Monday, October 1, 2012

CMT on Touring Sabbatical for Fall 2012 – Spring 2013

We have some news to share! Our director, Gabriel, has been accepted into AmeriCorps NCCC, a national program that sends members to different cities for short-term service projects. Congratulations! We are very excited for him and this opportunity.

The leadership at Iglesia Jesucristo Es El Señor is preparing for the transition in leadership for the team during Gabriel’s 10 month leave of service. The team will continue to rehearse and work within the church but will be taking a sabbatical from touring programs.

Please keep our team and Gabriel in your prayers as we undergo these changes. We look forward to picking up touring once again in the summer. So until then, stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Teaching and Reaching in Panama City with Hands of Peace

A few months ago I was blessed with the invitation to join Hands of Peace Ministry Team from Connecticut on a mission trip to Panama City, coordinated with Ministerios IR (Go Ministries). I first worked with Hands of Peace in January in Mexico.

Like Mexico, our objective was to equip and encourage children's workers, church leaders and youth with creative arts tools to reach out to their community. The 7 days consisted mostly of 3 days of training rehearsals and workshops and 3 days of dress rehearsals and children's crusades. Reflecting on this experience, all I can say is: WOW!

God never ceases to amaze me. Over 3 days we were able to share with the eager and ready-to-learn Panamanians several ideas ranging from puppetry, ventriloquism, props, creative movement, dowel rods, sign language, illusions, hand mime and blacklight.

Their eagerness and willingness to serve was particularly striking. Our host church's, Comunidad Evangelica Monte de Sion (COEMONSI), slogan is "salvos para servir" (saved to serve). They unhesitatingly lived up to this challenge.

The 3 days of workshops also included afternoon rehearsals, (about 2-3 hours a day), where we trained 3 different teams to participate in our program for the children's crusades. The brothers and sisters were motivated, not only to learning the program but to being excellent.

The next three days of dress rehearsals and children's crusades were long and arduous. Still, our team was the epitome of dedication: assisting with set-up/tear-down, distributing invitations to the community (rain or shine) and enduring the sticky heat in rehearsal and performance.

Our first crusade was in a rural community 2 hours away from Panama City, where teen pregnancy is high and electricity/running water can be considered a luxury. Our program there was powered with a generator, portable sound system and lit by a single bulb. Our last 2 crusades were in the barrios Pedregal and Concepcion, both considered "red zones" for drug dealing, assaults and other violence.

While each crusade ranged from small to large facilities, very hot to slightly less so, from mostly adult to mostly children, what never changed was the genuine fun and wonder captured in the program, backed with God's presence and the call to accept Him.

Many of our objectives were met in those 7 days of work in Panama: equipping the leaders, training the youth and reaching out into the community. Better yet, other benefits came about as "side effects," including working collaboratively with other churches, developing the leadership of the church members and empowering the youth with ministry that opened the eyes of the adults to their potential.

I am so grateful for the wondrous opportunity I had to be a part of this trip. Many people came to know Christ during our visit and we are excited for the potential ripple effects that will continue long after we are gone.  As COEMONSI's Pastor Elias said: "Several little lights have been lit that are now going back to their homes, where they will shine in the darkness."

Though we did come to equip and encourage our brothers and sisters in Panama, the blessing they are to our own lives is just as great. Their humility, dedication and servant's hearts are inspirational and they send us back home refreshed, rejuvenated and eager to serve!

For the daily photo updates, photo albums, videos and more visit our Facebook or Google+.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Taking it to the MAX!

I had the incredible priviledge of being selected to participate in the Creative Ministry Dream Team at Ministry Arts Xtra (MAX) in Ohio. The Dream Team was charged with one task: learn a program in 3.5 days to serve as the finale performance for the conference. No worries... right?

Being on the Dream Team was inspirational. The high caliber of talent was apparent as soon as we began rehearsing. What was most amazing and impressive though was the passion burning inside these servant leaders, especially our directors, Christy Watkins and Amanda Cowles.

Despite running on little sleep, a problem I credit to the time change and a little thing called work, I survived the 6+ hours of rehearsal a day. Better yet, I had an amazing time!

