I recently had a chance to sit down with the founder or International Media Ministries and hear where God has taken a few of the people who received media training at IMM.
I recently had a chance to sit down with the founder or International Media Ministries and hear where God has taken a few of the people who received media training at IMM.
Last week at IMM, we honored our ministry’s founder, David Lee. Back in 1981, David and his wife Jimmie Ruth stepped out in faith with a vision to assist missionaries and nationals using media.
But last week wasn’t just about our current team honoring them, but about their friends doing the same. One of David’s lifelong friends spent the last couple of years asking other friends to honor him too. Quite a few gave in the Lees’ name to refurbish our apartments in the facility.
A verse in Proverbs chapter four talks about honor.
If you prize wisdom, she will make you great.
Embrace her, and she will honor you.
Proverbs 4:8 (NLT)
As with a huge majority of the proverbs, we see a conditional statement. If you do something, another thing will happen. Here, if you embrace wisdom, you will receive honor.
He doesn’t remember it, but David Lee once offered my wife Rachel and me some wisdom. As missionary candidates back in 2011, David encouraged us to set some great boundaries about how we would go about visiting churches and raising money. I’m thankful for his experience.
More than just people, we believe that God gives this highest honor to those who consistently embrace wisdom and allow it to inform their lives with righteousness.
So today, again, we say thank you to David and Jimmie Ruth for your years of leadership and wisdom. And with these, we give honor.
I love to dream. I love waking up and processing dreams I’ve had the night before. I love day dreaming about the future. Making plans is a fun activity for me. Searching through my calendar, I love to mark down the things I want to do on exact dates. How can I know exactly what I want to be doing on a certain date? Because I am a creature of habit. I choose comfort over uncertainty. The stress and anxiety I feel when I don’t properly plan something out is never worth the time I saved by not sitting down and planning.
Lately, my dreams have been getting in my way. I have spent so much time focusing on dreams and hopes for the future, that I have lost sight of living in the now. When the future seems brighter than the present, you become discontented with what is in front of you. If not properly taken care of, a little seed of resentment for the now can blow into a full sized hate of a perfectly good life.
If this is you, how do you fix it? The other night I had a very real time of prayer. Getting out a piece of paper, I drew a cross on it. Inside, I wrote down every dream I had for the next few years. My dreams are personal and while I rarely speak about them out loud, they are placed deep in my heart and are constantly on my mind. It was not hard to fill the cross quickly with every desire I had. Seeing my dreams listed was a surprise. I didn’t realize how many I had and how strongly I was holding on to them.
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.’” Matthew 22:37-38
Dreams are not bad. Dreams are good and when we love God, He gives us dreams and desires. He fulfills the Godly desires we have in our lives. He is not out to punish or suppress us. However, when our hearts are filled with our dreams and how we can bring them about in our lives, we are not living out His command.
In a few chapters before, Jesus said,
“‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.’” Matthew 6:24
Our hearts cannot hold God in first place if they are putting our needs and desires above Him. My advice is to let go. If you hold on to your desires, you are not able to fully devote yourself to God and love Him. This does not mean you will never have what you want. It means that you are trusting God and giving Him complete control over your life. When you do this, you will find that you are more joyful. Sitting down and writing out my list of dreams was difficult. Dying to myself daily still is. Asking God to help me focus on Him and His work is something I have to train myself to do. However, since that night, I have felt lighter. My concern about the future has been minimal. Not having to worry about what lies ahead is a blessing.
So take these next few Bible verses and let them be an encouragement and guide for you when it comes to the future, hopes, dreams, and plans.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
“May He give you the desire of your heart, and may all your plans succeed.” Psalm 20:4
“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:33-34
Spring is arriving here in Spain, and I recently decided to plant some herbs in containers. I ventured out to a local “vivero de plantas” (plant nursery) and purchased a few varieties. After preparing the soil in a couple of pots, I began to remove the smaller seedlings for transplanting. I was struck by the condition of their roots – good and bad. Some were healthy, spreading nicely and ready for expanded space. Others were essentially “root bound” having tightly compressed and matted root balls.
While I’m no farmer, I do understand that roots play a critical role in the health of the plant. If they are growing in well-prepared soil with room for expansion and access to a good water supply, they are much more likely to thrive. If they are crowded and overgrown, it is hard for roots to provide a sufficient amount of the moisture and nutrients the plant needs to flourish.
What’s all that have to do with missionary media? Well, in the same way that plants in the natural world need healthy roots and good soil to prosper and grow, so do ministries, like IMM, require a strong root system to be fruitful.
At IMM, we are rooted in a conviction that people need Jesus and that media can be a powerful tool to bring him into their lives. We draw nourishment from the friends and partners who pray and give to help us put Jesus On Every Screen. We also recognize that sometimes we need “re-potting” in order to expand our efforts. That means embracing changing technologies and broader relationships in pursuit of new audiences still unreached by the good news of Jesus.
