Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Autumn Adventures with an Awesome God

Just weeks after our summer time soujourns, I found myself in Ohio for the Christian Education (CE) Conference

Here we shared ways to incorporate creativity in ministry with children's ministry leaders. My absolute favorite class to lead was "Building a Team, Creating a Space," a discussion on how to grow a team socially, emotionally, and spiritually. 

The feedback we received was enormously encouraging. To our surprise (and delight), we even received an invitation from one of the attending pastors to visit their church the next morning!


So our evening became a brainstorming session as we planned this children’s service. We had a blast leading this simple but creative service that incorporated worship with motions, technology, scripture with actions, Gospel Illusion, and puppetry to focus on one thing: knowing God!

"I have heard nothing but positive feedback regarding the conference... It was great to see your love for Jesus and passion for children's ministry in all of your presentations." — Becky Johnson, CE Conference Coordinator

In early October, our ministry team was invited to return to the Creative Ministry Solutions OR Festival to present “the Lightlings” for the conference. So north we went! 

This trip really served as a spiritual retreat. Our time away from home and focused in ministry made us tighter than ever. The encouragement we received after presenting was also an immense blessing!

On October 31st, we visited Onnuri Church of San Jose for Hallelujah Night. The majority of our audience was children and their reactions are always so energizing! 

From joyous laughter to genuine “woooooah’s” of wonder to moments of absolute silence as they absorbed the message, we were so humbled to share our ministry with such open hearts.

And just a week later, I was on a plane once more for my final fall conference! This time cross-country to teach at the Creative Ministry Solutions PA Festival

With nearly 200 attendees, there was an undeniable energy that was infectious. I was most inspired by seeing so many pre-teens and teens in attendance with such enthusiasm and passion for using their gifts for Christ!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Summer Time Soujourns: (Inter)National Conferences

Early in July, I attended the International Festival of Creative Arts Ministry in Illinois. I-Fest drew nearly 200 attendees from around the world!

Workshop leaders included Jeff Smith (the creator of the Dowel Rod technique), Edna Bland (puppeteer mentored by “Big Bird” Carroll Spinney), and many other respected leaders in the creative ministry world.

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I felt so blessed to enjoy a week of encouragement and investing in my ministry as I shared with attendees, took classes and enjoyed the devotions. This energy was going to be much needed for the…

Fellowship of Christian Puppeteers (FCP) National Conference in Maryland. I crossed 4 state lines the day after I-Fest ended to co-direct this conference.

Aside from directing the logistics of the conference, I led worship in general sessions and shared in performances, workshops, and devotions. My favorite classes to teach were Creativity & Christ and the Making of the Lightlings!

A major highlight was the opportunity work with some exceptionally talented ministry friends to present “the Lightlings.” It was so special to see my vision come to life with so much heart and passion throughout the presentation! I still feel extremely blessed for the privilege I had to foster rich fellowship and to share in a time of creativity, testimonies, prayers and praises!

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"The fellowship of like-minded believers in Jesus, along with a heart to glorify God made this conference a success!" —Vonnie Pratt, Missionary

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Shining His Light At Home & On The Road

In November, we were invited to bring "the Lightlings" to Center of Praise Ministries in Sacramento, CA. Our visit served as a kick off for their launch of children's ministry for their Saturday evening services! We had the immense privilege of presenting for the Saturday evening congregration in their Cathedral which is one of our greatest joys - serving the young and young at heart alike!

In February, we brought "the Lightlings" to one of our favorite hosts: El Sobrante Christian School. We have had the blessing of visiting their elementary campus every other year for the last 6 years. It is so special to present for nearly 200 unapologetically enthusiastic students. The encouragement they provided through their cheers, applause and laughter is not only electric, but a treasure!

