Through new TEAM art center, creativity breaks barriers on the mission field

By March 18, 2013

Thailand (TEAM/MNN) — Art and music are bridging the gap between communities and missionaries in Thailand.

Through these creative outlets, missionaries tell the story of Christ's life, death, and resurrection. Guitar lessons and open-air paintings become an outreach to the lost.

The Evangelical Alliance Mission, or TEAM, says many are coming to Christ through these channels.

"Music and art are like a gateway into people's lives," says TEAM missionary Jon Rubesh. "There's an immediate connection that you don't get in a lot of other ways."

At TEAM's new Arts and Music Center in Chiang Mai, missionaries Jon and Sharla Rubesh and Kennedy and Wendy Paiz use this concept to break barriers and build bridges.

All aspects of social and civil influence in Thailand are influenced by the country's primary religion: Buddhism. As a result, becoming a Christ-follower feels counter-cultural for Thai people, inhibiting evangelism and church growth.

The Paizs found a way around this cultural barrier: art.

"About seven years ago, I started using art to try to make a bridge to people's lives," says Kennedy.

A Thai friend suggested making a piece of art that depicted the stupa, a pointed structure commonly seen in Thailand, to present the Gospel. This way, people would begin relating that shape to Christ.

Using a technique familiar to many Tibetan and Buddhist artists, Kennedy painted pictures of Jesus in a circular pattern with a depiction of the resurrection in the center.

"I painted it in public, at the local market, with hundreds of people walking by and watching me," he says. Kennedy's art and non-threatening techniques piqued the curiosity of passersby.

"If they stopped to ask questions, I'd explain the life of Christ to them," he says. "They saw me as an artist painting things dear to me. They're religious people by nature and like to talk about spiritual things, unlike in the West, so it was easy to talk with them."

One girl came to Christ through Kennedy's painting, and later took art classes from him.

During a development meeting for the Arts and Music Center, Kennedy and Jon talked about how these paintings were illustrative of the Gospel. Jon wondered if music could be used for the same purpose.

He had a "light bulb" moment one day while teaching guitar lessons. Jon's students were struggling with a lesson about chords and finger picking. He explained that if students anchored their thumbs on the E string or another bass string, the other fingers would know where to be in relation.

"It's kind of like Christ in my life," Jon says. "When I believe in Him, Christ acts as the anchor. Without Christ as my anchor, my fingers don't know where they're going.

"It was an exciting moment for me, and I'll keep looking for more of those illustrations."

Pray that these creative outlets would show more people the path to salvation. Ask God to give these missionaries wisdom in how to best share about Christ and disciple new believers.

Do you have a gifting for art? Would you like to use it to share Truth with Thai people? Click here to apply for a position with this ministry.

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