IMM Forever!

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The phrase “IMM Forever” began as a reminder to tell out-going staff that once they served here at IMM, they were always part of the IMM team. We still use the phrase when we say goodbye on the steps or at the airport gates. I’ve even heard rumors of mandatory IMM tattoos being part of the on-boarding process. In short, alumni will always be a valued component of what makes IMM tick.

However, I was musing on the phrase and realized that the meaning is much deeper than a loyalty motto. Our media missions endeavor that reaches out from this small, but potent, production house, reaches out into eternity.

I worked many jobs that used my creative skills to assist in the here and now. I edited cosmetic surgery videos, built infinity pool ads for glossy magazines, and even wrote a few feature stories for small circulation weekly newspapers. But when I began hearing and responded to the call, I realized that God wanted me to use these gifts for an eternal purpose. This has always been the passion of IMM, broadcasting the Gospel and bringing the people whom God created into eternity with Him.

There are quite a few days when I want to just make it to the end of the week. Busy schedules, roadblocks, logistical problems and cultural challenges that seem to have the mark of spiritual warfare upon them; many daily expectations not meeting my list of demands; this is the daily grind. But we must remember, the support invested in this passion and the work that leaves our hands will stretch into next year, and the next. It will stretch far beyond this broken epoch and reach into eternity. IMM forever!

Faithfulness: You Gotta Love It!

Kerry and I recently attended the Centennial celebration of our home district of Kansas. So many themes of faithfulness have been rolling around in my head because of this. It is a fruit of the spirit and a favorite with me. None of us serves God or lives in a vacuum. We support and encourage one another in many ways. That changes as lives and circumstance evolve around us but all along it requires God to sustain us in faithfulness which maybe isn't glamorous but it is so marvelous. 

We are so glad for IMM's 37 years and our time to get to be part of serving here. Think of all the faithfulness that has been on display for this to be a fact. It will be amazing to hear all the stories of people who saw a video on a satellite network or on a phone screen and found Jesus one day when we celebrate in heaven.

On this theme, I thought I'd share this video we did for the 100th Anniversary of Kansas Assemblies of God and I add to this, "Thank YOU!" (since the video was addressed to the Kansas District). 

Keep praying, keep serving, God is faithful and loves when we walk in that with him!

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction...!

Have you ever watched a show that is so intriguing that you were glued to the tv? Or how about, have you ever heard a story that was so interesting that you just had to listen? That is kinda what happens to me when I watch David Letterman’s new show on Netflix, “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction….”

Last week at IMM, we had a special guest that should be on Letterman’s new show. Her name is Shahla.

SHAHLA’S STORY

 Shahla, a middle eastern woman, imprisoned for her faith.

Shahla, a middle eastern woman, imprisoned for her faith.

Shahla grew up in a sensitive country in the Middle East. One of the ones that the United States had troops in not too long ago. She lived her life like any other woman in her country. She worked, went grocery shopping, and spent time with her family and friends. You know, the typical everyday life kind of stuff.

One day in late spring, several years ago, Shahla was arrested by government soldiers. She was immediately tried, threatened by death, and stripped of her normal clothes. She was given a heavy winter wool prisoner's jumpsuit, blindfolded, and thrown in a small cell. The cell, as she described it, was dark, grungy, and had a repulsive stench that made her gag. She said that the cell was about eight hands wide by eleven hands long (measuring from the tip of her pinky to the tip of her thumb). Shahla spent four months in this solitary confinement cell only to be brought out blindfolded to use the restroom (if the guards remembered),  tortured and interrogated. After the fourth month of her time in prison, she was released into the normal ward with other prisoners. Her new cellmate was a prisoner who was a known murderer.

But what was the crime that fit a punishment like this!? What did she do that was so horrifically atrocious?

Shahla’s only offense was that she is a Christian, and helped the church evangelize in her country.

The first day she was in solitary, she cried out to God “Why is this happening to me!? Why!?” What happened next is completely mind-blowing. Shahla said that within just a few short hours of being in prison, she saw the wall move. The wall slid down, and on the other side was a man. The man said, “Shahla, everything will be ok. I am with you. Do not fear.” After He said that, the man disappeared, and the wall returned to normal. The man who appeared to her was Jesus Christ. After that, she knew that there was a reason she was in prison. She then had the encouragement she needed to continually worship God, and pray almost the entire time she was in solitary. And when she was released into the ward with the other prisoners, she led her murder cellmate to Christ!

