Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Amazing Grace thrives through ministry

Published:Sunday | March 12, 2017 | 3:00 AMShereita Grizzle
Apostle Dr Mary Banks of Bible Teachers International Ministries shares a light moment with Father Richard Ho Lung.
'Amazing Grace'
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The religious musical has been nominated in eight categories including the big ones: Best Drama, Best Musical, and New Jamaican Script.

Banks, although happy with the numerous nominations, told The Sunday Gleaner that it was unexpected as her goal, having completed the script, was purely to minister and not to win awards.

"God had an anointing on this production, and that was the most outstanding thing. We dealt with a lot of issues pertaining to life. When we talk about Christian-based material, we have to keep in mind that our objective is global evangelism," she explained. "We're trying to point people to God. I think that if we (Christian playwrights) were to be just as innovative with our message as the secular world, we could effect evangelism a lot more than we have in the past."

Amazing Grace, she pointed out, was written back in 2002, and having completed successful shows across the United States, Banks said that she was led to bring the play to Jamaica.

"In producing Amazing Grace, the motivation was to touch the hearts of people. A lot of people in Jamaica were struggling with some of the issues we highlighted in the production. God wanted to speak to the homosexuals, the broken homes, the drunkards, the young people who were just doing their thing," she said. "We kept the message as our focal point, and that is one of the reasons I believe the play was so memorable. At the end of the day, when those curtains came down, we wanted to make sure that the message touched people in such a way that we set them up to make the decision to come to Christ and gain a relationship with him."

Banks told The Sunday Gleaner that having decided to bring the play to Jamaica, she approached several organisations for sponsorship but said that none was forthcoming. The latter, she explained, did not deter her as the production was about ministry and had to be brought to fruition by any means.

"This was a church production, and so we had to turn our church into a dance studio for rehearsal, and we had to turn my whole office into a sewing factory so we could make all the costumes. We turned the sanctuary into a stage, and it was quite an experience. But because of where the hearts of the people were who were involved, we were able to pull it off," she explained. "We started out with no budget. We didn't have any outside businesses or corporations sponsoring us, but the Lord told me to do Amazing Grace, and He just made it work. The Lord just provided, and I live by this principle, 'wherever the Lord guides, He provides'. It cost us thousands of dollars to do that, and the people just came together. Some donated money, others material and their time."

Although Banks is hoping to walk away with multiple awards come March 27, she remained humble and said that no matter the outcome on the night, the production has already achieved what it set out to do: minister and win souls for Christ.

"We have received so many emails and calls from people giving their testimonies of how the play helped them through some difficult times and helped them make the best decision of their lives. So many people have told us that they have given their life to the Lord that winning awards couldn't compare to that," she said. "I respect Father Ho Lung and Friends and I don't see myself as competing with any other clergyman. We are all working together with one aim. I leave who wins and who walks away the most awards up to the Lord. It's not about us getting reward or trophies ... as long as we got the message out and God is glorified, we're happy."

Amazing Grace debuted in Jamaica in 2015 with a cast of over 80 people. All of the performers - actors, singers, and dancers - were Jamaicans, most of whom were trained through the Bible Teachers Academy of the Arts.

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