There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.”
-John F Kennedy
My intent on this page is to share more in detail about the things we have done and to give specific times, dates, places and events to validate all we do and expound on some of the pictures or captions throughout the website. We keep records of all we have done and have piles of letters from both individuals and officials of places we have performed, however I simply have not had the time to gather them and consolidate it all and present them in a clear, informative way. I am very busy preparing for our next trip and doing all the many things involved in our life. There are also issues of putting sensitive information on the internet where it could make us or others vulnerable to ill-intending individuals. That may be something I add in the future, until then if you would like to contact us personally concerning any manner we can provide any necessary information. I think that from reading through some of what is here you will be able to grasp at least a basic picture of what we do.
The response we have received has been overwhelming.
Throughout the countries of South America, we have been authorized and given unprecedented access to the prison systems that combined house over 800,000 inmates. If you have ever tried to enter a prison you know how impossible this is, it took months of letters, phone calls, meetings, leg work and most of all God’s phenomenal mercy to bring about this opportunity. It’s hard to put into words the depth of need these prisoners have for what we bring them. I know it can be easy to have an attitude against prisoners and a “they get what they deserve” kind of thinking. Of course there are many hardened criminals who have caused great damage and are serving their punishment. But there are so many who suffer horrible injustice, inhumane living conditions and even torture. Many, who have been in prison for years, were arrested for a small petty crime and then got lost in the system. A huge percentage has never even seen a judge or received a sentence (you can find a lot of information online about the terrible prison conditions of South America if you are interested). We have heard countless stories of men and women who made one horrible mistake out of desperation that ended up ruining their lives. Many trafficked drugs in an attempt to make money so they could feed their families, many were set up and tricked into smuggling narcotics, some really are innocent but have no one on the outside fighting for them, one guy we met robbed a store with a plastic knife because he was starving and is now serving 20 years. Jesus himself said, “I was in prison, and you came to me”…(Mt.25:36), and Paul said, ‘Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them”..(Heb.13:3) We have all made mistakes in our lives, some with greater consequences then others, but for these people, their mistake ended in a horrible tragic situation. There is no audience more grateful or eager to receive and respond. I have piles of hand written notes from individual prisoners expressing their profound gratitude for coming in and caring about them as well as little gifts they have made for us. We have received emails, months and years later from prisoners who have finished their sentences and remembered to email us to share about what they are beginning to do in their new life. To date we have worked in over 60 sectors in 18 Prisons with approximately 35,000 prisoners.
We have worked along side many major international foundations in our work. Sometimes it is just for a limited engagement to perform at an event at other times over several years. Many times when a foundation was doing an event they would ask us to come and share our message and perform our presentation to be able to offer something to those who were attending more than the food and clothing or whatever was involved. For a time the United Nations would arrange to take us into remote jungle villages where they worked with helping those who were direct victims of armed conflict. I was really cool, when they saw what we did, they wanted to take our presentation to as many as possible when they saw the light, hope and love it brought into these villages. An open invitation awaits us to continue this type of work when we return to the region. Here is a report that was sent to the headquarters and posted online written by the reporter for the UN that accompanied us during one of the excursions: It was 5:30 in the evening on the 16th of December of 2009, the intense heat from the Magdelena Region began to push to the limit the exhaustion of those when those who were apart of the mission that day to attend to the victims of the armed conflict in the Region of San Miguel of the County of Sonsón, it was about 6:00 when they departed and began the 5 hour drive to Medellín before night would fall. Nonetheless the children did not want to say goodbye to those who had accompanied the mission, a group of six young people (us) and their parents, brought here along with the Program of the United Nations for Devellopment -PNUD-, who without rest during the entire day carried out interactive activities for the victims and their children, leaving messages of hope, healing, tolerance and respect for life. The ambassador of the United nations who headed the mission, Carlos Ignacio of the PNUD, said “We have died for the war, we have died watching our children disappear, we have died loosing family members to the insanity of violence, today we say that we put our wager on life, we are here to ratify that it is life that will prevail over death, because we welcome death when it is natural, but not when a bullet pierces our heart, not when we are beaten and violently thrown into a river. Today we make a statement for life on behalf of our celebration for Christmas, because this is Christmas, to declare that life must prevail over death”. *the article feature a picture of us acting out the death and Resurrection of Christ. and continued… It was two days of work to attend to the dozens of victims… the people of San Miguel also received a theater troupe, whodespite the intolerable heat, more and more people kept arriving, in the end everyone remained captivated by the ora of these people, and they did not want say goodbye to to this group, everyone wanted a hug, to touch them and make sure they were real…”
Working in orphanages is difficult because obviously the need is endless and of course there are issues of attachment and some people say “why do something to help if you going to leave?” But we have learned that it is WORTH WHILE. Children of nearly all ages can be impressed upon in a short amount of time. We have seen that to love and care for a child and teach them some basic values in life, especially coming from an American, can help them for the rest of their lives. Most the kids will soon be teens and some that already are are dealing gangs, drugs, violence, homelessness and the many harsh realities they will face when they are too old to live in the homes. In addition to counseling them personally concerning these practical things we aim to share with them to love and security that they will find if they look to Jesus, read the bible and ask God to help them. If God is real then He will surely honor our words and take care of those whom He tells us to care about. Countless times through out the bible it says specifically that God wants His servants to love and care for the Orphan and the Fatherless.
