This week, our production team is on location in the desert of southern Spain working on The Heritage Project. We are here—in the same location that Lawrence of Arabia was filmed—to tell the story of Anthony, Desert Father of Egypt.
Born into a wealthy family, Anthony followed Christ’s instructions to the rich young ruler. He sold all he had and gave it to the poor. Living in solitude in the desert, Anthony modeled self-sacrifice. He ministered to persecuted and imprisoned Christians. When many Egyptian Christians were swayed by Arianism (a heresy that said Christ was created and not divine), he journeyed and championed the truth of Christ’s deity.
Just as God called Anthony to a life of seclusion and service, we have been called to tell his story. We work with with crew and actors and equipment and costumes. We face challenges and illnesses. Yet, I know that we have other team members and partners who are standing with us and praying for us everyday.
It's been a nice (almost) two months living in Spain so far. I'm settling in and IMM is abuzz with excitement. We are starting to film the second season of The Heritage Project. This project has always made me so excited because it highlights the early Christians from Northern Africa and the cause of Christianity that they fought and died for. While Ghana (where I grew up as a missionary kid) isn't technically North Africa, it shows the courage of the people of Africa who fought for what they believed in.
The first season is not completely finished, but it is in post-production right now. Yesterday we started the first day of filming the second season. It's so exciting to see all the hard work of pre-production coming together. The costumes and props we've spent days and days on are finding their way onto actors and sets.
Please pray for everyone who is here to have strength and peace of mind to make it through a very intense filming schedule!
A popular saying is “It’s hard to know where you’ve come from if you don’t know where you’ve been.” Understanding our heritage and where we’ve come from helps us to know who we are. For years people have searched courthouse records for any information about relatives. Today with a simple DNA test, they can pinpoint your heritage to a close proximity of where your ancestors came from.
The heritage of the church is no different. For the first 400 years following Christ, North Africa was the powerhouse of Christianity. Many people gave their lives for the cause of Christ. Others developed the theology that is still being used in the church today.
Built upon the sacrifices of the North Africans and those since then is the movement now being seen – going to all nations that all may hear, that all may know, that all may experience the love of Jesus Christ that has washed away our sins. May I remind you, know where you’ve come from. Understand where you’ve been. In a few short years, we will be part of the heritage that Christians talk about.
The other day as I was taking a walk, I was listening to the Psalms and the verse Psalm 29:4 played,
“I will establish your descendants as kings forever; they will sit on Your throne from now until eternity.”
I felt a gentle stirring. This was a promise to David, he trusted and expected his family to rule forever and yet things didn't seem to go the way he was expected. When the Babylonian exile happened, the people of God must have questioned, "Why would God say that and allow this to happen? How will the promise ever be fulfilled now?"
Then more of these scenarios came to mind. Jacob and his family moved to Egypt to escape famine, as the generations passed, they became the slaves of Egypt. How will they become the great nation that God has promised? Had God forgotten?
The disciples looked on as their leader, who was supposed to save them, died right in front of them. What was God doing? How can He promise to save us and then... not?
Here in the future, we see the way each of these promises was fulfilled. Some took hundreds of years, one only 3 days, but God always kept His promise. He did not do exactly as people expected, but He did keep His promises. There are so many other scenarios throughout the Bible that show this over and over.
The promises that God has made to me, and to you, may not end up looking the way we expect. They may not be answered in the timing that we expect, but promises are still promises. God does not forget them. Keep trusting, keep working, and keep praying.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. - Romans 15:13
This was the view from a “high place” in Turkey we visited recently. The closer shot shows several minarets of mosques. The official religion there is Islam.
One of our delivery partners there is on a government owned satellite. They are getting good news and hope in Jesus out into the airwaves. They don’t know from one day to the next if they will be allowed to operate.
Christians represent on .2 % of the 79 million people calling Turkey home. It’s important that they know they are not alone. A lot of Christians are leaving Turkey and it isn’t clear what the future will be there. They need to know that God is with them no matter what. It’s important for truth to go into places that are hard to reach.
At the conference, we heard that everyone in the Middle East has access to television and it is part of their culture. It is on in the background and scenes of daily life. Even when satellites are forbidden or confiscated people just buy another one. They want to know what is happening outside their region. Many women and children are isolated in closed homes and this is their connection to the world.
When we climbed this historic citadel, I looked down at the roofs and the hundreds of satellite dishes all crowded around the symbol of Islam in the minarets. It brought this fact to life for me. People are looking around and seeking more than what they have locally.
What a privilege for IMM videos to be part of programming that goes on the air to share God’s love to people who are seeking answers! Please stand with us in prayer and in giving to reach the many families and hearts represented by all these satellite dishes.
Usually, I try to be overly clever and write a blog about the Lego Bible, the history of Sunday School flannel graphs, or the neglected genre of Christian horror movies. Not today.
There is a column outside my office in the IMM basement. Now off-white, it was once painted white. It is stained. It is peeling a bit. Standing under a terrace next to the heater access door, surrounded by dusty stones and concrete pavers, it helps support the building. One day God brought it to my attention.
“I need you to be like this column – standing here beneath notice. Slowly, I’m going to place a heavy weight on your shoulders – more than you can bear alone. Stand and do not move.”
Yeah, I feel it. Many days I have to bear up and sip my breaths so I don’t hyperventilate.
There were dark days long ago when I could not bear weight. There were months leading into years when I could not stand, and I have spent a wealth of endless hours shifting and rolling, day and night, on cloudy days and sunny days, trying to find a cool breeze or shade from unreasonable and scorching fear that I did nothing to deserve. I could not function in the world, and the world had no use for me.
What I would have given for just one day to be bored, or the luxury to worry about being cool.
So how is it I am still standing? Actually, it is a Biblical truth. I am weak, and God uses me.
