Monday, March 10, 2008
Spiritual Reminders From A High School Musical
For the past three months, a very significant portion of our daughter Joana's life has been devoted to her participation in the Grosse Pointe North High School's production of the Musical "Guys and Dolls." Joana has participated in musicals since her elementary years, but was particular excited about stepping up the the "big leagues" of high school theatre. It turned out to be a rather demanding commitment with almost daily rehearsals after school during the week, several all day Saturday rehearsals as well as fittings for costumes, extensive choreography and other requirements necessary to put together a top-notch performance. I have to admit that process tested our whole family at times with conflicting schedules, last minute adjustments, long waits in the parking lot for the end of practice and other unplanned inconveniences that at times put families involved in such an undertaking on edge. On several occasions I asked myself with the sight of the performance unseen on my part, "Can all of this craziness REALLY be worth it?" Well, as the commercial used to say, "The proof of the pudding is in the taste" and now having seen the actual performance I can say without any doubt that the "taste of the pudding" was delightful!
Having gone through a few High School Musicals in my time, as a participant and as a the parent of two now-grown daughters with their own High School performance histories, I can confidently state that almost all High School performances are fun to watch, but not all are good. This years production by GP North was both! The preparation and imagination put into the production was clear from the opening curtain, and it didn't take long at all to be pulled into the story and its characters to forget, for a time, that you were not watching fully grown adults from a different time and place, but High School Students from Southeast Michigan putting on quite a show! Most of our family was present- my wife, our three-year-old , our oldest daughter and her husband were there with me as well as a few dear friends from church. Only our second-born and her husband could not make it as she had commitments in South Carolina where she is finishing her undergraduate degree.
The plot of the musical-comedy made for especially compelling viewing for my family and me as it focused on the struggles of the downtown Save-A-Soul Mission and its daunting task to make headway in the rough and tumble, hard-living gangster society of mid 20th Century New York City. In spite of earnest efforts, the missionaries just could make headway into the gangster culture through street preaching and Bible Studies. When a couple of lovable big time gamblers make a bet regarding the ability of one of them to secure a date with a particularly attractive and dedicated missionary, a comedic love story and an unlikely spiritual journey ensue.
Luz and I could identify with many elements of the story from the beginning. We both met as missionaries serving the extremely poor at a conference developing global strategies for ministering to the impoverished. At the time, it seemed that Luz was virtually "married" to the ministry in which she was involved and I felt that my chances of capturing her heart were extremely remote. Her commitment to the ministry was, however, very similar to my own and it was that commitment that eventually brought us together as soul mates. The on-stage courtship brought back many fond memories.
Nevertheless, it was the devotion of the missionaries in the story and their willingness to think outside the box that particularly resonated with us. Their goal was to get "12 sinners" into that mission by the time their supervising missionary came in for her periodic evaluation of their work and their desperation led them to do the unthinkable - get involved in the lives of the people they were seeking to reach. Though the "romance" is the primary focal point of the musical, friendships are developed with members of the gamblers extended networks of friends by the missionaries. As a closeness develops, both the missionaries and the gamblers see each others humanity, walls come down and both the seekers and the sought are transformed into better and more complete people than they were when the adventure began.
My family has seen these principles in action over the course of our years of service as overseas and inner-city missionaries and in or local church ministry too. When asked why he befriended "sinners" Jesus informed his critics that His purpose was to "seek and save that which was lost." He got so close to the less desirable elements of society that the spiritually uninformed counted him among their ranks. In our time in ministry, Luz and I have found that we have been called again and again to go places where nobody wanted to go, to reach people nobody wanted to reach only to see the Lord change lives nobody believed could be changed, including and especially our own! My mentor in Seminary, a wonderful man named Tom Petty who has now gone on to his Heavenly Home gave me this charge: "You've got to be willing to be a nobody, willing to tell everybody, about Somebody Who can reach anybody!"
My congratulations to the students and staff of Grosse Pointe North for a job well done and my thanks for reminding me of what I'm called to do and how I'm called to do it.