WELCOME TO MY STUDIO by Temitope
“I feel like art existed before almost anything else in the world, whether we realised it or not. Art is so incomprehensibly vast that my human nature always wants to contain it, which makes art-making strenuous. Art is the last thing that should be put in a box.”
ACHIEVEMENT ADDICTION by Kylie Beach
“It’s like every day you’re on trial to demonstrate your worth. And you can start to think that you are nothing if you can’t.”
ART AS A RED SEA ROAD by Cass Langton
“I’d done my fair share of crying out to God, of feeling helpless, and now I felt something else: a sense that we were standing on one side of the red sea and that God would have us move on into our future.”
A YEAR IN THE WAITING by Alexia Demetriades
“One of the greatest things the pandemic taught me is that in order to get the things I need, I have to be willing to sacrifice the things I want. I’ve learned that sometimes I have to die to my wants in order to give way to the things I really need.”
ART MAKES A WAY by Rachel Mthembu
“With her words, Sarah Lee spoke into being the creative potential deposited in her son. Through sheer willpower and dogged determination, she had her son Ping Lian Yeak repeat this one phrase: “I want to be artist.” 2
EVOLUTION OF AN ARTIST by Rachel Hogan
“Authenticity will always have someone’s ear. Authenticity will always win someone’s heart. Jesus was authentic. So, I believe that even in our art and through out creativity, on whatever platform we have, authenticity is really the only way to go”
THE CREATIVE PROCESS OF PERSONAL TRANSFORMATION by RIch Langton
“As we transform into the likeness of Christ, I believe there will truly be more to you than meets the eye!”
LETTER TO WORSHIPPERS by Brooke Ligertwood
“As those created to worship, we are invited...”
SONGS & STORYTELLING
BEAUTY, FAITH & A HEART FOR JUSTICE
42 48 51 62 72 76 80 94 100 103 106 109
BEHIINID THE SCENES: AN INSIDE LOOK AT WCC’S ARROWS FILM A BALINESE PERSPECTIVE
POETRY BY JANINA VICTORIA
MIS PHOTO JOURNAL
PASTOR OF THE MUSIC STUDIO
YOUTH & WISDOM
VAPOURS OF HOPE
TRANSFERRING THE REAL WORLD TO THE SCREEN RELEASING CREATIVITY
A CALL HOME
BEHIND THE SCENES
ALTARS OF REMEMBRANCE
#artists artistsstilllivehere 3
WELCOME And just like that, here we are…Issue 4 is in your hands! Welcome to our Hillsong Worship & Creative Conference Edition. Our hope is that the stories told within these pages stir up and inspire something within your own creative journey. As this issue came together we explored themes of Red Sea Roads [p 6] and told stories of art that makes a way; held interviews about losing and gaining it all; heard stories of stepping out in our craft; we’ve been challenged by our addiction to achieve and learned from the creative process of personal transformation. We’ve talked of songwriting and storytelling and received a very special Letter to Worshippers. So, when it came time to design the cover art, and our live Artists Still Live Here WCC Session, a blend of the ancient and the new seemed to fit so perfectly with the stories we were telling. As designer Yoseph Setiawan began bringing the cover concept to life I was reminded of a YouTube video I watched a while ago from The School of Life: HISTORY OF IDEAS on The Renaissance. The narrator makes this statement: “It’s arguable that every age has roughly similar amounts of latent talent among its artists. What makes certain ages extraordinary…is that they know what to do with the talent.... They give artists a mission. They have a clear sense of what art is for, and they therefore reward and invest in artists properly.... What distinguishes the Renaissance is not therefore a freakish preponderance of artistic skill. It’s an intensely clear vision of what art should be for.” Art transcends time, when the Collective is given a clear mission and purpose! It’s this thought that has been stirring within me as we’ve done final edits, drafts and revisions of this issue. As a generation of believers, heading towards the other side of a global pandemic, the potential held within these pages is extraordinary. The beauty of the unique and individual artist and artists collectively, choosing to remain, to still live here, and to create with a mission aligned to Christ, could be quite remarkable. Don’t you think? Much love, Kristin Mateika Creative Director / Editor
art as a
RED SEA ROAD Words: Cassandra Langton
The Exodus has always been one of my favourite stories in the Bible - especially the part where the Israelites have made their way to the edge of the Red Sea and find themselves confronted by a sea of water and the armies of Egypt coming behind them. I love it because God had just orchestrated for them to stage the biggest heist in history – plundering Egypt’s gold before they fled. So there they are, on the run, stuck at the edge of the Red Sea with all of Egypt’s riches. They are meant to go and worship God in the dessert. But here they are, fearing for their lives at the sight of the Red Sea and the knowledge of Egypt’s armies close behind them. So, they start complaining to Moses.
wait for Him. But, if I’m honest, on some days it really frustrates me.
He replies in Exodus 14:13-14, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
God is clear: Stop crying out and move ON.
As I read those verses again, I saw something I had never noticed before. Right after Moses tells the people to be still, the very next verse says, “why are you crying out to me...move forward.” I was taken aback. Surely it was a good thing to be still and let God fight — to choose to cry out to Him when we find ourselves under threat? But God is telling them to stop crying out and walk forward. Move on and walk right into the thing in front of them – a sea capable of drowning them.
We were sitting at dinner one night with some new friends and some great Italian food. It was somewhere in 2020; the year of heartache for the world. People were dying in record numbers, and we felt the weight on our shoulders. We had dear friends whose businesses were collapsing. We sat alongside our team who were grieved at the way injustices were playing out and at the division in the
I don’t know about you but I often think about that verse and how we fight with stillness and waiting. I love it. On a good day, it encourages me to compose myself — to be more patient, to trust God and to 7
church. We had friends who admitted to themselves things they had not dared face before.
Kris Mateika and I sat in a café and dreamed about a magazine telling stories of artisans commissioned for kingdom purpose (and, if you are reading this now, then in your hands you have the 4th edition of that magazine). Ben Fielding and I had been having conversations about writing what we, as a community, wanted to become. Using lyric and melody to call the church higher — to let art, beauty, songs and creativity reignite our imaginations for what a redeemed world and a healthy church could look like. One where every tribe, tongue and nationality was healed and whole and crying out “Holy! Holy! Holy!” Where we saw outside of ourselves, repented of our sin, and saw the lost come home. Where we became more loving, more kind, more Christlike and where God was glorified. Maybe God was pushing us out of our depths and out of captivity toward a better future. And out loud I said: we need to let our art be a RED SEA ROAD.
We listened to pastor friends whose congregations were under pressure, people who were forced to fold on home loans, and people who battled with mental health issues that nearly sunk them. There were people experiencing cancer amidst COVID-19, and we prayed with creative pastors who were burying their teammates, and stood with people who had significant health challenges. It felt like wave after wave after wave crashing down around us. As we continued talking, the pizza came, then the black pepper pasta, and then the coffee. They spoke of marriage and degrees, of the kindness of God, and of the challenges of diversity in the church and bringing vastly different cultures together in the kingdom. We spoke of ways that we can champion our differences, and be peacemakers representing the kingdom of God in a way that is radically different to anything we could ever imagine.
Imagine using what God has put in our hand to pave a way through the stormy waters of life. Imagine creativity that evokes beauty, reignites hope, reimagines community, and reinvigorates Christianity. Imagine worship that lifts eyes heavenward and reminds them that the unseen realm is more real than the seen and that God is always present, always at work, and always has a plan. Imagine a community of creatives on a mission, not complaining or grumbling on the edge of the unknown, but prophetic in stature, determined in their discipline, motivated in their craft and excellent in their execution.
As we left dinner that night the story of the Exodus came back to me. And it wasn’t the ‘be still’ part, that stood out, but the following declaration. “Why are you crying out to me? Move on.” I’d done my fair share of crying out to God, of feeling helpless, and now I felt something else: a sense that we were standing on one side of the Red Sea and that God wanted us to move on into our future. I had the sense that life in 2020 wasn’t the promised land. There was a Red Sea to cross and a new place to go if we were going to become what God had called us to be.
Unbeknownst to me, a creative ministry in China brought some of their team to our 2018 Worship I had been having conversations with some of and Creative Conference. During that conference our online church team about how we were in an we invited delegates to join our 100 Day Creative incredible position to do extraordinary things. Our Challenge, where we intentionally set aside 100 days filmmakers kept telling me we needed to use our to focus on creativity and see what God does. Each creativity to tell the important stories in our world. year new and exciting things are birthed out of Sloan Simpson, our Brisbane Central Creative this challenge: albums recorded, film festivals won, Pastor, wrote a song we started using in church, creative degrees obtained, new instruments learned, and I saw a future for Queensland worship. I kept and new businesses launched, including my friend getting reports of our songs finding their way into Paul Cox who launched a business modernising hospital wards where healthcare professionals were online church websites. (You can read more about exhausted from the constant fight against COVID-19. him on page 106.) I saw a community, birthed around tables in heart-felt conversation, arising from our creative My friend Renee turned up at my office and told team that was more authentic, real, and transparent me about a girl from that Chinese community than we ever had before. who, inspired by the challenge, began to paint 8
praiseworthy — think about such things.” Friends, meditate on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, and gracious — the best things, not the worst — the beautiful, not the ugly — things to praise, not to curse. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into His most excellent harmonies.
Bible stories that would later be hung in a gallery in downtown, Shanghai. In a place where it is illegal to share the gospel, she shared her artwork, and the beauty of Heaven echoed into people’s hearts. If I have the story right, many visitors were weeping at the unfamiliar stories but unsure as to why they were weeping. NT wright says in his book, Surprised by Hope, “Beauty matters, dare I say, almost as much as spirituality and justice” because it points to the longing and ache that beauty creates within, thrusting us towards God. She made her art a Red Sea Road and in doing so, opened up a new road — a way for people to encounter God.
MOVE ON The future is forward. C.S. Lewis said, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind,” and I think he was right. We are all journeying toward an eternal destination — something beautiful and grand — something that is full of hope. Each day leads us closer to a better reality. However, in the meantime, I want to encourage you to not dwell in the past, but instead commit to continuing on in God, in friendships, in creativity and in believing for what is to come.
One of these paintings found its way onto my desk — given to me as a gift. And the Bible story was The Exodus. Specifically, the Red Sea parting miraculously, making a way for the Israelites to walk safely across to the other side. The Red Sea Road. So, what could it be that we are meant to take away from this story?
DON’T MARK TIME We don’t get to press pause on time. Time is passing even when life throws us curve balls. Don’t waste the season you’re in. God is still doing something. You aren’t stuck. You aren’t a hostage. You are becoming. And that means this season can be life-transforming if you let it. Set some goals, choose to reimagine, and create different expectations when you find yourself between Egypt and the Promised Land.
MAKE MEMORIES Painting from artist, Sunday, who was inspired by the 100 Day Creative Challenge
Van Gogh said, “...I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.”
You are the Artisans and the Worshippers. So, what will we make of this season? How are we loving people well? What will we create and become? What will history tell? Pressure allows coal to become diamonds. Grit and sand produce pearls. What has 2020 and 2021 produced in you?
I think it’s human nature to grumble and complain, to get anxious and to not watch what is coming out of our mouths. Over the last year I have heard more complaining than I ever thought possible (myself included), on the news, on Instagram, in the church, and at school.
God has made a way. What are you going to make of it?
Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or
* Read more about the Underground Church on page 100
Storytelling ALEXANDER PAPPAS IN AN INTERVIEW WITH ELI ESCOTO
Eli: We’ve known each other for over a decade now, been touring buddies throughout the years, and hotel ‘roomies’ for a good part of a decade... we haven’t been out on a tour for about two years now. So, I just want to make sure you still know the unspoken protocols. When you walk into a hotel room that we’re sharing, who takes the far bed closest to the window?
Eli: What originally brought you to Australia? Alex: Like many of us, I originally came for the internationally renowned Hillsong International Leadership College, with plans to be here for one year. Actually, I planned on six months. In fact, I told my ska band called ‘Tiger! Uppercut!’ at the time if we’re all serious about the band, I’ll come back in six months, and we’ll all move to Seattle, the birthplace of ska.
Alex: Well, I like to think of you as my protector, so you always need to be closer to the door.
Eli: Did you play bass for the band back then?
Eli: Flattering, and correct. What’s the first thing one should do when entering into a new hotel room?
Alex: No, I wish. I just played old guitar and vocals. It turned out that the guys weren’t that serious about the band, which led me to staying and finishing first year (of college). And then I said I would stay for one more. Been saying that for 13 years now.
Alex: Call downstairs to get the WIFI password, but also you must drop the AC to the lowest possible cool setting. We’ve gotta know if they have a gym, and then go checkout the gym on the way to the nearest Taco Bell.
Eli: So, you were in a ska band before coming to Australia. Is this where your affinity for music starts in your life?
Eli: Yes, exactly right. We’ve had our fair share of international Taco Bells put to the test. We could write someone a list of where it’s worth getting and where it’s not worth getting. Unfortunately, the ‘worth getting’ list isn’t very long.
Alex: Absolutely. I think every 15-year-old with a guitar wants to start a band. I was like any other kid at school, I can’t tell you how many times I said, “Dude, we should jam some time.”
Alex: It’s not Canada!
I also played guitar for my youth group at church. I feel like I got saved to Hillsong United songs and encountered God for the first time to that music. The next week, after I had publicly made that decision, I was asked if I could join the youth worship team where we played ‘What The World Will Never Take’ and ‘One Way’, and the United We Stand album from top to bottom, until the cows came home.
Eli: It’s not Guatemala! All right, well, you are much loved in our world, especially in the City Campus, but you didn’t grow up in Australia. Give us a little bit of background to your story. Alex: I have lived in Sydney now longer than I’ve lived anywhere else, by a healthy number. I did ten years in Southern California. Ten years in Idaho (Coeur d’Alene), and when it hit ten in Sydney I thought jokingly, ‘Well, cool. This is when God typically wants me to leave.’ But no, I’ve happily lived in the great place of Sydney now 13 years.
Eli: So good. I remember the early ‘Pap in Australia’ days. People knew you as the bassist. In fact, the singing bassist.
Alex: Yeah, back when I arrived at College, I was primarily a vocalist because I wasn’t going to stick around, and I had a little bit of an ego — which is the understatement of the year. I owned a bass but started out playing like absolute trash. So, made the decision to practice my butt off for two years, at least two hours a day, which is a lot for a normal musician. And at the end of it I guess I became semi-decent. Behind the scenes of A Beautiful Life music video. Watch the full video on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmJbfiGzpv4
Eli: When did you know that you’d be doing a solo project? Alex: Yeah, so I think you were actually there on the Outcry Tour in 2016 along with Martin Smith and other worship music artists. There was a specific prayer meeting where Martin was leading and he says to everybody, ‘Turn to the person next to you, and tell them what your dream is that you’re not doing right now.’ In that moment back in 2016, I felt like that dream to write songs was reborn. I had this quick dialogue with God and thought, ‘Cool. I’ll do it, but I won’t do anything Christian because I’m already doing that with church and I don’t want this to get in the way.’ I immediately felt the voice of God say, ‘Oh, because that’s how I designed light? That light could get in the way of light.’ And I was like, ‘Okay, ouch.’
