Thursday, November 19, 2015

Perspective on Paris

The Paris terrorist attacks that killed at least 129 people recently were not only tragic, they were sadly inevitable. Following decades of welcoming Muslim refugees and immigrants into France, this otherwise spiritually vacant country has been a ticking bomb in the middle of Europe.

Not that other European nations don’t have a huge Muslim immigrant problem—they do—but France leads the way with an estimated 10% per capita. (It’s worth noting that France also led the way for the eighteenth century Enlightenment period when they officially booted God out. They have taught atheism in schools ever since. No wonder people hungry for spirituality flock to Islam.) 

The port city of Marseille—just an hour and a half away from Nîmes, the town I called home for twenty-two years—boasts a 40% Islamic population. One problem here is that Muslims have huge families while the French do not. (We cannot ignore the fact that while peaceful moderate Muslims do exist, there is nonetheless a huge contingent who is sent to the West as part of a plan to infiltrate.) But the problem becomes more complex in light of the fact that there are so few evangelical Christians (less than 1%). This means that although there are a few nominal Catholics in France, most people are atheists or Muslims.

As missionaries and church planters, my husband and I felt the darkness every day. Of course, we were probably seen as enemies by both atheist and Muslim neighbors because we weren’t in France to just do business per se; we were there to share the Gospel. And that upsets some people.

But from our perspective—and perhaps we were just young and naive—we saw it as an opportunity. An opportunity to share the love of Jesus with those who didn’t know Him (and many who had never even heard the Gospel ever). It was an opportunity to let people know that God sent His Son to save them because He loves them. We did this in every way we could and this included the creation of a Saturday club where kids could come and learn about Jesus. 

The Saturday club was especially effective in the local “zup” (project area) where most moms—half of whom were Muslim—were just glad someone would take their kids for the afternoon. (Remember. Muslims have many kids.) We told the moms that the club would provide fun activities including teaching Bible stories and yummy food. Maybe it was the word “food” that got them (I don’t know)—or maybe it was because people were praying for our work—but many kids were allowed to come. And they all heard the Gospel loud and clear. 

One young man, Ange, now in his mid-twenties, remembers the warmth he felt every Saturday and how much he loved learning about different Bible heroes. While France remains dark, for kids like Ange, seeds were sown and those stories are still in their hearts. 

But it wasn’t always so jolly. There were times when the stench of radical Islamic aggression was undeniable. For instance, a group of young Muslims prowled around our village with baseball bats threatening to kill some kids in our church. On the rare occasion when a Muslim would come to know Jesus, his life would be quickly threatened by friends or family, and before long he’d leave the church. One girl, Naima, came to our Bible school from Algeria where her life was in danger since her conversion. She had heard about Jesus via radio and sought refuge at our Bible School in Nîmes. Fear was just par for the course among those who turned from Islam to Christianity. 

In 1999, a week after my husband Louis testified Washington, DC before congress about religious liberty issues in France, four cars were blown up on our campus. The police never found out who blew those cars up. We don’t have a clue. But when you think of the recent attacks in Paris and the previous Charlie Hebdo attack, you can’t ignore the possibilities of terrorism. 

Don’t misunderstand me. France is a beautiful country. The people are lovely and the food is the best in the world. But France is far from living up to her motto: “liberté, égalité, fraternité” (freedom, equality, brotherhood). France has tolerated the Islamic influx to the point of losing her identity. She has accommodated refugees, rewarded them for having lots of children and is now harboring terrorists. (Don’t forget, some of the terrorists in the recent attacks were home grown.)

So what’s the answer? I have to confess that I don’t know. But here’s a good start. How about the church waking up, praying hard and rising to the call to go into all the world and preach the Gospel?  We have been called to be salt and light, to go into every nation and to make a difference. That doesn’t mean being a pc wimp. It means becoming pro-active culturally, politically, speaking up for truth, and especially making disciples for the Kingdom of God. 

