Testimonies

Jim Harris - Committee Member, Bass/Guitar Player

posted May 29, 2012, 3:49 PM by Susannah Francis   [ updated May 29, 2012, 3:53 PM ]

I've always considered myself a Christian;  born and raised in Russiaville, IN by a conservative Mom & Dad, attending the Church of Christ in Kokomo and accepting Christ at Pearson Mills Church Camp at the age of 12.

As a young adult, I played music mostly in pop/rock bands and worked in retail. From high school, 1972-1990 I worked in retail management, all the while still playing music. Even went on the road, for a time, from 1974-1980, performing music for a living, while taking leaves of absences from retail work.

In the late 1980's, I was not happy with the retail work or the music. I was downsized five times in retail and the music had become too much work and not enough fun. I remember the time and place I was, in 1990, when being downsized for the 5th time, and having not played music for 8 years, due to being extremely frustrated to the point of a near nervous breakdown. It was then, that I turned to God and asked "What am I doing here?" "What would you have me do?"

After about three months of prayer and rest, God told me to "follow my gifting." I was always good with numbers; financial stuff & the like. And I always had an interest in legal matters, finances and taxes. So, even though I was afraid of making change, with God's direction, that is what happened over the next three years. During this time, I learned, became licensed and obtained a degree, that allowed the beginning of a financial planning career.

Things were going just OK and I had control of my time and work, for the first time in my life. But by 1998, it became apparent, through various signs from God, that I was not using my gifting to God's glory. He told me to view my work as a ministry. That I should view the towns and residences I was visiting as my mission field. So I changed the approach, focusing totaling on serving others, without regard to my time or monetary cost. Well, it was amazing the transformation my business, work and ministry went through! God puts people in my path that I can witness to, He always takes care of my income needs, with clients, that allows me to do pro-bono work with people and organizations and, in October of 2000 God introduced me to a minister that gave me an opportunity to play music again!

I believe with everything in me, that all of those early years in my life; working retail, playing music and traveling the country; God was forming me to do what I have now done since 1999. And that is to have my own businesses working in financial ministry and music ministry. He has grown both to where I am a very blessed man. Working and playing in the two areas I am very passionate and gifted; financial services and music.

A wise man once said, "If you want to find yourself, dedicate yourself to the service of others."

Zachary T. Francis - Writer, Actor, Teacher & Co-Founder

posted Mar 13, 2012, 11:05 AM by Susannah Francis   [ updated Mar 13, 2012, 11:08 AM ]

When I was a teenager, I believed that I could control my own morals; that I didn’t need a “Christian” God to help me do what was right and what was wrong. I had my own moral compass and I followed it to the letter. I believed it was wrong to drink and drive. I believed it was wrong to murder….etc., etc. But my Christian friends at the time, they believed something different. They believed that God was needed to help you live a life of righteousness. “Baloney” I thought. But as I got older, I decided I wanted to test this philosophy, a scientific experiment, if you will. So I went to look for a crowd of individuals that would test me, that would get me involved in drugs. That would tempt me into evil. The thought was if I was surrounded by them and still followed my morals, then my Christian friends were wrong. And I didn’t need their God.

So during my junior and senior years of college, I found the people I was looking for. And we had fun. We drank, we did drugs, and we partied until 3 in the morning. And at first, I thought things were OK. But then situations would happen that would give me pause. I would be drunk at a bar and have to make a decision to ride with my friend who was also drunk or let her go home with a complete stranger who might take advantage her. I started to have this attraction to one of my friends, causing this intense jealousy when she flirted with others which led to violence. And when I started to become violent to this girl, I began to realize that I was becoming everything I didn’t want to be. I would get up every morning crying, telling a God that I didn’t serve “Thank you for not having anyone die under my watch yesterday”. Ironically, as things got worse, I didn’t change. Although I was miserable, I was addicted to my behavior.

