This is an article from the March-April 1997 issue: The Dramatic Arts

The Dramatic Arts

Mobilizing Vision and Spreading the Gospel Cross-Culturally

The Dramatic Arts

Their numbers are small and they get very little publicity, but a growing number of missionaries and mission mobilizers are using the dramatic arts not only to communicate the Gospel message, but also to raise up a vision for the nations within the Body of Christ worldwide. We feature three examples in this article.

Julisa Rowe

Julisa Rowe of Artists in Christian Testimony based in Portland, Oregon, is one of those who is using drama to mobilize believers with frontier mission vision.

She is an accomplished actress doing one-character recreations of the lives of notable pioneer missionaries and others with the goal of expanding God's Kingdom to the ends of the earth. She wants to mobilize the church worldwide with a vision for reaching the unreached peoples as well as changing the way we communicate the Gospel cross-culturally.

She says of her ministry: "We want to communicate Jesus Christ in a way that speaks to the heart as well as the head. The integration of artistic communication and worship into mission and ministry strategy is essential to breaking down barriers and touching hearts."

Julisa has twice performed at the U.S. Center's Frontier Fellowship and received the support of enthusiastic audiences. Her "Gathering Lotus Buds," which tells of the work, writings and heart of Amy Carmichael, missionary to India, powerfully challenges audiences with a vision for missions. The script, written by Terry Spivey, communicates the importance of love, holiness and concern for unreached peoples perishing because they have no knowledge of Christ.

Julisa says, "Growing up as a missionary kid in Africa has given me a life-long sensitivity to the spiritual needs around the world. I was delighted to perform Terry's work because of its emphasis on reaching the lost and showing Christ's love."

Recently Julisa used her African missionary kid experience to write the play "God + One," portraying Mary Slessor, who worked among the unreached tribal peoples of Calabar, Nigeria. Mary's love for children and her skills as a peacemaker brought her to the attention of the British government and she was frequently called on to be a peacemaker between warring tribes. "Slessor's love for tribal people was so great that she became known as Mother of all Peoples," says Rowe. She gives a riveting performance that draws you into the heart and passion of Mary Slessor for the unreached peoples.

Julisa and her husband, Bill, work as a team with Bill handling the technical, sound and musical side of their productions. They feature two other standard dramatic presentations that are available for churches to sponsor. These are:

"Nightwatch" (1 hour)--A subtle evangelistic tale told through music, storytelling and song, weaving together the tender tale of Abigail, a girl in search of her true identity.

"Take My Life" (40 minutes)--A devotional presentation using Francis Ridley Havergal's hymn "Take My Life" as a guide.

Videos of Julisa's performances of Amy Carmichael and Mary Slessor are available for purchase. You may call for further details.

In addition to her acting work, Julisa also offers a full range of drama workshops and classes designed specifically to further the Kingdom through creative expression. These include on-site workshops, conferences, classes at local campuses, one on one training and consultation with churches. She also works as an adjunct faculty member at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon.

Another passion of hers is what she calls "ethnodramacology," which is the study of helping ethnic peoples use the dramatic art forms of their own culture to communicate the Gospel to their people. She believes that this subject needs much more attention and study than it is now getting as we seek to enable unreached peoples to carry the Gospel to their own.

Julisa says,"Western artistic forms may be accepted and enjoyed, but I question if this is not just a surface acceptance of all things Western--perceived as 'better'--a part of the trend started with colonialism and perpetuated through Hollywood.

"We must be extra active in encouraging the use of a country's own art forms to teach and evangelize. What comes from the heart of a culture cuts deeper--it is their own, not something imposed by foreigners.

"There is no quick and easy way of presenting art in another culture. There is no universal language. It takes a good knowledge of the culture and language, and a careful application of their signal systems; i.e., gesture, space, movement, tone, etc. Dr. Donald K. Smith has an excellent book on this subject titled, Creating Understanding. In looking at the field of ethnodramacology as applied to Christian ministry, all these things must be considered and distilled into principles that can be taken and used in any field of ministry."