"Gabriel and his team are a shining light for God’s kingdom. I pray that everyone has the opportunity to have this wonderful team come to their church or school to spread the good news about our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!" — Darren Ojeda , El Sobrante Christian School

In February, we hosted Creative Ministry Solutions' California Festival. I led two workshops: Secrets I've Learned from Disney & Pixar and Blacklight Puppetry. This year we had the privilege of an invitation to present "the Lightlings" for the conference. It's always great fun to share with fellow creatives! We also presented a human video, based on the ministry of Paul, for the Creative Ministry Competition and received a Silver Award!

In April, we spearheaded an Easter Family Service at our home church: Iglesia Jesucristo Es El SeƱor. Despite our church's small size, we had double our usual attendance for the service: praise God! We led praise and worship, used puppetry, illusions and games to "break the ice" with our visitors, and concluded with a call to truly reflect on Christ's victory over death and sin.

In April, I was invited to the Renewal Conference in Elk Grove, CA for the 3rd year. It was a great joy to share with many encouraging children's workers in my seminars: Lively Lessons with Magic, Puppetry & Drama - Captivating Classes with Storytelling & Scribbles - Creativity & Connections Roundtable. A huge highlight was hearing the message and testimony of the keynote speaker, Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales!

"What the young pastor said that day is: If God has given you a dream, the dream comes to life, and then the dream dies - it may be that God wants to see what is more important to you: the dream or Him."— Phil Vischer

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Anchored with Hope in OR

The weekend of October 22nd had us scheduled to travel to Oregon! Gabriel was invited by Creative Ministry Solutions to lead workshops at the Creative Ministry Festival and our ministry was scheduled to perform for the conference. Except for Gabriel, the team had never been to Oregon before so they were thrilled about this opportunity!

Unfortunately, just a week before our departure, our assistant director/adult female chaperone, was no longer able to go! As you can imagine, the team was disappointed about the need to cancel their travel to Oregon and Gabriel made arrangements for a solo presentation for the conference. In light of these circumstances, we knew that God was in control!

Gabriel arrived to Keizer, OR on Friday, October 21st and taught a workshop on basic rod-arm puppetry for a group of eager-to-learn puppeteers!

The next morning, Gabriel opened the conference with a devotional based on the woman who anoints Jesus in Matthew 26. He encouraged the attendees to follow the example of this unnamed woman who found a creative way to demonstrate her love for Jesus. He then segued into his performance, which combined video, illusions, painting and puppetry to tell "the Original Love Story" of God's love for humanity through creation, the fall of man and our redemption through Christ. Following this, Gabriel co-taught "Advanced Puppetry" with Brett Belleque, from Mount Morris, IL, and later in the afternoon taught "Hand Mime." Other sessions offered at the festival had topics varying from gospel illusions to big object lessons to ministry leadership to ventriloquism!

It was a tremendous blessing to attend this festival. These weekends buzz with creativity, offer opportunities for fellowship with other ministry leaders and workers, and most importantly, offer spiritual encouragement. This year has been successful, but not without challenges, for our church and ministry. The festival theme verse hit close to home: 

"We who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls." Heb. 6:18-19


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Bringing the Joy of Jesus to Ecuador

Saludos de Ecuador! I had the privilege of investing 9 days with the missions team that's assembled from UT, OH and CA in Quito, Ecuador.

Our trip was led by Rod and Debbi Bond, missionaries that dedicated 11 years to working in Quito Ecuador. They were called to work in a new mission field, Utah, 2 years ago and this was their first time returning since they left.

Our mission? To encourage the local believers and churches that the Bonds planted while sowing seeds for the children of the communities with vacation bible school (VBS) style community programs.

the Missions Team!

Day 1

Our first day had a late start since the flights from UT and OH were delayed so those team members didn't arrive until 3 am. We had a low key day exploring the Colonial District of Quito, the Artisan Market, getting to know each other and trying to adjust to the altitude (we're over 9,000 ft above sea level). The evening was spent prepping and planning for our events on Day 2!

Day 2 

Praise & Worship in the Park!
We visited "La Victoria" a community an hour outside of Quito. Here, we visited with the local “house church” that the Bonds planted many years ago. One of the women we met was “Angelita.”

