Her graceful movements paint an intricate picture as her arms slowly stretch into a balanced arch and her legs bend slightly beneath her. As she moves to the music, it is easy to see she is a skilled dancer—each step is calculated, each posture is poised. But if you watch closely, you will see that her movements are more than a performance. Her dance tells a story. It is a story of disappointment and heartache, of hope, redemption, and love. It is a story deeper than words, a story told through the language of dance. It is the story of Linda Wells.
Linda always knew she wanted to dance. As a young girl growing up in England with a family in show business, it was only natural. At a young age, Linda began performing and dancing on stage before crowds of admirers. The doting acceptance was exhilarating. She was living her dream, on her way to fame, riches and a brilliant reputation.
But deep inside, when the crowd dispersed, the curtains closed and the costumes were off, Linda had a deep curiosity for God.
Not exposed to much religion, Linda tucked away the curiosity and focused her attention on success. Then as a teenager, Linda met a girl who would change her life, in more ways than one.
“She was a real Christian in that she followed Christ and spoke to him every day,” Linda says.
Years of bottled questions and curiosity about God and Christianity spilled from Linda, and that same day, she prayed and asked God to come into her life and take control. There was only one catch, one that Linda was not prepared for. The girl who led her to Christ told Linda that Christians do not dance. Linda’s immediate reaction was of surprise and disappointment.
“I thought, ‘Wow, what a boring lot of people,’ Linda says. “I thought God had given me the gift of dancing.”
Linda struggled with this “rule” of her new religion for almost two years. The thought of giving up her true passion was heartbreaking. But as time passed, Linda began to see the negative side of her profession. The admiring crowds, her selfish need for love and attention, and the backstage environment seemed filled with immorality that went against her new belief.
“Unfortunately in dance, we were taught to project ourselves. It was very vain, very egotistical, very ugly, really,” Linda says.
The world of show business and the world of Christianity did not seem to mix. After years of searching for her identity as a Christian dancer, Linda decided to give up dancing entirely.
This difficult choice left Linda in a completely new place in life. While she wanted to learn more about her faith, she struggled with a religion that would not allow her to use her talents. In search of a new identity, Linda began devoting her energy to learning more about her God and sharing Him with others. She joined a gospel group that traveled across the UK sharing the good news of Jesus. Linda was the lead singer of the group. She spoke and sang to audiences in hospitals, prisons, and schools about how she had found God. When it came time for formal education, Linda went to Bible College to deepen her knowledge and love of her faith.
Soon, Linda met her husband, Graham, who had a heart for ministering to others in foreign countries. Linda had no desire to become a traveling missionary, but as she is quick to tell you, sometimes God has other plans.
Soon Linda found herself working alongside her husband for Operation Mobilization, a Christian organization with a purpose to spread the love of God to others all over the world. Operation Mobilization (OM) sent Linda and her husband across the world to share the story of Christianity. Linda traveled to Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Poland, sharing her story with others.
Then, after a few years of traveling on land, OM sent Linda and Graham out to sea. Graham was asked to be the director of the Logos, a ship sponsored by OM that would travel to different ports and countries in order to share the good news of God’s love. On its voyage, however, the Logos was shipwrecked off the southern tip of South America. With a three-year-old daughter and a baby on the way, the wreck was terrifying for Linda.
“It was a miracle we all got off that ship,” Linda says. “The ship was leaning so much to one side that the Chilean navy that came to help us said to count our people again. They didn’t believe everyone could have gotten off.”
After the shipwreck, Linda and Graham returned home to England. As life slowed from the adventures of OM, Linda began to struggle with post-traumatic stress, post-partum depression and tension in her marriage. At this time, Linda met a pastor in England who suggested she dance out her depression. Linda was surprised to hear a Christian advocating what she had struggled to give up. She quickly told the pastor what she had been told long ago, “Christians don’t dance.” Surprised, he told her he didn’t agree with that, but rather believed that God uses the art in worship.
“I was amazed and a little bit cross as well,” Linda says. “I felt like I had been robbed. I asked God why I had to lose 18 years of dance.”
With questions, Linda took the pastor up on his offer to dance alone in the church when she needed some encouragement. For the first time in 18 years, Linda allowed herself to dance again. But this dancing had one important difference: she wasn’t performing for acceptance or admiration, she was dancing in worship to God.
“As I danced alone in worship, I found that God used it therapeutically,” Linda says.
Linda overcame her depression and tension in her marriage solely through dance, without medication or therapy. Through her experience dancing alone, Linda began to come to an important realization of why God had allowed her not to dance for so long.
“I was trained to be a show-off,” she says. “God wanted true worship and it took him a long time to get rid of the show-off within me.”
