The theme might have been “Walking with Jesus,” but participants were dancing, singing, miming, and praising, too.
The 2013 Night of Praise, presented by BRAVA Total Praise Performance, under the direction of Lisa Campbell, showcased the talents of area boys and girls, and a few adults, at a recent night at the Averitt Center for the Arts’ Emma Kelly Theater.
Comedian Christopher Pugh emceed the night and said, “We’ve got the power to change the world one kid at a time.”
Performers from Believers Church, Statesboro Mission Outreach, St. Mary’s Missionary Baptist Church in Clito, Agape Worship Center, Crossroads Community Church, Original First African Baptist Church, Baby Grand Studio Performing Arts and Shades of Art in Sylvania took the stage.
“This is a ministry,” Lisa Linen, the dance instructor for Agape Worship Center, said of the center’s dance and mime program. “It’s about praising God, worshipping God. We want to saturate the atmosphere with the Holy Spirit.
“We teach the kids that it’s not about them; it’s all about Jesus,” she continued. “In the program, they learn Scripture and the meaning of the song. We want the song in their souls, not just in their eardrums.”
Lashunda Staten, the praise dance leader for Original First African Baptist Church, explained the name of their dance groups.
“Our name is ‘Faith’ because we’re faithful and inspiring through harmony to glorify God,” she said. “When we perform, we’re hoping God is looking down, smiling. We’re hoping He’s touching someone’s life as we minister through dance.”
The Sylvania community-based organization Shades of Art performed a scene from the gospel stage play “When Mama Prays.”
Yolanda Oliver, the founder and director of Shades, said she is passionate about the benefits that performing arts programs play in a child’s life.
“The arts enhance life skills in young people,” Oliver said. “It builds self-confidence and encourages them to use their full potential. It encourages excellence in their studies.”
Felicia Merritt, whose daughter Kaylen is a dancer in BRAVA Total Praise Performance, agrees.
“Kaylen’s studies have picked up because of her time at BTPP,” Merritt said. “Mrs. Lisa has helped my daughter come out of her shell. I’ve seen her flourish into a young woman. She’s grown into a spiritual giant.”
BRAVA members memorize the motto: “We do our best because we are the best. We are the best because we are children of God.”
The Night of Praise admission fee will help fund the praise team’s spring mission work. Participants will soon pack snack food and toiletries for, and writing letters to, a battalion of soldiers in Afghanistan.
The performers also serve through an outreach program on St. Simon’s Island in June. Statesboro kids will teach peers from the St. Simon’s First African Baptist Church to cheer, rap and dance, and the event will culminate with a performance by both groups of kids.
Director Lisa Campbell, the mother of four boys – two of whom gave powerful mime performances on-stage – ended the praise night with these thoughts: “Little people can do great things. Little people can serve God, too.
“Trust Him, commit … and don’t be afraid to celebrate.”