One evening I was sitting in the hospital after a suicide attempt while trying to explain to the doctor that I wasn’t trying to kill myself, that I was trying to attempt to kill myself so that my friend would feel bad about what they did to me. My first thought was, this is messed up. My second thought being “If I continue on this path. I’m going to die. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe not the next day, but soon.”
That’s when I realized I was wrong. I am not in control of my own life; that you either serve God or Satan. Matthew 6:24 states that “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” This phrase began to make sense. I can’t serve two masters. And I certainly didn’t want to serve Satan. And if I wasn’t control of my own life anyway, why not serve someone that represents good? So I started going to church. Did I become a Christian the next day? No. It took me another two years of searching, but I learned a lesson, the most important lesson up to that point which lead me on the path of Christ. I am not in control of my own life.

So when I write plays or even reach out to artists, I always have this in the back of my mind. I understand what happens when there is no Christian outlet for an aspiring actor so they go out to start performing for community theater, getting exposed to dark areas of life and eventually become controlled by that. After all, you can’t serve two masters. Galatians 5:16-17 states “So I say live by the spirit so you will not gratify the desires of your sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the spirit and the spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other so you do not do what you want.” But if there is nothing Christian for the artists to go to, what are they going to do? We can’t just expect them to ignore their spiritual gifts. So my heart for this ministry began to grow. My desire as an artist myself is to create a place of light, where they can grow in their talent to serve the Lord, where they can be encouraged. Because if there isn’t anything available for them in the realm that involves light, then the only choice for them to use their gift is in the arena of darkness. And like I learned, darkness will have power over us because we are not in control of our own lives.

Susannah Francis - Singer, Director, Administrator & Co-Founder

posted Feb 1, 2012, 3:30 PM by Susannah Francis   [ updated Mar 13, 2012, 11:09 AM ]

I can’t begin to thank the Lord enough for what He has done in my life through 1heart Arts Ministries. When we first began the journey in 2006, I had no idea what was to come. It all started because our church was searching for a Christmas drama skit and couldn’t seem to find one that fit the group. Zach, my new husband, had just been sharing with me his passion of writing and that he had always wanted to write plays. So, when the drama leader of the church voiced that they still were looking for a script, I volunteered that maybe Zach could write it for us. They thought that sounds like a good idea and through this first version of “A Christmas Testimony” the drama ministry was born. Before that production was even complete, Zach was given a new script idea for an Easter play and two years and dozens of interviews later we had “Grace Beyond Humanity”.

Throughout this time, God had been working in my heart to create a CD. Knowing that I must do this in God’s timing or it just wouldn’t be worth it, I prayed for guidance. Several months later, I received my first step to this journey; start taking voice lessons again. Now, I have to explain why this was so difficult for me. Several years back, I had been a Music Education major at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College with a vocal focus. I also had walked away from my faith and was not living as a Christian. For this reason, I had many life struggles I could not handle and eventually withdrew from school in my junior year. During that time in school, I started to dislike music and especially voice lessons due to the fact I would feel inadequate and guilt-ridden about myself as a singer and student. So, when he led me to a vocal teacher, I was quite scared at what it might bring back up from the past. However, I found a friend through my teacher and she wasn’t the demanding and degrading professor that haunted me from the past. I continued in growing and stretching my voice as I prayed for God to reveal that next step to me for the CD.

I can say I only have heard an audible voice (which I believe to have come from God) twice in my life. The second time I heard it I was sitting out in the parking lot of my church. I heard simply “start a praise band”. I had absolutely no idea where to begin, so I asked God to show me the next step. I prayed and prayed and eventually he spoke through my husband’s idea of having a cookout. Since I didn’t know where the CD fit into it, I sent out invitations to anyone that had interest in either being in a praise band or being involved in making a CD. We got a nice little group with instruments in-hand, including someone we had never met that found us through Zach’s posting on Craigslist. Soon, our group was formed. It had been a long desire of my heart to be in a band, so when 1heart Praise Band started in May of 2009, I was overjoyed. I even got to sing with my voice teacher, who joined the group as a singer and piano player. Each of us were pushed out to the edges of our gifting and stretched into new areas as musicians and worshipers.