So, how are your roots? I pray as Paul the Apostle did for the church at Ephesus,
“…that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all
the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of
Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the
measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3: 17-19 NIV
What one quality does ultimate success depend on – without which nothing of any eternal or lasting value can be accomplished? One might argue for different qualities, but there is one that has kept me on target and in the ministry through 25 (many of them quite difficult) years on the mission field. It has kept me when all hope was seemingly gone, when I seemed surrounded by darkness, through loneliness, through broken dreams, and yes, even the times when I felt like a failure, worthless at what I felt God had called me to accomplish.
That quality is immovability – unable to be moved by argument or pressure. Steadfast, unwavering, unswerving, resolute, determined, adamant, and firm are just some of its synonyms. Some others, that the dictionary links with inanimate objects that I think are worthy of contemplation as believers are: secure, stable, rooted, anchored, fast, and firm.
Ephesians 6:10-20 gives us incredible insight into why this quality is so important, and also when and how to practically implement it. First, we are in a spiritual battle! We have an enemy that is actively trying to destroy our marriages, steal the hearts of our kids, divide our churches and nation, as well as discourage us to the point of giving up on God’s call and plan. Our enemy isn’t our spouse, children, coworkers, fellow church members, or government leaders. We have one enemy, the devil, and his spiritual forces. But, God has given us protection (armor), as well as weapons (shield and sword), if we will but use them! We won’t use them though until we are able to discern the true source of our discouragement, conflict, depression, etc. Discernment comes by knowing and reminding ourselves of what the Word of God says (belt of truth), keeping ourselves cleansed of sin through repentance (breastplate of righteousness), choosing to let go of offense and anger (feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace), and being confident in our position as God’s child (helmet of salvation). Once that armor is in place, then we are able to stand our ground, “and after you have done everything, to stand.” There are times that come where all you can do is refuse to give up, even if all that remains is to hang on, to remain in that place to which God has called you. Hang on to your faith that God’s Word is true, the Word that He gave you personally in prayer, as well as His written Word, which you use to combat the enemies lies in prayer.
Ministry is difficult at times, working at IMM is no exception. Our days aren’t filled with exciting events year round. Our tasks aren’t always ones that are life-giving to us personally. Conflict is a reality that we face. Each one of us deals with insecurity, just like you. But, like you, if we want to see God at work in and through us, if we want to be a part of what He is doing to reach every person with the Gospel, if we are looking for His soon return and to hear those words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”, we must choose to put on the armor of God daily, and yes, some days, we must simply choose to stand, and not give up!
1 Peter 3:15 teaches us to “…worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”
This means that we must be ready to give a reason for our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord, God, and Savior. The first thing out of our mouths is that we believe in Jesus because of what he did for us on the cross. The second thing we tell someone who asks us about our faith is our testimony. This is our story about where we were before Jesus, and where we are today after giving our lives to Him.
At IMM, we love telling stories about how God moves and radically changes lives. Typically, this is through dramatized stories like the Parables of Jesus or The Heritage Project. Another part of our ministry is to film testimonies about what God is doing around the world today.
This week, we had the opportunity to film three testimonies for one of our local churches Easter outreach. Testimonies are a powerful way to show what God is doing in our churches. They are encouraging, uplifting, and help people see the need for Jesus. This week we filmed these testimonies. Someone from the church will film supplemental footage to edit together with the testimonies and create the final video.
Take a look at what it is like behind the scenes during the filming of a testimony, and pray for the people who will be touched by its message.
This month we are working on two continents. We have two production teams, one in the US and one in Spain working on translations of IMM programs in the Amharic language, for the people of Ethiopia, and the Kabyle dialect, for the Berber people of North Africa.
If you count the quiet hours alone after the sun has gone down, regardless of global time differences, as our international team members devote time to preparing for the next day’s shoot, you could say we are literally working 24 hours a day to get the Good News on screens across the world.
There are days of translating the written text from the scripts before the on-camera interpretation can take place. Once that is finished, there are hours spent with the production team under the studio lights. I remember spending a week holding a boom microphone for a Greek sermon series. Did I understand Greek? No. But someone listening to the recording did!
Then there are unique challenges such as the pacing of the segments and the dramatic interpretations. Not all sentences are the same length in every language. Sometimes there exists a conceptual problem of ideas, or maybe three particular words that must be used to describe just one word in English or vice versa. After all the tension, timing, adjusting and recording is finished, only then can we place the clips into the programs.
This is intense work, with all parties working to smooth out and streamline the process whilst providing the most accurate finished product possible. These polished programs are then broadcast into the homes of the target audience, bringing them messages of hope and unconditional love in their own languages.
At the end of the production day, when all of us are together at a table, sharing food and laughing, the Kingdom of God is evident. Our unity of purpose and devotion overcomes our minor cultural differences or geographical location.
Perhaps you want to work with us, or know someone who can lend a hand. Perhaps you can pray, as all of us do, that this media missions endeavor moves ahead until Jesus is on every screen!
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.
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
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.
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!
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.”’