Working with the Dream Team was a breath of fresh air. Imagine getting to spend all day with a group of 18 passionate and talented people that "God brought together for a moment in time to shine for Him."

Speaking of which, the program was titled "Shine." Don't let the simple name fool you, the depth of the script is awe inspiring.

The story centers around a hilariously adorable 3-year old turtle named Gigi (voiced by Amanda Cowles) who sits in her bedroom and talks to God. About what? About her day, about being his child and about what it means to shine for Him.

The program featured a variety of creative arts, including live puppetry, outfront puppetry, blacklight, drama, sign language, reverse blacklight, dance and dowel rods. The settings explored were just as diverse, ranging from a corn field to a jungle to the life of Jesus to the depths of history itself.

The week was filled with several God moments but perhaps the one that struck me the most was before I even met the Dream Team and became a theme throughout the week. It was the last line of the letter from the directors:
"We are looking forward to creating a program together with you and then laying it at His feet."

Wow, that hit me. I really don't how to explain why but it did. I've always loved the arts. It's something I am passionate about. I know I'm not the best preacher, singer, evangelist or writer and often we are made to feel these are the ways to share Christ.

But when I arrange a program and get to present the message of salvation,  I feel as if I'm finally doing something right. Yes, I am aware that I am using my gifts for God, but something about the visual of laying your passion, effort and work at His feet just floored me. What a beautiful way to look at the meaning behind our work!

MAX and the Dream Team definitely challenged my ideas of what it means to be a Christian artist. Our goal became not to have audiences saying "Wow what a performance" rather "WOW, what an amazing God!"

It's not about us. It's about him. We are not the light. He is.

So I leave you with this challenge: "Dare we hope to be mirrors in the hands of God? To behold God so intently that we can't help but reflect the light of God? To live a life that really 'shines' for him?"

Saturday, July 14, 2012

How to Start a Creative / Puppet Ministry Team

I’ve often gotten the question: “just how do you start a creative/puppet ministry team?” There’s no single way really. I will try to share though what I have learned from many seasoned directors and my 10 years of ministry team experience.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but simply points to consider. I hope you find this helpful!

1. Purpose (Habakuk 2:2)
Before you do anything, determine why you are doing it. God has a plan and purpose for you and he has plan and a purpose for your team. Pray about it. Determine why you are going to do this and make sure those you work with know it too. Here is an example of CMT’s purpose:

“CMT Ministries stands for Create, Minister and Teach. We are a ministry dedicated to communicating God’s love through Jesus Christ through the creative arts and personal testimony. Our programs combine puppetry, music, drama, blacklight, sign language, illusions and special surprises that appeal to all ages.”

In sum, our team’s purpose is to create programs that will minister the love of God to our audiences and we teach others how to do this. Still, do not get caught up on just this.

The team’s purpose is ministry to others. The director’s purpose is ministry to the team.

Remember, you will be a positive influence and role model for those you work with. You are training people to use their gifts for God. Your team should always be your priority, not the presentation.

2. Leaders (Proverbs 11:14)
Behind every team, there should be a fearless leader. Better yet, there should be fearless leaders. The best creative works were not created by a single person, rather by a team. Think about it.

Disney had the “nine old men.” Pixar has their “brain trust.” While one person may have the spark, it is refined and strengthened when others build on it. Do this for your team.

Plus, there are too many things to get done. Don’t be the lone ranger. Woe to him that is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. (Ecc. 4:10) Don’t burn yourself out (been there, done that)!

Your leadership could include parents, responsible team members or members from your church. Meet regularly to pray for the team, plan for the month and evaluate program material and key issues.

There are many opportunities to involve other members and ministries in your church, outside of rehearsals and presentations! Some ideas are: prop-making, costuming and scenery, devotionals, scriptwriting, drivers, technicians and fundraising.

Do this and you will see that the more people you partner in ministry with, the more rewarding and beautiful your ministry will become.

