So let’s suppose I was going to start an activity center for children or a kids movie that would have some faith-based elements to it and drew on Old Testament themes and I decided to call it:
Gomorrah Learning Center
Would you think that was a bit of a strange choice? Jonah sure didn’t want to go there.
That’s kind of what we felt in east Syracuse, New York (to wit, DeWitt) last week at the Shoppingtown Mall (yes, seriously) and ran into the Ninevah Treehouse Learning Center.
Looking more like a portrait studio than anything large enough to offer activities, the place was nonetheless quite well appointed with a rainforest background set and quality stage lighting. Setting up in a shopping mall ain’t cheap, and this facility appears to have a lot of class.
The project is headed by Rufus Morris, Jr., who also is behind The Nineveh Project, which is currently an audio book but also (I think) being completed as a movie, a TV show and/or an interactive game. Here’s the 411 on the plot:
The Nineveh Project: Created, Written and Produced by Rufus Morris Jr.; In this magical story find out how a young boy (Michael) depressed from the death of his father he searches for a place his father often told him of. An ancient city called Amethyst, many have heard of but few have seen and lived to tell of it. However while searching for answers to his father’s death he finds himself in the Land Of Nineveh wearing nothing but pajamas, slippers and a mysterious gemstone necklace given to him from his father. On his quest he discovers other worldly friends but soon finds the pathway to the city is guarded by deadly creatures and an evil sorceress who has vowed to keep all from entering the great city. In Michael’s search for the city of Amethyst he finds his destiny to lead others to a magical place he’s never seen.
What I called a “portrait studio” is actually a place where kids can audition for a role in the completed production. Morris is also associated with Kingdom Entertainment Studios and School of the heARTS. One business directory says Kingdom was established in 2008, its own website says it is celebrating its 12-year anniversary. But let’s not quibble over dates; this is a massive media undertaking.
The Ninevah website continues:
Author, Producer & Educator Mr. Rufus Morris Jr. has plans to expand the services of Kingdom Entertainment Studios & School of the heARTS to include a Music & Creative Arts Therapy Center for at-risk youth. These programs facilitated on our studio campus will use the Nineveh Film Series movie sets, props and curriculum to train & equip youth to defeat their personal enemies of dreams (i.e. substance abuse, depression, academic failure etc.). The programs will also offer a creative & nurturing environment that encourages personal growth and responsibility. Working closely with caring parents as well as private & public school administration will allow our students to get the support services they need while still working towards a high school diploma or G.E.D. In addition to exploring exciting (vocational) careers in music, film, multimedia, theater and other creative arts, youth in our programs will have access to a full range of mental health services and academic support. The outcomes / data from our research & development will show how music & creative arts can be used as therapy in mental illness, behavioral & below standard academic cases among youth.
But what about the faith-based element?
One of the websites contains a 5-minute feature from The 700 Club which introduces Rufus Morris as a former rap star who felt a spiritual battle that caused him to question his connection to the hip-hop scene. Around the 3:30 mark, it’s clear, without doubt, that Morris is a Christ-follower.
So why Nineveh?
The 700 Club doesn’t seem concerned, so I guess we shouldn’t be either. We’ll sit back and see what develops at Nineveh Treehouse and Kingdom Entertainment; it is, after all, a whale of a concept.
Read more about Rufus Morris Jr.’s background as “D. J. Skratch” and his vision for the Nineveh project and School of the heARTS in this local Syracuse newspaper article.