– I wish you could be standing here with me right now. I’m far outside any signal that my cell phone could pick up, where a dirt opening before me stretches with a few trees, and then behind me lies a community of manyattas. This particular community is called Tubcha 3, where we don’t know if people have gotten the chance to share the Good News here, and I’m pretty sure the Jesus Film has never been shown. There is no existing church. A projector and a sound system are set up about 15 feet from a sprawling, if not picturesque, tree. You can hear the low growl of an electricity generator about 20 or 30 feet from the speakers. There’s a projector screen hung between the trees, and on it was clearly displayed the Jesus Film in the local language. Naturally, I don’t understand a word of it, except the greetings I picked up in my few days here, but for the locals, the 75 or so men women and children gathered, it’s perhaps not only the first time they have seen the Jesus film, but perhaps also the first time in their lives they’ve seen a movie in their own tribal language. Earlier in the evening, we were about to start scrambling as we could see rain forming in the distance near the area that our film would be set up. As it was being discussed by leaders, I had a quiet sense of assurance in my heart that it would be OK tonight. Now here we are, the life of Jesus being clearly portrayed, as small flash is a blue lightning eliminate distant clouds. We stand watching over the crowd, sometimes laughing at the curious intonation of the voice actors, sometimes silenced in awe considering what Jesus really went through.
As I journal, three men walk past, skirts around their waist and staves in their hands, chattering a bit. I’m not sure whether it’s from discontent with the form of the movie, aversion to its content religiously, or simply that they are tired or bored. Who knows? Perhaps they’re going to get a few more of their friends to bring them. That being said, the audience seems quite attentive overall. I hear a number of children crying out. There’s no sense of nursery in this culture,and to be honest, neither much birth control, so women all over the crowd are carrying infants with that. As a musician, I enjoy listening to the movie’s classic sword-and-sandal era Hollywood orchestral score. The strings swell as the Holy Spirit descends when Jesus arises after being baptized. A whimsical oboe whistles a mysterious tune as Mary bends at the feet of Jesus with the expensive perfume. The disciples march behind Jesus as horns and zither keep time with a tune evocative of King Arthur and his knights at Camelot. A babe‘s cry signals the change in Saints… No, wait, actually that’s in the audience, not coming from the movie. The movie finishes, and I step to the front. Jesse had assigned for me to give a 10 minute salvation invitation. In my best terms, I went ahead,
– “We did not write this book or write the script for this movie. This is the true story of what Yahweh, the one true God, sent down to us. He created the universe and the world and he created it good. He created people that we might worship him by name and love him and talk to him just like I am talking to you. Satan and the evil spirits that follow him only have a small amount of power, but Yahweh God has power over all. But for thousands of years, we as people have rebelled against God’s power and tried to please and worship the spirits that follow Satan. We do this every time we lie to one another, cheat one another, and fail to worship God. To fix this problem of power, Yahweh entered into the earth as Jesus; just as we can put on clothes, he put on the form of a man. He taught us the way to live and worship. We no longer have to make animal sacrifices of goats and sheep because, I just as you saw it, Jesus offered himself to die on the cross as a sacrifice. No blood is more precious than his blood, so because of that we can come to God. What must we do? We can only come to God the Father through Jesus, so we must believe in him, trust him, change the way we think, and obey him. It’s very simple. His Way is like a narrow that only a few people find. It is a difficult path because you will have to forgive your enemies and sometimes will look very foolish in the opinions of those around you. But this is a serious matter.” I anticipated based on previous nights that everyone would want to come forward as one, so I didn’t want to make the invitation too easy. “I would like you to stand if you want to decide, before God and man, to obey Jesus and follow him on his hard path.” Maybe I didn’t make it quite hard enough, or maybe God was truly doing something, because
– everyone responded to the invitation, at least as far as I could see, half blinded as I was by the vehicle headlights that were illuminating the crowd. It was a beautiful sight. Afterwards we prayed for them to be filled and empowered with the Holy Spirit so they could live a life that pleases God. The mist of the dust clouds mixed with a little bit of vehicle exhaust wafted through the air, illuminated by the pale fluorescent glow of several people’s headlamps. How much of it was groupthink and much of it was sincere conviction, I won’t venture to tell. I just know that God satisfies the hungry.