In the Whelpley household, 2014 has started in a whirl. Last week (37 weeks into pregnancy), we moved into our new home. Even if it’s only a two-block journey, the process of moving “with child” (and a two-year-old) requires the grace of God and good friends, and is not for the faint of heart. On our website (Whelpley.org) I’ve been sharing bits from the Jesus Film Project’s 2013 Annual Review, head over and read some of those. We wanted to review our own 2013 highlights and share some updates!
The Jesus Film Project
Over the past year, an astounding number of stories and stats have rolled in as a result of the Jesus Film Media platform. We now have 11 ministry partners at some point in the development process; from fully-launched YouVersion, Kolo and Bible.Is, to partners in development like Trans World Radio & the John Ankerberg Show. These partners account for more than 90% of the film viewings on our platform. The Jesus Film Media app itself is also having a large impact in people’s personal ministries. We’ve gotten stories from campuses in the US, Asia, North Africa, the Middle East — in one letter, we even shared about a new believer who is leading the charge to reach fellow students in the Ukraine. In DC laundromats, airport shuttles, Mexican deaf communities… the Gospel is moving forward and the Jesus Film Media app has been a powerful tool in diverse places! In one update, we shared one story about how the media on our platform can have an impact in college students’ lives — particularly a student in Illinois named Angelica. Something went wrong in editing our letter, so here’s a better version:
[su_quote]Throughout high school I was very dark…I used to wake up in the morning and think to myself “I don’t know what’s the point anymore.” When I was in college my freshman year…I saw a poster for Cru, for their Short Film Festival. The film they showed was “La Busqueda. That movie had me crying by the end of the showing. The character… has a void that she keeps trying to fill, and that really resonated with me because I felt that’s where I was… just so empty inside. Her father keeps trying to reach out to her and so he has a string of yarn that he’s slowly feeding to her…pulling her toward him. I was sitting there watching the movie, it was like God feeding information to me, feeding something to me and bringing me closer to him. I really connected with that movie. We went to [the gospel] and for the first time ever, all of it just kind of made sense to me…I said, “That’s what I want,” because I realized that that void in my life was I had been searching for God’s love… If it had been a different event, I probably would not have gone. If they did not choose to have a film festival on this campus…I don’t know what would have happened with my spiritual journey. You attract different people and different audiences with that type of event… I think that sometimes the best way we connect is without words: they see these movies and they think, “This is exactly what I’ve been going through” …and that’s what really resonated with me when I watched those films is what they could say without saying anything. [/su_quote]
One of our ongoing stories from the last year-and-a-half was our friend Bobby’s. You can read about it here. Just over a year ago many of you gave gifts to help with some needs he had. After serving the remainder of his time, he is now free and trusting Jesus to build a new life. He’s been working hard doing home remodeling (I built a website for them: RemodelingMDorlando.com), paid down 75% of his court costs (so he can get a driver’s license), and is pursuing paying child support and seeing his daughter. He’s been meeting with me (Jayson) as well as our pastor to learn about the Bible and what walking with Jesus can look like. He has an incredible desire to minister to others. Just this week, he brought our small group into his effort to help a friend with late stage prostate cancer who is in a home with no power or water and no way to get to appointments. Bobby talks often about his desire to be a pastor some day.
Quick Praise Overview
Okay, and now some reminders of what God did this year. I’ll include a link to the post so you can find it.
Most Christians don’t know that the Jesus’ message of salvation made it to the Middle East, India & Africa long before it made it’s way to Germany or England.
In one of these areas of Africa — an area “known to breed radicalism and violence” — the Gospel was once widely known. But, for a millennium now, Christians have been almost completely absent. Now, through groups of college students risking their lives, the distribution of JESUS DVDs is bringing about a change.
Of course there’s been resistance. And the Spirit’s response:
The antagonistic religious leaders challenged them to heal a demon-possessed man in their village. the students took a bold step of faith and asked to see the man. They prayed over him through the night while reading Scripture, worshipping the Lord, and commanding the demons to come out of him. By morning God had delivered him.
The man proclaimed to everyone in the town that Jesus had healed him. Enraged by this turn of events, the religious leaders beat the students and drove them out of the town…
…all we have to do is place a DVD in a home, and the Word of God will do its work!
They went ahead and gave out hundreds of DVDs in the town market. They were arrested this time and “spent that night in jail where they encountered six member of an international terrorist group.”
You can probably guess where this is going, but you’re wrong. There were not six new believers, there were seven! One of the police officers trusted Christ as well!
Three years later there’s a growing church of 40! One of the leaders shared this:
The DVDs of JESUS are so powerful, and in the people’s language, all we have to do is place a DVD in a home, and the Word of God will do its work. We have a vision to place a DVD of JESUS in every home with a player on the African continent. God is doing some amazing things!
All around the world, the JESUS Film is being used to plant brand new churches – often in areas where every church is brand new.
Refugees in South Sudan
At a refugee camp in South Sudan, more than 70,000 people found solace from a lives of political persecution, ethnic cleansing and civil war. A refugee camp run by one of the JESUS Film Project’s ministry partners.
JESUS was shown often — usually with more than 90% of the viewers indicating decisions to follow Christ!
To date, dozens of churches have been planted and more than 20,000 people previously fleeing death have found new life in Christ…
A young man named Jacob was one of these thousands… and developed and immediate desire to see his family and his community come to know Christ as well.
After the 2010 earthquake created a refugee crisis in the island nation the a staff member of JESUS Film Project forged a partnership with one local church. As a result he is now leading leading church in the tent city of “Ona-ville” that serve the 10,000 families that live there.
After one JESUS showing, 42 couples — unmarried, but living together — indicated decisions for Christ and joined the Ona-ville church. The ministry team followed up with them. An observer explained that the Spirit led them to understand their need “…to be married and make a public declaration of their new birth. Thus, a mass wedding was planned at the same time for all 42 couples. … It was spectacular!”
Other new believers include Variola — a (now former) Voodoo priestess. She brought the team back to her house to share the Gospel with her husband, who was a Voodoo practitioner as well.
“Afterward the leaders destroyed all voodoo fetishes, like rings dedicated to demons, and other items. Now [Variola and her husband] are serving the Lord in our church at Ona-ville.”
The Jesus Film Project currently has a “priority initiative” that aims to produce the JESUS film in every language and dialect spoken by 50,000 people or more who don’t already have it in their heart language – about 323 million people total. The goal is to complete this by 2025.
As of this past October, workers have translated 71 since 2010. You can read more about it at Mission865.org.