I visited Italy by invitation of OM Arts to check out their School of Mission, Incarnate. I wasn’t disappointed. The ten students took three classes: God’s Story (theology and the arts), Your Story (an intense discipleship course) and 10,000 Stories (art and mission). Each week there was a focus on a different spiritual discipline, which supported the “Your Story” track. The students had studio time in the afternoons. There was an arts mentor for each group—musicians and visual artists. Students were assigned projects to hone their craft and create art or compose music based on what God was doing in their hearts. Among other single projects, the visual artists had to make a five-piece series using a medium of their choice and the musicians had to compose a collection of songs on a theme.
I was impressed by the depth and excellence of the work. It was obvious that the students had wrestled deeply with the Lord and had submitted to what He was accomplishing within them. One student had recently been through a major heartbreak, as she had ended her engagement. Every reference in Scripture to the Bride of Christ brought her great pain. She felt that she had lost her identity. She was planning to take on her fiancé’s name, and now that wasn’t going to happen. At Incarnate, the Lord gave her a new name and identity—“Hephzibah” (“my delight is in her”) from Isaiah 62:4. Her series was called “Limina,” the threshold between one season of life and the next, “the time between the wound and healing.” Her paintings were beautiful expressions of how she had “crossed the threshold” with Christ and He had brought healing to her. The final piece was a picture of a bride in darkness, opening a door of light. Beautiful.
I attended the penultimate week of Incarnate, the Artists’ Gathering and Festival. Over two nights, the visual artists presented their pieces and gave the background and meaning behind them in the art gallery. For three nights, the musicians and dancers (a group who came for the week from OM Lifehope in the UK after a similar time of intense training) shared a concert with the residents of Torre Pellice and Bobbio Pellice. Many people from the community came and were impacted by the students and teachers.
“10,000 Stories” wasn’t just about giving concerts to the community, however. For three months, the students interacted with the residents by involving them in their projects. One of the painters was so impacted by the people that she chose to paint portraits of the local villagers. Another collected tea bags from anyone she could to produce a beautiful mixed-media piece.
The students also got involved in church while there, dispersing amongst the churches in the two communities. They became friends with a local accordian group, and a student invited one of the musicians to play on the recording of her composition. Her work was a four-movement suite called “Restoration Suite,” which instrumentally told the story of what OM Arts leader Bill Drake called “Location, Dislocation, Relocation and Restoration.” It embodies the stories of redemption and sanctification. We are “located”—life is good. Then “dislocation” comes—something to disrupt the good world. “Relocation” is when Christ comes into the scene to move us to the place He desires for us. “Restoration” is where He brings us to a place of health, and we are able to use our experience to move others toward restoration. The song was beautiful, and the dancers brought out the meaning by creating a storyline and acting through dance.
The impact of Incarnate will continue for many years to come. Some of the students have felt called into short-term and even long-term missions! Some return home to their own mission field, with a sense of how God wants to use their art to glorify Him and draw people into deeper relationship with His Son. As OM Italy prayed, God is raising up young people, training them in the Waldensian Valley and sending them out into the world once again.