After a year of being in prison, Shahla was released. Shortly after she was able to escape the country to safety. There are so many more miracles that she told our team about, that we can’t even begin to tell you all of them. What Shahla went through was simply because she believes in Jesus Christ (as her Lord, God, and Savior), and for following through with the Great Commision. Now she lives in Spain and travels to share her story in Churches, and to lead others to Jesus.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, OUR VERY SPECIAL GUEST… SHAHLA! A TRUE HERO OF THE FAITH!

This is why we do what we do. To give people like Shahla, who face the threat of death and imprisonment every day,  the resources that they need to effectively reach the lost in some of the most spiritually dark places around the world.

It has been a great honor and privilege to get to know Shahla over the past week and create her portraits.

Cutting Out the Junk

Cutting Out the Junk

If you would’ve told me last summer that by the following February I would be living in Spain working with a media ministry for two months, I probably would’ve looked at you funny. The saying has never been truer that God works in mysterious ways! I came with an expectation to learn where I could and help where needed in whatever area was necessary, and I have not been disappointed! Thus far, I have worked on many projects ranging from carpentry and photo editing to prop repair and others.

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Today I was faced with an overall theme for the day: cutting out the junk. While working on a small woodworking job this morning, I was tasked with enlarging some holes to allow thicker poles to pass through. Requiring several different tools and much time, the final result was a much cleaner and better fit. This afternoon I was taught how to Photoshop pictures and to cut out the background, leaving a neat and clear image by itself. It brought to mind how every day there is junk we need to cut out. The final result will always be a cleaner and more pleasing product than before, and this is God’s wish for us: that we might be a cleaner and clearer version of ourselves after we have eliminated the trash that tarnishes our character. I am grateful for IMM and their mission to provide mediums through which people can come to recognize the message of Christ and the hope that is found in Him.

Cataloging Our Costumes

Have you ever looked for something in a dresser, cabinet, basement or attic and just couldn’t find it? You know you have that one thing you’ve been looking for and needing for an important task. If only you had some sort of catalog or database to quickly find that item. That is one of the things that I have been asked to help out with here at IMM. We want a catalog of all of our costumes, wardrobe, and props so that we can easily find what we need when we need it.

Right now at IMM, we have hundreds if not thousands of costumes that we are looking through for the Heritage Project. One of the things we are doing is creating a catalog for all these costumes. We are doing this to make it easier to find costumes and wardrobe pieces for future productions that we will make at IMM. In order to do that we are photographing every costume on a mannequin, lovingly nick named Manny. Then we are cutting out the costume and creating alpha channels to use in this catalog. Its a daunting task, but it has to get done.

People are always asking me how to cutout things for different types of designs and composites. With that being said, here is a photoshop tutorial teaching exactly how we are cutting out all these costumes and creating an alpha channel for later use. These techniques can be used for a wide variety of applications from print to video. Please let us know what you think about this tutorial in the comments, and we hope you find it useful in your ministry. 

Mysterious Ways

We asked a young actress who has worked with us before to play the part of Perpetua. The diaries of Perpetua and the documents appended by Christians after her death mention that she sang a song while she was in the arena before they released the wild animals to attack. 

Pearl, the actress, and I were trying to find a song she could sing in this scene without copyrights and not too modern sounding. We hadn't found anything that felt right. Pearl sent me two scripture verses that she felt could fit the story. 

Psalm 23:1, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want."
2 Timothy 1:7, "For God gave us not a spirit of fearfulness but of power and love and discipline."

But still, we had no song. Pearl admitted to herself and me that she is not a musician, but she prayed. She went for a walk and felt suddenly a tune in her heart. It was haunting and ancient sounding — just right for the time period.

When she went back to the apartment where she was staying and converted the verses into Latin — they rhymed! Only God can do really incredible things like that. So Pearl sang this in the arena and then also in the studio to give us a crisper piece of audio. It was such fun realizing that the Holy Spirit had given us a song rather than searching for rights for something that was too modern! Marvelous! Unexpected.

Recently, we heard of a young lady named "Mary" who lives in a city near where Perpetua and her fellow Christians were martyred 1900 years ago in North Africa. Mary had no idea. She was excited to know that she is not the first single woman making her way in this part of the world to accept the radicalness of faith in Jesus Christ. Mary dreams of being able to find a Christian to marry, but her family doesn't know she is a Christian. She is afraid that when she announces her faith publicly, they will rush her into marriage with a Muslim. The stories of the martyrs were encouraging to her, and she is eager to see The Heritage stories — of her heritage and people from her land. We are eager to get them to her.

