was to share the Gospel. Guests heard the Gospel loud and clear at each UniShow, as well as in a crazy light show in a different auditorium and outside at the live nativity scene. A team of roaming evangelists engaged one on one with people around the campus to pray with them and introduce them to the Jesus of Christmas. Other festivities included the packing of 5,454 Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes, a carousal, live music, train ride, collection of 1,807 toys for at-risk children, an International bazaar and light displays. It was quite an event and such a privilege to be part of.  In all, 294 spiritual decisions were recorded and each one was followed up on within 24 hours.

We heard many stories of lives changed through this event. One guy was approached on Wednesday by a roamer and asked if he knew Jesus. He said enthusiastically, “Yah man I gave my life to Jesus at the UniShow on Monday! I’m in!” A lady came to Dustin after one show with tears in her eyes and said that her granddaughter had just prayed the prayer with him to ask Jesus into her life!

We praise God for how He used our crazy Christmas Circus to touch lives with the true meaning of Christmas. It was awesome and refreshing to partner with a church who has the Gospel as their focus and will go to great lengths to get the Word out.

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring Good News!
Amazing team, including room leader and sound tech!
Thanks to the amazing officers who kept Christmas Village safe!