Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Engaging People through Art

Recently, I featured an article by Paul Nethercott about Missional Art. We recieved a great response of click-throughs and some good comments. I also recieved this excellent example of missional art. Kathy Trim (another TEAM missionary in Japan) shares how she is using art to engage the Japanese culture. Take a few minutes to read this and think about how art can be a part of your missional outreach:

Scrapbooking. The word alone raises many eyebrows as a large number of people believe it is just an expensive hobby. And in the United States, I do believe that, for some people, that is probably an accurate definition. However, I prefer to think of it as a form of art, particularly one that passes on a heritage to the next generation.

How can the art of scrapbooking be missional art? Japanese tourists are often stereotyped as people who travel in groups with cameras around their necks. In actuality, it isn't just the tourists from Japan who are taking photographs. Photography is very popular with nearly all Japanese people. What are they taking photos of? Just like you and me, they take pictures of the people, events, and scenery that are important to them. Building relationships with Japanese people takes lots of time. It is hard to get past the surface topics and become trusted enough that they will open up and share what is really in their hearts. However, through the sharing of photographs, relationships can be effectively deepened.

This is where scrapbooking comes "into the picture". (pun intended)

Scrapbooking can be an individual activity in the privacy of your home. But, the real fun of scrapbooking comes when people gather together in groups and share ideas and tools, and work together on their individual projects. I've begun hosting scrapbooking events in our church hall which is so suited to this with lots of tables and chairs. There is no preaching or evangelistic message. There is just a leader who cares; a leader who will walk around and ask the guests to tell them about the photos; a leader who will give words of encouragement and hope; a leader who will offer ideas to help the guests create photo albums that will be filled with cherished memories for themselves and their families. I am not very artistic...Yet, with the tools and supplies available for scrapbooking, I am now able to express my creativity in an art form that will hopefully bless others as they see my albums and hear my faith-stories that are journaled in the albums. The Japanese women that are now attending these events are excited about what they are doing. They enjoy showing their photographs to other people and talking about them. These women are bonding with each other, as together they create their own art.

Missions begins with relationships. As we build relationships and develop trust, opportunities to share our faith will open up. The innovation comes at the beginning. How do we meet new people? How do we develop relationships with them? How do we help them recognize a need in their lives that up until now, they may not have realized they have? Very few people will intentionally seek us out. It is for us to go and seek those whom are lost. We certainly aren't
going to stumble over them sitting on the church steps waiting for us to open the doors.
Scrapbooking is a type of art that even people who are not "artistic" can do. It opens up the doors to interact with people on a deeper level. It is also meeting a felt need in their lives (shoeboxes overflowing with pictures that need to be organized and preserved for the future).

To me, scrapbooking is missional art.

K.J. Trim
church planting with TEAM in Kobe, Japan


steve hodgson said...

What a great way to build trust and hope cross culturally! It kind of sounds like a potential of "pictorial parables."

Chaplain Sam said...

God has so many creative ideas for us! This is a great way to build relationships in that culture. PTL!

Phyliss said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul Nethercott said...

Thanks Kathy for your good post -- one very important, positive aspect of what you are doing is building community. Missional Art is a means of connecting with others. An opportunity to know and to be known, to make connections.

Kathy Trim said...

it's true, Paul. Missional art is an excellent way to build community. As missionaries we have to find ways to connect with those around us, ways that are nonthreatening to the people and their culture. Using missional art is a great way to do that.