Following our last International Conference held at the University of Ghana, we collected feedback from delegates and teachers. Some of their experiences are given below. Thank you to everyone who contributed!
I am so grateful to God for this conference. I believe seed has been sown for greater things to follow that will beat our understanding. I am looking forward to this. One newspaper has published it. The whole staff of the School of Performing Arts speak so positively about the conference.
The conference was brilliant on many levels. How to explain the joy of sharing and fellowshipping with dancers from all abilities from different corners of the globe? Or the unity and kindred understanding of our place in God’s Kingdom as worshippers first and also as ministers – evangelists, teachers, preachers and leaders.
I experienced many firsts at the conference – my first dance conference, my first time doing close partner work, my first flash mob, my first time using flags in dance, my first Hawkins Technique class, my first dance drama class among others.
We thank God for Mr Seth Newman and his work reclaiming Ghanaian dance for Christian worship – a spiritual work that is way deeper than we could explore in an evening but one that I would think would have gone hand in hand with the freedom of a colonised people. I couldn’t help but think that Jesus would be more at home in the Ghanaian culture than the westernised model of church … but maybe that’s because I believe Jesus loves and gets dance and the Western/Greek mindset still struggles with the body in worship… a great discussion no doubt.
The young people who were with me in Ghana as part of the team repeatedly expressed their gratitude to me for creating such an opportunity for them. I was so blessed as I watched them embrace and enjoy the experience – as they danced with people from around the world and allowed their hearts to be touched by God through others lives.
I enjoyed my first ever conference. One thing I took away with me from the conference was that God had given me a great gift that syncs perfectly with His calling for my life. All I need to do is to boldly hold on to it, dance as much possible with Him and for Him, and move freely without concern that anyone looking at me will think that I am from a different planet. At the conference, worshiping in dances was wonderful and there was this freedom that made me not want to leave. This resonated in the kind of workshops I participated in. It was exciting to see how passionate people were about dancing, too. Attending the conference was very significant for me as it drew my attention to what God was calling me … "To still my soul before Him"
I saw a people who were one, undivided by ethnicity, race or colour but marching together under one banner which is CHRIST, proclaiming the goodness of the LORD and worshipping HIS holiness. I saw at first hand how through dance people could freely and openly express themselves; coming before the LORD and laying every burden at HIS feet and picking up the garment of praise and worship dancing away their problems, fears, and sickness into the joy of the LORD which is our strength.
Ella (Sweden: 11 years old)
Everyone was nice and happy. It was fun when we were invited up onto the platform to dance. Everyone danced. That is unusual! I liked to dance! During the flag-dance-prayer Anna prayed for me and told me a lot that God said to me. That was cool. God spoke to me through Anna!
The storytelling with Jan was great fun! The drumming we tried was great fun too. The children dance was hard … and easy … and great fun. I enjoyed the Flashmob even though it was warm. I might join the next time. If my mother does.
I want to say ‘God bless you’ to all the countries that represented and walked on Ghana soil with their beautiful feet which carries the Good news of the saving Grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Lives have been touched, souls have been won and I know for a fact that lasting bonds and friendships have been formed. These cherished moments will forever linger in our hearts and minds. Be blessed always.
I have always had reservation to worship God freely in dance yet I know so well that dance is my highest point in worship when words fail me. It has to do with culture and perceptions maybe. On stage I dance … in the pews I want to dance but feel a restriction but this is not my story anymore. This last Sunday I worshipped in dance and it felt true and honest.
I pray that I can influence the varied worship forms in my church especially dance because it is powerful and expressive.
Daniel (Australia: 11 years old)
The highlights of the conference were Irish Night and Ghana Night because they both gave a part of their cultures in dance and stories about their homelands. When the Ghanaian’s were dancing they invited us up on stage- even though we didn’t know how to do it. For me it was a new experience. I had never had contact with Ghanaian culture before. I enjoyed their dances and how different they were from the dances of other nations. I loved that men were included in the dance.
One aspect the team from Fiji greatly enjoyed was seeing the older generation dancing freely, joyfully and passionately for GOD in all that they did. This was in stark contrast to Fiji. Despite our great love for dance in the Church, dancers stop dancing around 35-40 years of age (except for me!!!). They were simply awed by the great examples of the older dancers from Ireland, Australia, GB, Canada, and Seth from Ghana. The peer learning experience and bonding was an awesome experience also, as well as just meeting people from different countries and having a grand cross cultural experience through CHRIST!!!
The conference helped me to see that I do not have to be a professional dancer to dance for God and I can do it even though I haven’t any special skills or training. In addition it was great to experience how people who dance together for only 15 minutes, and who have not practiced together before, can express God’s Word. I think that only the Holy Spirit can do something like that ☺
I was blessed to see the great diversity appear again at the conference and that all, including the locals, were very enthusiastic to take part in the worship times. I adored Ghanaians passion and joy and bold experimenting in everything we brought their way. They really humbly allowed everyone to “make the conference truly international.