Suddenly, it was like God connected the dots of what I feel like I had been doing all along, and it threw me for a spin when I realised these songs just need to be stories..
So, yeah from there on I think the dream was to write Christian music that covers ground that is potentially uncovered at the moment. Songs that would be relatable to people that are on the journey and their path has maybe drifted them far away from God and [they] feel stuck — feel they are no longer good enough. Essentially, that it would be songs that help you demystify what it means to be a ‘true Believer’. And to show that we all mess up, show that we all make mistakes, and ultimately, the music would be a beacon to point people back towards the house of God, to worship songs, and to the presence of God. Eli: Was this a new thing to emerge — demystifying what it means to be a true Believer, to be a beacon of light to people who have lost their way on the path? Alex: My strength I feel, is storytelling. Suddenly, it was like God connected the dots of what I feel like I had been doing all along, and it threw me for a spin when I realised these songs just need to be stories. I’ve lived them now. So, you know there’s a song on the EP called 12
‘Idaho’, and it’s just my salvation story, but I hope the listener finds that it’s their salvation story as well.
Images of behind the scenes of K.O. music video .
Eli: What was it, do you think, that set that prayer meeting apart from all of the others that brought about the voice of God to reawaken a dormant dream? Alex: I think it’s the grace of God. This moment started conversations for the next four years of the possibility of me doing a solo project. I knew I had to do it right. I wanted to honour the house and church that has given me so much. When I look back, it feels fast, and in reality, there has been some serious lows along the way — some serious disappointment — but ultimately that’s framed the ability to write songs like ‘K.O.’ When I thought I had nothing left to give, I was ready to give up on the dream, and then I wrote that song and thought, ‘Oh, wow! I found it. I found like the thing, and I found my confidence again.’ I hope the songs would do the same for other people. Eli: Has there been a clear ‘Red Sea’ moment for you, where the waters just parted? Alex: I consider this a project I’ve been building up to for my whole life. Because like I said: I look back at the times where I was just telling stories as a songwriter, and the years of solely focusing on writing songs of worship, to God birthing that dream again, and feeling like I’m ready and wanting to act, but experiencing moments of disappointment. It was like God was holding me back. I was just waiting. Ready to go, but just waiting. I just looked at it like, God didn’t part the ‘Red Sea’ until the time was right. The ‘Red Sea’ opened right when it was meant to. Eli: Okay now that your EP is out, what’s the next step? Alex: I pray that as long as the Lord lets me, I can be creating art along the vision that I’ve said. And I’m mindful that is going to evolve, and it might look brighter on one side and darker on the other — like the light and shade of what it all means. But I’m excited to just continue to create art that is reflective of my story — that is honest and true, and by the grace of God, relates to other people. Check out K.O. music video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCx5w7B4-GU
a heart for
Justice WORDS: JOSEFIN CUMMINGS/JANAE JANIK
When Josefin was nine years old, she received a silver ring from her parents that captivated her imagination for beauty, and specifically, jewellery making. That small gift started her on a journey to obtain her Master’s certificate, which is the highest proof of professionalism in the goldsmith industry. Today, Cummings runs her own brand and has exclusive rights from the State Testing Institute to stamp the letters “JC” into her jewels. She lives in Stockholm, Sweden with her husband and three kids. In this interview with our team, she reflected on what she’s learned about beauty, faith and her heart for justice.
Q: How do you see your faith intersecting with your craft?
Q: When you first walked into a jeweller you said, ‘When I grow up, I will become a jeweller because I love beautiful things.’ What does beauty mean to you?
A: The things we create and who we are can be a mirror and a reflector of his love, hope, grace, power, beauty and magnitude! When it comes to reflecting light, the best reflectors on earth are DIAMONDS! Nothing else can reflect light so optimally. The light shines right through and the diamond refracts it, and spreads it 360 degrees around itself. Nothing else can spread light from above better, except for you! We’re all created to reflect the light from above.
A: Beauty is huge and spectacular! Beauty can be found in so many different shapes! A beautiful person, or a personality, in a place, in nature, in something created, a beautiful song or a beautiful soul. Beauty is ‘in the eyes of the viewer’ as the saying goes. For me, beauty is something in harmony. Beauty inspires me. Mostly nature, like a beautiful sunset, a giant mountain, or the tiny unique and delicate details on a spring flower. 15
“To realise that your passion, gift and what you create can be a blessing for someone else, is a great joy!”
Goldchild is a project in which Cummings donates profit from her jewellery collections to organisations working with vulnerable children. It was born from the belief that every child holds immense worth, like a mound of precious gold. She designed a collection for Compassion International’s Child Survival Program supporting newborn babies and their mothers in poverty. Q: You have attached beauty to justice through your Goldchild project. When did you start this? A: I have always had a heart for children and people. I grew up in a family where my parents had incredible love for people in need, so I saw the big difference you can do in someone’s life. One day, me and my husband were sitting in our car listening to a radio program about children in trafficking, and it really broke our hearts. That was the start of Goldchild. I felt I needed to do something, even if my part is small. Even if my part is to do business as good as I can, and then be able to support organisations who work with children in need.
Image: Mike Eriksson
Q: What brings you the most joy in your work? A: I think it’s in the mix of everything I do. To meet gorgeous people brings me joy! And to create things in the most incredible material, like gold, and gems and extraordinary diamonds! And to realise that your passion, gift and what you create can be a blessing for someone else is a great joy! One thing I have on my heart is to encourage people to go for their dream! Go for what’s on your heart! You are created [as] unique on the inside as you are on the outside — as unique as your fingerprints are... [so too] are your own mix of gifts and talents on the inside. So, be brave and do your best with what you have! Try not to compare yourself with others. Be you. You are strong in His love and His power. You don’t have to be strong on your own. Trust Him. He will lead you. Trust Him [with] trading our ashes for greater beauty!
To hear more from Josafin watch As An Arrow Documentary from the Welcome Home To Sweden session at wcc.hillsong.com
Image: Josefin Cummings
Los Angeles USA
EVOLUTION of AN ARTIST FINDING ANSWERS IN SEASONS OF SILENCE
Words: Rachel Hogan Natalie Manuel Lee is a dynamic creative: a stylist, television host and journalist. We first met in 2018 when I was content producing on the Hillsong Channel docuseries Now with Natalie. She’s always stylish, quick-witted and curious, even when she’s just gotten off a 17-hour flight. Coming straight from the airport, her hair was flawlessly slicked back, and standing at just above five feet, she still manages to absolutely rock a floor-length overcoat. Nat surveyed her new colleagues and environment, ready with genuine compliments and insightful questions. As we laboured over scripts, she’d study my blank face and conclude, “You hate it”. “No, not at all!” I’d respond, puzzled. We quickly realised that things can get lost in translation when you mix chilled and artsy Aussies with vivacious and vocal Americans. One of the things I appreciate about Natalie, is that no matter who you are, she seeks to honestly understand you and to be understood by you. That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship and working partnership. We recently caught up on video call....
Natalie and Jerry Lorenzo (brother and founder) at a Fear of God shoot .
Natalie and Rachel Hogan on location shooting NWN Season 2, specifically the Interview with Kristin & Danny Adams in LA 2019
Rachel: I don’t know if you remember, when we’d just done our first interview shoot for season two of Now with Natalie, you started sharing with us about when you first came to LA....
were preparing me for what God had for me. I love sharing that because looking back on it, I don’t think I would have thought this could have been my life today.
Natalie: Oh, that was a rough season, and I think it’s important to highlight the word season. Because when I was in that space of moving to LA, I felt like it was going to be that way for the rest of my life. I lived with a friend, on her couch, in a studio apartment. I was working odd jobs and hosting at a restaurant. I had such a sense of urgency to move to LA, but I didn’t know why. I remember not having much from a financial standpoint and even just a physical standpoint. I had a car and that’s about it. Granted, I had family that lived here and I come from a family that is financially stable, but I was not stable.
Rachel: You come from a family of very creative, successful people who’ve each carved out their purpose. How did you find your creative space and your purpose over that season?
I remember the Holy Spirit uttered to me, ‘this is a season where you’re going to lean on your heavenly Father, not your earthly father.’ As much as that season was so hard, I was formed and shaped. As much as it felt like it was never ending, my life had just begun from the relationship that I built with God because I had no other choice. It’s not like all my dreams came true in the first two years in LA, it was the complete opposite, but those years
Natalie: I always say that I found my creativity, purpose, and gift from obedience. I essentially didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew I loved fashion and culture and I obviously have a heart for Christ. I was doing these odd jobs and I was styling different video shoots with my brother (Jerry Lorenzo) who’s now the founder of Fear of God [American Luxury Streetwear label]. I moved to LA and was hustling these odd end jobs thinking that I’m doing it for provision, but God had a bigger plan to expose my gift to me. It just kind of unveiled and it’s still unfolding. Rachel: In that season where your brother Jerry formed Fear of God and you became a key part of that team — how did that feel? A question I’ve heard
L to R: Hillsong Film Crew,, Natalie & Jerry. On location shooting NWN Season 1, specifically the Jerry Lorenzo interview at Fear Of God in LA. 2017
coffee, setting up his office, being one of the key stylists that he has on those shoot days, doing the fittings, looking at all the things that he’s ideating, just being in the background and giving my two cents when he asked. It wasn’t necessarily me always giving my two cents. Don’t think you’re too big for any task, because you will learn the things you need to learn, even if it’s going to get coffee or whatever, there’s still a lesson in all of that.
you ask people is, ‘Did you feel like you made it?’ Natalie: No, I just knew I had to do it. I didn’t feel like I had made it at all. But you have to remember Fear of God was not ‘Fear of God’. When he asked me, it was in his back house, just him and I — he’s ideating ideas to me. I knew I had to help my brother carry his cross. We were piling clothes in the back of his car, going into different shoots, knowing that there was a bigger purpose beyond what was happening in that moment. So no, didn’t feel like I ‘made it’, but I felt like I was in my purpose because, once again, it was an act of obedience.
Rachel: So, you came to a point where you felt like God was leading you away from that, but not necessarily into anything specific. That probably sounds like a crazy leap to anyone on the outside.
I had no idea that it was gonna be what it is today, but that’s a testimony to my brother, his conviction, his hard work and his dedication. I had to humble myself and serve my brother and do whatever he needed me to do. That’s what it was. Rachel: That’s relevant for a lot of creatives — partnering with people you love and serving someone else’s vision can be complicated. What kind of things were you doing for Fear of God?
Natalie: That was challenging because I didn’t have the next step in place, but I felt God saying, ‘It’s time to transition out.’ I’m like, ‘Well wait, I still want to be a part of it — I still want to be able to style shoots’.... When you are in something seven days a week, from 7:00 a.m. to midnight, it is a part of you. It felt like a death. In that death something new was being born, but it’s very hard to see that when you’re in it. It’s like, ‘What else could there be?’
Natalie: I mean, pretty much everything from his scheduling, to styling shoots with him, getting his
That was the genesis of Now with Natalie. I knew that I had this gift of cross-referencing culture and 21
faith. I knew that I had this gift of cross-referencing entertainers, their purpose and their trials. Growing up with my dad being a professional athlete, we were already thrust into the industry when I was born. So, for me this is all I knew.
Rachel: Coming into Now with Natalie, you’d come from the styling space where you were often behind the scenes and with someone else’s brand, to then your name and your face being out there. What was that like?
Myles Munroe has this beautiful quote that to find your purpose, you find a problem and become the solution. The problem was, we don’t have enough entertainers really speaking about their truth.
Natalie: Humbling, because I was so used to serving, and so having other people serve me felt awkward. But then I also had to do some inner healing and be introspective as to why that was uncomfortable for me. That was something that I had to work through — understanding, ‘Hey, you are worthy of this, and God wouldn’t have given it to you if you weren’t.’ That was a great season of my life because I didn’t know that I didn’t feel worthy, until I didn’t.
In that in-between stage of me feeling really depressed with letting the old die and the new enter, I had an identity crisis. I was like, ‘Who am I? What am I supposed to do with my life?’ And then I realized, ‘Wait Authenticity will always have a minute. This is stuff that we someone’s ear. Authenticity all deal with.’ As a generation, will always win someone’s our identity is built on putting our value in our work, our job heart. Jesus was authentic. title, the money we have, the So, I believe that even in our cars we drive and we need to art and through our creativity, highlight this.
Rachel: Have you ever struggled to separate the public Now with Natalie persona and the private person, Natalie Manuel Lee? Do you think they should be separate?
on whatever platform we have, authenticity is really the only way to go. Natalie: Yes and no. I realized
So, that is where Now with Natalie was birthed, but there was a big gap. I would still go back to style and stuff here and there, but it wasn’t my everyday thing and God used that lonely period to prepare me for what was next.
Rachel: It does seem like suffering fuels purposeful and profound art. Do you think it’s necessary to suffer? Natalie: I do. But it’s hard to swallow that pill because no one wants to suffer. Thank God we have hope and that perspective to hold on to, so that we can embrace the suffering. I do believe that great art can be produced from hardships, but that’s pretty much for anybody right? Our product is only as good as our journey. Lessons really only come from difficulties. We’re not learning a lesson if we’re jolly, we’re learning a lesson because it’s a hardship that’s producing something we didn’t know we needed to produce. In 2017, mutual friends introduced Natalie to Hillsong Channel’s Director of Programming, Ben Field. A partnership was sparked and ‘Now with Natalie’ began to take formation.
there are certain things that shouldn’t come out in the public that maybe I’m working through internally...but then I always vocalise it whenever I feel led because I believe the greatest way to serve is to tell your story. So to answer your question, maybe I do and maybe I don’t, because Now with Natalie is a platform for people to speak their truth. And so, if I’m asking people to speak their truth, I need to be able to do the same. What you see is what you get, but of course there’s a fine line of your private life going out to the public. Rachel: I think vulnerability, like suffering, is something that does fuel art. But there is a line sometimes. Natalie: Authenticity will always have someone’s ear. Authenticity will always win someone’s heart. Jesus was authentic. So, I believe that even in our art and through our creativity, on whatever platform we have, authenticity is really the only way to go. I got a lot of work to do, but I think the beauty is in sharing our struggles and our lessons through our creativity and art. We will always be in purpose and we will always have something to contribute when we contribute our story.
Rachel: Your story has taken a different turn now. Obviously, there’s been a pandemic. You had a beautiful baby girl, MaeJones. You’re doing interviews and finding your feet in a new space. How’s it been?
postpartum.’ I just put my head down and started crying, I was like, ‘I knew it.’ And so from there, I got help. I am so for getting help with therapists or whatever you need. I am a firm believer that we need prayer and faith, but God has also equipped people to help us through seasons.
