Art 'divides waters'

Nicole James | Brazil

A week before Christmas, Helen Schmidt Santos took a bus-load of artists to the First Baptist Church in Santo André (São Paulo). During the one day ArtsXpress event, the young artists – actors, dancers, musicians, and visual artists – presented workshops in the church. In the afternoon, they went around the neighbourhood, inviting people from the community to a final art-based presentation inside the church.

“A lot of things happen during the one day. We are not able to see everything” that goes on, Helen explained. Nonetheless, from her perspective as organiser and journalist, “we did all the things we were supposed to do, and then we came back. It was a nice event.”

Months later, another OM worker returned to the church to follow up with a different ministry opportunity. Whilst connecting with church leadership, she asked how the previous event, ArtsXpress, had gone.

Using the Portuguese expression “divisor de águas” (dividing the waters), meaning ‘before and after,’ the pastor explained that the ArtsXpress training had totally changed the mind-set of the church. “We felt more motivated to use our talents, not to hide them. The teens saw that they can dance; they can have a group. The musicians, they were challenged that they can write songs; they can glorify the Lord with their talents,” he said.

Arts as mobilisation

Helen and her husband, Rafa Santino, started Artespaço, OM Brazil’s art ministry, five years ago. From photography to painting to dance to theatre and even circus, the couple have pioneered arts events to engage and mobilise young, creative evangelicals throughout the country.

“Usually young people think about missions as something where you have to leave everything, be a poor person and live in a bad place or it’s just for people who have a specific call,” Helen explained. “We started to have this challenge inside of us that we have to share a different way of doing missions for young people.”

Artespaço’s arts camps, weekend trips, monthly courses and other events are geared toward young people, mainly 12 to 30 years old—many who have never heard of OM or considered missions. “They are probably not ready now to come to [missions] training, but we are planting a seed for the future.”

Rafa, Helen and other volunteers hope to invest in young artists, give them tools to develop their talents and offer opportunities to apply arts in global missions.

Artespaço events take place at the OM base or at churches around Brazil. “We are working with the church that is already established in a place, so we are helping this church to be more expressive and learn how to be more involved with their own community. With that, we want to open their minds to see what’s happening around the world,” Helen said. “We’re not just going there and helping them save their neighbors, but showing them how to use their talents and to send people to other countries.”

Nicole James is an international writer for OM, passionate about publishing stories of God’s work among the nations and telling people about the wonderful things He is doing around the world.

Published: Thursday, 15 June 2017
Credit: Nicole James
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