TACO's mission is to creatively proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to Muslim peoples everywhere. That's it. That's our three strand cord, our non-negotiables. We are uncompromising about Jesus. We are unshakeable in our love for Muslims and our desire to see them in the Kingdom. And we introduce the latter to the former by using the creative arts and by enabling and training others to do the same.
They say music is the universal language and this is true on the streets of Turkey, where earphones protrude from the ears of both teenage skateboarders and head covered carpet weavers. But as God has brought us artists with varying gifts, we are increasingly using other art forms to attract people to our message such as theatre, dance, mime, visual arts, martial arts, unicycling, clowning, illusion and even yo-yo tricks! We are open and embrace creativity and excellence through whichever medium will see Muslims attracted to Christ.
And when we're not doing arts outreaches, we're trying to live for the gospel, share Christ however we can, and make disciples. It takes creativity to find inroads for the gospel in the cultures where we work and it's vital to have a team of brothers and sisters to pray with and encourage each other to persevere in this.
Sometimes we do small street performances and sometimes we perform to large crowds. But in both cases, our goal is that every spectator sees a quality performance that glorifies Christ and challenges people with His claims. Performers (through translators, if they don't know the language) are able to share their testimonies and the gospel from the very public stage, as well as one-on-one after performances. The lyrics of songs are translated into the local language and distributed to the audience. Members of the audience are offered a survey with different options for additional information. We are fanatical about follow-up and only partner with churches/groups who commit to pursuing interested contacts.
TACO is a creative, dynamic, talented and organic collection of people. Some join the TACO team for one tour, some for a few months and some for the long term! The musicians on our team form the core of a "house" band that has recorded two albums and continues to expand its repertoire of Turkish materials for Turkish gigs. Others on our team are dancers, visual artists, puppeteers, drivers, techies, and/or provide backstage support such as hospitality, logistics, administration and intercessory prayer.
In addition to long and short term members of our team we have partners who join us regularly for outreach. Over the years, Proclaim! International, No Longer Music (Steiger International), UniShow and artists from OM Arts have done many tours with TACO.
We have now performed in over 14 countries in North Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans, Europe and Central Asia. Our crowds have ranged from 5 to 5,000. We have performed in many and diverse venues: nightclubs/bars, discos, cafes, open air theatres, parks, fairs, camps, city squares, shopping malls, cultural centers, ships, and churches.
Our national partners are an integral part of each TACO performance. They invite us, determine local performance venues, advise us about everything we need to know, translate, and most importantly follow up those who provide contact information. In fact, we rarely go anywhere unless it's at the request of local partners.
We also work to empower local churches to use the creative arts for their own outreach and church planting. Seeing we are based in Turkey, our most active partnerships have been with churches in this country, particularly with the church in Diyarbakır in southeast Turkey. In the summers we offer "Kanat" ('Wings'), a camp that provides worship, music and arts training to the Turkish church. Local believers now participate as teachers as well as learners. We are also pleased to offer an internship programme to train young people in the creative arts ministry.
"We did an outdoor summer concert in a seaside town. The concert featured music, dance and unicycling and was well attended. Throughout the concert we shared about our Savior.
After the concert, we talked with people in the crowd. One man came straight to me, and immediately got serious. “Thank you guys for this... I watched the whole thing, and that salvation that you guys talked about, it really affected me. It refreshed my inside. Beautiful...” We started to talk about what was said and what Jesus did, but he said that according to the teachings of his faith, it was impossible that Jesus died and that this death would give him new life. But earlier in our conversation I really sensed that he had been struck by the beauty of God's gift. Though his mind was full of intellectual barriers, there was a new seed planted and ringing in his heart. He went away very curious, with more material and connections for follow up.
His reaction was similar to that of many Muslim people: they hear the message for the first time and are affected by it, but because of what they have learnt, it seems absolute foolishness and even a disgrace. But it touches their hearts and starts a process. It seems that few people here come to faith immediately after first hearing the good news. This means that our work requires a lot of patience, but the opportunities to share our faith are abundant and we can see the awe in people's faces as they hear about God’s sacrificial love for the first time. I know these seeds are worth sowing - as many as we can - even though they may take a while to sprout." Julie