Natalie and husband, Brian Lee, with their daughter MaeJones
Rachel: Would you say your identity and your purpose are fluid, evolving? You’ve worn different hats: stylist, mum, journalist...is that hard, having that shift? Natalie: It can be because it’s not stable, but I also know what my desires are. My evolution as a mom is just beginning. My evolution as a journalist/ conversationalist is just beginning. I’ve done work outside of Now with Natalie, but I probably wouldn’t have gone after those different things until I did Now with Natalie. So for me, it’s evolving in those specific areas, as opposed to pushing them aside. It’s building who I am and growing in those areas as opposed to saying, ‘Oh, there’s too many hats.’ I think your purpose is not in just one lane. If God’s given you gifts, there’s a reason and there’s a reason why He’s placed you wherever you are. So if anything, it makes me feel more purposeful. Rachel: We’ve explored a lot of the struggle. But in your journey, your show, your styling and your art in general, what has been the greatest joy?
Natalie: The first couple months were rough. I went through postpartum depression and I still have waves of it now. But once again, it goes back to your identity being rocked. Before, the only responsibility I had was to be a wife to Brian and whatever work obligations I had. But now it’s a whole human being that is reliant on you and your body. All my certainty has now become uncertain. She’s about to be nine months next week so we’re finally getting in the groove of things, but once you get in the groove there’s always something new. You’re always on your toes, and we were always on our toes before, Brian and I — because we are creatives and entrepreneurs, but it’s just different. That’s just keeping it 100 with you. It was really rough in the beginning. I thought, ‘I’m just tired so this is the norm, you’re just a tired mom,’ but with that was accompanied heaviness. I thought that weight was just what came with it, but I was battling with postpartum. My doctor diagnosed it. She looked so intensely in my eyes and was like, ‘Are you talking to somebody? You’re suffering with 24
Natalie: Obviously MaeJones and my husband Brian, but also seeing the effects that authenticity and transparency have on people. You can second guess wanting to put your art out or be vulnerable, but to see it pierce somebody’s heart the way it was intended to...it’s a different level. It’s like, ‘Thank you, God, for giving me the courage to put that out there.’ Someone saying, ‘I needed this, you have no idea,’ — that shows how far your story, your art, your honesty and your transparency can go. So for me, aside from my family, what gives me the greatest joy is understanding that my work has impacted somebody because of my act of obedience.
WELCOME TO MY STUDIO Take a peak into the studios of an upcoming wave of young artists and see a glimpse of what God is showing them through their unique processes of creativity. From Sydney to Perth to London and the rest of the world over, art is thriving through people willing to continue using their gifts and create for a bigger purpose.
Painting: Kurt Robertson
Never in my life did I think I would become a professional artist. I’ve always loved art and creative expression, but never saw it as my life’s focus. When I finished school, I actually started studying zoology and worked at Taronga Zoo and then Western Plains Zoo. But creativity kept pulling me back. I just felt like I was missing something. So, I switched focus and pivoted to an Interior Architectural degree. I worked in the industry here and there, but it never grew into a career. In 2017, I was helping a friend who asked me if I would paint some flowers for a house he was building. So, I painted some peonies, not because I’m an avid gardener, but because I thought they expressed the beauty, peace, generosity, and compassion of God. Little did I know that five years later I would become a full-time artist. I started by just giving it a go and putting paint on the canvas, but as I continued, I found that there were moments I would get really frustrated with certain sections that were more technical in nature. After a while, I started playing Christian music and worshipping through those moments. Suddenly, God’s peace would envelope me and the art would just flow out of me. I started to say, ‘Ok, God, use me. Use this for Your purpose.’ When ‘lockdown 2020’ hit, I lost my job. I felt like I was drifting, and I just needed something to do, so I randomly filmed myself painting and posted it to TikTok. It was literally the worst video ever. It was so awkward and badly filmed. But one year and over fifty-thousand followers later — I can honestly say I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s all God. The videos are simply me painting and talking about the process. Sometimes I mention a Bible verse or drop in a statement about going to Church. I’m not doing anything amazing. I’m just talking about art. But my intention is to show God, not to preach — just to paint. The response has been overwhelming. I have received messages from strangers all over the world to thank me and say they specifically look for my posts. When they see them, they tell me their anxiety disappears, depression lifts and joy, peace, and happiness take their place. I tried to figure out what exactly was reflecting God to people, and I realised that people are feeling God’s peace and comfort because I worship as I paint. I’m not saying it’s about me worshipping. I’m saying it’s the fact that there is worship present and it’s aimed like an arrow toward the one, true God. When I create, I want Him to be fully involved in my artwork, guiding my hand so that His Kingdom is built through the art as well. Knowing that my art is translating God to people is overwhelming and it pushes me to keep putting God at the centre.
Kurt ROBERTSON 29
Written with: Greta Elizabeth
Written with: Amma Aburam Photography: Phil Baro Thomas
My art has become more authentic. I say this because the past two years have been spent mostly at home, resulting in art that’s closer to my core — not intentionally, but consequently. I’ve recently realised there are two versions of myself: my ‘home self ’ and the refined sub-set of that, the ‘people self ’ — the version that other people see and engage with. I like to think these versions aren’t too different, but they do affect my art-making in different ways. Being cooped-up at home has led to the subconscious neglect of my ‘people self ’, meaning the work produced by my “home self ” was less refined and more authentic. In forgetting how I’d usually present myself to the world, my intentions and outcomes remained strongly aligned. I was less concerned about opinions and less self-conscious, because I didn’t remember what to be self-conscious about. My art has also become more spontaneous and unpredictable. I’ve been enlightened to new ways of working which have kept things explorable. Although I study art and am obliged to produce it, art-making has somehow still remained a hobby. That said, I’m not always motivated. I have come to realise, though, that my demotivation is connected to my expectations, and the occasional sense of inadequacy I feel in working to meet those expectations. I try to snap out of this by remembering, even though in that moment I may not have ‘good’ ideas (or any), I don’t need ideas to make art. I might not be in the mood to pull out a canvas to work on, but art isn’t restricted to the canvas. Also, I never consciously made art when I was younger. I never strained or struggled. I didn’t think, I just acted. These days I try to go back to that way of thinking. What results from this is a lot of new works, in new styles, that I get to analyse, interpret and learn from. I may not understand what I’ve made, but now I’ve got something new to work with. I get to be playful again, re-connecting to how things started for me. Consequently, demotivation lifts, curiosity begets ease, and joy is re-invited to the process. I feel like art existed before almost anything else in the world, whether we realised it or not. Art is so incomprehensibly vast that my human nature always wants to contain it, which makes artmaking strenuous. Art is the last thing that should be put in a box. I think I get ‘stuck’ when I try and force creativity into those walls, which should never have existed in the first place. I know these things now, but have to keep reminding myself of them to keep going. Long story short, my art has changed though the subconscious abandonment of external concerns and self-imposed limitations. I didn’t know this was what I needed, but I’m grateful for it.
Painting with my Feet Acrylic on MDF | 2021
Water Rising in a Bucket Acrylic on Canvas | 2021
Eighteen months ago, I found myself in a place deeply impacted by the loss of a significant person in my life. The grief felt heavy, and every day was an uphill climb dealing with the disappointment of hope and dreams lost. I felt stuck, weighed down, and my sense of purpose wandering. Almost a week later, I awoke one morning with a sudden urgency to get things ‘out on paper’ and channel exactly what I was feeling into images to paint. It’s those moments you realise the power of daily dialogue with the Lord. When you recognise certain promptings that are Holy Spirit inspired, you learn to pull on the thread. I called a photographer friend and she met with me to shoot content for what was to become my next series of artworks. My heart was grieving and the only way I knew how to combat the torrent of emotions was to fight with creativity. Little did I know that just a few days later, COVID-19 would enter our worlds. These images became the catalyst for a body of work which has been able to speak so much further than just my loss and regained hope. They echo the collective grief shared by our human experiences across the globe. People’s stories are what inspire and pique my curiosity in the painting process. Whether I’m painting a stranger or a friend, I find it both challenging and rewarding capturing a likeness which evokes feelings that create a particular narrative. I have a strong drive towards excellence in my personality, and this naturally comes out in the art style I work in called Realism. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been compelled to draw and paint faces. I feel like storytelling through portraiture and figures is the best way I can articulate what I want to share with those viewing my work. But in this season, there has been a noticeable shift in the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ behind my art. In this season, painting has become a tangible way of moving through life’s unforeseen circumstances. I tried to curate these paintings in a way that would beckon an emotive response from those viewing the work. The composition in each artwork intended to capture facial and full-body expressions that would make others feel seen in their pain and would speak to the beauty, relief and hope that could still be found. I know painting — now more than ever — to be a tool for healing. It allowed me to sit and hold compassion towards my pain. It is a sacred space where God meets me in my need and reveals himself as the Great Comforter as the brush sways in my hand. Suddenly, the subject matter of my work shifted from painting others to painting myself — the canvas attempting to reveal holy moments, not just from my current season, but what I was aspiring to become: free, surrendered and hope-filled again.
Reflections | 2021
Unfold | 2020
A Year In The Waiting An Interview with Posi Morakinyo
Words: Alexia Demetriades Images: Fitria Adiyanti 39
attain. Considering that each day he rubs shoulders with some of the industry’s greatest talents, it’s a quality that certainly compliments his job.
wait | weIt |
“For me, everything comes down to relationship. Working with these industry giants is incredible but our interactions can’t be forced. We don’t need to force conversation and we don’t have to be friends, but I’ll always put myself in a position where these things can happen organically. When you’re working with people who are experts in the field, I think it’s also really important to be open to their opinions. I’m always asking them to tweak my performance and give me feedback. By opening myself and my performance up to their thoughts, I’m showing them I want to hear what they have to say and people really warm to that.”
verb [no object] To remain in readiness for a purpose. Most of us would confess that when it comes to the things of life that bring us the most joy, the act of waiting finds itself far, far down on a long, long list. In a world where life seems to happen at the speed of light and at the tip of our fingers, we have become a restless people; always looking for the next thing, always willing it to happen faster. Yet in our pursuit of a relentless need for something other than what we have right in front of us, the last two years have shaken things up in a way that no one could have expected, and forced us to press pause in a way no one knew they needed. From wishing the waiting away to being held within its slow, still grasp, 2020 to 2021 has introduced us to a new way of life — life in the lane that lingers. And for one young man in London, this lane has led him on a journey with a destination worth the wait. Meet Posi Morakinyo: one of West End’s rising stars and the talent behind character Raymond Hill in TINA — The Tina Turner Musical. “I’m very grateful to be able to call this my job,” he laughed. “There was a time during the pandemic when I thought I’d never get to do this again. We kept being told we’d be back soon and then soon came and it was the next soon. At one point I wondered if I was ever going to be a performer again.” But mixed with his concern about whether he’d see the stage once more, Morakinyo experienced some incredible lessons that have shaped so much of who he is today both on and oﬀ the stage. “One of the greatest things the pandemic has taught me is that in order to get the things I need, I have to be willing to sacrifice the things I want. I’ve learned that sometimes I have to die to my wants in order to give way to the things I really need - which has its challenges because there’s so much I want to do!” At just 21 years young, Morakinyo possesses a wisdom that many spend their whole lives trying to
In the same way Morakinyo leans into the voices of his co-workers today, it was the people who he served with on Hillsong London’s Performing Arts team that ignited his passion for the performing arts in the first place. “Working with the Performing Arts team was what gave life to my on-stage personality, and funnily enough, one of my first-ever professional performances was in our Carol’s event at Wembley — WEMBLEY!” Like so many others within the life of Hillsong, the people he has surrounded himself with have had a significant influence on his life. They have not only shaped so much of who he is and the character that has carried him into many of the opportunities he’s living in now, but they have also helped open doors for him in his career, nurturing his passion and helping him to turn it into a profession.
“I’m built for this. When fear sets in I have to remember that and just go for it.” “Being involved in church has taught me about the importance of the community you [have] around as well as having a dedication to your craft. Everything we do comes from overflow so you need to be conscious about what you’re filling yourself up 40
with. You can’t give anything good if you don’t have anything good - you’ve got to have the good stuﬀ within you.” Part of Morakinyo’s formula for the ‘good stuﬀ’ is the ‘faith stuﬀ’. Whether he is performing in front of thousands or is simply rehearsing with a co-star one-on-one, Morakinyo’s faith often acts as the light that leads his way through everything he commits himself to. Prayer in particular has been a foundational practice for him. “Prayer has taught me to bring God with me wherever I go. I’m praying before rehearsals. I’m praying before I’m on stage. I’m praying every single night — asking God to do what only He can and giving each one of my performances to His hands. Everyone around me pretty much hears me praying all the time!” Morakinyo unashamedly lives his life where his faith is at the wheel, driving his life. Before the pandemic hit, Morakinyo had just finished up his last tour and didn’t know what was next. “I had no idea where the next job would come from or what it would be. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I had to learn to trust my agent and to trust in God. This role is my West End debut, and I went from not even knowing this was a musical to being cast as Raymond Hill within a few days of my first audition. Landing something like this has made me believe I’m built for this. When fear sets in, I have to remember that and just go for it.” And go for it he has. Despite what others may have deemed a devastating pause in his profession as a performer, Morakinyo has used the pandemic to his advantage. He has leaned into its discomfort, allowing the highs and lows to become a part of the ebb and flow of his life. Rather than resisting the challenges that have crept towards him, he has allowed them to sharpen the things that a career would not — his relationship with his brother, his appreciation for his family, their vulnerability with one another and his sensitivity to the voice of God. Even in a world where everyone and everything seems to be shouting to be heard, the Divine Whisper still reigns supreme.
Behind The Scenes:
An Inside look at the WCC Arrows Film Words: Janae Janik & Greta Elizabeth 42
You know those ideas? The kind of crazy ones where you think, ‘how can we possibly pull this off?’ The ones where insane amounts of creativity meet technological genius? Well, the 2021 Worship and Creative Conference film was one of those crazy moments. The original idea was pitched two years ago, back in 2019. But then a small thing known as a global pandemic happened…and, well…countries went into lockdown, conferences got cancelled, and the world ran out of toilet paper. Talk about crazy times! So, fast forward to this year and Cass Langton, called Jamin Tasker to chat about an idea she had for a short film. He pitched a different one — the one from 2019. Cass loved it and gave it the thumbs up. But now to execute it.... Oh no! What had he gotten himself into? Well, after a hectic three weeks of planning, two full days of shooting, a trampoline, a drill, and some epic fantasy world design, this beautiful masterpiece came to life! Here’s some of what was going on behind the scenes!
1. “What’s with the big green screen?” Our team uses this screen to composite background images behind the talent in postproduction. It is crucial to match the lighting in the room to the background that will be added later. For example, if the sun is shining on the actress from the right, then her face needs to be illuminated in the studio to match. Otherwise, it just won’t make sense. The team used 360-degree lighting in order to achieve the correct look for some of the shots.