3. A Team (1 Peter 4:10)
Go back to your team’s purpose and think about the audiences you want to reach. Is it children? Is it teens? Is it families? This impacts the age of people you will want to work with. Also, consider the age group that is available for rehearsals and presentations.

The size of your team should be determined based on your ability to effectively: (1) use them all and (2) handle them all.

If you are not keeping everyone busy, there is a greater likelihood of them getting either bored, frustrated or into mischief. Plus, can you handle 15 teens alone? Maybe… but not sanely (been there, done that too)!

Lastly, consider the kind of people you want to work with. You want people who are dependable, enthusiastic, willing to learn, ready to work hard and ministry-minded.

The last two are key. People think its super fun… but then realize it’s a lot of work too. More importantly, make sure they are joining because they want to minister.

4. Resources (Deuteronomy 30:9-10)
Depending on the art forms you wish to use, you need puppets, props, blacklights, costumes, music, a stage and the list goes on. Creative ministries, especially puppet ministry, can get expensive.

Try to start with versatile materials that you can use time and time again. White gloves can be used for signing and hand mime. People puppets can be costumed creatively for different programs. I mean, how often do you really think you will use that cute monster puppet?

You will also want to consider how your ministry will be funded. Talk to your church board and see if you can make a budgetary request. Or start your own budget by fundraising. Love offerings or honorariums for programs are an excellent source of funds too.

If you back the ministry with your own credit card, be clear with which resources belong to whom. Are you donating these to the ministry, or are you loaning them for ministry’s use?

All in all, be sure you have enough to meet the present and future needs of the ministry. And when I mean the needs of the ministry, I am not limiting it to the materials themselves. Don’t forget the human capital.

Have funds that can help with festival scholarships, transportation expenses, marketing, team outings and so on. Don’t be selfish. Invest in your team.

5. Commitment to Excellence (Colossians 3:23-24)
For me, this is most important and what I stress the most with my team. The secular world works very hard for the world to enjoy their creations. Should we not work just as hard, if not harder, when we are offering our works to God?

How do you commit to excellence? Educate yourself. Train yourself. Share.

Educate yourself in the art forms you wish to pursue. You can’t expect to teach something you know nothing about. The internet literally has billions of ideas and resources at your fingertips.

Better yet, go to a conference such as those held by Creative Ministry Solutions, the Fellowship of Christian Puppeteers or Puppeteers of America. I guarantee you will always learn MANY new things.

Next, commit yourself and your team to pursuing excellence in rehearsal. Don’t let your team demonstrate poor technique. Realize that it’s a distraction and takes away from the power of the program. Create a rehearsal space where the focus is to hone oneself for true ministry.

This does not solely mean mastery of craft, but a commitment to pursuing Christ. Do not forget to include time for spirituality. If you plan on calling yourself a ministry, that is.

Lastly, the oft neglected point: share. You will learn so much from God, yourself, your team and your experiences.

Don’t be selfish. Share it.

Connect with other directors. Compete in festivals. Contribute to forums. Post pictures on Facebook. Upload videos on YouTube. Inspire us!

In short, remember: “We are God’s masterpiece, created through Jesus Christ, to in turn create masterpieces for Him”. — Michael Card

Recommended Resources:
Puppet Director’s Notebook
Puppet Ministry: Basics and Beyond DVD
I-Fest Workshop CDs and DVDs
The Human Video Handbook

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Illustrating the love of God at Oak Park Christian Center's KidZone

We had an amazing time on Friday visiting and sharing with our new friends at Oak Park Christian Center for their summer KidZone event! Pr. Gail Boatright, the children's ministry workers and the Hispanic Women's ministry of Oak Park worked diligently to make this event a true community outreach.

What a blast it was for everyone involved! The attractions offered included a giant slide, an obstacle course, human bumper cars, jousting and laser tag. Add to that great food, upbeat music, incredibly fun and kind volunteers and it's a family-friendly paradise.

CMT Ministries was invited to be the guests for the half-time segment of the event and we've never felt so blessed. We presented our current program You Are Special, featuring storytelling, puppetry, blacklight, sign language, painting and illusions. The families were a wonderful audience, laughing at our jokes, gasping at the surprises and, most importantly, listening quietly when we spoke of Jesus in a sincere and heart-felt moment.

