In the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, generations of people with one common language began building a tower they thought would reach the heavens. But, God came down and confused their languages so they wouldn’t be able to understand each other.
One group at a Chicago church describes this tale as the origin of different languages and diversity. Revelation Crew, the drama ministry at KingsWord International Church, brought this story to life in their play.
“We showed people what it could’ve looked like when God came and confounded the languages,” said Rotimi Kehinde, team leader of Revelation Crew. “We live in one of the most segregated cities in the world. Our message is to showcase that there is creativity in being different.”
This play was part of International Day at KingsWord. International Day is a day where the members celebrate different cultures that exist within the church with dance, food, and worship.
Revelation Crew also performed poetic praises in different languages.
Joy Erebholo, drama team member, said she was nervous about her role in the play because it was her first church performance. She added that in the play, she represented her language and Ishan culture from Nigeria.
“I play a woman who’s having trouble communicating with another person because our languages were changed,” said the 17-year-old.
Erebholo, who moved to Illinois in 2003, said the play shows that even though everyone may be diverse in their cultures, they are still united under God.
“It’s important because people need to see this kind of drama,” said Ike Aghadi, member of Revelation Crew. “A lot of souls could be saved.”
One member said KingsWord also has a “taste of nations” event at International Day, where people from different ethnicities cook indigenous dishes and bring them to church.
“There are a ton of people that won’t come to church on a regular sunday,” said Damilola Olotu, treasurer of Revelation Crew. “If you’re having an event that celebrates culture and diversity, a lot of people that wouldn’t normally expose themselves would feel comfortable to attend.”
Olotu, who is also part of the worship and praise team, said 60 percent of members at the church are from West Africa and the other 40 percent are from different regions nationwide.
Kehinde, originally from Nigeria, said Revelation Crew began in 2011 after his pastor asked him to put together a play. He added that the drama group has done plays in the past about time management, relationships and marriage.
“It started from people just volunteering to a ministry department that not only does acting but also productions,” said the 31-year-old Nigerian. “We also started acting out the announcements and upcoming events on screen and on camera.”
This team leader also said that joining the drama ministry is something you have to be called by God to do.
“You have to project your voice, connect with audience and teammates, and you need to be able to invest time,” said Kehinde. “A lot of times people come back to me and say, ‘Rotimi, I can’t do this.’”
Kehinde said Revelation Crew is filled with young people with bubbly personalities. He added that the 17 members come from different ethnicities around the world.
“The drama team puts you out there,” said Kehinde. “If you’re reserved, you might not function.”
He added that being head of the drama ministry has taught him about leadership and management.
“You can’t just be a drama lead. You have to be able to connect with members on a personal level and be a friend to them.”
Aghadi, Nigerian-native, said he met Kehinde through the drama ministry.
“We’re like family; everyone is close,” said the Nigerian, who has lived in Chicago for 12 years.
Olotu, 23, said the drama group prays every Monday night. She added that the group has a great collaborative system and are friends outside of church.
“If you put a bunch of creative minds together that like each other, a lot of stuff happens,” said Olotu, who has attended KingsWord since 2011. “Everyone’s input is encouraged. You get a script and work on a script– if something feels right, you do it.”
It’s no question that Revelation Crew has had an impact on it’s members. Even more interesting is it’s impact on the Nigerian community at KingsWord and on the West Side of Chicago.
A 2010 census data sheet, which spans from 2006-2010, shows that about 7,000 Nigerians lived in Illinois and about 5,000 lived in Cook County, according to American Fact Finder.
Linda Akinbusuyi, assistant lead of Revelation Crew, said every church should have a drama ministry. She added that it gives people the outlet to come out of their shells and express themselves.
“There are lots of things people are going through and the pastor’s message isn’t getting to them,” said Akinbusuyi, who currently attends Harold Washington College for theatre arts. “But, when they see us ministering and acting out things that are relevant to everyday society, they get it and say, ‘that’s me up there, that’s my situation.’”
This 21-year-old said being part of the drama team is something she can add to her resume. She added that she helps communicate to members about rehearsal time, scripts and other important information through emails.
Another member, Susan Stevenson, said Revelation Crew helped her discover some strengths she didn’t necessarily didn’t identify at first. She added that it helped her to see God from a different perspective.
”When Jesus was on Earth, the way he ministered was in parables,” said Stevenson. “Drama is another way of doing that. We’re just another extension of what God has called us to do.”
Stevenson, who is also part of the prayer and hospitality department at KingsWord, said joining Revelation Crew was “out of her realm.”
Kehinde said the biggest challenge of managing the team is having a balance in terms of coming to rehearsal. He added that members have other priorities as well such as work and school.
“As a leader, I try to be close with each person. I can’t make them feel bad for having to study,” said Kehinde. “I don’t have a set of people who always perform lead roles. I work with whoever has time and keep adding more people to the team.”
The team leader said he encourages anyone with acting talent to talk to their pastor and set up a drama team. He added that there are many sites that have skits and scripts for short plays.
“When you’re acting out plays, they go deep into the heart of people,” said Kehinde. “Work with your media team and get the cameras rolling.”