During the time the band was forming, my professional life was taking a spin in a new direction as well. I had been dealing with extreme dizziness and mental confusion for several years and it was increasing in both severity and frequency, diagnosed as continual vestibular migraines. In the spring of 2009, I had to leave my job and seek employment that would allow me to work from home and/or have the flexibility that was required with my illness. In early summer, a friend mentioned that her Worship Pastor needed some assistance. I started working with him once a week as I continued to look for a paid position. As I worked with him, my desire to do administrative work increased. I prayed to God about what I should do, as I had not found a paid job and He answered me through the scripture found in 1 Peter 4:10, stating “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” I realized then that I had a deep to serve with my administrative gifts in the realms of ministry. It was then that God first led me to the idea of administrative ministry. I called a number of local churches, but nobody seemed to want to take a gamble on an unknown person. So, I again sought the Lord and asked that He give me three names that I could contact to begin. He did so, and all three places where He led me contacted me immediately, two of them calling me at the same time. I felt great confirmation in the path I had chosen and set out doing administrative work from home for three organizations – Karitos, HOPE for Indianapolis and Keynote (part of Campus Crusade for Christ).

In early 2010, our prayers were answered for my husband Zach and began a new job. Within a few months, the ministry work increased to 15-16 hours a week and, with the medical restrictions, utilized all my available time. It was at the point where I wouldn’t have wanted to accept a paid job and drop the ministry work, so we prayed about ending my unemployment checks. I have to be honest that it took a great deal of prayer for us to stop the $1700 received each month, but we knew that was what we had to do. Our newly tightened budget was still $300 in the negative each month, but in our hearts we knew God had a plan to take care of us. So, in March of 2010, to the distress of the very confused lady at the unemployment office, I made the call and ended the receipt of my weekly checks. If I had only known what that step of faith would have done to our ministry, I would have done it a year prior. In April 2010, only a month later, God used my neurologist to find a medication that would give me back half of my life again. For four years I was not able to drive, had to wrap my neck in a towel to work on a computer to keep off vertigo and only was able to work 3-4 hours a day, not to mention the extreme headaches and nausea. Within two weeks of starting the medication, I had energy I had not felt since my early 20’s and the dizziness subsided. By August, I was driving again and working full days. Was it any surprise that in July God opened another huge door for us in ministry?

In July of 2010, we were settling into our new church and had done a couple of short skits during church services. They were so well received that we were asked about putting together a full Christmas production. Through prayer, God led Zach to rewrite his first script “A Christmas Testimony”. We began making preparations for holding auditions and all the other items of pre-production. During July, we also went to our second year of the Karitos Worship & Arts Conference. I had found the conference back in 2009 and it made such a huge impact on me, that I began working with them closely with the administrative ministry. Karitos seemed to be a springboard for our ministry work each year and took us to a new level in our walk with Christ. We grow exponentially in wisdom and discernment about the ministry following our time there each year. When we returned from Karitos in 2010, we felt that God was calling us combine the drama and praise band ministries together. The Christmas production was the first time we did so and it was very successful. It also marked the official creation of 1heart Arts Ministries on Dec. 10, 2010 at our first performance, combining the praise band, drama & networking ministries into one.

Most of you probably know about 2011, as it has been captured through our newsletter articles and emails. God transformed us. He opened doors for me in administrative ministry as I went on staff with the WISH-TV8 program “Religion in the News” in January and Faith Hope & Love in March. Through those ministries, God expanded our networking to church leadership, other arts ministries, and even national and international ministry organizations. We also began our Artist Bible Study, which has been so profoundly powerful for me as both an artist and a leader. It is through here that we have talked out the difficult situations we meet as artists in today’s world. I have learned through these intimate discussions with other artists, how we as Christians can call on God to help us to battle the pride, jealousy and guilt that we struggle with from day to day. Through the accountability and prayer, I also have greatly grown in resolve to have that time alone with God each day and to better take care of my body, His temple.

When I look in the mirror, I don’t appear to look any different than a few years ago. However, when I pray, my heart seems to be more transparent than ever, Scripture comes into mind at those week points of my day and I turn to prayer much more quickly than I ever have before. Confidence is growing in me as I learn daily who God has made me to be and how to use the tools that He gives us to stand firm. I relish my times alone with God, rather than dread them as if they were a chore. I feel the joy of abandoned worship during our times playing as a praise band and I rejoice in seeing people we lead as they grow in Christ and their gifting. I have a great deal further to go, but I’m excited to get there. I can’t imagine a better path for the journey than being part of 1heart Arts Ministries.

1-3 of 3