We are deeply grateful to our wonderfully warm host, Pr. Gail, for the invitation, hospitality, and the opportunity to partner in ministry. We look forward to returning on Sunday, July 15 for a follow-up program during the 10:45a service (previously scheduled for Sunday, July 8)!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Reading: Scrap the Fluff

I read a great article by Amanda Cowles from Skadoodles! about scriptwriting that's worth sharing. You can find the original article here: Scripts: Scrap the Fluff.

This article reminded me a lot of what I learned in my college english course with, hands-down, the best English professor ever. Here was one memorable tip for becoming a better writer: "kill it."

Many of us have the tendency to write too much. This isn't just with script-writing, but any sort of communication (I know I do). Get to the point. If it's not necessary, then kill it. (I am in no way promoting violence, just concise writing).

A great tool for knowing when or when not to "kill it" are Amanda's "five necessaries": plot, character, audience, subtlety and resolution. I can't think of a better way to sum up it up than that.

These necessaries keep you grounded on "the point" and guide you to writing stronger material. Plus, if you are into improv, these a great tips to follow for establishing a platform and building off of that.

So sure, some fluff can be fun here and there but make sure the meat of the message is in your sandwich before you add the lettuce, mayo and Kettle Chips.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

CMT Ministries' director chosen for MAX Dream Team

We're excited to announce that Gabriel, CMT Ministries' director, was chosen to be a part of the Creative Ministry Dream Team for the Ministry Arts Xtra (MAX) national conference in Grove City, OH. The Dream Team members undergo a thorough application process that includes submitting a personal statement, letter of recommendation and audition video showcasing their skills in multiple creative art forms.

The Dream Team members will come together from all corners of United States to rehearse together during the 4-day conference. They will present a special finale performance, under the direction of Christy Watkins and Amanda Cowles, that will close the conference. We're excited for Gabriel and are sure he will have a fantastic week!

For more information about MAX, please visit the conference sponsor's website, Creative Ministry Solutions.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Free Puppet Pattern: Blacklight Fish

In 2011 I had to quickly create a piece for the children's ministries at Hilltop Community Church to compete with in NCN's Kids Fine Arts Festival. Using a fun idea from a friend of mine, I used the song "Fishers of Men", a parody of "It's Raining Men" (available at

I had to build a few fish puppets in a hurry so made a simple pattern. The pattern for the prototype was freehanded and built in less than an hour. The mouthplate pattern was freehanded after each face was made.

Click to download pattern.
You are welcome to share this with others but please give credit and a link back to our website.

Below is a rough set of instructions for making your own fish. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask via the comments. Have fun!

Materials Needed:
‣  1/2 yard of 1/2 inch upholstery foam
‣  Spray adhesive
‣  Contact Cement
‣  Foam board
‣  Fluorescent spraypaint
‣  Black felt
‣  White foamie


Step 1: Pattern

Determine how big of a fish you want to make. Don't be afraid to experiment with sizes for the pattern. On my prototype, the top and bottom of the face and the body fit along the length of one 8.5x11 page. It was a good "standard" size but from there we varied the lengths, widths and shapes of each piece to make each fish unique.

‣  Cut out the pieces you need onto posterboard.
‣  Trace out the pieces onto the upholstery foam with a sharpie. Please note, though you are cutting two of the face/body/etc. so you want to trace the piece on the foam, flip it and then trace the other piece. That way you have two "partner" pieces. Cut them with an Xacto blade.
‣  Spray the pieces with spray adhesive. This will help preserve the foam's softness and allow to dry for one hour.

Step 2: Spray paint

We painted the foam before gluing the pieces together so we could have more fun with the colors.
‣  Paint the pieces of foam on the side that was NOT marked with the sharpie. Give it an even coat and keep a good 12 inches away from the foam so it doesn't "cake" on too thickly in one area.
‣  Allow to dry for at least 24 hours, though 48 hours is best. Be sure the area is well-ventilated!

