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Missionary’s play shares gospel at drama festival

ORANJESTAD, Aruba (BP)–“The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king,” Shakespeare’s Hamlet said as he sought to show his uncle’s guilt in the death of his father.
Through history, artists have used their creations to carry a message.
That was Stan Owens-Hughes’ motive when he wrote, directed and presented “The Pandushi Girl” for the Aruba National Drama Festival recently.
People who would never come to hear preaching by the Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionary nevertheless got a good shot of the gospel as they watched his play. His audiences included those who saw the play during the festival, and a week later nearly 500 students from three of the island nation’s high schools.
Each student received a copy of the gospel tract, “The Four Spiritual Laws,” translated into Papiamento, the heart language of the island. “The Pandushi Girl” also was performed in Papiamento. Owens-Hughes presented a newly translated Papiamento Bible to each of the staff of the theater where the drama was presented and to officials of the Aruba Cultural Institute, which sponsored the festival.
The play tells the story of Alice, who leaves Aruba for New York to study and work. She says the only thing she misses from her homeland is her grandmother’s pandushi (sweet bread). When Alice returns to Aruba for her grandmother’s funeral, however, she remembers her grandmother’s teachings about Jesus. Finally, she rejects the materialistic, overly ambitious person she has become and turns back to God.
Owens-Hughes, who grew up in Stillwater, Okla., worked with some 20 youth and young adults of a Christian drama group in Oranjestad to present “Pandushi.”
“The play was well executed,” said Laura Gardner of the board of the International Amateur Theater Association. “A lot of attention was paid to physical details. The story was clear and the acting was honest.”
“I see as very positive the presence of religion ‘up front’ in the play,” said professional actress and dramatist Mirian Reategue, of Lima, Peru, who attended the festival.
Debra, Owens-Hughes’ wife, said participation in the drama festival helps her and her husband become known. “On such a tiny island, we feel like God wants us to be known. When people are going through difficult times, we hope they’ll say, ‘I could go to them.’ They need to know us if we’re going to make a change in their lives.”
The couple are the only International Mission Board missionaries on Aruba, which has a population of 80,000 permanent residents and receives thousands of tourists each year. The population of the former Dutch colony, close to the Venezuelan coast, is about 80 percent Roman Catholic.
Before the drama festival, “Pandushi” was presented once in a church in Oranjestad. It might be presented yet again before a theater audience, for videotaping and later broadcasting by the island’s main television channel.

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