 

Perpetuating the Memory

It’s interesting that when we first were thinking about missions (10 years ago) we went on the AGWM website to see what needs there were in Europe.  IMM came up. I asked Cliff “What on earth would we do there?”  In my mind, I was thinking you had to be knowledgeable just about media, editing, camera work or filming.  Boy was I wrong!  Those are very important areas of need for IMM but there are so many other areas of help IMM needs.  IMM is housed in a large facility. They need help with maintenance, logistics, administration, organization, costuming, props, make-up, drivers to drive people to and from the airport and to shoot locations.

We have been with IMM now about 3 years.  Both Cliff and I help in many different ways.  From maintenance of the building to logistics, administration, helping build/paint props for films, applying make-up on actors and costuming actors (a brand new learning experience for me)! We have been challenged and stretched but have enjoyed the experiences and have learned we can do more than we ever thought we could! So if you are considering coming on the mission field and want to be a part of an exciting, life-changing ministry but are not sure what you could do, be encouraged that we can probably use your many gifts and talents here at IMM!

We have had the privilege of being able to help with 2 productions — Bathsheba and the current Heritage Project. I have been deeply impacted by the stories of these men and women in the Heritage Project who faithfully served the Lord and were willing to die for their faith. The Perpetua story especially had an impact on me. A while ago while doing my devotions I read in Psalm 45:17, "I will perpetuate your memory through all generations; therefore the nations will praise you forever and ever." As we have worked on the Perpetua story and delved deep into the story — gathering costumes, creating props to help recreate the story — it became a part of us and made us all think about those martyred for their faith. Their walk with Christ still impacts us today! The name Perpetua means to perpetuate - to carry on, continue, preserve, keep alive!  By retelling this story (which was recorded in a diary she kept while in prison), we are perpetuating "the memory through all generations"!  This docudrama will be seen by the nations!  Here at IMM, Cliff and I are honored to be a small part of perpetuating the memory of Christ through all generations and to the nations!

Transgressions

When I was in kindergarten, I got flack from an assistant teacher because I always printed my name in caps, drew a circle around it and lightly shaded it in. This particular teacher worried me. Other than the Barney Fife’s girlfriend’s hairdo perched high on her head, she looked and acted like she enjoyed pinning male walruses to the ground. 

In fourth grade. my hair was long enough to be in my eyes. My fourth-grade teacher did not like that. One afternoon after recess, she had us draw African masks and color them in. I went outside the lines and put two big old goat horns on either side of my mask. I think she was Christian because her hair was really big and woven, and when she confronted me about the goat horns her jaw clenched.

 Painting: Makoto Fujimura,  Charis Kairos  (The Tears of Christ), 2014

Painting: Makoto Fujimura, Charis Kairos (The Tears of Christ), 2014

Transgressions. 

Art in ancient Egypt was uniform, sometimes for thousands of years. This was the art of the state. The gods and the pharaohs decreed and commissioned all of those little-sculptured people with their hands, heads, and legs at those perfect angles. Not being an Egyptologist or even an art historian, what I understand is that not even one individual sweaty artist was allowed to transgress the rules. The goal was not self-reflection and creativity. The goal was the continuation of the Pharaoh in the afterlife. 

As with everything we declare to be sacred, God has a way of breaking those idols down.

“Humans are not God’s puppets in the creation of culture; it is their work and their responsibility, in which they exercise the freedom of the children of God,” writes William A. Dyrness, author of Insider Jesus.

So I ask myself, does God really allow us to have creative freedom? Can we color outside the lines? What about transgressions?

"Art is always transgressive. We need to transgress in love. We, today, have a language to celebrate waywardness, but we do not have a cultural language to bring people back home." ~ Makoto Fujimura

We found the King!

We found the King!

This was the first Christmas for our family (the Weatherlys) in Spain. We had fun learning the traditions and different ways that Christmas is celebrated here in Spain as opposed to the USA. One of the most notable differences is that there are nativity scenes everywhere, in town squares, shops etc… People know the reason we celebrate Christmas, is because of the birth of Christ. They may not be scared to show this as so many seem to be in the USA, but for many, this is just a tradition, it doesn’t actually mean anything. We know this because statistics (mine taken from Operationworld.org) show that less than 2% of the population are Christ followers. Many will say they are Christians or Catholic, but don’t necessarily have a relationship with Jesus.

