“Please come back, don’t leave us here alone!” Those were the words echoed by many people in the small, isolated community just outside the dense city of Kinshasa in the DR Congo. Being the capital city, Kinshasa has many paved roads, electricity (albeit unreliable), and city water. It also has many of the amenities that people come to expect in Western cities, if you can afford the outrageous prices. Downtown Kinshasa is cut in half by an eight-lane road, alleviating the horrendous traffic jams of just a few years earlier, and many modern buildings painting the skyline. However, this bustling urban area was a world away, or so it seemed, from the community where we showed the Jesus Film earlier this month.
In contrast to Kinshasa, which is lush and green most of the year due to its tropical climate. This community is perched on the side of a mountain with sandy soil, earning it the name of “Tchad” (or Chad) because of its more dry, desert-like conditions. There are no paved roads, and at times we wondered if the path we were using was meant to be any kind of road at all. There is no running water, so people are forced to carry it in from long distances and families usually live off of 5-10 gallons a day. When heavy rains do come, they displace the sandy soil and damage even small buildings, so practically every house is in need of repair.
It was hard to get there, and I admit that I was annoyed at first. When the vehicle got stuck for the third time, and the 10 of us piled out of the 7 seats, for the third time, to help push the car out of the hole, I wondered to myself, “How could this be worth it?” These feelings of frustration seemed to melt away as we began the first phase of showing the Jesus Film; invitations. People were so excited to welcome us to their home, most invited us inside but we declined so that we could continue on through the community inviting more people. These days, the equipment goes together quickly and all the components fit into one large backpack. As the sun starting setting behind the mountain, night fell quickly and we started the film.
Having seen the film many times, I was more interested in taking in the faces of the audience. Children whispered to each other, perhaps about the film or other things that children whisper about. Most people didn’t turn away; they barely blinked. They all cheered at the miracles of Jesus and cried for his suffering and death. Fortunately, they were given the opportunity to cheer again, and even dance and sing because of his resurrection. Around fifty people accepted the Lord that evening, but we didn’t expect the pleading, almost begging, that came next. “We are all alone here, without churches or pastors or bibles. There is no one to teach our children about God. Please come back, don’t leave us here alone.” We agreed to start a church there in the home of one of the families and they have been meeting ever since.
In the academic setting, I remember many people scoffing at the idea of the Jesus Film. I won’t name names, or electronically point fingers, but many people that I have encountered have related showing the Jesus Film in a place like rural Africa to using magic to dazzle viewers into accepting the gospel. Some of these pastors are now preaching to congregations using hundred thousand dollar audio/video equipment today. I suppose that is a soapbox for another day; because the truth that I want to share today is that the Jesus Film works. It brings ministers into direct contact with the lost, it preaches the Good News in a vibrant way, and it contradicts the idea that people have to come to Church before they can be saved. God isn’t only in the temple or the developed city centers. Through the Jesus Film and the teams that show it, God is in the outskirts and the forgotten places. God meets people where they are at and offers grace and love to those who need it most. For this reason, I’m giving the Jesus Film another look. For this reason, maybe we all should.