It’s enamoring to watch our daughter Fia grow. We’ve even tried “Peekaboo,” but it will be a while until she gets object permanence. For now, she doesn’t cry when I leave because no face and no voice mean no Mommy. Similarly, a book I read recently challenged me on how easily I forget the plight (physical and spiritual) of those without Christ. From my middle-class-American bubble, it is embarrassingly easy to lose myself in social obligations, consumer pursuits, and what a friend aptly calls “first-world problems.” From this groggy place, the realities of pain and hell can feel pretend.
New Life, New Hope
In some places, reality is harder to forget. As Jayson starts with the JESUS Film Project, I’ve picked up The Touch of Jesus by Paul Eschleman (JFP’s first director). Chapter 1 tells of Marie and Willie Erasmus who pioneered the film in a South African refugee camp that sounds much like Somalia today–civil war, government atrocities, famine, disease, and treks across perilous terrain. Eschleman recounts the details:
They had no water and little food. One meal a day from the meager relief rations barely staved off [starvation]. The fetid, striking odor of human excrement gagged the senses. And always the blank, staring eyes—beyond feeling. A dress here or a blouse given there yielded no comment. What good is a dress when your baby is dying of malnutrition or diarrhea, and your husband is gone?
As the team set up [the film], curiosity began to build…But something was wrong…the team heard witch doctors chanting and saw them throwing bones on the ground in satanic rituals…For three hours [the JFP team] implored God to send His blessings, bind the power of the evil one, and open the eyes of the spiritually blind…They asked God to tear down the spiritual walls as He had destroyed the walls of Jericho…The witch doctors stopped their dancing… more than a thousand people crowded into a small dusty clearing.
“During [the crucifixion]” Marie said, “we sensed something unusual happening. Everyone began to cry—the women and the men—a mournful wailing that gradually rose from the crowd in a relentless crescendo.”…[The people] beat their breasts and cried out, “Oh, God! Oh, God!”…Everywhere people were confessing their sins. The film was forgotten… [The film team] couldn’t speak…One by one, the team members themselves fell to their knees confessing their own sins.
Willie went to the interpreter. “We need to finish the film so they will know the good news of the resurrection.”…They saw the burial of Christ, and then—the resurrection. The interpreter explained, “Jesus died to make the payment for our sins. But death could not hold Him.”…The crowd exploded as if a dam had burst. Everyone began cheering and dancing… An invitation was given for all of those who wanted to receive Christ…The following Sunday, five hundred new believers showed up trying to get into the forty-person church.
Wow! Praise God for the way his Spirit moves when his people pray!