RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Sometimes Kristin Cato washes an elephant in church. She leads the enormous animal into the sanctuary, where she scrubs its ears and trunk. Then she rinses the animal off while 70 teen-agers watch.
Technically there’s no elephant — but Cato’s pantomime is very convincing.
Cato uses drama and multimedia ministry to evangelize teen-agers and university students in Moscow, Russia. More than 2.5 million young people live in the city. She writes, teaches and directs dramas at schools, churches and special events.
“I never thought I could be a missionary doing drama,” said Cato. “I thought you had to be a missionary in the jungle fending off anacondas or mosquitoes.”
In college, Cato studied and worked on theater productions. She focused on props, set design and costumes but also performed and traveled with her Baptist Student Ministry drama team. After graduation she applied for an International Mission Board journeyman position and became the first IMB missionary to pursue full-time drama ministry in Russia.
Russians are passionate about the fine arts. In Moscow alone there are more than 20 professional theater groups and several ballet and opera companies.
“The Russian people have a strong cultural heritage,” said Cato’s supervisor, missionary J.P. Manley. “I knew using drama was an effective way to present the gospel.”
Cato trains Russian Christian youth and students to use drama to reach out to nonbelievers and to make worship interesting. She often travels to churches and leads hands-on workshops. Currently she’s compiling a drama resource book and participating in a church start with about 30 college students.
Reaching Russian young people can be difficult, because Baptists are often viewed as a cult group. But local high schools without drama programs have allowed Cato to start several drama clubs-where she builds relationships with the students. Some pupils ask her questions about spiritual issues.
“Youth are at an age where they’re trying to figure out who they are,” Cato said. “I was talking to one girl, and she couldn’t believe that God had a plan for her. People here need to hear the gospel and know God’s love and hope for them.”