Thursday, October 22, 2015

so we gather

Every year since I joined the arts ministry here in London (and for several years before that), we have hosted the International Arts Gathering, a time when Christian artists from around Europe (and around the world!) can come together to discuss the role of artists in society and to get to know what each other is doing. We host the Gathering to come against the competition and comparison that is inherent in artists, and to build connections with each other.

This year, the Gathering moved from London to Berlin, and we moved with it! We spent six days co-hosting the event with YWAM Berlin, and there were over 40 people from 16 different nations involved in the event. I got to help organise everything, so by the time the Arts Gathering began, I was quite excited to get to meet the people with whom I had been corresponding for several months.

It always surprises me how much I can do art, and do art for God's glory, without thinking about my role as an artist on a global level. Lately, God has been challenging me to see the purpose in the arts, which are the tools He has put in my hands so that I can do my part of the work of bringing His Kingdom here. The refugee situation is the current event that is heavily on my heart these days, and while I can see why government workers, social workers, and healthcare workers are greatly needed to help the situation of the people from the Middle East seeking refuge in Europe, I find it harder to see where an artist is needed. But God has impressed on my heart the importance of the gifts that He has given me. As an artist, I am prone to comparison. But as God's child, I am told that I am unique, and that the gifts given me are intentional and given so that I can glorify my Father.

There are so many people using the arts around Europe in order to reach people, to put out media and entertainment that glorifies God, and to help train and disciple artists. I met several of them in Berlin a few weeks ago, and I saw their determination to use their arts to grow God's Kingdom. We walked along the Berlin Wall together and looked at the graffiti there; we ate kebabs and mulled over the entanglements of our nations and cities, we worshiped and discussed and dreamt together.

And we did it all together because we are co-labourers, siblings, and friends who were given similar gifts with which to fight. I do believe God is asking us to fight, to be intentional, and to speak with the different voices that He gave us. Now is not a time to be silent, whether God has given you the ability to build, to listen deeply, to organise chaos, to teach children, to cook, or even to do art.

We have a voice, we have tools, and we have a society that needs to hear what our Father has given us to say. And so we gather. And so we fight. And so we live.

 The London team that went to the Gathering in Berlin (minus me, because I took the photo)

Carrissa, a photography student, running through the Holocaust Memorial

 With the girls at the Holocaust Memorial

 One of the sessions of the Gathering




 The participants of the Gathering

Elin saying goodbye to Charity, our friend from YWAM Berlin

The video Andres, our videographer, made (and which I helped film)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

living outrageously

Last week, I won a contest that I had not entered. As events transpired, somebody who won could not go and asked if I'd like to, and when I agreed, the tickets were posted to my address, and I got to attend the RadioTimes Festival for free. The tickets that I received were for the Call the Midwife talk, and as it is one of my favourite shows, I was terribly excited.

Then I became nervous.

You see, I have been praying for the actors, writers, and producers of Call the Midwife for quite some time. And I realised that the very actresses I had been praying for would be at the event, as would the producer and head writer, for whom I also pray. I knew that I could not let the opportunity given me go to waste, so I prayed for them, received Bible verses, and due to a lack of notecards, wrote the verses on the back of 35mm film prints that I'd taken around my area of London in the past year.

Micah, the other actress on the team, accompanied me to the event in Hampton Court, which is the first time we'd been out of London since May. We wandered around the Palace grounds in the autumn sunlight and prayed that God would give us opportunities to speak to these actors and creatives, and that He would tell us what to say. However, when we eventually entered the marquee for the talk, and I saw that there were several hundred people, I thought that I would not get to talk to the cast. Quite a large part of me was relieved, and when they announced that there would be a book signing at the end of the event and Micah nudged me saying, "We have to go! You brought Bible verses for them!," I immediately grew nervous again.

The part that surprised me most was by who showed up at the signing. The talk was given by Dame Pippa Harris (producer), Heidi Thomas (creator and show writer), and two of the actresses, Jenny Agutter and Emerald Fennel. However, my favourite actor, Stephen McGann (he plays Dr. Turner for those familiar with the show) was not meant to be there. So when we queued for the book signing and he strode over and sat down, I was rather surprised. He is the one I've prayed for the most, and I hadn't expected him to be there. I hadn't made him a card or anything. When we went through the queue and explained to Heidi what we were doing and that I prayed for them, she was surprised and asked us questions, then wrote on a card to me that she was praying for me in return. Stephen asked if I prayed for him as well, and when I said that I did, he was very touched. He even offered to take a selfie with me, which quickly became my Facebook profile picture. I explained to him more of what I prayed for him, and then Micah and I managed to collect ourselves and headed back into London.

It has taken several days for me to wrap my mind around the favour of God in my life. Just a few weeks before, Micah and I had been wondering how God would use us to influence the area of television, which is an area we are passionate about. We pray for actors regularly and try to keep up with what is happening in British television, because God has placed it on our hearts. Then God gave us an opportunity to speak to the very people that we pray for, and we could see the way that God is working in some of their hearts, making them receptive to hear what He has to say. We don't understand what God's plan is for us in this area of society, and God has proven that He doesn't work in ways that we understand. But He is faithful, and we have surrendered our passion for acting, theatre, television, film, etc, back to Him to use as He wants to use it.

It is always an adventure, this life that we live. I never really know what will come next, and I think God delights in that. His blessings aren't something that I deserve. They aren't anything I can take for granted. Sometimes His favour and blessings don't look as exciting as free tickets to see a talk on my favourite tv programme. Sometimes they are in dealing with difficult people, in having to patiently wait for the desires of my heart, in frustrating situations with banks and visas and flight tickets. But they are all a part of His plan, and I've told Him that He can have His way.

Last week, His way was in speaking His truth to some of my favourites in the television industry.

And this week?

I'm looking forward to finding out.

 Micah and me with our free tickets!

 Various free things given us at the festival.

 The Festival was held on Hampton Court Green, across the road from the Palace.

 The panel at the talk, with (L-R),  the interviewer, Dame Pippa Harris, Heidi Thomas, Jenny Agutter, and Emerald Fennel.

 Hampton Court is beautiful.

 The palace on the river

 This was my first time seeing Henry VIII's Palace!

Stephen McGann (my favourite English actor!) and myself.