Today, I see the trials and the unearned brokenness of my fellow laborers here at IMM. We are all weak and yet we stand… each bearing the weight of being as children in a foreign culture, each reaching for daily strength to pull through the day, to overcome a new normality and the crushing crisis. Sometimes at night I wake up and hear them, my brothers and sisters, trying to stand.
And the world… the world which has no place for the weak and the foolish, see how God uses us to send His shining Hope and His bright Love to millions of people in dark times and dark places all over the face of this Earth.
After 22 years on the field in Russia – mostly as a single missionary – plowing new ground and planting new ministries far from colleagues, I was more than a little leery of joining an established ministry in a “reached” nation. However, as I learned more about the vision and purpose behind IMM to put Jesus on Every Screen, in particular in the Muslim world, I could see why God would bring us here for such a time as this.
Also, God gave me and my husband two beautiful toddlers while we were home itinerating the last year and a half. I find myself in a new season of life. I wasn’t sure how I could contribute to the ministry within the limited time and energy I have left after meeting my kids’ needs. Plus, media isn’t my gifting. It's my husbands! But even before we arrived on the field, I was offered the opportunity to mentor incoming associates. I have enjoyed sharing my years of experience and encouraging others in the time I do have available.
With small children, it is such a blessing to have a community and built-in fellowship, especially at the beginning. I’m so thankful that we aren’t having to go it alone, and that I can make a substantial contribution despite my time limitations and my different gifts.
We don’t live in America any more. In fact, the closest thing to us that that remotely sounds like the name of America is our local grocery store that we lovingly call “Merican Donut.” (The name in Spanish sounds very close and is often mistaken by non-Spanish speakers as what we jokingly call it.) Because of that, we don’t celebrate special holidays like we would in the US of A. This year, for the 4th of July, we invited some very special guests to come celebrate with us, by way of a workshop.
Ladies and Gentlemen our next guests…Dr. Benson Fraser and Dr. William Brown.
Dr. Brown is a Professor and Research Fellow at Regent University. Dr. Fraser is a Westminster Canterbury Fellow for Religious Studies and Lifelong Learning at Virginia Wesleyan University. Together they co-founded Brown, Fraser & Associates, a communications consulting company.
On the 3rd and 4th of July, these two brilliant communications researchers gave us a two day intensive workshop about “Transformational Media.” We had a group of people, who use media to share hope in some hopeless places. They came to participate and learn how to better use entertainment-education strategies and the indirect story method to shine a brighter light in some of the darkest regions around of the world. (*Note for safety reasons some were not photographed.)
This workshop was absolutely amazing and gave us so much information to process that we can only become better storytellers and artists. After this event, we invited our non-american friends to celebrate the 4th of July with us by sharing an amazing meal… smoked pork loin, grilled chicken, potato salad, baked beans, hot rolls, and cherry cobbler.
How’s the house?
This photo isn’t remarkable at all but it says something to me. They are building this house across from ours here in Spain. The ones further behind are much further along. This one has had to have the front torn off again. (See the pile of bricks on the ground as they chip them out?)
I kept thinking of how dramatic that someone was paid to build. Then they didn’t get it right and have had to tear out a lot of their own work and redo it. They added cement to the slab which doesn’t look very stable and inspectors have been around often. It doesn’t seem like it will be a good investment as a house.
All of this put me in mind of the verse Psalm 127:1
"Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain."
It is so important to put God’s agenda first, so important to have God watch over everything we put our hands to do. Sometimes we have mundane things to do in life, but it’s still important to do them the best we can with what we have at any given moment.
I think of IMM programs that have lasted through time and how someone “built” them with as much care and quality as they could manage at that time. The Lord has stood watch over them and brought the videos to many hearts through the years.
Everyday is a chance to let the Lord build the house, the video house, the life house. We need him in every phase and he shows his faithfulness!
For the first eight years of my missionary appointment I served in Siberia, Russia, where the nearest AGWM missionary was an eight-hour drive away. The second closest was either a five or six-hour flight. Or if you were in no hurry, you could get to either place in three or four days by train.
When we dealt with issues — culture shock, chronic headaches, or even burn out do
to the stress of missionary work and government hoops — a phone or internet call was all we had. Even then you had to be careful of what you shared, because it was always possible your emails were being read or phone calls were being listened to. Hugs, a kind hand, or a shoulder on which to cry on were few and far between.
In April of 2012, I had the opportunity to attend Connect 2012, IMM's birthday
celebration. I remember being amazed and almost envious of the community and family
atmosphere that appeared present at IMM. From my first meeting with the Godwin’s to tours with Jerry (IMM's director at the time) and visiting the IMM office building, there was just something different, something special. Every encounter with IMM was like a warm hug.
Fast forward 6 years and I now find myself a part of IMM. What I thought was good back
then has been even better. I left family in the states, but IMM has become my new family. Having the ability to share my prayer requests, having someone to talk to, pray with, or just vent to when culture shock gets to be more than you can handle, feels even better than I could have ever imagined. IMM Forever is a phrase that has been stated a lot in recent weeks. To me it doesn’t refer to just a media organization, but a family and a culture that will transcend the test of time.
At IMM we have some very special audio equipment. Because of this a young group has come to us to help produce a Spanish Christmas Album. During the production of this album they enlisted the help of four musicians from Proclaim! — Russ, Greg, Steve, & Karl.
Russ is an audio engineer, Greg plays bass, Steve pounds the drums, and Karl slams on the guitar. These guys are missionaries called to proclaim the gospel with creativity, humility and boldness, in obedience to the authority of Jesus Christ. They spent a week recording drums, guitar, and bass to help push this album forward.
Please pray for these guys as they use their gifts and talents to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world through music.