Local homeschool community helps with Pilgrim’s Progress production

Published 5:04 pm Wednesday, December 20, 2023

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The Kirbo Center auditorium hosted a substantial audience last weekend for the Bainbridge and Thomasville Homeschool production of The Pilgrim’s Progress. The show was executed in concert with the Academy of Arts Seminar Teams.

“It blows me away every time,” stated cast member Nathaniel Popiel. “Everyone who sees one of their performances is always just floored by the excellence that the Academy brings to the stage.”

The Academy of Arts ministry is based in Taylors, South Carolina, and focuses on reaching young people through the arts. They send out teams to help students perform a given play throughout the year. This year they chose to bring John Bunyan’s classic novel, The Pilgrim’s Progress. 

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“The show is just a straightforward message of the gospel. That Jesus Christ saves us from our sins, and we no longer have to carry the burden of that,” said Sonia Beam, the show’s coordinator. “The play shows that the walk that we have after we become a believer is not necessarily easy. It is an arrow path, and there are hardships, but God always makes a way for us to want be able to walk through those difficult times.”

This year the seminar team consisted of Caleb Mack, Laura Warren, Autumn Love, Evan Yoder, Emily Kolchin, Berend Sandersfeld and Torrey Reinford. The team members taught the students different facets of the production, from backstage to onstage in an intense week. However, they also focused on making a personal impact on the lives of the students.

“I told the team members that it was important to me,” Beam said, “to have young adults who had a relationship with God to be able to speak into the lives of my kids and the young people that are a part of our homeschool group.”

Popiel has been part of the productions for the past three years, and he noted the impact that team members have had on his life.

“I can only number the time that I spent with him in weeks,” Popiel said. “And yet our director, Caleb, has been a mentor in my life. The team is always so full of energy and vigor to work for the ultimate good and God. I always try to learn from their example or take on some of their attributes, and they’ve definitely been one of the most positive influences on my own life.”

The Homeschool community hosted the teams, providing meals and housing for them so that the week went smoothly.

“Coordinating just pretty much involves securing the dates for the show,” Beam explained. “There can be anywhere from six to nine team members that will need housing as well as meals throughout the week.”

Popiel explained that there was something for everyone in this play, no matter where they stood in their faith. 

“Well, the wonderful thing about the Pilgrims is the over-characterization of the different really helps you see yourself in their position,” Popiel said. “You can always see something that you’ve gone through, a problem that you’ve had, or a roadblock on your spiritual journey.”

The consensus of the cast was that most of them knew many unsaved people attending the performance. The play’s deliberate message of the gospel allowed many of the students to evangelize through the performance.

“For those who have not heard of Christ, I would hope that there is a seed planted,” Popiel explained. “Something that gets them curious and wondering about what that kind of journey would look like for them.”

Popiel explained that the cast was able to fellowship in prayer before the show began, with teenagers and young people grouping to support each other and ask for the Spirit of the Lord to rest over them during the play.

“Right before the first performance, when nerves are so high, and everybody feels a bit emotional, it’s always a great opportunity to go and pray for people,” Popiel said. “There’s always some great prayer that goes backstage. When we were praying this time, I felt like I could feel the Spirit of the Lord there. I hope that the other castmates felt that as well because it was pretty special.”