Step 3: Gluing and Mouthplate

Having let the paint dry for at least 24 hours, the pieces should now be ready for gluing.
‣  Dab contact cement along the pieces with the BLUE edges indicated by the pattern. You only need a light coat on each edge of the piece. When it is dry to the touch, press each piece with its "partner" (so face 1 with face 2, body 1 with body 2, etc.)

Next we need to make a mouthplate:
‣  Your face and chin pieces should now be slightly curved. Use this curvature to trace out a semi-circular mouthplate pattern onto your foamboard. Use the yellow side marked on the pattern to trace out this pattern.
‣  Once you have a semi-circle shape for both the face and chin, place them side by side so they create a circular shape. Place a pencil between the two pieces to get a good feel for spacing and use duct tape to hinge the pieces together (don't forget to remove the pencil!).
‣  You should now have a "mouthplate." Trace out your mouthplate onto the black felt, cutting out two copies. One to line the inside of the mouth and the other for where your hand goes. Use contact cement to glue the felt pieces on each side of the mouthplate. You can also hot glue some elastic onto the felt to keep your fingers and thumb in place.

Now back to gluing:
‣  Glue the face to the body, you should have a long torpedo like shape.
‣  Next, glue the mouthplate along the yellow edges marked in the pattern of the face and chin of your fish. You want the foamboard to be "flush" with the foam so it creates a smooth lip. Your fish puppet's face, body, chin and mouth pieces should now be one unit. You can try the puppet on at this point.

Step 4: The Details

Now for the fins and eyes:
‣  Using the contact cement, glue each pair of fin pieces to each other. You can then dab the edges of the fin to join them to the body like in the photo above.
‣  I used a circle cutter to cut out circles of foamie to create the eyes. For pupils, I cut open the "wiggle eyes" and used the black pupil. I then hot glued them in place on the fish.
‣  A final detail that can help give your puppet a "finished" look is to dab contact cement along the "squared" edges of the puppet. So the body, the chin, and the fins. Once the contact cement is dry to the touch, you can "pinch" the two edges of the foam into each other. This creates a rounded edge that looks much neater.

So there, you made your own fish! Please, be creative and experiment with colors, shapes and sizes and see what you can come up with. Again, feel free to ask any questions in the comment section. I'll do my best to answer them as I do realize it can be difficult to understand some of the steps without pictures. But I hope you enjoy the pattern!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

CMT Ministries to tour Central California: Are you in the area?

We are very excited to be planning a weekend tour in the Central California area during mid-August and would love an opportunity to come and be a blessing at your church. So please, take a look at our program, see if it is something that you feel will be a blessing for your community and get in touch with us. We look forward to hearing from you!

"The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
— 1 Samuel 16:7

Behind the Scenes
Hear Songs

About the Program
"Your Are Special" and "Best of All" are based on the books of the same name by Max Lucado. They tell the story of young Wemmick who believes he isn't good enough because of what others say about him. These beautiful stories encourage audiences to look beyond what the world tells them and serve as a reminder that God loves us just the way we are, even though we are flawed!

The 45-minute programs feature storytelling, blacklight, puppetry, sign language, illusions and other creative art forms. They are appropriate for audiences of all ages.

About the Tour
CMT Ministries would love to share these programs through a tour of the Central California area the weekend of August 17 through 19.

We usually require a love offering or honorarium but are stepping out on faith with this tour so are not requiring it for our host. At the minimum, we ask for lodging for our team of about 8 people, either in homes or motels, and an excited audience drawn from your community to share with.

If you are interested in hosting our ministry team, please contact

Friday, May 25, 2012

Engaging El Sobrante Christian School students with the Gospel

CMT Ministries finally had the opportunity to visit with their old neighbors at El Sobrante Christian School for a chapel presentation of CMT Ministries' production of "You Are Special." Tbe 30-minute program featured storytelling, blacklight, music, puppetry, painting and illusions.

In the words of vice principal, Jeannine: "During this performance, students were presented with the full Gospel message in an exciting way that related to their lives... All our students loved this presentation! Thoughout the show, students were sitting 'on the edge of their seats' in anticipation... Students talked about the show for days!"

