A magician who wowed the judges and advanced to the semifinals of NBC's America's Got Talent says he wants to use his talent to "celebrate the things that God's done" in his life.
Dustin Tavella received a standing ovation from the judges and the audience earlier this month following a card trick that incorporated his two young adopted sons – who are biological siblings – on stage, accompanied by his wife, Kari.
Tavella, a Christian, advanced to the AGT semifinals, which will air live on NBC on Aug. 31.
Tavella discussed his faith during an interview this summer with Ruslan, an artist and YouTube personality.
"When I get to celebrate the principles of God, when I get to celebrate the things that God's done in our lives, … that, to me, is the main thing that we want to do," Tavella said. "[It is to] continue to be intentional with every story we get to tell and every bit of airtime."
Tavella, who describes himself as "super ADHD," said magic was "one of the things that helped me to focus" while in school. He was raised in a dysfunctional home under a father and mother who were addicted to drugs – but who came to know Jesus thanks to the investment of a Christian couple.
"Over time, my family just began to transform," Tavella said. "The drugs went away, the affairs stopped."
Having been transformed, Tavella now pours his time and effort into others. In recent years he and his wife have been involved in homeless ministry and a crisis pregnancy ministry.
Ministry that involves time and effort, he said, is what "Jesus did, and it's the stuff we want to choose to do."
"We just want to help empower people, and we want to be a bridge between the church and the not-church – to get the people not in church into the church, and to get the people in the church, outside of the walls," he said.
Addressing Christians who often are skeptical of magic tricks, Tavella said, "I don't have powers. This is just me trying to have fun and kind of create wonder for people." Magic tricks, he said, involve "cultivating mystery and wonder through sneakiness."
Tavella also addressed critics who believe magicians – especially those who perform live shows – summon demons.
"I've never seen a magician on stage … or on YouTube or on a Netflix special or on AGT where it's not just a magic trick," he said. "... A lot of people who are magicians, they are atheists. And a lot of people have been very hurt by the church. And I feel like that's part of even my mission field is just being an encouragement to people and kind of trying to shed the love of Christ in a new light."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Christopher Grigat
Video courtesy: ©America's Got Talent
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.