Linda began to realize that dancing wasn’t wrong if it was done in the right way.
She found dance was most beautiful and meaningful when she was humbled and danced for God rather than herself. She realized that true dancing was an act of worship to God. For the first time in her life she realized Christianity and dance mixed seamlessly together.
Linda also realized her dancing could be used to minister to others. She was asked to start a dance ministry in England. Again, she began traveling. This time she toured around the UK teaching and leading worship with dance.
During that time, Linda learned that dancing was not just movement, but a powerful form of communication that spoke to many. She began using her dance to communicate with the deaf community. Although they could not hear the songs, her movements illustrated its rhythm and her use of sign language communicated its message. One night, Linda’s dancing brought a middle-aged deaf man to tears in the middle of a song. Linda writes about the man in her book Dance Warriors.
“Right there in the middle of the service he shared his utter amazement that because I had used his language of sign and my language of dance, he had just heard music with his eyes for the first time in his life.”
During her ministry in the UK, many men and women told Linda that her dancing helped them worship on a deeper level than they had ever experienced before. Linda began to see just how powerful dancing could be when used in a positive way.
After eight years in England, Linda and Graham, along with their two daughters, Aimee and Lucy-Jayne, returned to America. This time they moved to Fayette County to work with Operation Mobilization. Linda began using her dance ministry in Fayette County by teaching a dance class at New Hope. She also supported her husband as he helped with OM by traveling to conferences, even cleaning toilets in her spare time.
It was then that Linda met Bill Drake, the director of OMARTS, a fine arts ministry division of Operation Mobilization. He quickly recognized Linda’s passion for ministry.
“Her heart was for spiritual formation and discipleship of dancers, to be trained up and released into mission,” Drake says. “It has been sheer joy to be able to provide a place and a platform for her to do just that.”
Drake offered Linda a place on his OMARTS ministry team. Soon, the team had collected missionaries who were singers, musicians, dancers and even mimes. Linda began taking mission trips through OM and ministering to others. Her first trip was in 2005 to Europe with her daughter Lucy-Jayne, also a dancer. They ministered by dancing on the street. Lucy-Jayne did hip hop and Linda did ballet.
Linda’s trip with Lucy-Jayne inspired her to start a ministry that would give talented dancers an opportunity to minister to others. In 2006 Linda’s vision, Dancelink, was formed. Dancelink’s mission was two-fold. First, Linda desired to use the ministry to train talented dancers to dance for God rather than themselves.
“I’m looking for a pure heart,” Linda says, “not brilliant technique.”
By teaching dancers, especially from a young age, that dancing is not for personal gain, Linda has been able to save many from the struggle of losing the “show off” within. She wants dancers to learn to use their gifts for God. Many have already been impacted by Linda’s desire to pass down the true meaning and purpose of dance to future generations.
“I actually love dancing more now,” says Sara Gratzer, Administrator for Dancelink. “I actually feel like I have a purpose with what I am doing—to serve God.”
Linda’s ministry-minded dance has passed to her daughter as well.
“Her (Linda’s) heart is not just about performance. It has inspired me to use my passion for dance to serve,” says Lucy-Jayne.
The second mission of Dancelink is to use Christ-centered dancing to communicate across boundaries of culture and language.
Since 2006, Dancelink has brought together dancers from several countries to go on trips overseas to dance for diverse cultures. The desire of Dancelink dancers to use their gifts for God is great and genuine. Each dancer that travels with Dancelink must pay her own way for every ministry trip she takes. Linda has brought Dancelink teams to countries such as Bosnia and Albania. She begins relationships with the people through the language of dance.
“I feel for the first time in my life that I’m doing what God created me to do,” Linda says.
Linda has found that dancing prepares the way for other missionaries to peacefully minister to foreign cultures. Through the relationship dancing creates, long-term missionaries are able to easily make friendships with people in the cultures Dancelink has visited. Linda’s peers attribute the effectiveness of her dance ministry to the heart behind the movement.
“Linda is an artist off the charts who is quite capable of being extremely personable. She is deeply spiritual and devotional, but not holier-than-thou,” Drake says.
Linda’s example continues as more and more dancers join with Dancelink’s ministry. Linda’s expectations for Dancelink’s future are positive and expectant.
“I am hoping that hundreds of dancers will come to use their gifts for God and that they will communicate His love through dance with pure hearts,” Linda says.
As Linda continues to tell her story through dance, she is teaching others to make beautiful language with each movement so they, too, can tell their story of love.
If you would like to help sponsor a dancer or become a prayer partner for Dancelink, please visit www.omdancelink.org.