She invites all those interested in working in this area of ministry to contact her. See her address at the end of this article for more information.

Roger Nelson

A Danish author once wrote, "Throughout the whole world sounds one long cry from the heart of the artist saying: Give me the chance to do my very best."

The U.S. Center for World Mission serves as a ministry base for some wonderful dramatic artists who are master storytellers doing their very best to take the Gospel throughout the whole world. They also mobilize others to reach the unreached and pass on drama skills to unreached peoples.

Storytelling is essential to all of these dramatic artists' ministries. One of these artists is actor Roger Nelson who does award winning one-character dramas. "Jesus was a storyteller," says Nelson, who portrays John Wesley in "The Man from Aldersgate," and St. Patrick in "The Confession of St. Patrick." "Jesus taught in parables or stories because He knew that people like to listen to storytelling. Children respond to stories. It's more fun than listening to a minister preach," says Nelson.

Within the past two decades Nelson has portrayed John Wesley over a thousand times. He has seen hundreds of people commit their lives to Christ and thousands of Christians encouraged to give their lives completely to serving Jesus. "People have been challenged to a greater discipline in their Christian lives from seeing John Wesley," says Nelson.

Since 1992, Nelson has also done a drama on the life of St. Patrick based on a document written by Patrick himself called The Confession of St. Patrick. This document quotes Scripture over 200 times as Patrick tells the true story of how he was kidnapped to be a slave in Ireland and escaped, only to return to preach to the Irish because of the call of God on his life. "Patrick embodies the spirit of the frontier missionary to be willing to go into dangerous territory for the sake of the Gospel," says Nelson. "Patrick was the 'Don Richardson' of his day" (referring to the author of Peace Child who discovered the concept of redemptive analogies or stories imbedded in every culture).

Nelson travels all over America, Canada, England, and Ireland and has ministered in Singapore and the Philippines. He also has been a part of the prestigious Staley Lecture Series at Christian colleges and universities encouraging students to go to the frontiers as Wesley and St. Patrick did.


The US Center campus is also home to Todd Farley, a mime, and the students he trains through his ministry MIMEistry. They go all over the world with an art form that transcends language. Todd and his MIMEistry troupe love to tell stories, but they don't use words.

Their latest presentation, "The Story Teller," tells the Gospel using only the words of Jesus with a musical soundtrack underneath, while Todd and his mime team use dance movements, gestures and facial expressions to illustrate the story. "Last summer we took this presentation to Malasysia and saw Malaysian Muslims respond positively to the Gospel. Muslims respect Jesus as a prophet, and since we don't preach at them, we can go places conventional missionaries can't," says Farley.

Todd is a master mime who studied under the world-famous Marcel Marceau in Paris. Farley and his team have cross-cultural training on appropriate and inappropriate gestures in other cultures and they spend time among the Muslims that they minister to, training them in the skills of mime and how to present the Gospel to others. They also have developed videos, workshops and other materials to help train other Christians in communicating the Gospel cross-culturally through mime.

The presentation of "The Story Teller" is a collaboration between Todd and MIMEistry and outstanding Christian singer/songwriter Steve Fry known for the song, "Oh, I Want to Know You More." It is designed to enable churches to present the Gospel in a dramatic way that touches hearts.

If you want to know more about these artists and their ministries, please contact them at the addresses and phone numbers listed below.

To contact Julisa Rowe write: Artists in Christian Testimony, P.O. Box 16067, Portland, OR 97216, or phone (503)257-1895.,

To contact Roger Nelson write: Friends of Wesley and Patrick, 1716 1/4 Sierra Bonita, Pasadena, CA 91104, or phone (818)794-3943.

To contact Todd Farley & Mimestry write: MIMEistry, 1605 Elizabeth Street, Pasadena, CA 91104, or phone (818)398-2300.


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