Let us tell you about our time in Rome and if you read to the end the slideshow of pictures will be that much more meaningful!…
After 5 weeks of classroom learning, studio time, and local ministry, the staff and student artists of the OM Arts School of Mission set out to take what had been learned and apply it in outreach in an entirely new place. Our destination was Latina, a region just outside of Rome, and our caravan of 3 silver vans loaded with 26 passengers left our sleepy valley with great expectation.
We arrived safe and sound after enjoying a beautiful drive, which included a glimpse of the Leaning Tower of Pisa as we passed on by and a sunset over the coast of Italy. We were greeted by our host, Dario, who had dinner waiting for us and then we all settled into our hotel rooms for the night.
Our first day was spent in small groups who were commissioned to visit specific places in Rome where they would observe, pray, and listen for anything God would communicate to them about that place and His message for the people there. Each of the 3 groups returned with different insights but many overlapped and we began to see a theme emerge.
The second day was a free day. The program has included very few full free days and everyone enjoyed having time to further explore Rome or rest however they chose. While the trip was no vacation, Jon and I did have a great time on our own that day seeing sights in Rome together for the first time. A highlight was enjoying dinner on the terrace of a little restaurant with the Colosseum in view.
The third day was dedicated to debriefing and preparation for the outreach. We spent more time discussing what each person was hearing from God about the message that should be communicated to the community. From there we made a game plan and dispersed into task groups. One group set up the space at the church where we would collaborate with the local church to create and prepare for the outreach. A second group focused on creating the image that would communicate the message we had to share in the form of a mosaic of paintings to be displayed at each site during the outreach. The last group scoped out the places in the community where the outreach could happen, decided which places to target, and made sure the logistics were in place so we could pull it all off.
Our fourth day there was the day of the outreach. The morning and afternoon were a flurry of finishing last minute details, one last dance rehearsal, a time of corporate prayer to make the way before us, and then we were off! First our team of artists along with local church members walked together to a park near the church and then scattered to find their places for the outreach to begin!
So how do you go into a public space and gain the attention of everyone there so that you can share an important message? A flash mob of course! Our dancers had choreographed a dance they taught to our group and then taught to the church members in Latina. Now it was show time.
Our group was dispersed trying to act as natural as possible when suddenly (though intentionally) music started blaring from one of our vans and the first group of dancers, already in place, began moving to the beat! As planned, each of our groups nonchalantly made their way over from their posts at bus stops, cafes and sidewalks, to the performance space where one by one they joined in. Before long there were 25-30 people moving together in step to the music. As the song faded, each dancer revealed small square paintings which they placed strategically on the ground where they had danced. As they stepped away a coherent image emerged illustrating the value of connectedness.
Now that all eyes were on us the group performed the dance altogether one more time for everyone to enjoy. After the second performance, Dario called to the local onlookers to come and look at the painting closely. He asked what they saw in the image. Most recognized that the image portrayed people forming a human chain and named themes related to that such as unity and community. He explained that the community of Latina is very diverse, which has been a cause for division, but it has potential to be a source of great strength. Chains can carry a negative connotation as something that binds, but it can also be a very positive thing as it serves to link things together and makes them stronger then they are apart. Dario then shared how the most important connection we can have is with Jesus, as Savior. Usually when someone mentions the name of Jesus in Italy in a public setting, the people scatter. Not here. They listened. The gospel was presented and everyone was given the opportunity to know Christ and the loving community of His church. Many local people stayed afterward and chatted with our artists through interpreters or with the local church members. By the end of the night our group had performed in four different locations in Latina and the message of hope in Christ was proclaimed at each! Connections were made and hearts were stirred with the truth!
We ended the night by sharing a meal with the church, spending time in praise and worship through music and dance, and taking communion together. Finally, the pastor of the church commissioned us as we left by praying over our group in one of the most powerful ways many of us have heard a man pray. He proclaimed victory over the Enemy in our lives and ministry and asked for great blessing on us. It was the perfect send-off and we all went to bed very tired but very blessed.
Lastly, day five was 12 hours of travel which included a lot of driving for Jon and the other two drivers, time at lots of rest stops to care for 26 bladders which couldn’t seem to get in sync :), and activities in the car such as writing songs to avoid boredom! The artists in our van wrote the song, “Born in a Van”, which includes the following lyrics about our future children!
“they were so bored, they were naming each other’s future children, they were so bored they were naming Jon Tello’s future children; Donna Tello, Neu Tello, Yellow Tello, Black Tello, Mellow Tello, Fru Tello, Marshmallow Tello, Rafaelo Tello, Caramello Tello, Angelo Tello and Master Splinter Tello”!
What do you think? Any keepers? Who needs a book of baby names (when/if the day comes)?
When we finally arrived back in our small town we had dinner at a pizzeria. Then it was home sweet home where most weary travelers likely fell into bed upon arrival getting some much needed rest for the start of a whole new week of sessions the next day!
Below is a slideshow of pictures chronicling what I just described. They are in order but you may need to stop it and scroll through until you find the same image that is at the top of the post and start watching the slideshow from there (hover over the picture screen until you see the stop button, stop it, use the arrow keys to find the first image which is the same as the one on the top of the page, and select play). You’ll know you’re starting in the right place if the 3rd image you see is of 3 silver vans!
We are working on a video of the flash mob performances and will post it soon! Enjoy the pictures in the meantime!