Friday, April 1, 2016

Toymaker & Son

It was a special joy to receive Dr. Colin Harbinson as one of our guest lecturers recently, and share another Incarnate experience with him through the week. 

I first met Colin in Paris, during an arts conference that changed my life.  What I thought was me exploring possibilities of art in mission turned into me discovering a global arts movement in church and mission. 

Colin didn’t waste a word during that conference, with such clear vision and intellect—vision that matched my own. 
I found myself longing to work with him, thinking it impossible.

Little did I know that a few years later, shortly after my arrival at OM Artslink, Colin would approach us as artists within OM to see about partnership.  He also offered me a position working with him! (I turned it down, having just arrived at OM Artslink.) 

The partnership was struck.  Colin mentored us as we forged OM Arts Intl.; we hammered out a vision and mission statement, decided on objectives, and came up with tag lines.  We laid out our 5, 10 and 15 year plan--a painful task which yielded much fruit.  Nine years later, here is Colin again, working alongside us at Incarnate, just one of the luscious fruits of this very special partnership.

A pioneer in the Christian arts movement, Colin began life in a church culture that had no room for the arts, and forbade dance and movies.  One weekend Colin was invited to fill in for a drummer in a band (although he didn’t play drums), an experience that opened up the arts world to him, and transformed his life. 

Colin is the author of Toymaker & Son, an award-winning theater piece which presents the gospel through toys.  He went on to become the principal of a school in England, before being called into mission.  That call eventually led to Canada and then the USA—where he accepted an invitation to develop the arts in Jackson, Mississippi, as Dean of School of the Arts for Belhaven University.  While there, he met Bill Drake.  And me in Paris :)  The rest is art in mission history.

Colin shared with our students theology and stories—incredible stories of a lifetime in mission through the arts.  Doors opening through arts festivals in St. Petersburg, Bulgaria and China, as the Communist world was collapsing.  In Communist China, Colin brought a team of artists to share the gospel;  one of those artists, Marge Malwitz, would become my arts mentor. 

Handel’s Messiah was performed.  In spite of strict censorship, the Minister of Culture introduced it, “This is about Jesus!” The next day, the news headline declared “”Messiah touches hearts!” 15 news outlets carried the story, and 7 television stations.

Colin and team spoke at universities, and special needs educators-- about art and play therapy: releasing the potential of the special needs child. 

Now retired in Canada, Colin continues to work as a consultant, including helping us at OM Arts, teaching the power of the arts to touch people’s lives.  What a special joy to work again with him, and know that we carry the torch he passed to us--to mentor the next generation of artists in mission.

“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.”—2 Tim. 2:2

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