Karen Pearce is an IMB worker among European peoples and contributing writer.
STOCKHOLM (BP) – When Eric Haney stepped onto the train platform after a long night of music rehearsal, his eyes were drawn to the wall of posters advertising music groups and concerts. It was all black, with what Eric describes as the “saddest looking people I’ve ever seen.” The wall represented the reason Eric and his wife Anissa moved to Europe 11 years ago and what has inspired their latest project “Stories of Hope.”
Stories of Hope is a multimedia venture that has at its core seven New Testament stories put to music and orchestration. The songs will be performed at the Jazz Festival in Stockholm in October and will be released on a new album in November, which will include a narrative reading of each Bible story. The songs will also be used as the foundation of a devotional series on the YouVersion Bible app and will be promoted through the Stories of Hope website and social media sites.
“We’re starting here, but our dream is that this will be a global ministry. We want to see the music we’ve created used in other countries with the stories being read in their heart languages,” Anissa said. “We want to have posters about our project all over that wall outside the train platform. We want to create a wall of hope and not darkness.”
Stories of Hope was birthed in Anissa’s heart many years ago. When she and Eric first began their overseas ministry, they heard about the concept of Bible storying through a colleague who works primarily with cultures who learn best through oral methods – telling and hearing stories rather than reading them. Eric is a trumpeter and Anissa a vocalist. Both are well-rounded musicians used to telling stories through music. The idea of relating the truths of Scripture through story form worked beautifully in tandem with their vision to reach the arts community through music.
When they moved to Stockholm, they began to share Bible stories from Scripture and saw an overwhelming response. Storying Scripture helped them connect spiritual realities with the needs of the people around them.
“Wow. These stories in our context connect to personal stories and experiences,” Anissa said. “We started to see how putting these stories to music and song, to help people hear them in a fresh, new way, could be life-changing.”
They began to write and compose the music and lyrics that would effect change in the lives of music lovers in Stockholm and beyond. While Eric and Anissa chose specific Bible stories that people in Stockholm seemed to connect with personally, they know these Scriptural truths are not just for people in one context. They want to bring new hope to those lost in the darkness and help believers experience God’s Word in a fresh and new way.
“Music and art breathe life and beauty into our souls,” Anissa said. “They can transport us back to a memory or a feeling. They can go where words cannot go. This is why I believe music and art are one of the most effective vehicles for sparking Gospel conversations.
“They tear down fortresses that people build around their hearts and leave them vulnerable and open to hearing and receiving the love of Christ.”
Eric has composed the orchestral component of the songs. Each note he writes is done prayerfully.
“When I write a score, I see faces. In their world, nobody cares for them. Somebody has to go into this difficult world with the message of hope,” Eric said. “With every single note and word and lyric, we ask ourselves, ‘How do we express their pain and bring the hope of Christ forward?’ We want to bring the Gospel to the public square. The world needs hope right now.”
Anissa has written lyrics and the accompanying devotionals with the same prayerful attitude, asking God to use their music to convey His truth.
“God continues to amaze us by how He can use art and music to get His message deeper into hearts,” she said. “We’ve seen music melt some of the hardest of hearts. We’ve been there when artists were ready to enter into a dialogue about the ultimate Creative – God – for the first time.”
Scripture supports the idea of the power of song. Psalm 40:3 says, “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in God.” A new song can be a catalyst to move people to put their faith in God. Eric and Anissa have witnessed this firsthand. They’ve been blessed to see people coming to Christ in Stockholm on a weekly basis.
Eric and Anissa are eager for churches to partner with them in this venture. Southern Baptists can be part of Stories of Hope in different ways. To give financially, support their project through IMB. To keep up with upcoming events, prayer information, and to see videos of the material, visit their new Facebook page. To contact the Haneys about coming to a church for a concert or to find out other ways to support the project, write to the Haneys at [email protected].
Be in prayer for them as they complete the work for the fall release and concert, and join them in their effort to reach the world with the Gospel of Christ one story at a time.