Why Spain?

Why Spain?

I'm often asked why International Media Ministries is in Spain. It's a bit of story, but it is one that you see that hand of God. For 20 years, IMM was located in Brussels, Belgium. It was a crossroads for Africa, Europe, and Eurasia. Hundreds of programs were created there for Africa and more as the Iron Curtain fell to the east. 

Due to a misunderstanding or miscalculation of visas and media work, IMM was not allowed to function anymore in Belgium. It wasn't long after a lot of bureaucratic fallout had occurred from 9/11, and we will likely never know all that caused the issue. 

As John and Ruth Merrell, the leadership of that time, sought what to do, they evaluated many different places. The caveat was that it had to be near an international airport, and it needed to be where people could come from a variety of cultures. 

In the end, the Spain Missionary body invited IMM to relocate here. It was the hand of God for sure as you use hindsight to look back. People in Spain who work as extras have a Mediterranean look that is very suitable for Bible stories or stories that are set in the Middle East. At the same time we have a variety of European people available as well. We are able to connect with someone from India or Russia more easily than if we were in the USA because of closer time zones and airports. Our programs have a European or Mediterranean feel from our locations and by the look of the actors and extras, and they feel local and not like something that has been imported from far away.

I won't go on and on because it's amazing how God has made this an important time to be here. God brings good from things meant for bad and we can see that so much in our location at IMM. 

Augustine of Hippo

Augustine of Hippo

Since Christmas, I have been having a lot of fun editing one of our Heritage Project episodes. The episode I am editing is on the life of Augustine of Hippo. Augustine grew up in a divided home with a mother who was a Christian and a father who was not. Augustine grew up knowing the truth, but it wasn’t until he was in his early thirties that he accepted Christ. When we filmed this episode last year, I knew that I wanted to edit it more than anything. The life of Augustine resonated with me, and I was excited to share it with other people.

As excited as I was, the process of editing takes time. You have to edit with patience and perseverance. Perseverance is a word that has come up a lot in my own life lately. The things we are called to do are not always easy or quick. They take a lot of work and thought to complete. Sometimes the situations we are put in are not ideal. The surroundings in our environment can make our work more difficult. These can be either spiritual or personal.

In Augustine’s life, his mother and son passed away within three years of each other leaving Augustine alone. It would have been easy to give up then. Augustine was devastated with these personal losses. However, his work was more important. He persevered and served God for the rest of his life. The impact that his life had on the people he spoke to and wrote books for is still seen today. It is even yet to be seen in the people who will watch this episode of his life.

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. “ Hebrews 10:35-36

20 Minute Challenge

20 Minute Challenge

Recently, in our staff devotions we have been talking about personal time with God. We talked about reading, studying, meditating, and memorizing God's word. All of these are crucial as we live this life for God in this crazy world, that seems to be getting more so by the minute.

A Time to Build

A Time to Build

As a culture, we as Americans like results, and that is true of the church as well. We admire success that can be measured and replicated. We also like convenience, as well as formulas or products that can help us achieve success in life and ministry, the faster the better. The problem is that genuine success cannot be achieved through shortcuts. It requires a lot of hard work, generally over many years, and faithfulness to a specific goal or vision. This, I believe, is especially true of those called to minister cross-culturally.

My husband and I, after years of fruitful ministry in another context, once again find ourselves in a time of preparation. We are the newbies, recent arrivals. After months of settling in: setting up a bank account, buying our STL car, finding a place to live, unpacking, studying and passing our Spanish driving tests, and learning the ropes at IMM, we are now in the trenches trying to make sense of the Spanish language and culture. I’ll be honest, it isn’t really fun, and most days we feel less than successful, but we know from experience how important this time is. We are laying a foundation for future fruitfulness. We know that without the language, we can’t understand the culture. If we don’t understand the culture, then we can’t know the felt needs of our neighbors and those whom we meet. If we don’t know their felt needs, then it is difficult to know how to present the Gospel effectively. So, if we want to reap the reward – kingdom growth – then we have to be willing to do the long, tedious, and sometimes monotonous work of language learning. Our success and potential reward are months or even years down the road, but they depend on the decisions we make and our faithfulness during this season.

The work at IMM is similar in that the successes that we share involve hours, days and weeks of hard work by the whole team. Most of the time we don’t share the tedious, monotonous side of the work, as it isn’t glamorous or necessarily very interesting, but it is essential, and conservatively makes up over 85% of the hours spent. But without that hard work and faithfulness, the results – unreached people hearing the Gospel - wouldn’t be possible.

Perhaps today you are frustrated in your area of ministry, tired of praying for that burden God has laid on your heart, wondering if the gifts you give each month to God’s work make any difference at all. I want to encourage you! In Galatians 6:9 we are told, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” God measures success very differently than we do. Work faithfully! Don’t give up! Your harvest is coming!


A Bittersweet Goodbye

A Bittersweet Goodbye

Sometimes we have to say goodbye to friends, and it's very bittersweet. For the past eighteen months, we have had an amazing couple be part of the IMM family. But this month, we had to say goodbye.

