It was Saturday evening, and darkness had already fallen when Eric and Josh started to set up the front yard for a special event. They arranged a large tarp on the ground, propped a whiteboard on a chair leaning against our front door and set a tiny projector on a tripod with extension cords running into the house. It was a humble theater, to say the least. We were showing The Jesus Film in the Cham language, a movie on the life of Jesus based on the book of Luke. We had been studying Luke every Sabbath with our church group, showing clips of the film to illustrate the stories we read. Each week they wanted to keep watching, but we promised them that we would show the whole movie when we finished studying the book. They likely had never seen a movie in their heart language before.
Villagers started to gather, sitting cross-legged on the tarp or on some plastic chairs. Our regular church attendees were the first to arrive. Steadily, more and more people came and settled in as the movie began. The mosquitoes gathered, too, but our neighbors continued to watch intently as the story unfolded on the little projection screen. Eric sat on the tarp in the middle of the crowd, and Josh sat on a chair with the people in the back. They each overheard some interesting comments. “Are we committing sin by watching a movie about Jesus?” one man toward the back asked his companions. Eric overheard talking behind him and asked his tutor and friend Azim for a translation. “They said, ‘Wow, Jesus really is the most powerful of all prophets!’” Azim told him.
The movie ran a bit late into the night. It was past the time when most people are in their homes with lights off, but we still had a substantial crowd. Some people came and went, some stayed for the entire film. We recognized many faces, but some were new to us. We estimated that 60 to 80 people cycled through. Afterward, one woman excitedly asked us to put the movie on her phone so she could show her friends.
After the movie finished and people meandered home, Eric drove Azim and his wife and son back to their home. On the way, Eric asked Azim a question that popped into his mind: “Azim, why do you think people would worship a man who died such a humiliating death?”
Eric expected to have a conversation with Azim about the miracles and teachings of Jesus, but instead Azim quickly replied, as it if it was the easiest question he’d heard all day, “Because He died for us.”
Amen! Eric realized that the Holy Spirit was at work. Eric has been studying the Bible for months with Azim, and they’ve had deep conversations about Jesus and His ministry. Azim has also frequented our church services for many months now. It is amazing to see the power of the Holy Spirit teaching the hearts of our friends and neighbors through tools as simple as a film.
Few people here yet understand the ministry of Christ. Some fear God’s anger and punishment as they encounter the Gospel. Some are impressed by the power of Jesus, but others like Azim follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings into a deeper and more profound understanding of God’s love.
We are praying that Azim and all our neighbors and friends will come to understand the love of God as revealed in Christ, and that they will realize that Jesus is more than just “the most powerful prophet,” He is their Savior who loves them and gave His life for them.
The people in our community are burdened with endless traditions that provide only a faint hope of salvation, but we long and pray for them to come to Christ that they might find rest for their souls.