Behind the Lens: God’s generosity found in scarcity

As a multimedia specialist for the International Mission Board, I get a front row seat to incredible stories of how God is using our missionaries and partners around the world. I get to watch them work to eradicate lostness every day. It’s one of the greatest aspects of my job. 

On the other hand, I sometimes feel frustrated when I come across an astounding story I can’t share for security reasons. I don’t want to risk interfering with the amazing breakthroughs. Most importantly, I don’t want to endanger our personnel, their partners and the local believers.  

One recent story from West Africa was so inspiring that I just had to tell it. The question was how? It was too dangerous to send our media team to that location to film. We couldn’t even ask those involved to appear on camera.  

We made a pitch to film a dramatization of the story in a safe location and with actors in a country unrelated to the story’s origin. Since I’m a media specialist who has lived in northern Ghana for nearly a decade, it made sense to produce the video here, where I know the people and area. 

The village in Ghana where I hoped to film our re-enactment has a vibrant Baptist church. The pastor invited me to preach one Sunday. I used the story from our script as a key illustration. At the conclusion of the service, I asked the church for permission to film in their community and for volunteers willing to assist. They were moved by the story and answered a resounding “Yes!” The pastor even agreed to play the role of the main character. 

William Haun preaching at Sumnibooma Baptist Church prior to screening an IMB-produced short film about generosity, in which their community participated in filming. IMB Photo

A few weeks later, fellow IMB videographer Alex Smith joined me, and we began five days of filming in the remote village. The entire church turned out to help us re-enact the key scenes from the story. Not quite understanding the non-chronological process of filming, the actors patiently cooperated and played scenes multiple times so that we could get different angles and details. 

IMB videographer Alex Smith films a pastor while on assignment in northern Ghana. IMB Photo

A couple of months later, Alex had finished the final edit of the film and added the English narration with West African voiceover talent. However, I wanted our non-English speaking actors to fully appreciate it as well. So I recruited another local pastor to help me translate the script into our local indigenous language of Mampruli and recorded him. I scheduled a date to screen the final product for the church.  

Our big “movie premiere” was a huge success. Word spread throughout the village that their movie was showing and a huge crowd turned up at the church to watch it. Pure joy was apparent on their faces as they saw themselves and their neighbors on the big screen and heard the story in their heart language. Cheers erupted when each new person appeared on screen. The crowd insisted we show the short film multiple times so everyone could hear the message clearly. I was so happy that my collaborators were proud of their contribution to our work. 

Top Right: George Boungu, a pastor in northern Ghana, speaks to his church after they watched themselves on screen in an IMB-produced short film. Top Left: Members of a Baptist church in northern Ghana watch a screening of an IMB-produced short film about generosity, in which their community participated in filming. Bottom: Members of a Baptist church in northern Ghana watch a screening of an IMB-produced short film about generosity, in which their community participated in filming. IMB Photos

After the screening, the pastor prayed and asked God to bless the video and use it to encourage churches across Africa. He prayed that his church could be like the believers in the movie – not seeking their own prosperity but sharing the good things they have – both material and spiritual. 

This prompted me to think beyond our original intentions for an American audience. Why not translate this into other languages and disseminate it widely across West Africa? 

I worked with a national partner in Burkina Faso to translate the film into French and Mooré. Now this story can be shared with people in virtually every West African nation. Also, a Christian satellite TV network agreed to broadcast the film on their airways, and it is reaching hundreds of thousands of French-speaking Africans in their homes. 

The violence of terrorism and persecution of the church continue to spread in the region. Likewise, the heresy of a “prosperity gospel” is preached far and wide. This story addresses both of those issues in a truthful and practical way. It could be a huge encouragement to believers of many different tribes and nations.  

George Boungu, a pastor, reads Scripture to members of his church in the village of Sumnibooma in northeastern Ghana. IMB Photo

Will you pray for this true story of God’s blessing and the church’s sacrificial love to spread across our region and bring encouragement and inspiration to our African brothers and sisters?  

This Ghanaian woman carries her baby and a bowl of grain in northeastern Ghana. IMB Photo

Will you give sacrificially to meet human needs for refugees and internally displaced peoples? Gifts through the Global Hunger Fund effectively address physical needs while partnering with the local church and Christian workers who can provide spiritual support in tandem. After all, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the solution to the world’s greatest problem: lostness