She is 90 years old and was the first brave believer to open her home for Bible Studies. The Catholic Church publicly denounced her upon learning this and she received many threats. Despite this, she opened her doors for other believers and, when they became too large to fit in her home, moved to other homes, including her daughters’.

Later in the day set up our VBS in the park. We had about 40 children join us for 2 hours of games, music, clowns, puppets and fun! We also had a church service in the park later in the afternoon and even enjoyed a bit of rain.

Day 3

Pastor Steve from UT with the children
We returned to La Victoria for a 2nd day of programming. We set up in the park once again and the clear skies promised it would be a nice, hot day in South America.

Our morning began with an hour long program for select classes from the local primary school and the kids were so excited about the souvenir "clown noses" they received. We then had a short break for lunch to catch our breath and return to the park for our 2nd VBS program.

Once again, songs, games, music, clowns and fun! In total, we worked with about 70 kids for the day. One of my highlights? When the children were asking us "What time will you be back tomorrow?”

Day 4 & 5

We traveled to a low-income community about 45 minutes outside of the center of Quito, Oyacoto. We had just under 100 kids each day and it was... Wild! We actually had the opportunity to actually work indoors and it was a blessing because it was pouring on our first day.

Catholicism is also deeply rooted in this community. One of our missions team members was chatting with a little girl and asked her if she believed in Jesus. She responded “I believe in the Virgin.”

Still, the children were very excited about having us and enjoyed the opportunity to sing songs, play games, make crafts and hang out with clowns and puppets. Crowd control was challenging at times. Each day was stressful kind of joy with the children and we've not only embraced it, but ran with it!

We also were requested by the leader of the area to visit a home. Despite being very tired, we dragged ourselves to this home… and were reminded of how we can be God’s hands and feet. We met a terminally-ill bedridden woman who simply wanted prayer. The team earnestly prayed for this woman and her grieving family. It was an emotional meeting.

Day 6

It’s my birthday! I was greeted with a slice of cake, a candle and birthday card at breakfast and then.. it was off to work!

Sergio, Rod & Rosa
We headed to another community about 45 minutes from Quito and visited an elderly couple that holds a very special place in the hearts of the Bond Family, and quickly learned why. Sergio and Rosa are over 90 years old and have been married for 71 years. They both now have difficulty walking so are unable to visit their local “house church” and were overjoyed to see the Bonds visiting them.

As a team, we prayed for them and sang hymns together. Before departing, we presented them with a love offering we quietly collected for them during our visit. Upon receiving this gift, they immediately raised their hands, looked to the sky and praised God. Their faith and love for Christ is inspiring.

The Children of Chambitola!
After this, we moved on to La Ruminahui to set up our VBS in a basketball court. Here, the local leader Lucy has been hosting a kid’s club every Saturday in one of the local believers’ homework for over 6 years. As soon as she steps out of our van, the children flock to her to greet and hug her.

Though the team anticipated around 40 children, Lucy revealed that she and the church had printed and distributed 500 invitations to the program and she was expecting around 100… and 100 showed up!

It was a special afternoon for me to lead games, puppeteer and bring a message of God’s love to these children on my birthday. Easily the best!

Day 7

Mitad del Mundo
Friday was our 2nd and final rest day and it was very much welcome. We started the at the "Mitad Del Mundo" (Middle of the World) Park and had some time for fun photos and souvenir shopping.

From there, we had a 2 hour drive to Septimo Paraiso, a cloud forest reserve near Mindo, for hiking, hummingbird watching (we saw at least 10 different types) and relaxing in the cold mountain water pool. It was a great day to recharge, enjoy Ecuador's natural beauty and prepare ourselves for Saturday.

Day 8

We had an early start for our 3 hour drive to Chambitola, a very rural community in the mountains. The entire drive was scenic and gorgeous and the final stretch of the drive was up the side of the mountains on very narrow dirt and rock roads.