3. “Wow! But what are all those pictures? And what’s the big whiteboard for?” Those are small illustrations of every single shot in the film drawn by illustrator and animator, Tom Yanko. Tasker worked with Yanko over Zoom for over three weeks sketching and storyboarding each shot. On the day of the shoot, all 150 shots were taped in sequential order on a large freestanding whiteboard. This process helped the team stay organized. 4. “That looks like a lot of work!” You bet it is! During a shoot, the shots are not done in sequential order. Rather, they are shot in a way that is most efficient (i.e., all forest shots are done at the same time). So, there might be scenes from the end of the film that are shot at the very beginning. In order to make sure nothing gets missed, the shots are individually ‘crossed off’ as the shoot progresses. The team finished all of them in only two days!
2. “You mean the whole thing was shot in one room?!?” Yes! Because the actress couldn’t see the ‘world’ she was navigating, Director, Jamin Tasker walked her through how to act out the movements and emotions of the story to help her create believable reactions on camera. “I coached her through every scene individually,” Tasker said. “You’re staring this way and there’s a doorway over here you’re about to walk through and you hesitate...you’re in the dark forest and this is the forest of ‘self-doubt’...and you’re down to your last arrow...I try to build the world she’s in and communicate visually and emotionally.”
5. “What’s with the drill?” We were wondering that too. For a portion of the film, the team needed to create the effect of an arrow flying through the air. At first, they thought they might use fishing line...but they didn’t have any. So, they tried to hang it on a cable, but when that didn’t work, they settled on this brilliant idea! The drill enabled them to simulate a realistic spinning motion without endangering anybody from pointy, airborne objects. Talk about some creative genius!
6. “Two days?!? 150 shots? How did the team finish in time?!?” The short answer? Some intense organisation! But there were definitely some moments Tasker didn’t know if they would finish. He laughed, “We only went over time by like half an hour maybe, so I was pretty ecstatic about that. I don’t know. I thought it wasn’t going to happen. I think by lunchtime on the second day we still had 70 shots to do that afternoon.”
8. “ Was there any shot that was particularly special? Tasker said the most emotional shot of the film is when the actress, surrounded by the grandeur of a beautiful cathedral, comes face to face with the simplicity of a small Catholic crucifix. To create the reverence for this moment, the ‘action’ music that was playing most of the day was changed to a beautiful choir track called ‘Tree of Life’ by Terrance Malik. “I got goosebumps when we were shooting it...we just took a moment and got really quiet.... Her performance in that moment was just amazing. I got her to wipe her face and not necessarily cry, but in that moment, to reflect...I think a few of us really felt it was a really beautiful, poignant moment.”
7. “Is that a bird? Or is it a plane?!” No, it’s Vivian Tran! The trampoline shot of her leaping through the air was filmed at a high frame rate to capture the movement in slow motion. It was only meant to be three takes, but later they noticed the number of arrows she had in her quiver was incorrect so the shot had to be re-captured. At least it looks like fun!
9. “That’s so beautiful! Did the director have any final thoughts?” “An artist’s genius is not from themselves but comes from somewhere else. We get to be these conduits for creativity. My hope is that people can see themselves within the film and that it would be entertaining, as well as perhaps, poignant. That perhaps, it points people back to where they are on their journey and where they are in relation to their gift; and perhaps, reframe that to where we all want to be.”
Risk and Resilience: The Balinese Perspective Words: Amanda Viviers
The impact of the pandemic on our daily lives has been significant and long-lasting. What began as a novelty has now become a global lament. Risk and resilience have become the calling card of our season, and it asks us to reflect daily on the impact across the world. It is a rare event, where we together have faced a moment of reckoning. We have felt the tragedy of lockdown in Australia with businesses closed and the constant-change fatigue. But the difficulty of this season on the Hillsong creative team who live and work on the island of Bali, Indonesia has been immense. The daily count of cases regularly reaches over 10,000 people with a total count of over four million. This has resulted in extremely limited work and food supplies, as well as a strained healthcare system. From the beginning of 2020, when the pandemic began to shut the island down, tourism stopped overnight. Life as they knew it changed irrevocably, as the wedding industry, in which 90% of the worship and creative arts volunteers worked, was made redundant. Years of bookings were cancelled. Artists, singers, videographers and musicians, who served faithfully every week with the Balinese congregation in the city of Denpasar, were unsure whether they needed to return home to their villages. They realised their community and life may never return to normal. Helping those in need within their community became their focus in a time of pain and heartache. There was a risk of catching COVID-19 themselves in deciding to serve the local community with courage. This significant moment of risk turned into a building ground of resilience for our team. They saw need after need, person after person, desperate for help and answers. Their question and focus became, ‘How do we bring hope amid the suffering?’ According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of resilience is, “The capability of a strained body to recover its size and shape after deformation caused by compressive stress.”
Resilience is talked about often, but in a season of lament that seems long-lasting, what does it mean to respond? When lockdowns continue week after week, how can we rediscover our ‘why’ and adapt to our current reality? Rebi Rey serves as the Creative Pastor for the Hillsong Bali campus. She grew up on the island and lives her life to serve the creative team in Indonesia. For Rey, the greatest risk that turned into an opportunity for courage was helping her team find houses, work, and supporting their daily needs. She herself tested positive with COVID-19 and had to rest for recovery, even though all she wanted to do was help her team members. Now healthy, she’s learned how to support others going through the same thing. “Because I have gone through it, recovering from COVID-19 myself, I now know how to comfort others,” Rey said. THE IMPACT ON THE BALINESE COMMUNITY While still experiencing the effects of lockdowns in Australia, a simple idea was formed of taking up an offering for the Bali creative team at Team Night (Hillsong’s weekly creative team gatherings). This resulted in hundreds of hampers being distributed through the community. Over $11,000 AUD was given to help create and hand out these hampers to the Denpasar community. Rey and those who are part of the Balinese team expressed how grateful they were for the support. The impact of the hampers helped those who were desperately seeking assistance and has been longlasting. They included five kilograms of rice, a dozen fresh eggs, instant noodles and a litre of cooking oil. They are collated in the kid’s ministry room, and then distributed through connect groups as a part of the Kilo of Kindness program (a Hillsong initiative that provides food relief through community partners.) The Bali team believes that close to 90% of the hampers went to people who are currently 49
“We see our reality outside of our internal dialogue, and it reminds us that as we give to another, we sow hope into our everyday as well.” outside of the church program.
Rey smiled as she shared her heart: “God can use something so tragic. In twenty years, I want to look back and remember the risk it took to bring
Rey reflected that even the local authorities were overwhelmed by the generosity of the church.
those dry bones back to life — the reflection of God meeting people in their broken places and bring hope.”
“It was a moment when I saw the Acts Church in action, meeting the needs of the people, to give them hope and strength to remember to keep holding on.”
A scripture that continues to encourage our Balinese team in the daily difficulties that they face is Jeremiah 5:22b. It says, “Should you not tremble in my presence? I made the sand a boundary for the sea, an everlasting barrier it cannot cross. The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail; they may roar, but they cannot cross it.” (New International Version, Jeremiah 5:22b)
LOOK FOR THE HELPERS “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” - Fred Rogers We are the helpers. We were designed with this innate capacity to respond with empathy. When we move towards action, even something small enacts a series of growth opportunities when we understand the pain of another.
The waves may roll, but they cannot prevail. The oceans may roar, but they cannot cross it. This is their line of victory in a season of so much loss, found in broken places.
In times of isolation, distraction, and discomfort, when we grow in risk and resilience to reach out and bring hope, there is transformational change that happens in our hearts, minds and lives. We see our reality outside of our internal dialogue, and it reminds us that as we give to another, we sow hope into our everyday as well.
As the congregation members in Bali make their way back to in-person gatherings, they have a COVID-19 test each time they enter the building. It is a humbling and raw reality with the impact of the pandemic still so present across the world. As we walk together towards the new days that this transformative resilience is creating in each of us, let’s remember to look for the helpers and meet the needs of those who cross our paths. Remember that the waves may roll, but they cannot prevail. The ocean may roar, but God will continue to meet us in these darkened times. Risk, resilience and helping others is the calling card of this season.
The team in Bali wanted to turn the difficulty of the season into a line of surrender, where they are volunteering, serving and bringing beauty to those broken places. Despite the vast majority being without work, they have made it their mission and mandate to bless others — to continue to move with encouragement and to show people Jesus in the lament. By handing out hampers, meeting the needs of the local community, praying for people, and distributing medical supplies, the church truly left the building.
It takes a while to hear it but once you do, it’s hard to unhear Once your ears have been sharpened to the sound of it I hear the echo of His voice everywhere It takes a while to see it but once you do, it’s hard to unsee Once your eyes have learnt to look for it I see glimpses of His heart everywhere
Janina Victoria Pencil sketch Outtake from Art Diary, 2014
ams at night your mind cannot grasp You have dreams at night your mind cannot grasp moved by the things you cannot fathom Your heart moved by the things you cannot fathom ns you can’t put intoiswords You see visions you can’t put into words You feel You burn You ache You love expanding, always changing y at one You’re spot always expanding, always changing moving,You always in progress never stay at one spot more powerful than the seen You’re always moving, always in progress ns in your inner world shapes your outer world The unseen is more powerful than the seen things, What happens in your inner world shapes your outer world
You’re many things, but shallow, ordinary, simple, isn’t one of them You’re a universe You’re a masterpiece
Digital collage in collaboration with Min Ryu, 2019
Digital collage in collaboration with Min Ryu, 2019
Phénomène —a coffee table book filled with poetry and art, purposefully curated with you in mind. It’s long been a dream of mine to put this book together as the theme is one very close to my heart and will be forever the ongoing story I tell. It’s my hope that the art and words within these pages will deeply resonate with you, inspire you to live courageously and awake a new sense of wonder within you — enabling you to rediscover the phenomenon that you are. Phénomène Copyright © 2021 by Janina Victoria Printed in London, UK.
Models: Ayomide Adebambo, Yebin Kim, Gabriel Trusovas
Sydney & LONDON collab
addiction Words: Kylie Beach Images: Phil Baro Thomas
"I want us to acknowledge the whole world we live in is all driven by our performance." 56
According to Dr. Justine Toh, if you’re an achievement addict, even being asked to describe yourself is torturous.
“I have a very particular experience of this because my parents, being Asian migrant parents, were really interested in setting my sister and I up for life in this new land of Australia. They felt the best way they could do [that] was to help us get into selective schools so we could get into university.”
“I’m used to describing myself according to my work,” she explained searching for a good answer. “I’m a communicator at heart. I grew up in Sydney. I have had the whole tiger parenting experience thing – my parents were Chinese Malaysian migrants to Australia. I have a big love of film and TV. And I have a family.”
“So, there was a big stress on doing well academically, and that has basically shaped my life since I was a teenager.” Justine said her parent’s approach makes total sense given how migrants often find themselves without the social connections to place their children where good opportunities are.
Justine is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity (CPX), a not-for-profit media company that offers a Christian perspective on contemporary life. When asked if that means her job title is ‘Public Christian’, Justine laughed and said, “That’s such a hideous label.”
But it is not only migrants who have formative experiences like this. “I want us to acknowledge the whole world we live in is all driven by our performance.”
“We’re really just trying to carve out a place in the public conversation where we can acknowledge the existence of the transcendent or of God and how that plays a role in our lives,” she explained.
“Look at social media – it’s all about traffic. We talk about how it’s a giant popularity contest, and it definitely is. But social media is also something where if you’re prepared to work really hard – be all over your profile, post constantly to keep up your engagement with your fans – then you can expect it will pay off in certain ways, with good promotional opportunities, lots of followers, lots of shares, etc.”
Justine is also the author of the newly released Achievement Addiction – a short book that is the third in CPX’s Re:Considering series.
In Achievement Addiction, Justine identifies the ways our society has long been obsessed with hard-won success – from Australia’s fixation on winning gold at But avoiding the unofficial performance measures the Olympics to competitive reality TV shows, to our of social media does not make us immune to our obsession with tracking daily steps through Fitbit. achievement-addicted world. Inspired by psychotherapist Carl Jung’s exchange of letters with Bill Wilson, (co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous), she draws attention to how we strive for significance and the price we pay when we identify our worth with our work.
There are official performance review systems with tick boxes designed to plot your potential and performance. Score well, and you get a pay rise or promotion. Fail to score well, and you might find the HR department called in to address the “issue”.
For Justine, achievement addiction is a personal battle – but the book isn’t an autobiography by any means.
“It’s just so deeply embedded in our lives that you, we don’t even realise it’s there. It’s like every day you’re on trial to demonstrate your worth. And you can start to think that you are nothing if you can’t.”
“The main idea of the book is to help people see that all of us live in a world where we’re encouraged to think our worth in life boils down to our achievements and the work we do,” she said.
As a result, you find yourself pointing to your CV. Or perhaps your looks – particularly if you’re a woman. So, is achievement addiction a contemporary problem? 57
“It’s like every day you’re on trial to demonstrate your worth. And you can start to think that you are nothing if you can’t.”
Justine thinks it might be. The idea that your worth is in your work has certainly always plagued humanity. But, when society was more stratified and social mobility was less possible, there might have been less pressure.
you’re really asking, ‘What does grace look like?’ Or, ‘What is grace?’ And that’s Christianity 101.” For creative types, the desire to achieve is complex. “You’re not getting paid – or not paid very well – to do this, and you’re relying upon the strength of your own passion. And the passion is supposed to separate the real hardcore people from the amateurs. And you only feel as good as the last thing that you did that. That’s very difficult to have to juggle and manage.”
In today’s society, we attempt to even out the metaphorical playing field so that everyone can thrive. The subtext is: if you don’t succeed, that’s on you. “The message is that your input equals output, right?” Justine said. “And if we’re living in a society of equal opportunity like that, then it really is on you to make something of yourself in life.”
But what can we all do to avoid becoming addicted to achievement? Justine said finding a mentor who is a little further down the path is essential for perspective. Also important is practising gratitude and spending time in prayer.
This is amazing if you happen to succeed. But what do you tell the losers of the situation? That they didn’t try hard enough? “It weirdly obscures all the different ways you might’ve been privileged in the first place. Like, in what society does equal opportunity actually exist? It’s very deceptive because it obscures all the ways that you might’ve been given a leg up, so to speak.”
And taking time to set boundaries is necessary. “Boundaries are really hard, especially for young people today. But they’re incredibly important.” There is plenty of wisdom about boundaries to be found in the Bible – beginning on the first page.
COVID-19 and the cultural shifts that came with it have increased the stress associated with striving to achieve for many people, asking them to add tasks to their lives while shouldering the stress of a disrupted world. Justine said the tension has been good for her, but she still has a long way to go.
“Look at Genesis 1, the creation narrative. See how the work of creation is a process of boundarymaking,” Justine advised. “In some ways, it’s about establishing boundaries into which various forms of life can thrive.”
