Finding healing through creative arts
February 16, 2012 | Chase Replogle
Evangel alumna Rebecca Grant uses art, drama and dance to help victims of human trafficking in India
Students at Evangel University learn early on that their college years are about more than just getting an education. Evangel faculty emphasize the integration of education with a student’s talents, dreams and passions to fulfill God’s calling on their lives and prepare them to impact the world.
Like so many other Evangel students, Rebecca Grant (’04) didn’t have all that in mind when she first enrolled. She chose Evangel simply because it offered a scholarship. She knew she wanted to major in Drama and Speech Education, and she hoped to someday use the arts creatively to fight injustice. But she never imagined just how well her education at Evangel would prepare her for the amazing journey that God had planned for her.
Today the 28-year-old Evangel graduate is working with Project Rescue in India to help victims of human trafficking. Grant says that currently there are 10 million women in forced prostitution in India, and 70 percent of Indian children are sexually abused.
Project Rescue helps to bring women and children out of these horrific situations across India, and then Grant steps in to help with counseling. Through Rescue Arts she is using drama, dance, art and creative writing as a bridge for healing for the victims who are experiencing post-traumatic stress, self-mutilation, depression and other battles related to their sexual exploitation.
Grant currently does her work in the Red Light District and with young women staying at the Homes of Hope, which house victims who have been rescued from brothels. At the homes, women and children receive counseling and transition into a safe place in society.
In addition to working at the Homes of Hope, Grant and her staff hold intensive Rescue Arts Camps in other cities throughout the country.
How she found her calling
Grant says that her student-teaching experiences at Evangel were key in preparing her for the work she does today. “It was so valuable in teaching me to manage a group of kids while I lead sessions,” she says. “This was especially helpful, as I work with street kids quite a bit now.”
She credits experiences outside the classroom for preparing her as well. “The nature of being at a smaller college allowed me to be involved in worship for chapels, traveling with Concert Choir and being a resident assistant,” she says. “While not part of my formal education, these experiences prepared me for the work I wasn’t even yet planning on. They also equipped me with basic leadership skills.”
David Smith, associate professor of theatre arts at Evangel, says he is not surprised that Grant has been able to apply her theatre training to service in this way. “Rebecca possesses a very keen insight into the human situation, not only as it relates to sin but in her understanding of post-modern culture,” he says. “As a student she had many ideas on how to use dance to communicate the very upsetting condition of daughters who were sold into prostitution.”
Smith says that Grant’s use of theatre in counseling is particularly effective in the Indian culture. “The Indian culture has a contingency of people who are steeped in the Kathakali theatre tradition. She is able to put the components together to reach her audience.”
After graduation from Evangel, Grant earned a master’s in theatre from Missouri State University. She then went to India on a one-year assignment to work with Project Rescue. She stayed in the Homes of Hope and served in whatever capacity was needed. Through that association, she was able to create Rescue Arts and begin receiving interns to work with her in using the arts to assist in counseling at the homes.
Changing the culture through theatre arts
Grant is not the only Evangel theatre graduate using the arts to positively impact culture. Smith says that’s the main focus of his teaching. “I do the job of making students aware of the broad application of theatre,” he says. “The department is about teaching Christian theatre artists that their integrity to the church culture, the broad culture and the theatre culture must be connected.”
He noted other Evangel graduates who are similarly impacting their culture through theatre. “For example, Jeff Querin (’96) of 34-West and Phil Stanton (‘83), a founding member of Blue Man Group, both have a broad appeal but are done with family entertainment applications. I believe this is possible for all of our graduates.”
Grant agrees. “There’s no reason that all of us, when available to God, can’t be used powerfully by Him right out of college in changing the world.”