Seeing is Believing
by Lisa Tramontana
When Warner Brothers released the film “JESUS” in 1979, it wasn’t well received. In fact, it lost about $2 million. Although Christian audiences praised its attention to detail (closely following the Gospel of Luke), critics panned it as dull and unimaginative.
Who would have guessed that it would one day be translated into 1,466 languages and be associated with the establishment of 750,000 churches worldwide? Who could have imagined its power … that people from villages in the farthest corners of the world would walk for miles to watch the story of Jesus unfold, then give their lives to Christ?
Sherri M. does not have to imagine it. She has seen it firsthand. She is one of many Christians whose career has been dedicated to (the) Jesus Film Project®, a ministry based on the film. For 15 years, Sherri has worked in communications, marketing and recruitment for the group’s short-term mission trips, which are open to anyone. Sherri herself has gone on 12 trips to four continents.
One of her earliest trips was to Tanzania to show the film in the Hehe language, and she recalls that nearly 1,000 people dedicated their lives to Christ after watching the film. It is an extraordinary memory. “One of the locals thanked us for not forgetting them. It was humbling to be a part of it, and I remember feeling that it was worth all the effort and resources to get the film translated into their language.”
The story of Jesus is overwhelming to people who have never heard it before, Sherri says. Audiences are swept up in the experience as they focus on the film — touched by Jesus’ goodness, awed by his miracles, devastated by his suffering and death, and joyful in his resurrection. The fact that they are able to hear Jesus speak to them in their native language makes the experience even more meaningful. When people see Jesus’ life unfold before them, they understand the gospel. They get it.
Sherri’s career began at a publishing company where she worked as a graphic designer. “Although I was doing work that fit in with my gifts, I felt that God was calling me to do more to help others come to know him,” she said. Then her parents, devout Christians themselves, took her to a conference for donors of JFP, where she heard amazing stories about how the film was changing lives around the world. Something clicked, and Sherri knew she wanted to join in the work God was doing.
Tim M., Sherri’s husband of two years, is also involved with JFP. When the couple began dating, Tim says he was searching for a higher purpose in his own life. Sherri was working at the JFP headquarters in Orlando, and Tim worked at an engineering firm in Baton Rouge.
“When I met Sherri, a door opened,” he said. “I was really intrigued by the work she did, and I visited the JFP headquarters several times. I prayed about how God could best use me. Every time I went, another door opened and another question was answered. Things just started to fall into place.”
As part of Tim’s future role in JFP, he will travel overseas as a photographer and writer, capturing the stories of people touched by the JESUS film. He is excited about the challenge of learning new skills and the experiences that await him. “I’m willing now to go wherever I’m needed,” Tim said. “This has become a calling for me.”
For now, the couple are based in Baton Rouge, but only temporarily. They are developing a team of partners who will support their ministry through prayer and finances. After they are fully funded, they will move to Orlando and begin working in their roles at JFP.
“I really believe God has chosen to use this film to spread the gospel,” Sherri said. “Several people have claimed that a few days before watching the film, a man spoke to them in a dream. When they see Jesus first come onscreen in the film, they recognize him as the man in their dream.”
Every day, throughout the world, JFP spreads God’s message. It continues to translate the film into new languages and develop new tools for evangelism and discipleship, which are also used by many partner organizations. The free Jesus Film app makes all these tools accessible on any device, anywhere in the world. And every day, more hearts are touched and more lives are changed.
Tim and Sherri’s mission is to share Jesus with everyone, everywhere, in their own language. Their ministry is made possible by the prayer and financial support of individuals and churches who have a heart for reaching the lost around the world. To learn more about how you can partner with them, go to give.cru.org/0673356. You may also contact them directly at (225) 806-1433. If you are interested in the organization’s mission trips, go to jesusfilmmissiontrips.org.
*(Sherri and Tim’s last names have been omitted for security purposes.)