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Posted April 6, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Dedicated teens use puppets, music to promote greater meaning

By Josette Keelor

The Berryville Baptist Rascals will be in Strasburg on Sunday for a performance audiences are unlikely to see from anyone else in the area.

The theatrical troupe of teens between the ages of 13 and 18 combine music and choreography with puppets to help tell stories, and Sunday they will perform at 4 p.m. at Strasburg Christian Church.

For Sunday's performance, the teens and their puppets will simply sing, said Joan Houck, who has directed the group since it began 22 years ago.

Paul Howell, a member of Strasburg Christian Church said the response to last year's performance was great, and he and other members are looking forward to the troupe returning.

On mission trips, the 12-member group incorporates stories with morals, but Houck said that's only a surface explanation.

"You really don't see the energy unless you come," she said. This year the Rascals have incorporated more black light songs than they did last time.

They use songs Houck has published from other ministries, all with contemporary Christian lyrics combined with melodies of classic oldies from the 1950s and '60s.

Last year they included a Beach Boys song. This year, they're including "Rockin' Robin," but what they sing Sunday won't even come close to the number of songs in their repertoire.

"We have probably conservatively speaking 75 songs, maybe 100 songs," Houck said.

The group appeals to children up to age 12 and even their parents and grandparents.

Sunday's hour-long musical is part of a series of fundraisers the teens hold throughout the year to help send them on mission trips around the world.

This July they'll head to Roanoke, but last year they were in Indianapolis. They've also been to Montana, Ohio, Tennessee and even Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and South Africa.

"This will be our 22nd mission trip," Houck said, "... and the puppets are sort of a pivotal force in that."

"I consider us primarily an inner city children's ministry," Houck said.

The 12-member group holds two vacation Bible schools in inner cities, and during their missions they also help in shelters for homeless or abused men and women.

They perform at Andrews Air Force Base for a program for children with cancer. They also perform at Children's Hospital in D.C. and the Martinsburg VA Medical Center in West Virginia.

"I think it's a good outreach from the church to share the message of God's love with others," Houck said. "Also I think it's really a good thing to have a sensitivity for the way that other people live."

"I think people recognize that that's what the ministry is about," she said. "It's not really about Rockin' Robin and The Beach Boys, it's about more than that."

With four of its members graduating from high school this year, the group is looking for new members, Houck said. Any teenager willing to put in the effort required for the ministry is welcome to join, she said. The group meets at Berryville Baptist Church, at 114 Academy St., Berryville, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Sundays, but the time can change from one year to the next. Houck also said the group would welcome the opportunity to team with other churches on mission trips.

"It's a wonderful exciting ministry," Houck said. "It surprises me that a lot of people don't really know about it."

The Berryville Baptist Rascals will perform at Strasburg Christian Church, at 165 High St., Strasburg, at 4 p.m. Sunday. Light refreshments will follow the show, and a freewill offering will be collected. For more information about Berryville Baptist Church or the Rascals call 540-955-1423 or visit berryvillebaptist.org/youth.htm. The Rascals are also on Facebook. To contact Strasburg Christian Church, call 540-465-3547 or visit strasburgchristian.org.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

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