Another thing that we learned this Christmas season is that King's Day (January 6th) is almost more celebrated than Christmas itself. Traditionally, this is the day that we celebrate the kings or magi bringing gifts to Jesus. This is the day, in Spain, that the gift-giving happens. Instead of Santa Claus, the three kings are said to come and leave gifts for children. There are parades and treats, much like Christmas. The main treat is a cake, called a Rosca de Reyes. In this cake there is a king figurine, and it is said whoever gets the piece of cake with the king will have good luck this year. It’s a fun tradition, much like a wishbone. Our family went to a parade in a nearby village and our 4-year-old son found the king in his slice of cake. He was so excited.

It got me thinking about how so many of the people celebrating the kings entry into the village really didn’t know the King who we are actually meant to be celebrating. They don't realize how much their life would change if they found the actual King, instead of a figurine.

Please take a moment and pray for the people of Spain, to find the true King of Kings, the only one who can truly change their lives for the better — no luck needed.

2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!"

Occupy!

Occupy!

At church yesterday, our pastor referred to Philippians 2:12 where -- in English -- it says, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." What struck me was that in Spanish, it said, "Occupy - all of you (plural) your salvation with fear and trembling." All believers occupy your salvation. The Spanish Bible was translated prior to the King James version and often gives me great food for thought. 

This idea of occupying made me think of a fortress that has to be occupied and defended from attack. It requires the group to do it -- actively. Occupy! Don't let this ground be taken away from you. Don't let this place of salvation get away from you. Don't wander off. Occupy this place.

We spent two days last week in a medieval prison portraying Christians arrested for their faith. It had a very fortress-like feeling though it was not that big. 

The Heritage Project like many IMM projects goes behind closed lines. We send the good news places where missionaries and the Gospel message are not welcome. With our broadcast partners and internet associates, we set up advanced parties - fortresses of believers behind enemy lines. We tell about a God who is with your no matter what kind of persecution you face. That you overcome if you live and you overcome in Christ if you die, as well! To live is Christ to die is gain! Wow! 

We are in the middle of 20 shooting days that spread out over 8 weeks. We are occupying this project with fear and trembling. Will we remember all the details? Will the budget make it as far as it needs to with the unexpected things that occur? We will hold the line here as you back us up in prayer. 

Let us occupy our salvation - that no one can snatch it from us. We will make foraging parties outside to bring more people into the safety, the security, and salvation of God's kingdom. 

We cannot do it without you! Occupy this sacred place with us!

Building the Kingdom While the Enemy is Tearing Down

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Islamic State is literally bulldozing history. Ancient ruins are a threat to their all-conquering vision. There must not be anything or anyone left standing in these pillaged lands in order for their lies to exist. 

Here at IMM, our little team is working hard to bring the truth back to lands whose Christian history has been suppressed or forgotten entirely. The Heritage Project will tell the stories of the early church, the vital role believers played and the contributions they brought to Christianity in our own era.

We don’t use earth-moving equipment to destroy. We use the creative power of the Holy Spirit to build the Kingdom.

God Provides the Tools

This week, Cliff and I cut out soles for a few sets of prop shoes. We had to do this to make the shoe’s safe for the actors to wear during the Heritage Project. One thing that I’m noticing is that there is always something else that we need. It could be some sort of a prop that we need to make, a tool, and sometimes it's software. It takes all types of resources to get some of the jobs we have to do completed.

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For example, we started out cutting the soles for these shoes out of carpet squares with a pair of tin snips. It was taking a long time to cut each sole and really hurt our hands. Then I remembered that I brought my carving Dremel with me. Once we started using that, we cut out about one sole per 10 to 15 minutes. After cutting out two pairs of soles, I thought to myself, “All I need is a Bandsaw.” With a bandsaw, the whole job would have been completed in about 20 minutes.

Think about it. When you think about your job, hobby, or whatever you do to pass the time what is that one thing that comes to mind when you say “All I need is a… (fill in the blank)!” This week, for me, the answer is a bandsaw. Next week, only God knows what we will need.

The cool thing is that when we truly need something to help further the Gospel, God always provides it. Now, we really don’t need a bandsaw. That’s more of a want, not a need. But when it comes to having the tools to build props, scout locations, find actors, sewing costumes, doing makeup, the filming equipment, and having the right editing software God always provides what we truly need to use media to share the Gospel.

Philippians 4:19, "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."