Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Talent and testimony combined

Liberty student takes time to witness while performing in Los Angeles

“I don’t want fame. I want my life to have an impact.”

This is Reuben John’s prayer.

John, a human services student at Liberty University, is originally from India. This summer, he had the opportunity to travel to Los Angeles, California, where he competed in the World Championships of Performing Arts (WCOPA), a talent show comprised of more than 40 competing countries.

stage — Reuben John won gold at performing arts competition. Photo credit: Taylor Streelman

Stage — Reuben John won gold at performing arts competition. Photo credit: Taylor Streelman

But before he took that stage, John participated in a more local talent show.

John sang at Asia’s Got Talent last spring here at Liberty. He said he was approached by a fellow student about participating in the show, but was a bit apprehensive about competing.

“I’m not a competitive person,” John said. “I’m a worship leader. I didn’t realize how serious the competition was going to be.”

Asia’s Got Talent enlisted a panel of judges to critique the performers. Two of those judges were Campus Band worship leader Justin Kintzel and Gwen Wilson, president of WCOPA.

“After you perform, they comment on your performance in front of everybody,” John said. “It was weird for me to have someone comment on how I sing.”

John sang “Scandal of Grace” by Hillsong and received positive reviews from all the judges, except Wilson. She did not comment on John’s singing at all. Instead, John said she suggested he go to Hollywood and be a model at WCOPA.

Though he did not place at Asia’s Got Talent, John said Wilson asked him to attend a meeting she was holding with the winners, who had received scholarships for WCOPA. John said he remained quiet throughout the meeting, because he knew it was something he could not afford.

“If I had that much money, I’d probably go to India and see my family,” John said.

But instead of forsaking the idea completely, he prayed for God to supply the means if He wanted him to go.

After the meeting, John said he was asked if he wanted to go to WCOPA. He told Wilson it was a great opportunity and he was interested, but it was just too expensive.

But Wilson had a backup plan.

“Gwen was like, ‘Let’s see if we can get you some sponsors, and we’ll see what happens after that,’” John said.

John agreed.

“I pray for something and believe the Lord will provide,” John said. “I don’t do fundraising. I just trust the Lord, and he provides a way when he wants you to do something.”

Wilson contacted John a few weeks later and said they had found a sponsor for him. That sponsor paid his entire registration fee for WCOPA.

However, John said there were still airfare and hotel costs to pay. He was given the option to room with two Liberty interns for free, but there was still a plane ticket to buy.

John’s uncle was getting married in New York the same weekend as WCOPA was planned to begin. John told his uncle about the competition, but said he was not going to miss the wedding.

“My uncle called me and said, ‘I’ll pay for your airfare from New York to L.A.,’” John said. “He did it without me even asking.”

John said he took that as a sign that God wanted him to go to Hollywood.

During his 11th or 12th grade year of high school, John said someone suggested he do modeling in India. He told his parents about it, but his father, a pastor, said no.

However, during a church program in his 12th grade year, the owner of a T-shirt company saw him, went to his father and asked if John could come to a photo shoot and model his T-shirts.

This time, his father said yes.

“Months later, he contacted my dad again and said, ‘Hey, can you send your son?’” John said. “It was in another state in India, so we went, and I did a photo shoot there.”

This was John’s first photo shoot. He said he did not realize how awkward it would feel being in front of the camera. After the shoot, John did one television ad for the same company.

That was John’s modeling experience prior to competing at WCOPA. Before he left for Hollywood, John said his prayer was simply asking God what He wanted him to do while he was out there. He knew there must have been a reason why God chose to send him.

“I didn’t go to build a career,” John said. “I purely went because I felt like God wanted me to go. He opened up the door.”

Surrounded by a group of models all trying to make it big in Hollywood, John said he stood out because he was noticeably more conservative than the rest. One of the model coordinators confronted John about his choice of clothing, and he told her that he believed in modesty.

“In front of other people, she said, ‘I respect that. As a model, you don’t have to take everything off,’” John said.

That confrontation enabled John to have conversations with other models because they then knew him as a Christian.

“One guy from Russia was surprised that as an Indian, I didn’t believe in Indian philosophy,” John said. “He was into
Hindu religion.”

The young man asked what John believed in, and he was able to share about Jesus, the gospel and what was wrong with the Hindu philosophy.

John was able to share his faith with several other nonbelievers during his time in Hollywood, and others he came in contact with commended his testimony and values. He said he is happy people noticed a difference in him and seemed more interested in Christ.

John did not leave WCOPA empty-handed. He received a gold medal for modeling in the formal wear category and silver for casual wear. John took home another silver medal for placing second overall in modeling.

Regardless of medals or accomplishments, John is just glad he was able to be a shining light in Hollywood. He agreed with the apostle Paul, who said gold and material things will fade away. What really matters is what we do for Christ (1 Cor. 3: 11-15).

“I am a guy full of weakness,” John said. “Whatever happened in WCOPA and the way I’ve been able to represent Christ is fully by the grace of God.”

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