“I’m nervous about writing this book because I haven’t been cured or achieved victory over my achievement addiction.” She does not want to be cast as a poster girl when still in the battle.
“It does not teach us that creating something means starting with a blank slate and working until you drop. We’ve all got to cultivate habits and practices that are boundaried in nature so that we won’t be overtaken by our work.”
She said even rest can be challenging for an achievement addict, admitting that it makes her feel miserable. But she can sense God drawing her to work out what rest means in her next season. “It’s hideously frightening,” she said. “You give me a problem, I’ll work out the steps, and I’ll work towards solving it. But if life is about asking the right questions, as my colleague Mark Stephens says, and the question is, ‘What does rest look like?’...Well, that frightens me.”
For more on Justine and CPX’s work, go to publicchristianity.org
“You can’t ace that sort of test. And in some ways, it’s even worse to ask this as a Christian, because 60
“Look at Genesis 1, the creation narrative. See how the work of creation is a process of boundary-making,”
MIS | Photo Journal I’m Damiane with an ‘e’ at the end. It was my mum’s idea, but I still think it’s better than my dad wanting to call me Ziggy. I’m a freelance “rookie” filmmaker. I say “rookie”, because I always want to remain teachable. My wife Michelle and I live in Cape Town, South Africa with two ginger cats. We’re passionate about adding value to the lives of people around us, and we’ve had the privilege of doing this in so many ways including through our love for photography and film making! A few of the shots were inspired by the natural phenomenon ‘mis’, which is the Afrikaans word for mist. The sense of focus that mist creates fascinates me. Imagine the intimidatingly beautiful ocean on a sunny day. You’re able to see as far as you can and hear all the sounds from all angles. Yet on a misty day, that very ocean suddenly feels a lot more intimate. Its boundaries are shaped by soft shadows and its sound gently muffled by the thickness in the air. I think, in the midst of chaos, the stillness that the mist brings is comforting. Perhaps, it’s in the stillness where you can still experience a sense of intimacy alongside what may be intimidating.
Cape Town SOUTH AFRICA
Photography: Damiane Van Reenen
The Creative Process Of
Personal Transformation 68
Words: RIch Langton Images: Daniel Packer
Like most kids growing up in the 1980s, I was a huge fan of Transformers. I loved watching the cartoon and seeing how the ‘Autobots’ would somehow always manage to defeat the ‘Decepticons’. Truth be told, even as I think about it now, I can hear the theme song screaming on repeat in my head… “TRANSFORMERS…more than meets the eye!!!” If you know it, you will thank me later for having it stuck it your head for the rest of the day! But, for those of you that don’t, the theme song was sung by some 80s rock band, (the kind I wasn’t allowed to listen to back then). It’s kind of musical, but definitely memorable. I can still remember the feeling I had when I saw an advertisement on TV for real life Transformers. I couldn’t believe they had actually made them. I thought it was too good to be true. But it was true! They had made toy Transformers and I knew I had to get one! I must have pestered my parents for weeks until they finally relented and took me to the toy shop to buy my very own Transformer. Of course, I wanted Optimus Prime, the leader and the best of the best! But when we arrived at the store, they didn’t have any Optimus Prime left! They only had Bumblebee. I was so disappointed, but not enough to leave without a Transformer. And not as disappointed as I would be later. When we left the store and I was allowed to open the packaging, I was expecting my Transformer car to ‘auto-magically’ change all by itself. Instead, I had to do it, and as I held the car in my hands, I couldn’t work out how. I fumbled with a few twists and turns, but it just wasn’t happening the way I thought it would. Eventually, I had to get some help from my mum. She pulled out the instructions and we worked it out together. I have to say, I did enjoy playing with it, and I was grateful my parents bought me the toy. It just wasn’t what I thought it would be. But why am I writing to you about the toy robot I had as a kid? Because whenever I think about that robot Transformer, I can’t help think about Romans 12:1-2. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God — this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (New International Version, Romans 12:1-2).
I think you’d agree that this transformational work is mysterious, and it’s something that God, in His sovereignty, does. But it’s also a process that we enter into. It’s active, not passive. It takes work and understanding, and it often takes a little help from others who are older and wiser than we are. But if we stop to think about it, the problem is not that transformation needs to happen. It’s that real transformation, real life change, real renewing of our minds, is hard work. It’s soul work and it takes a long, long time! The reality is that by entering into the work of Christ in us, we can be transformed into His likeness and bear the fruit of that transformation He promised. Our minds can be renewed and our lives can be full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I’m not sure about you, but I want those things in my life. So how do we do that? One of my favourite authors is Eugene Peterson, and he talks about this process as “a long obedience in the same direction”. It’s a gradual process…little by little…so slow it sometimes seems like it’s not even happening. A few Christmases ago, Cass gave me a gift. It was a beehive complete with a few thousand buzzing bees. I put it down the back of our property, and every few weeks I would go check it for signs of progress. It was a bit tedious and at times disheartening. While I couldn’t wait for my first crop of honey, the reality was not much happened for a very long time. It was just an empty white box. And while the bees would come and go, so too did the seasons. Time passed. The same thing happened day after day. Until one day, I realised that their obedience in the same direction, filling the multitudes of tiny holes in the honey comb, eventually resulted in the sweetest harvest. We filled jar after jar after jar, and it brought joy to our many friends and family. Life in Christ is like that. It’s a daily submission to Jesus and to the process. It takes faith, tenacity, and work. Just like my Transformer toy, it doesn’t happen ‘auto-magically’. It means we need to dive deep into the instruction of the Word of God and look to others who are older and wiser than us to help us along the way. So, my encouragement to you is this: don’t be discouraged by the slow progress you may see in your life. Instead, be like my bees. Continue doing what you know to do, be obedient to the Word of God day in and day out. Look to Him and trust in what you know He promised to do. Eventually, you will reap the sweet reward of your faithfulness. Your mind will be renewed. Your life will be full of spiritual fruit. And as you offer your body as a living sacrifice, it will become holy and pleasing to God. It will become true and proper worship. As we transform into the likeness of Christ, I believe there will truly be more to you than meets the eye!
For more on this check out Rich’s Creative Leadership Masterclass from Worship and Creative Conference entitled ‘The Creative Process of Personal Transformation’ at wcc.hillsong.com
PASTOR OF THE MUSIC STUDIO A lucrative record deal, collaborations with Macy Gray and Kelly Rowland and a string of hit songs, producer and songwriter Rob Amoruso’s career has reached a crescendo. Over the past year alone, he has produced more than 50 songs for established and emerging artists — including a number one album for Aussie band, The Rubens. However, his Christian faith, healing from anxiety, and opportunity to change the music industry’s tune are what he’s most grateful for.
Sessions with Jakubi and Macy Gray Windmark Studios, Santa Monica | 2017
Wakarusa Festival, Arkansas | 2015
Words: Sarah Laing
landing them a deal with US label Epic Records in 2012.
Songwriter and producer Rob Amoruso clearly recalls the moment he decided to leave a successful career as a musician touring the world with his band Jakubi.
“The dream for me was to always have success in music — make a living — make money off it and just be able to keep doing it,” Amoruso says. “The stock standard cliché thing that everyone pretty much wants to do. Nothing special.”
“I remember thinking like, ‘Man I’ve got nothing left, I’m going to die if I stay here,’” Amoruso says. “It’s a very specific picture. It’s me at three a.m. in a hotel room so lonely. You know, 16 days into a...bender, just going, ‘I have 63 more cities to go to in this [tour] run. How am I gonna get through this?’ And it’s actually funny, it’s so specific. There’s like a Domino’s pizza box there. It’s crazy.” For Amoruso, a passion for music started early in life. Growing up in a musical family, he picked up his first instrument at two years old. By age 15 he was touring in bands. In his mid 20’s, and five bands later, he formed Jakubi with his four best mates, playing at house parties across Melbourne. The band’s catchy blend of several music genres including pop, hiphop and soul quickly caught the attention of music executives,
Amoruso’s climb through the music industry’s ranks was exhilarating. Jakubi’s songs amassed millions of streams on Spotify and they supported some of the world’s biggest artists on tour — playing to thousands of people. In the midst of all this success though, Amoruso felt a lack of purpose. “I feel like, yeah, I just started getting really unsatisfied with what I was doing, but at the same time completely terrified because it’s all I ever knew. It’s all I ever wanted to do. It was really heartbreaking, and I had no friends that weren’t in the industry. I’d completely lost contact with everyone back in Australia because that just became my life.” 74
Experiencing significant depression and anxiety, Amoruso returned home to Melbourne to focus on healing. “I was quite unwell, you know — I was trying to come off a lot of drugs and stuff and I had a lot of health problems. I was just so anxious all the time.” Amoruso tried everything to help alleviate his increasing anxiety, including turning his phone off indefinitely and completely cutting off all ties to the music industry. His anxiety became so bad that he remained in his room for a month, unable to venture outside. Out of desperation, he decided to attend a local church service one Saturday night. “Church was the last resort. The last, last, last, last resort...I stood in the foyer, and I was literally just standing there crying like, ‘Man what’s happening to me?’ At the same time, I’m like, ‘I don’t really think I even believe this,’ because I was pretty convinced there wasn’t a God. I just knew whatever it was [in church] that I was feeling I had to be in. It was the only peace I could get.”
Finding faith was a turning point for Amoruso, providing him with a new sense of purpose in life and music. “I would literally look up any church that would be on a Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night...the peace of God...I was like, ‘I just need to be in it, I don’t care where it is.’” As his health improved, Amoruso decided to pursue songwriting and producing with a focus on providing a supportive space for artists. “I think that music is just the thing that connects me to people,” Amoruso says. “I kind of feel like now, in sessions, I want to be a point of difference. Like, how can I provide a different environment and show them [artists] they can actually do their art and be super creative?” After experiencing some of the darker aspects of the music industry, such as drug use, Amoruso is particularly passionate about mentoring young and emerging artists.
“I pray in the room first, before every session...and, you know, there’ll be a young artist 15 minutes in — they’ll just be crying like on the couch and I’m just like, ‘What’s God doing man? This isn’t me. All I did was made him a cup of tea.’”
“I don’t know nearly enough Bible to be a pastor, but I know music.” The music industry can be a harsh environment to work in - often cultivating a sense of fear and doubt, which is why people like Amoruso are so needed. In addition to music collaboration, he provides artists with a listening ear and supportive environment that encourages them to pursue their talents. “I just think they feel safe. And being safe in the music and entertainment industry is so rare
that when you feel it, it’s really intense,” Amoruso says. “I want to be someone in that world who gets to speak into their music and help and guide them… for lack of better words, just a better influence than what they’ve currently got, you know.” When it comes to writing songs, having safe and honest conversations with artists also helps Amoruso on a creative level. “The song also generally does better, because they’re actually singing it with conviction because it means something to them.” Amoruso hopes to one day form his own record label focused on nurturing young talent. For now though, he’s more than content helping artists find hope through song. “By being a writer and a producer, I get to just make it about other people...I get to be someone that sort of just tries to pull gold out of them. I really like that because it’s kind of like I get to be the pastor of the studio. I don’t know nearly enough Bible to be a pastor, but I know music.”
Sessions with Jakubi and Macy Gray Windmark Studios, Santa Monica | 2017
If you are in need of additional pastoral support, please visit hillsong.com/help
New York USA
YOUTH & WISDOM MELODIE WAGNER from our Y&F team sits down for a conversation with MI-KAISHA MASELLA a young artist full of talent, wisdom and grace.
community, both in church and in the Indigenous community, I wouldn’t have been afforded many of the opportunities I have had to explore, develop and have fun with my creativity. Ultimately, my creative journey is a result of others’ generosity.
This interview took place in January 2020 and was originally published in Issue 2 of Artists Still Live Here Magazine. Melodie: So, you’re a key part of the City Campus and are well-loved in our Youth and Young Adults community. For anyone that hasn’t had the opportunity to meet you yet, would you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Melodie: In 2019 you moved to New York City to study at the prestigious Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. Tell us what it was like uprooting life as you knew it and pursuing your dream?
Mi-kaisha: My name is Mi-kaisha Rose Masella, but my friends call me Kaisha or just Kaish. I am 20 years old. I am a Sydney girl, born and raised. My mum is Darumbal Aboriginal and South Sea Islander, and my dad is from Tonga. I am a singersongwriter and love learning and studying. (I’m currently completing my undergrad degree majoring in Music and minoring in Indigenous Studies).
Mi-kaisha: It was always my dream to study at Clive, but I’m a homebody and love my family and community in Aus so deeply, which made leaving a super bitter-sweet experience. Something about moving to the other side of the world is that you’re almost completely disconnected from everything you’ve ever known and it’s just you, God and a very big city with a lot of strangers. The most beautiful (and challenging) part about moving to NYC was having all the ‘things’ stripped away. I felt God constantly asking me, ‘Who are you without all of the labels? Without all of the worldly things that you often identify with?’ It forced me to truly surrender and grow into a new level of dependence on God that I believe can only come from those
Melodie: What has your creative journey been like and how did you come to be the promising young creative you are today? Mi-kaisha: I stand on the shoulders of giants and can wholeheartedly say that without my 76
“Ultimately, my creative journey is a result of others’ generosity.”
deeply challenging seasons of struggle and being completely out of your depth.
It wasn’t so much the award itself that holds significance for me, but what that award represents. It means that my community, the very people who raised me and built me up, are proud of the young woman I am growing into. It was such a beautiful encouragement to receive and an honour to be in the room with so many important Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders who have helped shape Australian history.
Melodie: As well as being a gifted artist, you’re a role model, in both church and the wider community. Has being an example always come naturally to you? When did you find your voice — when it came to advocating for others? Mi-kaisha: I’ve always felt a responsibility to speak truth and seek justice in all the spaces I occupy, whether that be in school, university, church and even in my own home. Like I said before, everything I know has been taught to me by the many mentors and strong women in my life and God has taught me to always listen humbly when someone’s opinions and experiences differ from my own. I often remind myself that I didn’t always know what I know now, and it took someone having patience with me to help me learn.
Melodie: Writer and poet Amiri Baraka once said, “The artist’s role is to raise the consciousness of the people. To make them understand life, the world and themselves more completely.” Do you have a memory of a ‘becoming conscious’ moment where an artwork, song, or person inspired you and made you see the world differently? Mi-kaisha: Music has always informed my awareness of the world around me, but I think that awareness grew much deeper when I discovered Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’. I think it is one thing to read about the atrocities of our history, but to be forced to feel it is something totally different. This song gave me a profound understanding of what injustice was and what it feels like at a very young age. The feeling I got when listening to this song was the same feeling I got when hearing about Australia’s history. It helped me channel my yearning for justice into my music and writing.