In 2014 we worked in numerous orphanages from Peru to Uruguay (see “Current timeline”) . For about six months in 2011 and then again in 2013, we worked extensively in a very large internationally based orphanage on a weekly bases to teach the children classes of Tae Kwon Do, Dance and other activities. Really it was a means for us to interact with the children and try to care about them and impart to them the vision and love Jesus offers in whatever way we could. In addition we took about 100 of the kids to a major Theme Park, Ice Skating and some other activities of fun and games in the City Park. After we had left, the social worker that mediated between the children and their sponsors in the USA and Europe communicated with us that each year the children write an essay about the year and the condition of the orphanage. She told us that each letter was about us, and all the things that we impressed upon the children. Some of the children were able to perform the routines they learned in their schools with us when we presented there for the entire school. When we left, we did a large party and “graduation ceremonies” to bring the semester to an end, each of the children wrote personal notes us that are more than moving and some continued correspondence through email (see: feedback we have received.) This is a letter the Regional president that she left with us: “I would carefully like to present to you all of my most sincere gratitude as President of Operations in Colombia of the Orphanages of “…” for the labor and activities that you have carried out for 53 of our children. Since December our organization has been able to count on your valuable and selfless help in volunteering the members of your family to carry out recreative activities for our boys and girls. With much joy and recognition, after hearing the experiences narrated by the children with immense emotion and joy the activities that you have done with them, I can, with out any doubt, affirm that you all have made the dreams of these little ones come true..”
We began working in Schools when a Government official saw our presentation and insisted we begin to visit all the schools in her region. We are blown away by the opportunity this has become for us. They arrange anywhere from 500 to a few thousand students at a time to sit and watch our presentation, usually a few times in a day because in Latin American schools there are morning and evening sessions to accommodate for the inadequate schooling facilities and number of teachers. We use “cool” music and dance styles to capture the attention of a younger audience and be able to relate to them in a real way. Then we share our message related to the things they are dealing with. We have seen that every time the students are excited and interested to hear our message and interact with our presentation. Now in each city we offer to visit the schools and have found countless opportunities. To date we have been to about 40 schools and performed for about 45,000 students.
Jesus says “…For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’..’For whatever you did for the least of my brothers that you did for Me.” ( Matthew 25:35ff). This apart of the the call to preach the gospel and is hand in hand with our travels and ministry. We are constantly looking for opportunity to help the poor and homeless in anyway we can. We have done many presentations for them in addition to performing on the street where they are the priority in our crowds. We also will try to get a bunch of food, cloths, toys and supplies together and go out to give them out and share with the people with find as often as we can. Sometimes we will go to local bakerys and ask for whatever bread is left over. At times they give us quite a lot. We then make up packets with bread, fruit, beef jerky, a small track and whatever else we have to give out. Usually there is an area of every city where most homeless people gather, from Las Vegas to São Paulo, when we find this area we are able to give out the food packets, whatever clothes we can and look for an opportunity to share with anyone or at least just care about them and hear their stories. It is a tremendous privilege!
