Written by Emily Dickey and Erica Logan
We were a team of almost 20 people (Filipino and American), representing multiple organisations and a variety of art disciplines: music, dance, visual art, photography, audio recording, drama, storytelling, jewelry-making, 3D paper crafts and even quilling. Heart Sounds International’s trips are typically limited to music and recording. This was a dream come true!
The location was a small mining community in the southern Philippines whose government had asked our hosts to encourage their youth as part of an anti-drug campaign. We had no idea how many would come, of what faith they would be, or if they had any previous artistic experience!
One hundred people showed up: youth from the town, church youth groups from across the region, women from different villages, and a group of pastors—it was a mix of everything! We normally work with mostly musicians and pastors. We knew this would be the most comprehensive and complex workshop we had ever done.
We centered on the parable of the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30-32), and acted it out through Colossians 3:16: dwelling richly in God’s Word, responding through creativity, and maturing into a safe shelter for others. We encouraged and honed local talents while intentionally using local art supplies, instruments and music.
Participants received skills training and learned to dwell on God’s story, verbalize their own unique story, take the risk of sharing it with others, practice being a safe listener, then encourage each other through God’s story again.
As the youth were exploring these ideas through their arts assignments, the women were listening nearby as they made jewelry for income. In another part of the camp, pastors and worship leaders were eagerly “mining” God’s Word for treasures to help in planning and leading worship, many finding a rare safe place to work through their own personal struggles. Finally, HSI audio engineer Geoff Logan spent tireless days training a group of men to run a recording studio. During the camp, they recorded a local church band. (See the story “Local Scripture Songs Discovered” to see how this providentially intersects with another layer of the camp …)
It was truly a whirlwind. But as the parable describes, our prayer is that the seeds planted would grow into the largest trees of the garden; i.e., their lives would respond to God in diverse and beautiful ways as a testimony and safe harbor for others—worship in action.
LOCAL SCRIPTURE SONGS DISCOVERED
“Today we experienced an amazing moment in the workshop as one of the pastors sang a song the Lord had given him based on Psalm 119:11, ‘Your Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You,’” said Nancy Nethercott, Worship Workshop teacher.
“We had been talking about contextualising worship elements and noted that most churches in the Philippines sing in English with (maybe) a token Filipino language song planned in. When I asked if anyone from their churches writes songs in Cebuano, one lady pointed to her pastor. I asked him to sing us one of his songs and he humbly sang this beautiful, worshipful song in his heart language. I was in tears and the rest of the group was silent with awe. We had all just entered the throne room of God in a powerful way.” As it turns out, Pastor Ramil has a stack of these Scripture songs he has written but never shared beyond his own congregation. His dream was to see these songs available to churches, but he did not know how to record them. We were able to connect him with the newly established studio to record and distribute his songs.
YOUNG SINGERS WRITE A VISAYAN WORSHIP SONG
As part of the class, the vocal students wrote a simple song in 30 minutes, in their own dialect, based on Proverbs 3:5,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart.” That night, they created harmony parts, and they were courageous enough to share it with the entire group at the last day’s performance!
A LOVE FOR VISUAL ARTS UNCOVERED
When the Visual Art Class began with only one person, we were told that the term “visual art” has little meaning and is not encouraged much in Filipino culture. It was a joy to watch this group morph from 1 to 26 throughout the week! It was a young class; many of the kids had never picked up a paint brush, but quickly developed a love for expressing themselves in this new way—including expressions of the mustard seed parable.
Our visual art instructor said, “I had one girl in my art workshop who matter-of-factly said she hated art and kept saying it when I asked her if she had changed her mind yet. The funny thing is that she kept painting even still, coming to every class with her friends though she’d rather be in drama. She figured out how to mix the color pink and had everyone intrigued. By the end of the week her smile had grown and she gifted a painting she had worked on to me.”
GOD USES PHOTOGRAPHY TO CHANGE A LIFE
At the last minute, *Nicole was given the chance to join the photography group. She was excited to learn about silhouettes. Before the class, she thought a silhouette was a bad photo because the subject can’t be seen. Through the class, she learned how a silhouette can be used effectively, and she ran with it and created a self-portrait. She also shared some struggles relating to feeling “unseen”—personally, relationally and spiritually—with Ashley, the photography instructor. She felt as though her constant smile was a mask, always worn for protection. On the last day, she hung her work on the photography display board. She later shared how life-changing it was for her to see her photos on display. It like her “true self” was being seen for the first time. She feels that photography is a way to express her “true self,” as well as a way to communicate things she otherwise cannot express through words.
*Name changed to protect privacy