Melodie: I’m personally inspired by the way Indigenous cultures honour their ancestors and all those who have gone before them. As a proud Aboriginal and Tongan woman what does honouring your heritage and ancestors look like for you? Mi-kaisha: Honouring my heritage and ancestors for me means always being unapologetically myself and stepping into who my community has raised me to be. I know many cultures in Australia and all around the world feel the pressure to blend in with the mainstream — to conform. I honour my ancestors by showing my pride and love for my cultures and its traditions and sharing that with others. I honour my ancestors by re-connecting with the parts of culture that have been erased or shunned by Western colonial systems. We’ve survived as a people for over 80,000 years and we did that by caring for one another and by maintaining our cultural and social responsibilities to our Mob (our language group & community). I aspire to build up and speak life into the generations to come exactly as my ancestors have done for me.
Melodie: In closing, as someone who uses their art and platform to bring light to causes you’re passionate about, what would you say about how creativity and justice can come together to be a force for social change? Mi-kaisha: One of my most favourite things about music is that it is often centred around a feeling. It has the power to break chains and open hearts. Through my music, I am presented with an opportunity to deliver a message to people who don’t necessarily want to hear that message. It is an opportunity to interrogate peoples’ hearts and minds and give them a glimpse of my own. It is a challenge and I often don’t have the right words to articulate the complex discourse I am having with myself in my head, but music is the tool I use to express that unrest and that yearning to see our country do better.
Melodie: In 2019 you were named National NAIDOC Week Youth of the Year! What does that honour mean to you today? Mi-kaisha: NAIDOC week is a massive celebration in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander calendar and to have my community acknowledge me at the National NAIDOC Awards was just so special.
Post Script: Since the original publication of this article, 78
“I’ve always felt a responsibility to speak truth and seek justice in all the spaces I occupy.”
Photography: Luke Currie-Richardson
share a bit about my journey. I have so much love for my church community. Thank you for always building me up and for being some of the coolest people I’ve ever met!
Mi-kaisha has continued to create music and has released her first single, ‘Brand New’. We asked her in an email to catch us up on what else has been happening in the last year and what is currently inspiring her.
Shelley Giglio recently shared a thought on Instagram that really resonated with me and the particular season I’m in. Part of it says “Press on friends. We need people who are willing to take big, imperfect swings with massive trust and love in their hearts for a God who doesn’t fail.” I just love that so much. Most of the time we are imperfect and fulfilling our calling in a super imperfect way, but at least God sees that we relentlessly trusted, loved and gave it our best shot.
Mi-kaisha: It’s a very exciting season with so many cool projects happening. It’s been so refreshing to create and collaborate after a very long time of restrictions and rules. I don’t know if I’m allowed to be saying this, but I’ve been a part of some cool things with Hillsong Worship that I can’t wait for the world to hear. And I’m releasing a single titled ‘Tell Me Where You’re At’ very soon...hopefully! I’m relying on you guys to help keep me accountable to my goals! Thank you for creating space for me to To hear more from Mi-kaisha tune into our Artists Still Live Here session.
This article contains material that some may find confronting. If you are in need of additional pastoral support, please visit hillsong.com/help
VAPOURS OF HOPE
Finding Peace When Life Hurts Words: Lindley Joyner Illustrations: Yori Narpati 81
Each morning I find myself inscribing the same word with my finger into the condensation on the shower’s glass pane. Sometimes I don’t even realise I’m doing it, I guess it’s just become automatic. I stare at it. I watch as it’s slowly swallowed by the steam and trickles away down the glass — and I’m reminded. I’m reminded life is like a vapour (James 4:14), there one moment and gone the next. You see, in 2018, my son passed away at seven months of age, and for me it felt just like that — he was there one moment and gone the next. Over the coming months, in the depths of my grief, some uncomfortable questions began to surface within me. Not only because I didn’t know how to answer them, but uncomfortable because they didn’t fit into my understanding of faith or God. The very lens through which I perceived the world was beginning to blur and distort and I had no control over it. That’s a scary place to be, where the immovable and foundational truths in your life suddenly don’t feel so solid anymore. You thought you were walking on rock, but you look down and it has turned to a sheet of ice. That’s how those months felt. In those same months, I can also tell you that we were showered with extravagant kindness by many caring people. Our friends and our church carried us in a way that I’ll never forget and will be forever grateful for. During that time, (and still to this day), gifts would show up at our front door. Some of those gifts were books about loss and grief, both thick paperbacks for my wife and I, and also storybooks for us to share with our three young daughters. As we began to read them, I soon found that I was quite drawn to the children’s books. The simple eloquent prose, coupled with magnificent illustrations resonated with me deeply. It echoed what I’d learned over my years working as a filmmaker — simple stories often express the most profound truths. I decided I would write a storybook of my own and use this simple medium to express the complexities of my grief and confront those seemingly unanswerable questions that weren’t going away. I didn’t have a story yet, but I had this image in my mind of a boy alone at sea and I just started writing. This approach is uncharacteristic for me. As a rule, I need to know where a story is going and I need to know how it ends before I can begin to tell it. But in this instance, I stepped out and trusted that it would come. Gradually, it did. Bit by bit, The Little Captain began to take shape.
That’s a scary place to be, where the immovable and foundational truths in your life suddenly don’t feel so solid anymore. You thought you were walking on rock, but you look down and it has turned to a sheet of ice.
Before I go on, I need to add a note here. The journey from writing that first draft to holding the actual hardcover book in my hand is a story in itself and a tale for another time. What I can tell you is this journey was fraught with self-doubt. It took about two years and only came to fruition because of the help of friends, especially one in particular who believed in the project, (and me), more than I did, not to mention a Kickstarter campaign and the many generous backers who supported the project. So what is, The Little Captain? It’s an over 40-page illustrated storybook and it’s about grappling to hold on to the things we’ve lost and searching for answers to things that are not easily explained. It’s the story of a young boy named Wilkie who lives with his family on a ship until one day he is snatched by the sea and taken on a harrowing journey as he fights to find his way back to them. It was very important to me that, The Little Captain, did not culminate in a classic ‘fairy-tale’ resolve. Not all stories have a happy ending and I don’t believe there’s always a silver-lining to be found either. I acknowledge this may not be a popular thought, but for me, once I allowed myself to stop looking for the good in the bad, (as we so often feel compelled to do), I found a sense of peace. However, a silver-lining isn’t to be confused with hope. They’re not the same thing. A silver-lining is a luxury, but hope is essential. It’s like oxygen — we can’t survive without it. So even though, The Little Captain, ends on a sorrowful note, it’s also not without a whisper of hope. When I look back over the long journey of creating this book, I can see that it has been a gift to me. I’m grateful for it and I’m proud of it, but I wish my son was here and it had never been created at all. I wish I had a more uplifting and happier story to share with you, but that wouldn’t be honest and that wouldn’t be real. I still feel like I’m walking on that sheet of ice sometimes. There’s still pain, and there’s still a nagging question that never goes away—a single word I find myself etching into the shower glass each morning — “Why?” I don’t know why. And I likely never will, (on this side of life anyway). It may not even be a fruitful question to be asking, but it keeps bubbling up inside me and telling stories is the best way I know to try and make sense of it all.
To find out more about the book or order a copy email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Art akes a Way
A MOTHER’S STORY OF UNSHAKEABLE FAITH
WORDS: RACHEL MTHEMBU IMAGE: BEN FAULKNER 87
Words create worlds, as the old adage goes. With a word, God created the heavens and the earth. With her words, Sarah Lee spoke into being the creative potential deposited in her son. Through sheer willpower and dogged determination, she had her son Ping Lian Yeak repeat this one phrase: “I want to be artist.” Once this phrase took root, she built upon that foundation, having him repeat, “I want to be a great artist.” Ping Lian is now internationally recognised for his art, though the journey hasn’t always been a simple one. Ping Lian was born in Malaysia on 18 November 1993. In early childhood, the severe limitations and developmental delays caused by his autism were apparent in his behaviour and lack of social and communication skills. Sarah was not one to be deterred by these limitations. With an unerring optimism from the onset, she tirelessly formulated ideas to help Ping Lian with his development, often involving his two older sisters. From learning numeracy on the television to learning English from having CDs playing in the background, Sarah has filled numerous journals detailing Ping Lian’s progress, challenges and triumphs over the years. But there was one specific idea that had the most enduring and influential impact in her son’s life. To help him develop his fine motor skills, Sarah developed tracing and colouring exercises for Ping Lian to complete. She wrote in her journal, “I want to develop Ping Lian to be an artist. I know he will be an artist one day.” Sarah was inspired by books she was reading to speak her burning desires for her son into existence, no matter how impossible they seemed. She then prayed that ‘her dream’ would become ‘their dream’. At the age of eight, after more than three years of working on his fine motor skills, Ping Lian acquired
an ardent interest in drawing. He has been avidly growing in his artistic endeavours ever since. When Ping Lian was nine years old, his mother employed three different art teachers to guide him along his journey and help him develop in different artistic styles. From Ping Lian’s earliest years, faith played an important role in his family’s life. In Malaysia, the family attended a church where Sarah was inspired by how well the children’s teachers interacted with Ping Lian. This was a big catalyst in cementing Sarah’s faith. As challenges surfaced, her conviction to God deepened. In 2004, Sarah’s husband passed away from a sudden heart attack. This had a heartbreaking effect on Ping Lian, who lost both his role model and only male friend. “I was angry, but I surrendered,” Sarah said, showing the strong posture of faith that has underpinned much of her life. This loss was the primary catalyst that caused them to move to Sydney, Australia two years later. Through developing strategies to help her son and her tireless research, she decided it would be beneficial to start imparting goals and dreams into him from early on. “Sometimes I find this idea, and it turns out it is actually God,” Sarah shared, believing in God’s purpose for her son’s life. Through her development strategies, vision-casting and positive self-talk she has Ping Lian repeat, she is motivating him to become the man she believes God has created him to be. The overwhelming success of this is evident. Ping Lian’s achievements have been far-reaching. He now has art displayed in the United States, Australia,
#05402 Prosperous Year (Rooster) | 2005 Age 11
#15001 New York | 2005
Dr. Martinez and Sarah collaborated for more than ten years, and Dr. Martinez edited Sarah’s book, I Want To Be Artist: An Autistic Savant’s Voice and A Mother’s Dream Transformed onto Canvas. The book was published in 2017 and now serves as a guide for other parents of children with similar conditions based on what Sarah has learned — things such as how to train a talent, develop good character and instill emotion.
Japan, Germany, the UK, South Korea, Singapore, and even in a Sultan’s palace in Malaysia. There have been documentaries made about Ping Lian, and his artwork and story have been featured in textbooks. Always her son’s strongest advocate, Sarah travels with a thick red folder, displaying his artwork, articles he has been featured in, and numerous other achievements.
In spite of all of his world-renowned achievements, one of Ping Lian and Sarah’s favourite socialisation and job training activities, (until the COVID-19 pandemic), was selling his artwork at his own exhibition stall at Sydney’s famous Rocks Market on the weekends. Sarah shared how the grassroots interaction has benefited Ping Lian’s social skills. He draws a crowd as they watch him work, fascinated by his talent and artistic process. Working with oil, watercolours, acrylic and ink, the crowds are often struck by the sense of whimsy and intricate detail. The focus in his process and cheerfulness in his artwork are captivating to watch. Sarah encourages anything that promotes positivity for Ping Lian, as she says “he does his best art when he is inspired.”
In addition to being diagnosed with autism, Ping Lian also has what is known as savant syndrome. Dr. Darold Treffert was a leading psychiatrist specialising in research on autism and savant syndrome who passed in 2020. He defined savant syndrome as, “a rare, but extraordinary, condition in which persons with serious mental disabilities, including autistic disorder, have some ‘island of genius’ which stands in marked, incongruous contrast to overall handicap. As many as one in ten persons with autistic disorder have such remarkable abilities in varying degrees.”1 Dr. Treffert also identified Ping Lian as a prodigious savant, which is a term reserved for those extraordinarily rare individuals where the special skill is so outstanding that it would be spectacular even if it were to occur in a non-impaired person. Ping Lian is also recognised alongside contemporaries such as American savant Kim Peek, who has an exceptional memory. Kim Peek was the inspiration for the character Raymond Babbit in the 1988 Film, Rain Man, starring Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman.
For Sarah, art has always been a means to an end for what she hopes Ping Lian will achieve. It’s a tool she uses to help him become the man she knows he can be. Art helps regulate his behaviour, as does the faith they both share. When he exhibits difficult behaviour, Sarah encourages him through the lens of faith. “I tell him, ‘Mummy forgives you and Jesus forgives you. You need to learn to forgive yourself.’” Both mother and son wear matching cross necklaces, a beautiful visualisation of the way faith binds the family.
God has put people in Sarah’s life along the way to encourage and help her as she needs, at just the right time. Sarah calls these people angels. From being mentored by the man who consulted on the movie, Rain Man, to Dr. Rosa C. Martinez, a specialist in autism spectrum disorders. Dr. Martinez was ultimately the one who encouraged Sarah to take all of her numerous journals about Ping Lian’s progress and turn them into a book. She helped Sarah realise it was not only Ping Lian’s miraculous journey that was inspiring, but also Sarah’s unique methods in calling out the potential in her son, and bringing it into existence.
Sarah’s faith has been constantly elevated through witnessing Ping Lian’s journey. People often ask her why she is so happy and she shared that she believes happiness is a choice. “Only God can make it happen,” Sarah said, a virulent gleam in her eye. As for any insurmountable odds life tries to throw her way? She answers with four words. “Art makes a way.”
1 Treffert, Darold A. “The savant syndrome: an extraordinary condition. A synopsis: past, present, future.” Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences vol. 364,1522 (2009): 1351-7. doi:10.1098/rstb.2008.0326
Ping Lian with mum at the Rocks Market
Ping Lian at the Rocks Market
Juno. WIP. 2020
Transferring the Real World to the Screen Words: Sebastian Strand Art: Nathaniel Redekop
What makes a video look professional instead of cheap or cheesy? As a ‘video guy’ growing up in a small church, I’m well-acquainted with the frustration of knowing my own work looked unprofessional, but not always being able to pinpoint why. Nathaniel Redekop is a well-known visual artist within Hillsong, and has created content for the Hollywood produced Hillsong feature film Let Hope Rise, as well as Hillsong United tours and albums. He’s even done some work with recording artist Selena Gomez. Those that see his work are often blown away by the ground-breaking visuals and his ability to not just complement, but add layers and personality. Working with Nathaniel for many years now, I recently caught up with him to discuss his thoughts on what it is that distinguishes professional looking content from the average.
Years ago in the future | 2021
Sebastian: So, you’re from Saskatoon which, correct me if I’m wrong, isn’t really known as a creative hub of the world? Nathaniel: Well, they call it the Paris of the Prairies so you never know. Only people from Saskatoon call it that though. (Note: I googled it. It’s true. The province even boasts its own replica of the Eiffel Tower.)
