The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 3, 2013

Performing for God, open to all

By Robb Murray rmurray@mankatofreepress.com
The Mankato Free Press

---- — You wouldn’t necessarily have to go for the God. (Although they’d be fine with that if you did.)

Go for the good.

Good singing, good musicianship, and good human videos.

Don’t worry if you’re unfamiliar with the concept of the human video. Most people aren’t. But if you’re into Bible stories and are up for an afternoon watching young people display their talents, head to Hillside Church on the edge of town for a performance of the church’s Fusions Fine Arts Academy.

The Saturday event, which will cost you $5 at the door, is a church production but is open to the public. Their goal is to raise money to help fund the program’s activities, including a trip to Florida where some of the kids will go and perform these same acts.

“If you wanna see 41 teenagers whose lives have been changed and have discovered, developed and deployed their giftings and talents, then this the place to be,” said Caleb Wampler, a youth pastor at Hillside Church.

“People who come will sense the presence of more than the arts. They’ll sense that God is there. But even if they just want to see teens that literally have been saved off the streets from drugs and addictions – people raped, abused, neglected, students that have come from eating disorders, broken homes, juvey, drug camps – now they all have purpose in their life, they have something to live for, and they also have a creative outlet.”

One of the kids in the group is Nate Iversen, a senior at Mankato East High School.

He’ll be participating in one of the so-called “human videos.” A human video is essentially a theatrical endeavor where a group of kids act out a story from the Bible. Heavy on stunts and physically demanding moves, they last several minutes.They are set to a soundtrack, and the kids don’t speak or sing (although they do a little bit of lip synching).

The videos can be highly emotional, Wampler says, though it helps to know the story.

Iversen says he’s happy to have found a place where he feels like he belongs. He feels a closeness with the other people on his human video team. And for Iversen, life wasn’t always smooth sailing.

A few years ago, he said, his life was drifting toward trouble. After getting caught with drugs, he said, he sought help from his church.

“I was looking for something more, and I found it,” Iversen said.

He began weekly meetings with Wampler, and says his life hasn’t been the same since. He’s more focused and happier.

“It’s become a huge part of my life,” he said of Hillside Church and the youth group he’s a member of. “Fifty percent of my time is spent at church.”

Wampler is the one who brought the idea of Fusion Fine Arts Academy to the church. The church’s first year trying it out was last year. This year, after a successful debut, they’ve got more kids ready to participate. All performances Saturday are exhibition. But in a few weeks they’ll head to Minneapolis where their performances will be judged. If they score high enough, they’ll get to perform at the national event in Orlando.

Wampler says he’s hopeful most of their kids will move on to the national event. That’s why they’re raising money. They’ve got 41 students participating in 18 categories.

If you go What Fusions Fine Arts Academy When Doors open at 1:30 p.m. Saturday; show starts at 2:15 p.m. Where Hillside Church, Mankato Cost $5