“In my cultural context, when you say you are an artist, it means you are a professional musician...who has been professionally trained at a top level,” shares Ann*.
So while she experimented with photography and was told that she had ‘a good eye’, for a long time Ann never considered herself an artist. Growing up in Asia, she observed her grandfather’s talent for music, painting and calligraphy, which in turn developed her own appreciation for art. She explains: “I’m sensitive to beauty,” and this talent became more a part of who she is than she could have imagined.
At university, Ann picked up a digital camera as a way to capture the beauty she observed in the world around her, and the hobby quickly became a passion. After graduating, Ann served with OM Ships and was encouraged to embrace and pursue her artistic ability further. Since then, Ann has continued to grow in her creativity and added videography and the study of ethno-doxology to her repertoire. 'Ethno' means people or people group, and 'doxology' is a form of praying and worshipping God. “It’s the study of how can we facilitate and encourage all artists from different cultural backgrounds to use their own artistic giftings that they are familiar with as a pathway to worship God and to share the gospel with people from their culture,” Ann explains. “Worship is your expression of how God's law can penetrate the way you live your everyday life.”
Now serving with OM in her home country, the ministry approach of going into a community as a learner to study and invite people to develop their own ways of worshipping God, invites artists to embrace their cultural identity as well as their identity as Christ followers. When writing songs collaboratively with this approach in mind, artists must first have a firm grasp of their own culture, answering questions such as: what is the typical sound to express joy in your culture? Then, they can incorporate aspects of the culture to create meaningful songs that resonate deeply in their context. “It motivates me to look internally before I work on anything externally with others,” Ann says.
Her conviction that God treasures diversity has inspired Ann to observe and study her own culture as well as the new cultures she comes in contact with. Inviting others to celebrate and value the different ways God has designed them, Ann walks alongside people to develop unique expressions of worship. “Videography especially is a very inclusive art form because you have to put so many different artistic elements together in one form,” Ann says. The young woman has learnt how to create music and visual stories that inform and invite people to take action.
By creating videos that focus on a minority people group, Ann wants to help bridge the gap of understanding that the local church has about the group. She hopes her videos will encourage viewers to change their stereotypical views of the minority group and recognise that they can be involved in reaching out and sharing Christ’s love with them. Her passion for cultural research, which focuses on facilitating indigenous worship, and her artistic ability to create media come together to create powerful stories.
“[Missions] can appear to be very daunting and distant – that you need to sacrifice everything in order to join,” Ann says. “But really, missions can be very fun. So I want to change that narrative by creating media content.”