Nathaniel: I loved the constant rush and having to solve urgent issues, and using a ton of big equipment. But it was crazy busy and difficult. You’re in 40ºC laser-cutting or outside in -50ºC having to pick up hundreds of pounds of metal frozen to the ground. Sebastian: Did you end up going to film school? Nathaniel: (laughs) No.
From a young age, Nathaniel was interested in cameras and video editing. Nathaniel: As kids we always made homemade movies with a camcorder. [Recording ourselves] entering through one door, coming out through another, that kind of thing. My dad had worked for a camera rental place and always brought home top of the line cameras that I played around with. But I never knew what to do with it, so I figured I should go to film school. In order to save money for school he started working in the metal industry, running the shipping and receiving operations at a manufacturing facility.
On holiday one year, Nathaniel went to visit a friend in Australia and loved it. He remembers walking into church in Australia for the first time and being blown away by the pre-roll video before the actual meeting even started. He describes this moment as his realisation that this form of art could be used with purpose and meaning behind it. This was what he wanted to do. While still on vacation, he decided to learn After Effects and Photoshop. With no day job to spend his energy on, Nathaniel spent a whole week making a motion graphics-driven promo for a youth gathering. It blew everyone out of the water! As a result, he was soon animating and editing for Hillsong Conference, and subsequently landed a job at Hillsong Church as an editor.
Untitled | 2021
Untitled | 2020
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Sebastian: Why is art important in the Church and to us as humans? Nathaniel: I think, because it breaks your normal train of thought. It provides an opportunity to think outside of how you’d normally think, and gives you a different perspective. Something other than your day-to-day. It kinda disrupts you a little bit, like seeing a sunset up in the Blue Mountains, and it’s like you can’t help but think about things bigger than your everyday life. Sebastian: Does art always need to communicate a story? Nathaniel: I think beauty can be enough. Sometimes people make up their own story and it’s probably better than what was intended. But there’s room for both [abstract beauty and clear storytelling]. Being a bit more obvious can be really powerful in a moment. Nathaniel works closely with Joel Houston and the United team on their projects. Recently, they were discussing the tension between abstract and onthe-nose.
different layers to kinda piece it together. You kind of allow the participant to get the satisfaction of feeling like they’ve figured it out. Sebastian: You have a pretty specific visual style. I feel like it’s quite easy to point out. It has certain textural qualities, real items, analog stuff, paper textures… Nathaniel: I don’t know…I’ve always been really interested in what makes something look the way it does when mine doesn’t. When I started out, I would mimic things I see. I’d spot a movie title and try to do the same but it always looked cheap. I could tell it wasn’t a professional who’d made it. So, I became interested in the little things that made it look professional. It was this curiosity that pushed him to discover a few key ideas that added professionalism to his work. Nathaniel: I started seeing that [using the real elements, like paper textures and actual VHS machines] are what make it look better, because you’re using actual real elements. I’d tried to make everything [from scratch in the computer], but when I figured this out, it was like I had the final piece.
Nathaniel: That’s what I love about what Joel does. There are so many layers. You have to dig through the
Nathaniel’s edit suite today testifies to this ‘real elements’ approach. He’s surrounded not just by his computer and AeroPress coffee maker, but by pencils, markers, highlighters, different types of paper and notebooks full of sketches, cartoons and scribbles — all potential assets to be scanned and used in video projects. His room is also full of different kinds of cameras and VHS machines. Looming over it all is a two-metre wall of old analog TV monitors. He uses these to re-record his content on real analog pixels. First, he’ll create something in Adobe After Effects —an industrystandard software used for animation and visual effects — and play it on one of the TVs. Then, he might add distortion to the image by turning knobs on a console connected to the TV. Next, he records the resulting image onto a VHS tape adding another layer of distortion, and finally, captures it back onto the original computer. His visual artistry is reminiscent of the analog eras of the 1980s and 1990s, as well as a bit of the early 2000s, with semidigital solutions and ground-breaking 3D animations that point to the future. Nathaniel: I’ve always liked that old tech stuff. It’s not all necessary, but it makes everything easier to use....
It’s way easier than having some janky setup and trying to hot-wire something. At least with this, you go, ‘oh, I should make this quickly,’ and you fire it up, you know, it’s all ready to go. With the amount of content Nathaniel creates, he definitely has reason to have the monitor wall and the tape machines. His work ranges across many target audiences and platforms, but there usually are some ‘real-world’ elements which bring his signature and professional look to each of his creations. Whether it’s a subtle texture on a 3D element or that the whole video has passed through the magnetic strip of a VHS tape, Nathaniel’s art style leaves people captivated and inspired as he takes the old and the real, to generate something virtual and new. ______ Now that you know his secrets, if you’d like to see more of Nathaniel’s work and setup, follow these links to see his recent masterclasses. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQCPK8qqkL4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDTdyvEKeI8
Releasing Creativity: How the Underground Church is Finding Its Voice Through the Creative Arts Words: Janae Janik
In Shanghai, talking about God outside of church is illegal. Unregistered churches must limit their numbers to 30 people, or risk being fined by government officials. Subtlety is key — service locations constantly changing every week to avoid being tracked down. Even the language on social media is coded in a way as to not raise alarm bells or risk getting deleted. This is the underground church in China. Yet, there is a vibrant community of Believers engaged with seeing the Gospel proclaimed despite the limitations. Renee Deng and Kenelm Chan are involved with running the Chinese services at Hillsong. In addition to their involvement in Sydney, they have worked with a creative ministry team in China that is helping encourage creativity as a way of spreading the Gospel. “[Art] creates a pathway for people to actually know Jesus,” Renee said. “Arts literacy like those kinds of things, it’s embedded in people’s — in people’s plight. And a lot of time you realise… art speak[s] louder than when you’re trying to preach to people using words. And it’s also a safer way to do so.” Christian content will be deleted, but art can provide a pathway to start conversations in ways that aren’t
blatantly religious. Therefore, it can go undetected by officials and continue to make an impact, giving the community a powerful voice where the government has tried to take it away. One artist who is a member of this ministry is Sunday. A few years ago, she started to receive prophetic visions and images she believed were from God and use her creative skills to make them tangible for others. As she painted, Renee says Sunday began to experience healing from her past and God began to give her new understandings of her identity. It became more than simply art, but an act of personal devotion and worship. After hearing about the 100 Day Creative Challenge at the 2018 Worship and Creative Conference, Sunday did a whole series inspired by the Songs of Ascent in the Psalms. These were later shown in a week-long gallery exhibition in downtown Shanghai alongside other artwork Sunday had painted. The event wasn’t ‘Christian’ — that wouldn’t have been allowed — but Sunday was able to talk about the influence behind the paintings to those who asked. One of these paintings depicted an image of the Red Sea parting to make way for the Israelites to
“[Art] creates a pathway for people to actually know Jesus...” walk across on dry ground. Given to Renee and Kenelm, it ended up in the hands of Cass Langton who used it to frame a sermon for the Hillsong Creative Team inspiring creatives all over the world to reflect on how God makes a way through the impossible. It’s just one story of how the underground church is using their creativity to not only claim back their voice, but also to let God speak through them. Despite hundreds of small churches being shut down, Renee says the Chinese community continues to look for ways to bring hope to other people. The western world might see them as the ones in need, but she says that’s not how they view themselves. “They never see themselves as the ones being persecuted. They always just see it as like there’s going to be challenge — there’s going to be difficulties. But they see themselves as blessed, so they want to actually bless others.” In contrast to previous generations, Renee says there has actually been an influx of Chinese missionaries being sent out into Europe and the Middle East. Kenelm is excited about this as he reflects on how much the Chinese creative community has imparted into him and the
uniqueness of what they can continue to share with the world. “I’m hearing the songs that they’re writing. I’m seeing the art that they’re drawing, and what’s coming out from there.... Art will create that avenue for them to create it in their way — in a way that works for Chinese churches.... Who knows the worship expression, the art expression, the music expression that’s actually going to come from this? And it’s going to be in their way, their flavour, their ability.” And that’s what Renee and Kenelm are so passionate about — the potential of creativity being released out of a country that has traditionally seen others sent into it. So, while the logistics of constant new locations, limited resources, and uncertainties rise, they continue to create for the glory of God, knowing He will provide everything they need. “It’s such an encouragement and reminder for us now,” Kenelm reflected. “God creates ways for them. Never have I heard them say, no we can’t, but rather, let’s find a way.”
Evergreen Sydney, Australia Oct 21—22 In the room +Online
“I will make evergreens grow together in the desert.”
Laden with life. Artwork and artist. 102
Words: Samantha Ortiz
Mandy Garling is often found serving her local church in Darwin, carrying a tray full of coffees for other volunteers. This building has become an important space for her. It has poignant associations with her past, (her parents and sister having been married here), as well as great significance to her present. It’s a place where she’s found purpose and belonging. A place she now affectionally calls ‘home’. You can find her there most weekends, worshipleading and serving, bringing energy and joy, (as well as those coffees), to many around her. From the outside looking in, it might seem like Garling has been there her whole life — like she’s familiar with the feeling of ‘home’. And truly, her own family tree displays many faithful and prominent relatives, committed to serving the church. But the truth is, though Mandy met Jesus at the tender age of 16, she’s only found the rhythm of belonging in the last two years.
For most of her life, music has been Garling’s passion. While currently working as a sound engineer, Garling has a background in radio and is also a gifted singer/songwriter. She’s written fiftyfive original songs, and participated in many festivals and competitions, including the Darwin Festival in 2020 where she performed her original song ‘The Streets of Darwin’ live. It is a beautiful tribute to her childhood — guitar in hand, surrounded by family, surrounded by song, the music rising like the flames of her campfire climbing high into the night sky. Smiles and laughter are found in abundance with the scent of good food and fresh air. She has a gift — one listen and you feel transported. But music hasn’t always come easily to her. In fact, Garling spent a lot of her childhood deaf. Diagnosed with a condition called tropical ears, Garling suffered hearing loss until the age of eight. In a family surrounded by many siblings, each as musically and physically talented as the last, Garling
her life. But for a long time, their journey together had its ups and downs. For many years, Mandy found herself in patterns of attending church for a few months and then disappearing for six or more. And those weren’t the only patterns she followed. Unhealthy relationships with men, food and with her own self-image weighed on Garling for twenty-plus years. “Every time I got close to God, I pulled away because I found it hard to commit…I had friends that were not Christians…we were doing late night gigs and that kind of stuff…your life gets busy, and you get used to it. You get used to your strongholds.” But two years ago, after she received a lifethreatening diagnosis, all that changed. “I had type-two diabetes, high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure — the doctors told me that I was only going to live to 44. This sickness has been in my family and some of them have actually died of it. I was basically on the path to my death.” For the first time ever, Garling headed for transformation. Along with changes to her physical and mental well-being, she sought a spiritual change as well. For three months, she sat in church every week and waited on God.
spent her own childhood struggling to hear and speak. Her early days of schooling were spent in special-unit classes as she fought to learn to communicate.
“I remember sitting at the end of my bed, on my knees…and I gave God everything…. I said, ‘God, I can’t do this anymore, I need you in my life…if you can hear me, I will serve you for the rest of my life.’”
But then, after an implantation of grommets — tiny ventilation tubes that allow circulation around the middle ear — Garling experienced the miraculous recovery of her hearing. “My mum and dad said I was always trying to hum, like I must be hearing something in my mind and that [sound] was going to my ears and trying to come out my voice, but it couldn’t,” Garling said. “So, after my hearing popped, I just started singing.” It wasn’t just hearing she gained, but a musical ability she’d carry with her for the rest of her life. She learned vocal technique and how to play piano all by ear, as well as guitar from watching her older brother play. And it’s safe to say, she never stopped. In retrospect, Garling can easily see God’s hand on
Now, two years later, the doctors have reversed her diagnosis, and she is the healthiest she’s ever been. She has also been back to church for two years straight, having broken many of the detrimental cycles in her life. “What’s best,” she said, “is that people are witnessing the change within me…non-Christians too, and I’m not ashamed anymore. I tell them I go to church every Sunday for this reason.” She knows the journey is far from over — she still has to actively reset her mind every morning — but she has confidence that God will continue to help her live free from her old, unhealthy cycles. It’s one of the loudest messages she shares. “If you’re caught in a cycle, remember that…. He can get you out…I gave God my life. I said, ‘Take it. Use
me as your vessel.’ And this is why I’m standing today.” These days she mentors artists from all different walks of life, teaching them to write about their life experiences. She believes strongly in music’s ability to heal, and often involves herself in projects like the Southwater Divas, a song-writing program for women coming from domestic violence and broken homes. “The beautiful thing about this program is that [the women] get to write their story on a piece of paper and perform it for me. Their families come and support them, and it’s a healing process for them.” She’s also mentored young Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander women, helping them compose melodies so they too, can share their song. “The power of music to heal is when it comes from real life…It can give you the feeling of peace, calm — you know, give you strength…that’s why I need music in my life and that’s why I guess I have a lot to give.” Garling could go on forever about her new life with God, reflecting on all the experiences in her life that bear His fingerprints — leading her home. But as vividly as she can see God in her past, she also sees him in her future. “I’m not going to hold back [with] whatever he shows me next, because I’m actually excited to see where He’s taking me…I want to [write] more gospel…I haven’t done that yet…but because I’m now working more with God, I want to write songs about that. Yeah, that’s going to be another whole story.” When asked if she could pinpoint what made her seek God after all those years, Garling smiled. “I think God was always calling me home. I just finally listened.”
BEHIND THE SCREEN How the 100-Day Creative Challenge inspired a business modernising online church platforms Words: Janae Janik
The little chapel was standing room only. Hidden in the back corner of the stairwell, Paul Cox listened intently as Cass Langton addressed the Hillsong creative team. She spoke of the innocence of childhood creativity — how little ones are so eager to show us their mediocre masterpieces. They are content with simply having put pen to paper, unencumbered by what others might think of their disconnected lines and scribbles. Children simply create for the sake of creating. Yet as adults, we often lose that simplicity amidst the fear of failure, judgment from others, and pursuit of perfection. At the time, Cox was an accomplished drummer for the team, having come to Hillsong College to develop those skills in the Worship Stream. However, his paid work was in website development. Cass Langton continued encouraging the team to create
with what they currently had in their hands. She explained that writers will write, painters will paint pictures, singers use their voice, and musicians play their respective instruments. But while Cox knew how to release creativity through drumming, it had never occurred to him that his skills with website design could be a creative pursuit as well. Cox began to dream up how he could use his web expertise to launch creativity in the online sphere. He noticed a lot of churches using old, disorganised websites. Since hiring a web developer costs a small fortune, and with no affordable options available, it was understandable that most churches settled for what they could design themselves. Realising this was something he might be able to change, Cox set to work and The Church Co. was born. It was fundamental to his vision that churches shouldn’t have to settle for mediocrity when it came to their online presence. Skilled vocalists help lead people to a place where they can encounter Jesus. There’s beauty and reverence in the sound of their trained voices. In the same way, Cox believed a skilled developer should be designing the church website in order for it to best communicate the church’s vision and mission. “You wouldn’t invite me, your web developer, to come and speak at your church on the weekend and you definitely don’t want me to sing and lead worship,” Cox said. “Your website that you’ve built yourself sounds like me trying to sing and lead worship.” That sentiment became his pitch to pastors, helping them see the potential in letting his business contribute to the work God was already doing in their congregations. His business now reaches tens of thousands across the globe. However, like most entrepreneurial ventures, it wasn’t an overnight success. The beginning was a bit more menial.