Once in Chambitola, we joined the local church for a dedication of their new sunday school classrooms for the children. The Bond Family and many of their ministry partners and supporters helped raise the funds for the construction of these classrooms. The inauguration included gratitudes, a Kincha (indigenous language) choir and a surprise for Rod as he was asked to cut the ribbon for the new classrooms.

From there, we quickly set up for our final program. The children and adults alike were all excited about everything: the puppets, the clowns, music, games, crafts, storytelling and fellowship.

We ended our time together gifting 60+ handmade finger puppets (from Kristie Baldwin in PA), clown noses and snacks to all the kids and teens. Bertha, from OH, also gave a big bag of beanie babies to the lead teacher and she was thrilled to have them for future gifts to the children.

We then had to rip ourselves away to say goodbye and begin our journey down the mountain before the roads became too dark. Chambitola was a huge blessing to visit. I've often observed that those with the least give the most and the people of this community were no exception.

Day 9

For our final day of the mission, we spent the morning together with nearly all the ministry partners we had worked with during the week. Our time together included sharing experiences, encouraging the Ecuadorians who work in these communities and eating lunch together.

Ending on this note gave us an opportunity to reflect and celebrate the work we had done with the children and communities all week. The rest of the day was busy with packing and final preparations for the team to go home.

Missions Team from the US and Ecuador
In summary, we worked with somewhere around 350 children with 5 site visits over 6 working days. We even logged around 20 hours of travel time in our van to these site visits for the week!

Each day was an adventure where our greatest reward was seeing a group full of smiling faces as these children enjoyed clowns, puppets, songs, games and crafts. Each day, these children walked away hearing a message that they mattered.

If a group of almost strangers from the United States was willing to come all the way to Ecuador to spend the day with them, how much more do they matter to God, the Creator of the Universe?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Journey to the International Festival in Chicago

Presenting "Children of God" from the
for the Open Puppet Competition.
Watch the video
After many years of dreaming, praying and (I'll admit) even a bit of doubting, we achieved a long-time goal of taking our team to the International Festival of Creative Arts Ministry(I-Fest) at Olivet Nazarene University in IL... and we couldn't be more grateful! I-Fest is an exciting 5 day conference full of inspiration, ideas and spiritual challenge.

I was invited to lead performance workshops and lectures, including the wildly popular "Secrets I've Learned from Disney and Pixar."

Gabriel's human video class
presents "Love is Here."
Watch the video!
Mitzi, our newest member, proudly attended 15 workshops that included construction classes, lectures, demos and discipleship series.

Meanwhile, Camila and Bibiana both auditioned and were accepted to the "Dream Team." They worked with 16 other young people from across the country under 2 seasoned directors to prepare the I-Fest Finale Performance.. in just 5 days!

The presentation was spectacular but, more importantly, both Cami and Bibi were moved by the experience and the call they felt to worship God with creative ministry.

5 years ago Camila and Bibiana were willing to join me to start a team, without a clue as to what "creative ministry" was. Seeing their growth over the years and watching them lay their talents at His feet has been extremely rewarding. I couldn't feel more privileged as a director!

Our team has returned home energized and with a renewed sense of calling. We are eager to put into practice what we've learned and can't wait to see what God will do in the coming year!

Camila, Gabriel, Mitzi and Bibiana

Sunday, February 28, 2016

the Lightlings now booking!

Based on the story by R.C. Sproul, the Lightlings are a race of beings created in the image of the King of Light. Upon disobeying the King though, their lights dim and they flee into the darkness. Join us as we explore the redemption of the Lightlings and why some people fear light more than darkness.

Puppetry, music, blacklight and multiple creative arts are woven together to illustrate a message that audiences of all ages will understand. This 35 minute musical is available in English and Spanish/English through Spring 2018. The themes of darkness, light and redemption make the program suitable for Christmas, Easter and any other special event!

Please contact if you'd like to bring the Lightlings to your next event or to request more information.

"For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!" Ephesians 5:8