Liesl (South Africa)
The South African dance “Africa belongs to our Lord’ was a celebration as well as a declaration embracing all African countries - those represented at the conference were Ghana, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa. Through the dance they declared that they were trusting God that every nation in Africa would turn to Him. Comments from delegates after the dance were " we loved the joy and vibrancy of the dance, loved the strong Zulu steps, powerful dance and statement. (Song - " Africa Sing " by Ebenezer Worship team from Port Elizabeth South Africa)
The 2016 ICDF Conference and Ghana itself left an indelible mark on the hearts of many of its delegates, myself included. From fried fish and joloff to mangoes and coconuts we danced our way through the varied and spicy programme that our wonderful Ghanaian and Irish hosts had prepared for us.
The week had all the elements every exciting conference should have … days with no electricity or hot water combined with plenty of ants in your pants and mossies up your trousers all mixed together with a Fijian cibi, an Irish jig, an African flashmob-dance and the longest "offering" conga you've ever seen. But this was no ordinary ICDF conference. In fact in many ways this wasn't the ICDF's conference at all - this was God's conference - His plan, His program and His timing all adding to the fact that we were in His Africa! In the words of the adopted anthem of the conference we discovered that not only we his dancers but, also, Africa herself truly does belong to our God!
What an amazing opportunity it was to go into the community and display the dance styles learnt throughout the conference to Minister God’s glory to the general public through dance.
The performances at the Bus terminal and at a shopping mall in Ghana started with a flash mob performance which included most of the delegates from many nations in sync together. This attracted the attention of the locals and enticed them to come to see more.
Following the flash mob each group performed the routine learnt in their different electives over the week. This was amazing as the words of the song and the movements through each style demonstrated our love for the Lord and his unfailing love for us. Many of us sat amongst the locals while watching other groups perform and had opportunities to speak with the local people and answer questions about our faith with some of our local Ghanaian delegates and trainers speaking with some looking to find a local church.
What a wonderful opportunity it was to put our Dance ministry into action. I personally came to the conference saying ‘I am not a dancer but here to observe” But on the Outreach day I performed in the African Dance routine and enjoyed every minute of it. I now call myself a dancer and will be confident to include dance in my worship and ministry.
How wonderful it was to be a part of the ICDF pre conference experience of ‘Stations Of The Cross’ led by Andy Raine. As we walked and prayed our way around the huge University Legon campus we stopped at 16 strategic places to present in word, dance and song the story of Christ and the cross. The most poignant moment for me was witnessing a young student who was part of the Ghanaian welcome party taking the part of Christ for the first time. Less than half an hour earlier he and I had been discussing dance as we walked the stations together. "I don't dance," he had said to me. "Yet," I'd replied, "you don't dance yet."
Towards the end of the day, with encouragement from me and Andy and considerable trepidation on his part, this young man took off his shirt and sat in the chair to take the role of Christ. As he started to move, with his eyes closed and his heart clearly turned to Jesus, we witnessed in his expression and movement not only Christ's pain on the cross given freely in love but also the love of the Father for this young man as He birthed in him the power of dance.
How do you try to encapsulate all that was experienced in Ghana? In May I celebrated my 50th birthday. The decision was that this year I would have experiences rather than presents. Ghana was one of these experiences to treasure. So much could be written about all God did in such a short time. Here goes!
F - friendships made from Fiji to Finland. Easier with Facebook to share photos and videos of what was, was is and what is planned to happen in the future.
E - enthusiastic welcome by team Ghana, excitement as people arrived, encouragement in God's calling on our lives, exhaustion after dancing all day, exhilaration at stations of the cross, flash mob ......well all the time really
L - liberation to be all that God has called us to be, to try new things, to explore, to fall to fail and then to get up again, to dance and not get weary
L - love for the Lord but also for each other, lots and lots of laughter!
O - openness to share not only our dance but also our life journey, where we have come from, where we are now and where we feel we are heading
W - WOW! wonderful country, wonderful people, wonderful experience. Wonder at God's plans, his grace, his mercy, his redeeming love, his creativity, his joy and delight.
S - simplicity (if you had water to flush the loo and have a shower then praise God) and yet there was satisfaction that you had all you needed and more.
H - hot, really hot and humid! Humility in those leading, those teaching, those serving, those receiving. Humbling to go out on the Friday and spend time at the foster school
I - inspirational place, inspirational people, inspirational stories, inspirational teaching. Inspirational encounters.
P - patience was needed for all the parts of the jigsaw to come together. Perspiration....and a Passion that ignited passion to worship, serve, honour and live for God. Praise be to the Lord and all the people He included to make this time so special!
This for me really was International Christian Dance FELLOWSHIP at its best.
The final evening of the conference was a celebration of all that had happened during the previous few days. As I joined in yet another dance, I remember saying to someone “Where would you get to experience all this in five days?” I could not possibly explain to anyone how wonderful, inspirational and exciting attending one of these ICDF conferences are. If you’ve ever thought you would like to go but not quite managed it, I would encourage you start saving now for the next one!