Face the Gospel in Art Forms
Within many non Western cultures, singing and dancing, painting and sculpture, drama, poetry and legend in fact all the arts are one of the main methods of communication.
Eugene and Mary Lou Totten, directors of Fellowship of Artists for Cultural Evangelism (FACE), put it like this:
"The arts of non Western cultures are like a connecting web that defines their particular communities, demonstrates their values and supports their very identity. The arts are used to harness and organize the spirit forces that they believe control their world. Kinship, political structures and mythology are richly illustrated, sustained and transmitted by art forms. Patterns of the disintegration of cultural identity can be traced by studying changes that occur in traditional art forms."
Needless to say, studying these cultures' ability to communicate through art is a valuable means both to understanding the culture and of communicating the Gospel of Jesus Christ. FACE is involved in just such a study.
Currently the FACE staff is researching already published material on the art forms of the Asmat people of Iryan Jaya in New Guinea, as well as communicating with missionaries in that area.
One of the most exciting possibilities involves the study of redemptive analogies, which are customs and legends within a culture that can be used to illustrate the Gospel message. Don Richardson's use of the Peace Child ceremony with the Sawi in Iryan Jaya is one example.
Another example, according to the Tottens is an Eskimo legend about a kindly widow woman who in time of famine was rewarded by the spirits with a small sealskin bag from which she could constantly draw food. The story, obviously, is very much like the story of the widow whose bowl of flour and jar of oil did not run dry during time of famine (1 Kings 17).
FACE plans to develop briefs on cultural arts for missionaries working in new cultures. Later, the group hopes to expand that ministry to include field workers for more in depth study. Other goals include making churches and mission boards aware of the possibilities for artists in missions and trying to build missionary teams that would include artists.
If you are interested in using your artistic talents to help present the Gospel to unreached Hindu, Muslim, Chinese, and tribal peoples, write to FACE, 1805 E. Elizabeth Street, Pasadena, California 91104.
Christmas on the Field
Christmas in the United States has usually been a time for get togethers with the family and friends at home. Even during wartime, there has often been the hope that the troops could be home by Christmas.
So, to be far from where one grew up, away from loved ones in a strange culture hardly seems to most people the ideal way to spend Christmas or any other holiday for that matter.
It can be difficult, but two missionaries at the Center who spent Christmases abroad remember those times as bringing a special closeness to God, and illuminating the real meaning of the Holy day.
John Barrett, Executive Director of Lutheran Frontier Missions, was once a missionary to Sierra Leone. He remembers a Christmas in the village of Yeldor:
It was a clear Christmas eve in the village and he was speaking from the book of Luke to a group of people in a small roofless, mud walled building.
After the message, he said, he looked up at the stars shining through the top of the building and felt as if it was the night of Jesus' birth.
He remembered that he did miss his family and friends, but that without them and with so few Christians around, it made him rely on God more. In that situation, he said, "you feel closer to God and dwell more on the Spirit."
Sharon Gates, with the Evangelical China Office, was a missionary with her husband to Taiwan. She remembers her first Christmas there as lonely without the rest of her family. However, she added, Christmas in Taiwan is a church event, not so much of a family affair. Chinese Christians, she recalled, often go carroling from midnight to 4 A.M., ending their night with breakfast.
Sharon spent her first Christmas eve as a missionary at an orphanage and Christmas day at a leprosarium. "As I reflect back," she said, "I realize how very precious it was to see how those who had so little could celebrate the birth of our Lord."
Christmas, she observed, became more joyful as she and her family made a custom of helping Chinese families that were less fortunate than themselves.