Top reggae band boosts Nazarene work in Philippines

Gina Grate Pottenger
Monday, August 19, 2013
ImageIn May and June of this year, the Nazarene Church in the Philippines partnered with Christian music’s top reggae band, Christafari, to boost local Nazarene outreach ministries in the Philippines. During the concerts, a combined 2,129 people indicated decisions to accept Christ, according to the band’s website.
 
It started with R.J. Strickland, pastor of the Living Waters Church of the Nazarene on the island of Oahu, in Hawaii, who went on a Work & Witness trip to the Philippines in March 2012. Strickland has a long-term connection to Christafari, playing with the band on its Hawaii tours. 
 
During the Work & Witness trip in the Philippines, Strickland noticed that everywhere the group went, he heard one particular Christafari reggae worship song on the secular radio stations. He realized that the radio stations didn’t even know it was a worship song. But Strickland knew it was from a recent Christafari CD. He discovered reggae is very popular in the Philippines.
 
Strickland began to think about what it would mean if the Nazarene church could bring such a world-renowned band to the Philippines. He talked to the then Work & Witness coordinator in the Philippines, Jason Courtney, who liked the idea, and connected him to Mark Mohr, the founder and lead singer of the band. By January 2013 they had firmed up dates for the band to visit the Philippines and play 14 concerts – three of them at Nazarene sites.
 
The band has a heart for sharing the Gospel through their music, Strickland said.
 
Christafari, which formed in 1990, has produced 17 albums and played at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., in 1996, as well as the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S. in 2002. They played at the U.S. Presidential Inaugural Ball in 1997. In 2013, the band was the first Christian artist in history to have an album – Reggae Worship: A Roots Revival – to be positioned No. 1 on the Billboard Reggae Albums Chart.
 
ImageRecently, the band had decided to make themselves a missionary enterprise instead of a for-profit music group. The timing was right to partner with them for a missional music tour.
 
“They call themselves musicianaries,” Strickland said.
 
Courtney said the band came to the Philippines for the 21-day tour without expecting to make any money. And they came not just to perform but to experience how God’s people are involved in His mission.
 
“My goal was not just to tour them around and play concerts but to show them the mission side of things,” Courtney said.
 
So Courtney took the band to Smoky Mountain, a garbage dump where people live, making their income from scraps they gather from the dump and sell for a little bit of money. There is a Christian ministry at the dump and a small congregation there.
 
“I wanted the band to just experience Third World. I took them to an extreme place – the dump. There’s kids there playing…. They just bonded with the kids. That was the second day in the tour and I think at that moment, so early in the tour, they got it, they understood what missions is about. It’s not the music, it’s not the fans, it’s the people.”
 
In Cebu, the band played a concert in a bar. The room was filled with people packed shoulder to shoulder. Many were drinking and even smoking marijuana. The band openly preached about Jesus Christ in between their songs. Students from the Nazarene Bible College came to provide ministry support.
 
ImageThe band also played at Taytay Church of the Nazarene’s youth church called Generation Congregation, which was celebrating its 9th year. And then they played at Taytay Nazarene church’s MXMessiah motocross fairgrounds – an outreach ministry to motocross racers and fans. About 800 people attended the concert which was called Treads and Dreads.
 
Pastor Sam Tamayo said he had reports of new church attenders on Sunday who accepted Christ during Christafari’s concert.
 
Finally, Christafari visited Antipolo Church of the Nazarene’s outreach ministry to women in a local detention center, which it has been conducting for the past two years. The women have been convicted of crimes and live in the detention center while they await a trial. Some have been there for as long as nine years. The church visits the women regularly, sharing the Gospel and discipling those who have accepted Christ.
 
During Christafari’s visit, the women sang praise songs for the band using an acoustic guitar, a slap box and a karaoke microphone. They also shared their testimonies. Then the band sang some songs for the women. The band founder shared his testimony of being saved from drug addiction and involvement in the Rastafarian movement. Several women committed their lives to Christ during the visit.
 
“The inmates are very happy and very proud because they are visited by the famous band,” said Tonette Cirujano, a pastor at Antipolo Church of the Nazarene. “They are very happy singing for their new friends, the Christafari.”
 
Courtney said that the churches who hosted Christafari concerts made efforts to collect contact information for those who accepted Christ, and were planning to conduct follow-up and discipleship with them.
 
“There’s no reason to have a concert and to preach the Gospel and then have people come up and accept Christ with no follow-up,” he said. “You have to have that follow-up so you can disciple and teach them. Ultimately, the seed’s planted and it fell on fertile soil.”