January 2005

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE-Vic's account

Anime. A very stylized form of animation originating in Japan. The Japanese have taken this art form to a completely different level, producing as many diverse types of anime series as America does television. These highly popular shows are imported to the United States and re recorded by English voice actors. I am one such actor. I have been dubbing anime for about five years now, and have voiced so many different series and characters that I am now invited to fan-organized anime conventions, ranging in attendance from a thousand to over fifteen thousand. However, I’m not just a voice actor, but an ambassador for my Lord Jesus Christ. Of all the roles God has blessed me with, this is this one I take most seriously.

In mid January two worlds collided in Columbus, Ohio. The Hyatt Regency was the site of Ohayocon, a large annual anime convention, and Dare2Share, an energetic Christian teen event, both some five thousand strong. As an Ohayocon guest, I was privy to conversations around the con that the Christian teens were laughing at and snubbing the anime fans, many of whom were dressed as their favorite characters. My heart was deeply grieved. I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to seek out the Dare2Share leader and, upon meeting him, found Greg Stier to be a dedicated brother in Christ who was equally disturbed by the failure to communicate the love of Jesus to these lost anime kids. But our God was at work. Greg invited me to speak to his assembly the next morning. As I shared with the Christian teens my heart for the fans next door I immediately sensed a holy presence in the auditorium. I closed by saying, “These anime kids actually expect you to judge them, to laugh and poke fun at them. They get that everywhere. So why don’t you surprise them……don’t. Show them the love of Jesus and blow their minds.” Greg followed with a challenge to reach out and bridge the gap- to dispel the conception that Christians are judgmental, fault finding and snobby separatists- sadly, a conception that is all too often true. Enter the sweet Holy Spirit of God. Those Christian teens reached out in love and friendship, and miracles followed. Anime kids attended the Christian concert that evening. Christian teens attended some of the convention events. And most beautiful of all, teens adrift without hope were introduced to Jesus. Praise be to God! Lives were changed that weekend in Columbus, and the impact continues. I have been told of many conversations about faith and Christianity breaking out in anime settings. Last week, at the Austin based Ushicon, a panel discussion called “Christianity and Anime” was held. God is sending His divine message into this foreign territory, and may we be so honored as to be the ones He uses to deliver it there.


FROM  DARE 2 SHARE
Greg Stier
CEO and Founder of Dare 2 Share

Cartoon Christianity

Just this last weekend we did our conference in Columbus at the Convention Center. Teenagers from in and around Ohio gathered to learn how to live, share, and defend their faith. It was a powerful weekend with hundreds of churches and thousands of teens who were impacted.

And here’s the kicker…

Just next door an Anime convention was going on at the same time as ours. Anime is like cartoons on steroids. This style of animation started in Japan and has quickly gathered a following of disciples across the world. Movies like Kill Bill and cable channels like the Cartoon Network have popularized Anime with adults and children alike.

More than any other demographic, this style of animation has appealed to an underground generation of alternative teenagers. Thousands of devoted followers gather at conventions and dress up like their favorite characters (often times with full makeup and dangerous looking pretend weapons that range from huge swords to gigantic crosses that double as rocket launchers to you name it!) These conventions are a masquerade of sorts, as young people connect with each other, go to seminars, autograph sessions with their favorite voice actor/tress celebrities and buy the latest Anime gear, games, or DVDs.

Many of the Anime teenagers were upset that the Convention Center in Columbus booked the Christian convention the same weekend as theirs. Southern Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Assembly of God, and Evangelical Free teenagers made their way up the escalators to our arena, passing by hundreds of costumed Anime devotees in the process. The funkified Animes and the petrified Christians – I couldn’t have planned anything better. What a huge opportunity to take [sometimes sheltered] Christian teenagers and help them reach out to those around them in the love of Jesus Christ.

The problem was that at first, that wasn’t happening. On Friday night many of the Christian teens were whispering jokes to their friends about the costumed Anime fanatics. As a result, a few small verbal altercations ensued and the tension was growing.

That’s when God did something unbelievable. He sent us an ambassador from the Anime world. In walked this cool cat named Vic Mignogna. This guy was one of the top voice actors in this other world. He had been character voices for over twenty Anime series including Yu Yu Hakasho, Generator Gawl, Full Metal Panic, Gasaraki, Spriggan, Sin, Princess Nine, Noir, Raxephon, etc. Now I had no clue who any of these characters were, but the kids next door did and they adored Vic.

Here’s where it gets divine. Vic just happens to be a worship leader at 1st Baptist of Houston, one of the churches where we did a Dare 2 Share conference just two years ago. Vic was living a double life (in a good way) - a worship leader at a large Texas church and an ambassador of Jesus Christ in the wild world of Anime. Toward the end of our Friday night program Vic had heard the scuttlebutt from his cronies how these Christian teens were meeting next door and how things were getting tense. That’s when he made his way into our conference and he and I had a chance to connect. In the aftermath of our Friday night program we made a plan for the next day.

That next day I had Vic get up and share for a few minutes with our teens right before lunch. Vic shared how God had called him to reach out to these often disenfranchised young people in the Anime world with a loving heart and a listening ear, and, ultimately, the good news of Jesus. He gently rebuked us that we should be doing the same. He reminded us that these teens would be the people that Jesus himself would be hanging with and saying, “Wow, that’s a great costume. I bet it took a lot of time to make,” before sharing with them the gospel message.

After Vic’s mini-message the teens were dismissed for lunch with a brand new perspective. Many of our kids engaged the Anime kids lining the hallways of the Convention Center in conversation, asking about their costumes and their favorite Anime characters. Some even took these costumed teenagers to lunch and got to know them better. In the whole process many non-Christian kids were taken on The G.O.S.P.E.L. Journey and some even put their faith and trust in Christ. It was an awesome experience for me and for the teens who attended, a picture of what the body of Christ should be, running to the lost, the different, the hurting, and the disenfranchised, instead of running away from them.

When the weekend was over and we were loading up our light and sound equipment, there was something that was gnawing on me. Our turnstile numbers (how we keep track of how many students were actually at the event) kept growing throughout the weekend. That hardly ever happens. It usually shrinks. Teens often come on Friday night but have to leave mid Saturday due to basketball, volleyball or whatever ball.

That’s when it hit me. Many of the youth groups who had extra registration wristbands were giving them to the Anime kids. Somebody had slipped me a note earlier in the day from a youth group leader. Here’s what it said, “Earlier today a girl gave a young man from the Anime convention an unused Dare 2 Share registration bracelet. Before the concert, the Lord told me to talk with this young man and he chose to join us. He has, as of tonight, given his life to Jesus Christ. I don’t know the young lady who offered him the bracelet, but I wanted her to know that the Lord grabbed a hold of him partly because of her.”

I am so proud of our teenagers. After the gentle reminder from Vic, they rose to the challenge of lowering themselves to love.

Now, if we could just help the adults in our churches do the same, we’d be set.