“Your loving kindness, O Lord, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mountains of God; Your judgments are like a great deep” (Psalm 36:5-6*).
From utter darkness, into His glorious light. I bring to you a story† of amazing deliverance that began with JESUS.
The African nation of Tanzania is mostly rural, home to tens of thousands of isolated villages. Christian leaders describe “a hand of darkness that hovers” over whole swaths of villages—of animism, Islam and witch doctors. But it is here that God is wonderfully at work.
Jacob was born and raised to be a shaman, to follow in the practices of his powerful witch doctor grandfather. When the elder shaman died, the mantle of darkness passed to Jacob. He became the chief witch doctor of many villages, extremely powerful and widely feared.
To us in the developed world, tales of witch doctors and spirits may seem strange and unbelievable. Yet, talk to any missionary who labors in these spiritually isolated areas and they will tell you it’s all very real. In my missionary years overseas, I experienced these same realities of spiritual warfare.
People from all around, even neighboring nations, came to Jacob seeking his “services.” Eyewitnesses in villages testified that many people went mad, others died, and even some churches were destroyed. Jacob’s fellow witch doctors actually demanded that Jacob curse and kill members of his own family, even his own son, which he did. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” John 10:10.
Then a film team came to Jacob’s village! He remembers what happened: “… I heard about the JESUS film and decided to watch. As I watched the life of Jesus, I was overwhelmed. I felt the weight of my sin and it was too much to bear. As I thought of the horrible things I had done to my family, others and myself, I knew I needed a Savior. I was serving the wrong master.”
After JESUS concluded, the film team gave the invitation for salvation. Jacob came forward and began confessing his many sins, all the evil he had done. He wondered if he could ever be forgiven. But the team assured Jacob, “Jesus forgives and makes all things new!” So along with 20 others, Jacob committed his life to Christ. This chief witch doctor—once feared by thousands of villagers—burned all his amulets, fetishes, all the tools of his trade and walked into the light.
Immediately, Jacob suffered great persecution at the hands of the witch doctors he once commanded. They drove him out. But Jacob remained faithful, staying in contact with his family and friends, testifying to the love of Christ. Eventually all the remaining members of his family believed. Jacob has led many others out of darkness, discipled new leaders who are spreading the Word of God, and planted a church!
This man is but one of thousands of witch doctors who also need to see the light of Christ, the way out of their darkness, the way to Truth, a Truth they have never known. Pray with us that they will all be reached and find freedom in Christ.
Let me now take you to a nation in West Africa, where a JESUS church-planting film team approached a very highly placed tribal chief.
Film team members asked if they could premiere Walking With Jesus at his palace. The chief agreed. At the showing, some of his sub-chiefs came to Christ. This was especially encouraging because Walking With Jesus was produced to follow up new believers, to build them up in their knowledge of the gospel, and to strengthen newly planted churches. So, even in the palace of an African chief the Holy Spirit is using this discipleship series to lead people to Christ!
Then the chief began to witness real transformation in the lives of his people. He wanted to know more. So he asked the film team to show him the film “about this Jesus who changes people’s lives,” the film JESUS.
The team came to the palace and arranged for a private showing, for him and his cabinet members. The Holy Spirit again spoke to their hearts. This time, the chief as well as his cabinet members prayed to receive Christ!
This influential leader then began strategizing with his ruling cabinet about how to share this liberating news of the gospel with everyone in his kingdom. Using his own funds and influence, he is encouraging new film teams to go to neighboring tribes and people groups. And he has a vision: That 80 percent of the people in his kingdom will come to Christ, and turn from spiritual darkness to light!
And there is more good news—from everywhere that teams are showing JESUS. Through the work of the film teams and other delivery methods for the films, more than 76 people are receiving Christ every minute and 1,000 new churches are being planted every day. That’s about 30,000 new churches each month, or 360,000 per year!**
I recently received a thoughtful report about these wonderful trends of church planting, developed by staff leadership of Jesus Film Project®. Here are a few of their conclusions:
- When JESUS is shown, typically a new church/faith community is born within hours.
- JESUS is a catalyst for existing churches to work together and form partnerships.
- Film teams are crucial to lasting fruit, by following-up new believers.
- The rate of church planting is unprecedented, growing faster than ever in history, primarily through JESUS. This results from the work of the film teams, many ministry partners, and you!
As you know, we recently celebrated the 1,500th translation of JESUS. By the time you receive my letter, that number will exceed 1,610! Hundreds of volunteers and churches are ready to use these new translations. Workers who are eager to join a film team once walked in spiritual darkness themselves. Many like Jacob, are former witch doctors! They, too, need to be sent to proclaim release to the captives and share the light of the gospel.
So, I trust you are as amazed with these reports as I. As you know, the task is far from done. An estimated one billion people still have not heard, including tens of thousands of witch doctors. The Great Commission won’t be fulfilled until everyone, everywhere, has learned what Jesus has done for them. The teams can’t go on their own, without support. They need friends like you to stand with them both financially and in prayer: As you send them, they will not only show JESUS and other Jesus Film® resources, they also will train, equip and partner with churches, follow up new faith communities, and mobilize others to join them. As you can see, their ministries are far-reaching and effective.
Each film team needs about $42 per day (a worldwide average). This covers every part of their ministry from evangelistic tools, costs for travel, meals and lodging to materials for discipling new believers, mentoring church leaders, and mobilizing partner churches to proclaim the good news.
Therefore, may I invite you to send a team for three days of ministry through a generous gift of $126? Perhaps you can go with them for a full week by sending $294, for $625 you can send a team for two weeks, or a month with a gift of $1,250. Should you be blessed with good financial resources, may I be bold and ask that you pray about covering all the costs for one film team for a year through a generous gift of $15,000.
I’d like to close with one more report, the result of your partnership and intercession. A man I will call Adam, from Afghanistan, had fled the fighting of his nation. As a child, he remembered a tattoo, a cross on his dad’s arm. But he never knew what it meant. After his father was killed, Adam made his way to Europe and was given a DVD of JESUS by a film team.
I can only imagine the impact the crucifixion had on him, the moment when he finally understood the tattoo of the cross. Adam gladly received Christ as his Savior and Lord and is now growing in Him, sharing what God has done for him with his fellow refugees.
So, thank you for these moments with you. Those film teams very much covet your prayers and support. Teams are ready to go to people living in darkness with the good news. But they need you to send them, to pray for them, even daily. Of course, please give as you are led and enabled, being as generous as you can. Thank you so much.
Until everyone sees Jesus,
Jesus Film Project®
PS. Remember that every gift will be a great help to send the teams—whom you can also support in prayer, ensuring that people across the globe will see, hear and understand the glorious news of our risen Savior. If you can, please give today by clicking the “give a gift” button. You can also support the teams right now by calling (800) 387-4040 and giving by credit card. Thank you.
* Scripture quotes are from the New American Standard Bible.
† This report comes from a JESUS film, church-planting partner, The Timothy Initiative.
** Statistics are based on available reports. They do not include unreported data. We therefore believe these numbers are conservative.