Many times we have been able to go to foundations and schools that house people with Autism, down syndrome and other special needs. It has been some of our best experiences and most special moments. Obviously we change and simplify our performance to communicate in a clear way they can understand and leave them with hope and love . We tell simple stories, use puppets and let them participate in everything we do. We are always blessed to see how much they understand and how quick they are to get what we are trying to say. Surely the heart of the Father cares for these people and has always blessed any opportunity we have had to work with them. They are so rejected and looked down upon, any love or care directed to them is so appreciated, you can see them just light up and come to life. Some time ago, my mother was an organizer at the International Special Olympics and we have since volunteered with many special Olympic events across the United States and other counties. We have also worked at places that use horses in the therapy of adults and children with special needs and these individuals will always have a special place in our hearts.
Being that our goal is the share the reality of life that Jesus offers with as many as we can we always focus on city centers, plazas, parks, barrios and perform in soccer fields, city streets, or any open air public area. In this environment we can reach thousands of people in a few hours as they come and go from our crowds. People are drawn by the music and dancing and then touch by our words and teaching. We have seen that we can literally effect entire cities in this manner. People will come up to us in another remote area hundreds of miles away, even other countries and say they saw and hear us here or there. Times without number has a man or woman shared with us the “coincidences” that caused their path to intersect with ours at the precise moment that they needed to hear or see exactly what they heard and saw, causing a ripple effect that changed their life. From soldiers, to business men, to families, to the homeless, to the average lady coming home from shopping we constantly receive emails from these people telling us how much our presentation has effected their lives.
The bottom line, no matter the venue we have so much opportunity to touch tens of thousands of lives from all walks of life.
Here are a few stories or people we have encountered:
Like a man that stood in our crowd for a few hours one day and was deeply touched by our message, he later approaches us and tells us he is actually an assassin for the local cartel but is in hiding because he no longer wants to do those kinds of things and wants to change his life.A women is brought to tears and goes on to share with us how her daughter was gunned down by stray bullets in a near by barrio. A few days before, they were both standing in our crowds listening to our message in a previous presentation before she died. Someone onetime stole a camera from us while we were performing in a city plaza, 3 years later we were presenting in a prison and a man came up to us and told us that he had stolen it and apologized for stealing the camera and wanted to learn about our message. A young social worker saw performing and tells us of a home for abandon children with Autism and Special needs a few hours drive into the mountains where she works every day and asks us to please come and bring our message and love to them. Which we were able to go to the home and I don’t know that I have ever been so moved. In addition to a simpler presentation of music, magic fun and dancing and trying to communicate even a little about Jesus we were able to give them each some really nice stuffed animals that someone donated to us to take down and give out. Later the young social worker wrote us an email about how much those stuffed animals meant these special people, it was the only thing they had. She said everyday they made their beds and put the animal on top and held and played with them all the time. A man in a wheel chair approached us, telling us of his days as a rebel fighter that left him paralyzed from the waist down. We were able to get him a new, custom made, wheel chair that would help him get back and forth from his mountain home to the college he was now attending in hopes of finding a job. We shared in depth with him over many weeks about change and forgiveness to help him gain a new perspective on the intense vengeance he held in his heart against those who left him paralyzed and killed his father and brother. I could write for hours about all the specific people that we interacted with on so many levels or share with you some of the hundreds of emails we have from others who saw and heard our message.
What our presentation is like:
Honestly it is hard to explain what we do without showing you. We set up our musical equipment for a presentation to a large audience, from a few hundred to a few thousand people depending on the venue. We play a wide variety of high quality music that Michael has invested years in perfecting. Our primary goal is to share the life and love of the living Jesus with these people. However we use many strategies to deliver our message. While we talk and share much about many beautiful things from the gospel and how it relates to each of them we also want to show them and love them in some way. People can get tired of just hearing someone talk, you know? So over many years we have developed a unique performance involving many creative elements such as choreographed dance routines to high energy music, funny comedy routines, street magic, fire spinning, costumes, martial arts and theater acts that depict a story. As strange as it all might sound, it is not strange at all. It is not circus like or like anything you might see at, say, a renaissance fair. It is not something we set out to do but rather one thing lead to the next and developed into what it is today.
It began long ago as we traveled to many countries where we did not speak the language and wanted to convey our hearts to the people beyond the written or translated word. In the process we found it to be very effective in captivating large audiences and giving us a platform to share the gospel in a unique and, if I may, non-boring manner. It is something very real, special and beautiful. Below are a few of the specific things we incorporate into are performance.