Last week Carrie and I celebrated 15 years of marriage. I tried all day to write up a proper tribute, and I could only come up with a variation of the wisdom we try to impart to soon-to-be-weds:
It hasn’t been what I expected. It’s been so much better than I ever anticipated, and so much harder than I could have guessed. But it’s been so so worth it.
This year also marks our 16th year on staff with Cru. A big “thank you” to those who helped us get to our biennial conference in Colorado! The time both refreshing and super challenging on many levels. We’re still glad to be part of an organization that is working so hard to tear down barriers to the good news of Jesus for people both globally and in our complex American context.
In less than a month, I’ll be getting on a plane to head to the Congo and then on to Korea to come alongside users of the Jesus Film app and materials to understand how they’re using our film and digital tools to call people to follow Jesus in two very different cultures and situations (both from the US and each other). Time on the ground with users can provide a lot of new insights for the future of our app and tools… better tools mean more people hearing the Gospel.
Pray for safety and a lot of learning from the trip, and for sanity (for Carrie) and obedience (from the kids) at home.
Completing the Basketball Team
Carrie also just crossed the line into what she calls her “15th trimester” of pregnancy. We’re happily anticipating our daughter’s arrival in mid-November. Both ladies are healthy as far as we can tell, and babygirl has been dancing around a lot and making her presence known.
March and April were doozies of months for the Whelpley household. I (Jayson) was out of town for two weeks for conferences in Las Vegas and the Netherlands. There was some illness in the camp, and some potty-training regression to go along with it. The boys were both taking swimming lessons (complete with daily fear-freakouts). And, we had 5 people from our church community in and out of the hospital.
Ohâ€¦ yeahâ€¦ and Carrie is pregnant! SURPRISE! (It’s a girl!)
Vegas & Zelhem
The two conferences I attended couldn’t have been more different. The conference in Vegas was for Adobe; a software company whose products Jesus Film uses extensively. I took a two-day training course on how to better use their tools to deeply understand how our users interact with our tools. There were 17,000 people there!
A week later I was in the rural Netherlands with 600 people from 210 missions organizations. Some were in the front lines of 78 different countries, while others were behind-the-scenes support staff like me. Presenters and attendees focused on different aspects of missions: anthropology, cultural application, ethnoarts, IT, mobile tech, orality, radio, social media, web, and virtual media.
It is humbling & encouraging to hear the stories of how God and His church are working around the world in areas and languages where the Gospel has never gone before, and where preaching the Gospel carries a death sentence. The takeaways from both conferences will be invaluable in our work to get the story of Jesus to everyone, everywhere. There are 5 new or renewed initiatives as a result of the inspiration & information we gathered on these trips.
Pray for the Gospel to continue to go out all around the world, and for our place in it. I’m continually surprised by how God chooses to use me to be a part of it at all. Thank you for your partnership in our work!
Nicole leads a campus ministry that is working in the southern part of a former Soviet Republic. Last Tuesday I spoke with her via Skype about how her teammates are using Jesus Film Projectâ€™s digital tools to reach students at schools in that region and across the border into another former Soviet Republic.Â
Because of technology hurdles, our Jesus Film app doesnâ€™t work well to share videos with their students. Internet traffic is barely monitored there, but users’ monthly data is very limited â€“ except when they use an app called WhatsApp. When they share a link to a Jesus Film video, the students will see that theyâ€™ll have to leave the app to watch it so they never even hit â€śplay.â€ťÂ
A few years ago they landed on an idea, they found a website that circumvented YouTubeâ€™s usual operation and allowed them to download video files. They cropped them down and send them via WhatsApp. This improvised solution allowed their students to see the videos, and hear the Gospel.Â
This is a problem. And an opportunity.Â
Problems & Opportunities
In the next few months I’m going to be speaking with more people like Nicole [not her real name]. I’ll be asking about how they’re using our tools, what hurdles they’re running into, and how we can build our tools to serve them and the people they work with. I’ll also be selecting 2-4 locations to visit to “ride along” with them as they minister in their normal context to see what other problems and opportunities there are to be addressed.
Pray for wisdom for me as I manage my time reaching out to people in very different time zones, that I would ask the questions that would lead toward useful insight, and that â€“ as I prepare to travel â€“ the Lord would be clearly present and protecting for me, and for Carrie and the kids at home.
Three years ago I shared a bit of a project that I was working on â€“ package design for a version of our JESUS film DVDs designed for refugees who were arriving in Germany. In recent updates, I’ve also shared about WiFi boxes that we’re using to share videos with Gospel-filled content for evangelism and equipping.
In Germany, one of Jesus Film Project’s ministry partners is a group called Elijah21 (elijah21.org â€“ I hope you can read German). They use the JESUS film and some of our other media to reach, train, equip, and disciple these refugees. I’d like to share some stories from one of their recent newsletters (edited for brevity & for security):
A very special Jesus Film event took place in the beautiful city of Dresdenâ€¦ Jesus amazes us over and over again! This time the management of the two big reception centers handed out invitation flyers for the Jesus Film event personally to the refugees so that everyone would have the chance to come to our Jesus Film event. The three rented coaches were even allowed to drive onto the premises so that nobody would miss the departure. We have never experienced this before!
Due to the great heat wave, it was extremely warm inside the projection rooms and yet all refugees sat crammed together and listened attentively to what Jesus said in the film.
Markus, the pastor of this church, invited those who wanted to learn more about Jesus to the follow-up meeting and 25 refugees came to the first follow-up meeting sharing coffee, tea, and biscuits despite a heavy thunderstorm.
In May we organized a Jesus Film event in Nuremberg. What a hunger amongst the refugees to know a God who saves! A huge movement among the refugees has developed there. The first follow-up meeting alone was attended by 40 refugees – A—s, Per—ns, and Ku–s. Out of the 40, 36 refugees accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior on that day. We just received the news that after 2 months of weekly discipleship training, 18 former Mu—ms got baptized there and now share the good news themselves. The refugees who attended the Jesus Film event now invite refugees themselves from other refugee camps.
Now people from Pakistan and Afghanistan also come to the follow-up meetings.
Fulda & Wiesbaden
We just received the news that 3 house churches were formed in Fulda after the Jesus Film event, in which the refugees learn to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with their fellow countrymen.
We also heard good news from Wiesbaden, where a total of about 30 refugees came together to watch the Jesus Film. Recently we learned that out of the 17 refugees who came to the follow- up meetings, 7 got baptized and want to follow Jesus Christ with all of their hearts now. A beautiful baptism celebration took place – now many bring their friends to the follow-up meetings who soak up the gospel hungrily, which the church reported to us overjoyed.
A refugee studying Is—ic Studies also came to the church. But the more he studied the Bible, the more questions he had. As a result, he and his wife got baptized recently. Both now attend church because they have found Jesus.
Jesus changes the darkness everywhere to His wonderful light. What a savior, what a wonderful Lord whom we are privileged to follow. What a joy to know that our Lord is risen!
We Are Blessed
I have been blessed to be a part of a team that is having direct eternal effects on a regular basis. I get to hear snippets of stories like this fairly regularly, and I am rejoicing that I can share them with you as well.
Carrie and I have been working on shoring up our regular/monthly financial support since June, and we’re getting very, very close to hitting our baseline goal again. I expect that I will return to my UX design roll full-time by the end of the month, but the Lord has also been blessing us in this time.
I have a large project coming up that is waiting onÂ the completion of this task, pray that we’ll reach our goal quickly so I can get to it! I’ll share more about my user-research project in our next update.