Brian Belleth’s love of the arts is changing lives in Woodstock, Ontario. Born in Canada 43 years ago to Sri Lankan parents, Belleth grew up in the cities of Toronto and Cambridge, Ontario. He attended Wilfrid Laurier University where he received his Honours Bachelor of Vocal Performance and Opera Diploma. He is a professional singer who has performed in opera, musicals, international worship teams and commercials in Canada, the United States, Germany, South Africa and France. He has been a vocal coach for 15 years. Presently, he is a member of Innerkip Presbyterian Church in Innerkip, Ontario.
I recently interviewed Belleth to discover exactly how his passion for the arts is leading to community transformation.
How did God lead you to your present position as Director of Arts for Youth for Christ (YFC)/Youth Unlimited in Woodstock, Ontario?
Working with young people as a vocal teacher inspired me to seek God’s will as to how we could encourage young artists in their talents and faith. God unveiled to me a vision to build community, character and Christ-centred young people through the arts.
Studies have shown that by the age of 12, children have formed principles and moral pillars, including faith, that they will live by. This doesn’t seem to change until they are in their 20s. Therefore, God made it very clear to me to work with children primarily.
Ten years ago, I presented my vision for this ministry to Southwestern Ontario Youth for Christ. This was the beginning of my formal youth ministry.
What core values do YFC and its arts program strive to implement?
We encourage and celebrate freedom of expression –namely, creativity – through the arts. We are committed to helping young people discover their potential strengths and abilities. We go the distance. In other words, we strive to do what we say we will do with unwavering commitment and humility. We seek intimacy with God, and try to obey his command to “love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and love our neighbour as ourselves.”
Tell us about K2K Productions, YFC’s theatre arts ministry. What does the acronym K2K stand for? How is your program structured?
K2K, or Kid to Kid Productions, is a theatre arts program that creates opportunities for children ages 7-14 from all social, ethnic and economic backgrounds to experience theatre, as well as an introduction to Jesus Christ. We have developed a two-hour program in which we create small groups and drama sessions. Through small groups the students share their lives and we introduce them to Jesus through Bible study. Our drama sessions focus on a few projects, primarily our spring musical production.
How do you reach youth with the gospel through theatre?
Through actions and words. Sounds simple, but the win for us is simply to share our story, God’s story, and to encourage hope in the children’s personal stories. We desire to walk with every child. In community, we can express love, hope, joy and support. Through the Holy Spirit, we pray that God – the Father and Son and Holy Spirit – will become the children’s hope and lifeline forever and ever.
Have you seen young people’s lives changed through your ministry?
Over the ten years, we have seen true elements of life change. For some students and their families, it has become the one place where they have a sense of belonging. Some have said “K2K is a place where people get me.”
For others, it has brought healing in the brokenness of their lives due to bullying they have experienced. One student, Shane, and his mother shared the testimony that the bullying he was experiencing had completely sucked the life out of him. However, the mother testified, “Through the K2K ministry, we have seen restoration and we have our son back!”
My most thankful moments have been the result of witnessing children giving their lives to Jesus Christ.
What role do parents or caregivers of youth play in your program? Have you seen parents’ or caregivers’ lives changed by becoming involved?
We continue to present the counter-cultural position of inviting families to get involved with our program. “The drop-off mentality” remains strong, but we have seen many get involved, especially when they see how much their children enjoy being with us. We believe it takes small steps for parents to become involved, from ushering at our events, creating costumes, designing sets, or helping at our dinner/show evenings. We continue to see an increase in parental involvement.
Change – YES! I have come to be more sensitive to the brokenness that we experience. Through one-on-one meetings with parents, I have been able to listen, encourage and pray for parents going through personal challenges. It is truly an honour to see how we can bring Christ into all facets of the family.
In your 2013-2014 season, K2K Productions presented “Seussical.” How many staff, volunteers and youth worked together – and for approximately how many hours – to make this production a success? What impact did your production have on those who participated?
When all was said and done, we had about 80 people involved. Our team averaged 180 hours to create the best experience we could for our students. The impact was life changing. We have witnessed the fulfilment of our vision to build community, character and Christ-centred young people through the arts.
What are your plans for the 2014-2015 season?
Our vision for this coming year and the next decade is to expand our age groups through a recording studio program and campus theatre program at one of our local elementary/high schools. We will be presenting The Little Mermaid in May 2015. We would also like to launch a summer theatre program in July 2015 and develop two separate programs to address the specific age groups of Grades 2-5 and Grades 6-9. In 2015-2016, we hope to hire more staff to strengthen our foundation. We are in the planning stages of a travel theatre presentation. We would like to help others create a K2K productions program in their communities. Lastly, we want to infuse our program with artists from around the world.
Members of your staff raise their own support to be able to do their work. If Christian Courier readers are interested in supporting you or other K2K Productions staff members, how can they do that?
We would ask them to consider being a ministry partner with us via our website, yfcwoodstock.com, which creates opportunities to donate to staff and to the program. We would love to invite them to join our facebook page (facebook.com/YFCWoodstock) and we welcome them to come see our productions.