Indeed, the students of El Sobrante Christian were the epitome of a perfect audience. They laughed at the humor, clapped and snapped at the music, woah'ed and wow'ed at the wonder and listened attentively to the message behind it all.

We are very grateful to our hosts, Jeannine and Darren, for inviting us to visit. It goes without saying that we had an amazing time and are very excited that we have been invited to return next school year. Go Eagles!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Celebrating the first anniversary of Iglesia Jesucristo Es El Señor

CMT Ministries joined with Iglesia Jesucristo Es El Señor (translation: Jesus Christ is Lord Church) in Daly City to celebrate their one year anniversary this past Saturday. The JEES church is pastored by Tony and Mabel Galdamez, the parents CMT Ministries' director, and was founded one year ago with a small group in their home one year ago. Since then, the congregation has grown to average 30 people per week, still in their home.

In celebration of their first year, JEES held an outreach event that was filled with worship, testimonies, celebration and fellowship. The CMT Ministry team was invited to participate in the festivities and present their program "You Are Special," as the finale for the event.

Aside from the usual puppetry, blacklight and storytelling, the program also featured the award-winning human video "How He Loves," which illustrates God's love for the world through the life of Jesus. The audience was not only engaged and enamored with the program, but also empowered at the end as they realized God's Love was more than just a tale.

We had a wonderful time presenting for and celebrating with our home church, a rare opportunity, and we look forward to many more celebrations as they continue to reach out to the Latino community in the Peninsula.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Reaching out with Bay Hills Community Church for Easter weekend

CMT Ministries had the opportunity to visit their new friends at Bay Hills Community Church in El Sobrante over the Easter weekend and what a weekend it was!

On Saturday Bay Hills hosted their annual Easter community outreach event, the Spring Fling, featuring jumpers, games, snacks and even a petting zoo! The CMT Ministry Team was invited to come and share their current program, "You Are Special," a 35-minute program featuring storytelling, audience participation, puppetry, blacklight, music, illusions and much more. The story closes with a powerful reminder of just how great God's love is for us and we encouraged families to remember the real reason we celebrate Easter.

On Sunday the team made the trek back to El Sobrante to teach the children how to make their own "sock buddy" puppets and techniques for puppet manipulation. The excited and eager children were a great fun to work with and their "out-of-the-box" creativity was inspiring.

Perhaps what was most powerful for the team was when we spoke with our host, Pastor Liinda Vannoy-Castillo, and thanked her for the opportunity. She spoke clearly to the team and reminded us to never forget that what we do has the potential to change lives, and who knew how many lives could have been changed over the weekend.

"What an awesome team, you ministered to my very soul. Kids came to know Jesus this weekend. Thank you for sharing your time & talents with us! We were blessed and next time, i'm snagging some of your worker's shoes-lol" - Pr. Linda

We are so grateful for the opportunity we had to spend Easter weekend reaching and teaching with the amazing Pr. Linda and the wonderful community at Bay Hills Community Church. They remain in our prayers as they diligently work to serve the little ones.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


June 10, 2012

The arts captured my interests at an early age and puppetry is probably my favorite medium. I remember being hooked when I was maybe 4 years old and I saw my mother and the children's ministries workers cutting, sewing and creating something that just caught my attention for some reason.

Once I joined my church's puppet team at 11 though, I truly immersed myself into puppetry and the creative arts. While I have learned much through personal experience, I have learned the most from others: those who I had the pleasure to watch perform, listen to lecture or even just interact with online.

This blog will focus on my thought processes, activities and experiences related to the creative arts group I direct, CMT Ministries. CMT stands for Create, Minister and Teach and I plan to include content relevant to equipping you in these areas so YOU can GO Create, Minister and Teach.

I can only hope that my work will help even just one person grow: be it in the creative ministries, their art form or as a creative thinker. It is a small token in comparison to the enormous wealth of knowledge others have so selflessly shared... still a drop of water raises the ocean. So, without further delay, let's go CMT!

- Gabriel
CMT Ministries Director