Initially, Cox offered his services for free. When he eventually began charging for them, half his small clientele dropped out. At first, he only worked on this new venture when he had some spare time, (maybe ten hours each month), but eventually Cox and his wife moved to New York and he decided to invest more into this business idea. So before the sun rose while most people were still asleep, Cox would wake up and drop by the local coffee shop. “It was a lot of early mornings. I would wake up at five, go to Toby’s Estate, which is called Partners in Brooklyn,” Cox said. “And I would work until nine and then go to my job and work. I did that for like, two years until I finally got enough customers to where I could quit my job.” As he used his creativity to make churches more accessible online, Cox began to recognise an opportunity to shift people’s mindsets — the mindset that limited church to a physical location. He started wondering if church could be tailored for people who may never come inside the four walls of the building. Maybe the website could provide the opportunity to encounter God all on its own. According to Cox, the website is often the first interaction a person has with church, and even more importantly with Jesus. That makes it increasingly important to make sure it actually explains who Jesus is. However, he found most websites had no explanation of the gospel at all. We already assume that they know why they should attend a church and they know about Jesus,” Cox explained. “Or they’re in like, some midst of a spiritual enlightening that makes them want to come to church, but we don’t often take one step prior to that which is like, ‘Hey, if you know nothing about church. This is what church is about. It’s about this person named Jesus.’”
If nobody knows the person behind the events and programs, then we lose the reason why the programs exist in the first place. Cox made it his goal to create online church platforms that clearly pointed to Jesus. This included sermons made easily accessible, the ability to join online connect groups, as well as participate in outreach programs. The website wouldn’t just be a source of information, but an avenue to engage in Faith with other people. In some ways, even though nobody sees him, Cox is the front door greeter for thousands of churchgoers every Sunday. He often stays up till 3 a.m. working to make sure the servers don’t crash the next day so upwards of 110,000 people can be ‘welcomed’ to church via the various websites he’s created. While some may go on mission trips, and others preach or evangelise, he sits behind a computer screen and codes. It’s his contribution to the Great Commission. In fact, he has an online map of the world showing all the churches he’s built websites for. Each church is represented by a light, reminding him that there are thousands of small communities being impacted by the gospel because of the work he does.
me is like the map isn’t reached yet. So the map’s not covered yet, which means we still have work that we need to do.” It all started at the back stairwell of a chapel, through a simple creative challenge and a revelation of the creativity sitting in his hands. It’s turned into a new understanding of what it means to use our talents for a greater purpose. “Calling for me is kind of like...it’s not one thing it’s just like how can you help the Great Commission,” Cox said. “What am I doing? Okay, how can I use it for the Kingdom.” He may not even be on the same continent as the people he’s impacting, and they may not even know he exists, but he has been able to create a platform through which people encounter the love of God every day, all around the world. So what will your creativity inspire?
My goal is to light it up everywhere. So, like right now, the entire United States is pretty much lit up because that’s where I was living. So now it’s like, how can we get this into Africa and Australia and Europe, because every church that signs up, puts another dot on the map. And so, yeah, the why for
ALTARS OF REMEMBRANCE WORDS: KMY DENTON
A few weeks ago, I found myself alone in our home, only hours away from handing the keys to the realtor that night. We’d sold our family home, and I wanted to leave the house really tidy for the new owners — like a welcome present to them. As I tried to decide where to begin the deepclean, I turned on some worship music so I could worship one last time in this home that meant so much to me — cover it in prayer before the new family moved in. With each wiping of the wall and cleaning of the trim, I began to recount times spent with my family and the faithfulness of God in our lives. I remembered all the ‘firsts’ and special moments — like when we first brought my daughter home from the hospital in 2020 just before the pandemic hit. Her birth was incredibly redemptive for me, as I had struggled with post-natal depression after the birth of my son a few years earlier, and I worried that I might experience the same with her. When anxiety came creeping back mid-2020, along with fear for my daughter’s health, I didn’t know what else to do but sing worship over her. I’d weep as I held her and wait for God to show up in the dark. Night after night, He met me there in the tears and in the anxiety. He never let me go. Slowly, He undid the knots inside of me. As
I cleaned that Saturday night, I remembered His goodness to me. In the remembering, I was reminded of the Old Testament where God would tell His people to build stone memorials, or altars of remembrance, to permanently mark a place where He had manifested His covenant with them. Chapter three in the Book of Joshua is an introduction to one of these exact moments when Joshua led the Israelites to cross the Jordan River — the very descendants of those who had crossed the Red Sea with Moses. The Lord instructed Joshua that the Ark of the Covenant was to go first into the water, as the Levitical priests carried it, and everyone else was to follow behind. I love that the presence of God went before them — into flooding waters and uncontrollable chaos — and they crossed through on dry ground as they followed His presence. In Joshua 4, we learn that the Lord told Joshua to choose twelve men — one from every tribe. They were to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan where the priests stood with the Ark, and put them down at the place where they’d stay that night. In verses 21 to 24 Joshua says, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he
dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God” (New International Version, Joshua 4:21-24). As I sat on the floor of my home, I realised this moment was an altar of remembrance for me. The carpet that had held tears of despair now held tears of gratitude, and though I wiped away each little handprint and smudge from the walls, the fingerprints of God had left an indelible mark on our lives. It’s a testament that I will carry with me to tell the generations of the goodness and faithfulness of God. I wonder what Red Sea or Jordan River you might be facing? Allow the presence of God to go before you, invite Him into the centre of it with you, and when He leads you through to the other side, stop and remember His goodness. Let it forge in you an altar of remembrance and lifelong testament to the goodness of God.
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TO JOIN THE SYMPHONY THAT ALL REDEEMED CREATION WILL RESOUND WITH ONE DAY, WHEN ALL IS FULFILLED — THE SYMPHONY THAT FALLEN CREATION CAN POINT TOWARD EVEN NOW. WE HEAR IT IN WATERFALLS, WIND AND WINGBEATS. CICADA SONG AND PSITHURISM. LULLABIES AND LAUGHTER. VOICES, IN OR OUT OF TUNE, IN OR OUT OF UNISON, SUNG, SLUNG, HUMMED, HURLED FORTH FROM HEARTS AIMED H E AV ENWARD.
TO FORSAKE EVERY OTHER COUNTERFEIT TRUST AND FULLY PLACE ALL WE HAVE BEEN, ARE AND WILL BE UNDER THE PRECIOUS, SAVING BLOOD OF CHRIST JESUS AND THERE, TRADE EVERY ENSLAVEMENT OF SIN FOR ALL THE GLORIOUS AND MATCHLESS AND TRUE FREEDOM FOUND IN HIM ALONE.
TO JOIN THE SONG OF HEAVEN AND EARTH: OF ANGELS EN MASSE AND ARMIES ASSEMBLED; OF SAINTS IN THE GREAT CLOUD OF WITNESSES OR THOSE HERE AND NOW INHABITING BODY AND TIME; OF THE CHURCH THROUGHOUT ALL TIME AND HISTORY, “TERRIBLE WITH BANNERS” YET WITH TOWELS AROUND OUR WAISTS, SERVANT-HEARTED LIKE OUR LORD.
TO REMEMBER THAT A LONGING FOR GOD IS A LONGING FROM GOD. OUR FATHER IS NOT INDIGNANT AND DISTANT, BUT HE IS THE FATHER WHO LIFTS UP HIS SKIRTS AND RUNS THROUGH THE DUST TO GREET THE CHILD WHO ONCE REJECTED HIM, INSULTED HIM AND HELD HIS GIFT AND FATHERHOOD IN CONTEMPT (LUKE 15). WE CAN LONG FOR HIM ONLY BECAUSE HE HAS FIRST LONGED FOR US. WE RESIST BECOMING CALLOUS TO COMMUNION AND INSTEAD DRAW NEAR, DROP OUR DEFENCES AND LET THE LORD LOVE US.
TO STEP FULLY THROUGH THE TORN TEMPLE CURTAIN — TO HEAR THE SOUND OF THE WAY OPENING, THE EARTH SHAKING, THE ROCKS SPLITTING AND THOSE THAT GUARDED THE NAZARENE CARPENTER EXCLAIMING “SURELY HE WAS THE SON OF GOD” — AND TO REMEMBER THE ENTRANCE WE GAINED WHEN WE TRUSTED IN HIM LIKE THE THIEF BESIDE OUR SAVIOUR AT CALVARY — OUR SAVIOUR WHO FORGAVE AND WELCOMED EVEN AS HIS BLOOD STAINED THE SPLINTERED WOOD OF THE TORTUROUS TREE THAT ESCORTED HIM TO THE DEATH THAT BROUGHT US LIFE.
AS THOSE WHO DELIGHT TO WORSHIP, WE
TO DRINK DEEP OF HIS PRESENCE. TO LET THE OIL OF GLADNESS SMEAR US SO INDELIBLY THAT AS WE GO OUT INTO OUR OFFICES, SCHOOLS, FIELDS, WORKSITES, LIVING ROOMS, BOARDROOMS, AND HOSPITAL ROOMS, WE CARRY A RESIDUE OF HEAVEN WHICH MEANS OUR LIVES BECOME THE “AROMA OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIM” AS WRITTEN IN 2 CORINTHIANS 2:14. WE ARE INVITED TO LET OUR DELIGHT IN THE LORD INCREASE OUR COMPASSION FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT YET KNOW THAT SUCH DELIGHT CAN BE THEIRS, AND TO LET OUR LOVE AND BOLD WITNESS BE A BEACON THAT MAY GUIDE THEM HOME.
AS THOSE WHO SUFFER TO WORSHIP, WE
TO JOIN IN THE FELLOWSHIP OF CHRIST’S SUFFERINGS, BEING CONFORMED TO HIS DEATH AND KNOWING THE POWER OF THE RESURRECTION (PHILIPPIANS 3:10). AS WE WORSHIP IN SUFFERING, WE ARE INVITED TO REMEMBER THE SUFFERINGS OF OUR SISTERHOOD AND BROTHERHOOD THE WORLD OVER (1 PETER 5:9), AND IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD AS WE WORSHIP, WE ARE MORE CLEARLY ABLE TO COMPARE THE SUFFERINGS OF THIS PRESENT TIME TO THE GLORY WHICH SHALL BE REVEALED IN US EVENTUALLY (ROMANS 8:18), AND TAKE COMFORT AND STRENGTH IN THE CONTRAST. “FOR AS THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST ABOUND IN US, SO OUR CONSOLATION ALSO ABOUNDS THROUGH CHRIST,” (2 CORINTHIANS 1:5).
OUR OWN DESIRES TO DRAG US AWAY TO ENDEAVOURS THAT ARE MORE COMFORTABLE TO OUR FLESH, WE INVITE THE HOLY SPIRIT TO COMPEL US TO GIVE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST THE GLORY HE DESERVES — AND IN MAGNIFYING HIM, WE FIND EVERYTHING IN OUR LIVES THAT IS OUT OF ALIGNMENT WITH HIS RULE AND KINGDOM BECOMES STARKLY OBVIOUS AND CAN BE GENTLY OR FIRMLY CORRECTED ACCORDING TO OUR TIMELY OR TARDY RESPONSE. AS WE WORSHIP IN SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH, WITH FAITH, WE DECLARE THAT EVERY POWER, SCHEME OR ASSIGNMENT FROM HELL THAT RESISTS THE PROPHESYING OF GOD’S REIGN IN OUR LIVES, IN CHRIST’S CHURCH AND IN THIS WORLD BE PUT FIRMLY IN ITS PLACE.
NEVER TO LOVE THE ACT OF IT MORE THAN THE ONE WHO IS THE OBJECT OF IT. AS WE WORSHIP, MAY WE SEE JESUS MORE CLEARLY, FORGET OURSELVES MORE FREELY, BE TRANSFORMED MORE DEEPLY, BE ENTHRALLED BY HIM MORE THOROUGHLY, TAKE OUR PLACE AS HIS BELOVED MORE FIRMLY AND PLACE HIM ON THE THRONE OF OUR LIVES AND HEARTS PERMANENTLY JUST AS HE SITS ON HIS ETERNAL THRONE NOW AND FOR ALL ETERNITY AS LORD, LAMB, LION AND KING FOREVER.
THIS, INVITED. LET IT
S E L A H .
“WHEN YOU SAID, ‘SEEK MY FACE,’ MY HEART SAID TO YOU, ‘YOUR FACE, LORD, I WILL SEEK’.” (PSALM 27:8)
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CREATION TEAM Global Worship & Creative Pastor: Cassandra Langton | Australia Creative Pastor: Rich Langton Creative Director & Editor: Kris Mateika | Project Manager: Gabriella Melo Korocz Cover Design: Yoseph Setiawan | Magazine Team: Ben Yeoh, Christel Cherryadi | Editing Team Lead: Janae Janik | Editing Team: Sophia Bustos, Greta Eliazabeth Roz Hancock, Samantha Ortiz, Simone Ridley
Australia NSW: Rich Langton, Cassandra Langton, Kris Mateika, Kmy Denton, Janae Janik
Greta Elizabeth, Samantha Ortiz, Rachel Hogan, Sebastian Strand, Rachelle Dusting Rachel Mthembu, Lindley Joyner, Sarah Laing, Melodie Wagner, Kylie Beach, Eli Escoto Australia WA: Amanda Viviers London UK: Amma Aburam, Alexia Demetriades PHOTOGRAPHERS NSW: Daniel Packer, Ben Faulkner, Sebastian Strand, Phil Metcalfe
Alexander Pappas alexander.pappas
Kurt Robertson robertson.kur robertsonkur.com
Brooke Ligertwood brookeligertwood
Ping Lian | Sarah Lee Lindley Joyner pinglian.com To learn more email: email@example.com Rachelle Dusting rachelledusting Mandy Garling Rebecca Rey Mi-kaisha Masella rbeccarey iammikaisha Rob Amuroso Natalie Manuel Lee rob_amuroso nataliiemanuellee robamuroso.com
Damiane Van Reenen damianedidit Jamin Tasker jamintasker Janina Victoria janinavictoria phenomene.book janinavictoria.co Josefin Cummings josefincummings josefincummings.com Justine Toh justinetoh publicchristianity.org
Nathaniel Redekop nathanielredekop Paul Cox pauljosephcox thechurchco.com
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Temitope Adebowale temitope.artist temitope-artist.com
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