By Mariah Secrest
Last time, I explored with you whether the arts can have a valid role in an impoverished world. This week Ill be kicking off a series of articles that feature people or groups who are bringing the arts to unlikely places. People who believe that art is not just a luxury or an addendum after taking care of the worlds real needs. People who believe that the arts are somehow part of the solution and vital to our sense of humanity.
This week I begin with a group near and dear to my heartCTI Music Ministries (formerly known as Carpenters Tools International). I spent many months as part of this group, and it profoundly impacted how I view the role of the arts in impacting people.
This Minnesota-based grassroots campaign has been mobilizing musicians for more than thirty years to bring music to some very unlikely places, from homeless shelters in the Midwest U.S. to bridges in Mexico where paint-sniffing addicts congregate to community gatherings in Burkina Faso (which is in Africa, by the way). CTI has partnered with native chapters of Youth for Christ and Youth With A Mission in over seventy countries, and every trip has been expressly artistic in nature.
CTI is direct evidence that music breaks down barriers. For example, most public schools in foreign countries will not let local Christian ministries in to give a presentation (not surprisingly). However, thousands of schools the world over have gladly opened their school assemblies when a North American rock band wants to perform, even if they talk about their faith experience and share their spiritual beliefs from stage. CTI can then connect kids with their local ministry for follow-up after establishing that initial interest.
Art also breaks down the barrier of language. With most CTI concerts, the team performs a short, wordless drama set to current music. These stories explain the fall of mankind from grace and the redemption that we believe Christ has made possible.
But more than just breaking down barriers, art adds value to people. In Kowloon, Hong Kong, the elderly who have no families are often marginalized as outcasts of society, no longer considered valuable or productive.
In our work with Youth for Christ, the elderly were welcomed in. (I know, the irony of an outreach to the elderly from a youth organization was not lost on me.) YFC fed them, gave them tasks so they could be useful, gathered them together in community, and then we entertained them with old Cantonese pop songs in special concerts held at the base. They were often hard of hearing and not especially musically inclined.
To be honest, sometimes our high musical standards and countless hours of rehearsal seemed wasted on people who couldnt even clap on beat. But God challenged that attitude in me. See, our intentionality in delivering excellent music to the elderly was an indication of how much they were worth.
They were worth our time and preparation and the best of our abilities. They were worth it because God lavishes His beauty on us when we lack the capacity to appreciate it in full. He paints sunsets even when we glue ourselves to our computers all night. He hides deep and poetic truths in both the Bible as well as in the stories of mankind, even if we dont read them. And He offers us the beauty of redemption when we cant even love ourselves. God never treats people as though His beauty is wasted on them. Neither should we.
CTI is one example of people who believe in sharing the beauty.
If you liked this article, check out: Wasteful Love: Where beauty and social justice meet
Mariah has currently landed herself in Tucson, Arizona, where she’s finishing a philosophy degree.She enjoys writing almost as much as she enjoys making music. Almost. You can visit her on Myspace at www.myspace.com/mariahsecrestmusic .