“I’ve always wanted soul-healing. You know, we’re still not healed from wartime here in Kosova. We’re still not really laughing,” said 19-year-old Nora*. We’re sitting in a crowded cafeteria of teenagers—Nora seems undistracted.
Two nights before, Nora stood in that same cafeteria and stunned the room as she sang “Titanium” by David Guetta for the Arts Camp Student Talent Show. Her voice was strong as a diamond, precise on the highest notes, piercing. She closed her eyes as she stood at the microphone and let her voice do the work.
It was the second night of the youth arts camp run by OM from 25-29 June, and already the teenagers had more than enough talent to share.
For four days, more than 30 teenagers from across Kosovo gathered in Pristina high school for daily arts workshops, concerts from an OM band, talent shows and a trip into Pristina to watch a local Christian drama production of The Chronicles of Narnia.
Christian artists from Creative Arts Europe and local artists collaborated to teach art forms ranging from drama, song writing, painting, dance, beatboxing, creative writing and more.
At the second annual arts camp, OM arts camp director Malachi* hoped to create a special space for young Kosovar artists to develop their art forms. In a country lacking artistic support and development, Malachi’s vision is to break cultural and religious barriers with the God-given power of the arts.
Through a spiritual reflection each morning, the Creative Arts Europe director turned the students’ gaze inward, and pointed them to their need to know the greatest artist of all: their Creator. Each evening the students and teachers were mutually given the dignity of sharing their art form through performance, and experiencing God’s presence in the creative expression of others.
For Nora, it was singing that sparked her opportunity to attend camp.
“I was singing in an open-mic night in my town, the same song ‘Titanium’, that I sang in the talent show, and Malachi (OM camp director) heard me sing. Afterwards he talked to me about the camp and told me I should go,” she said.
Nora’s family could not afford the price of the camp, but Malachi offered to sponsor her.
“I never had a chance before this to learn all of these different art forms,” said Nora, unable to contain her joy. “I’m so thankful to Malachi. I didn’t know I was going to love it this much.”
She laughs and looks around at the cafeteria full of teenagers.
“I came here alone, but now I have a lot of friends. Here everyone is playing guitar, or singing, or dancing. At home it’s not like that, but now I want to go home and make it like this,” Nora said.
When I ask her favourite part of camp, Nora has a hard time deciding. Finally she fingers the acarena hanging from a string around her neck. She excitedly shares her experience taking part in the one-day workshop learning how to play the acarena: an instrument made from clay that can be played similarly to a recorder.
“I’m going to play it every day when I get home,” she says. “It’s such a sweet melody, like a release, like a healing.”
I ask Nora if there’s anything else she’d like to take home from camp. She immediately replies, “I want to start my own camp one day, like this one.”
In an earnest voice she continued: “Music is really helping me. It’s like it brings peace and joy deep inside a person. I want to heal people, because when people are hurt they do bad things. By healing people we can make things better,” she paused.
“I know that I’m not healed yet, but this camp has started to help me. It’s difficult to forgive. I haven’t forgiven the Serbs yet,” said Nora. “But I choose the way of God; I choose the way of healing.”
As the OM arts camp band begins their concert in the crowded cafeteria, my conversation with Nora concludes. But for Nora, the healing process does not cease. Through art, God is peeling back the layers of her heart to reveal the space that needs transformation.
Pray for Nora and other students at the arts camp, that through art they would understand the true love, forgiveness and healing that only comes from the cross.
Meredith Moench grew up in Scotland and Germany with American missionary parents. She currently serves with OM in Kosovo, doing church planting and art therapy with domestic violence and trafficking victims. She loves writing poetry, hiking mountains and laughing.