Junior and Mikaela became part of the IMM team during the summer of 2017. Junior is a fantastic cinematographer, photographer, and editor. Junior’s wife, Mikaela, is a great producer. Together they are a film-making powerhouse. They have done more than help to create The Heritage Project at IMM. They have also created several powerful short films that address social issues.

Junior and Mikaela are moving from Spain to the United States. Their goal is to be a good influence and Christian witness in the film-making world on the west coast. They don’t know what God has in store for them yet, but what they do know is that God wants them there.

Saying goodbye to these wonderful people is very difficult. In their time at IMM, we shared some incredibly long days — waking up before the sun to get started and not stopping until late at night. During this time, they became more than colleagues, they became friends. It’s bittersweet for our IMM family to see them go. Bitter in the fact that we are losing some great people, but sweet because we know that God will use them in a mighty way.

Junior and Mikaela, know that the IMM family loves you and will miss you. We are praying Numbers 6:24-26 over you.

“May the Lord bring good to you and keep you. May the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be kind to you. May the Lord show favor toward you, and give you peace.”’

A Hope that Does Not Disappoint

Having lived in Spain going on four years now, I find there are things I miss from my home that I just can’t get here.  I’ve asked for peanut butter, jeans, A1 steak sauce, and software. But I can’t get EVERYTHING I want or miss, so I have to make some concessions.  Usually, it comes down to what won’t get held up in customs.  A couple of Christmases ago, a dear friend tried to send lefse (Norwegian potato pancake) in the mail.  It got held up for three weeks and had to get pitched! Sometimes the miracle of modern shipping disappoints. 

You might remember the scene in Back to the Future II when Marty receives a Western Union package sent 80 years beforehand! I love the magic of thinking of the faith Doc had in a post system that the letter would arrive!!!

In the book of Acts 2:38-39, we see that the Church was promised salvation through Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit, a remarkable promise that they’d been awaiting for generations. If you catch in verse 39, it says “this promise is to you, to your children, and to those far away.” Not only did these favored Jews have access to this gift- but future generations and non-Jews alike.  Peter and the other apostles who were present that day knew that their work to share this good news would last far beyond that day.

Today in every corner of the globe, followers of Jesus are sharing this Gospel because they know it didn’t end with the biblical generation. At International Media Ministries, we continue to craft stories for those “a long way off.”  For those in places urban and rural; dangerous and safe; peaceful and war-torn— knowing it brings salvation just as it did in the days of Acts.

Unlike some of our modern mail delivery systems, the hope we hold onto through faith does not disappoint.  We can trust that God is who he says he is and faithful to reach to the most unreachable places, so all can hear!

Flat Tires – Bad Day or God's Plan?

Flat Tires – Bad Day or God's Plan?

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Last week, we drove 4 hours to the coast where we would shoot a big part of three of The Heritage stories. During that drive, one of our vans got a flat tire. I am very thankful we have proper insurance and the driver (a volunteer only here to help with logistics during the shoot) was able to get to the side of the road safely. I'm also thankful, that a person who lives in Spain was in the van. (We didn’t plan that. It just worked out!) He was able to communicate with the insurance company and tow truck about where they were and what they needed. But, he didn’t speak English. Thankfully, again, an American volunteer in the van was able to translate for the English speakers so everyone could understand what was happening as they waited on the side of the road. Whew! Lots of terrific coincidences — these were truly God providing for a hard moment. They got back on the road with only an hour and a half lost. Whew!

I was in another vehicle, but I was worried. That van had all the racks to hang up costumes. Thank goodness no one was hurt and everyone stayed in good spirits.

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Then, NO, NO, NO, another flat tire!! Are kidding me? We checked this all out before we left home. A different person was behind the wheel but again was able to safely gets to the side of the road. Having a tire blow out can be dangerous, but God kept them safe. Only now, it is much later in the day. No one was open to make the repair.

In missions, flexibility is the key, but boy, were we being tested. There were too many people in the van for one taxi. So, they had to call two to get them to our destination. The van and all the clothing racks would have to be left in another city until the following day. 

Back at the shooting site, we took advantage of a kitchen in the back of our Roman court set and hung costumes from weird oven racks. It wasn’t ideal, but God made a way.

Taxi #2 had another passenger. She, too, had gotten a flat tire. This taxi seemed to get quite lost. It took them one hour longer to complete the drive than Taxi #1. During that extra hour, our team members chatted with the other passenger – an English speaking woman. They led her back to God. She had wandered away from God, but during this ride, she recommitted her life back to Him and made new friends.

Leave it to God to use THREE flat tires to orchestrate the right moment to talk to someone who needed Him.

Incredible.

Anthony, Desert Father of Egypt

Anthony, Desert Father of Egypt

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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.

I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy. I am happy because you have joined me in spreading the good news. You have done so from the first day until now.
— Philippians 1:3-4

Production Has Begun!

Production Has Begun!

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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!

What is Your Heritage?

What is Your Heritage?

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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 Promises of God

The Promises of God

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