This article first appeared in Assist News Service

Janey DeMeo M.A.

Copyright © November 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015

War Room, a film to change lives

War Room, which premieres this weekend, is creating quite a buzz—and not just among people. This movie catches Heaven’s attention.

Most people would expect War Room, Alex and Stephen Kendrick’s fifth movie, to deliver a powerful message—especially considering the impact of the Kendrick brothers preceding movies: Flywheel, Facing The Giants, Fireproof and Courageous. But who knew that this story of an all-American family in trouble, and the simple way they worked through it would start an entire movement?

Tony Jordan (T.C. Stallings) and his wife Elizabeth (Priscilla Shirer) are living the American dream. Both enjoy successful professions; they have a beautiful home in a good neighborhood and, most of all, a delightful young daughter, Danielle (Alena Pitts). But life has a way of souring, and discontentment creeps in, leaving the family unit vulnerable.

It is at this point, with a shaky marriage and a young daughter who is hurting in the mix, that Elizabeth meets Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie)—a rendezvous that changes everything.

No young’un, Miss Clara has learned a thing or two in her time. But the thing she has learned most is the life-changing power of prayer. This is what she teaches her new protégée, Elizabeth.

The message behind War Room—which, by the way, is great entertainment—is so simple yet so powerful that Moms In Prayer International (MOPI) have endorsed it and promote it as an inspiring tool in their mission to encourage moms to pray for their kids. In fact, it is being heralded in many Christian circles and is creating a movement towards prayer in households and small groups alike. This film changes lives.

If you’re looking for something fun yet meaningful to do this weekend, go see War Room. Not only will it likely change your life, but it will also send a strong message to Hollywood that these are the kinds of movies people want to see.

Find out more about War Room here on Facebook. And here.

War Room is not just inspirational, it is instructional. Consider bringing a friend or loved one who just might need concrete hope amidst their struggles. (And, if you live in Southern California, and want a double boost to change lives this weekend, attend the Harvest Crusade in Anaheim:

Janey DeMeo M.A.

Copyright © August 2015

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Where Hope Grows and exclusive interview with writer-director Chris Dowling

Where Hope Grows is a wonderful story with a difference. One of the major characters is a Down syndrome person and his authentic and generous affection. But before I tell you more about the movie, let me introduce you to Chris Dowling, the writer/director. In my interview with him, I was moved by Chris’ approach to sharing what is important to him—in particular His passion for Jesus.

J—I absolutely love this story. It was wonderful. But what made it especially inspiring is the character played by David DeSantis. What inspired you to make one of the key characters a Down syndrome person?

CD—Where Hope Grows is the story about a man who was introduced to child-like faith as an adult during a time when he was broken. I needed someone to show that child-like faith. So, it made sense to use David DeSantis. The world often thinks that special needs people don’t have it together, but maybe they have it together a lot more than many of us.

J—Am I correct in saying that this was David’s first time acting right?

CD—Yes. This was David’s first time acting—and he did a great job.

J—How did you hear about him? 

CD—I put out a worldwide search but it was actually there in Louisville that a lot of people said I needed to check out David DeSantis. I had him send in a tape but the tape wasn’t that great. But his personality is so great, I thought he’d be a good fit. In real life, he is just adorable! 

J—Where Hope Grows is packed with strong lessons, but what is the message you most want people to take away from it? 

CD—It’s really two-fold. First there’s the conversation about faith. We all long to believe in something, to have faith/believe in God so we wanted to address that. At the same time, society is stuck with what they think special needs people are, and we wanted to shatter the stereotype image. We wanted Produce to be that person.

J—Is there anything else you want the readers to know about you or the film?

CD—I would say for people to see more films with special needs people, to support those films.  If we can reach across to the secular crowd and faith believers too, Hollywood will take notice.

J—Thank you Chris. Wonderful movie.

So, what is Where Hope Grows?

It is a film of ex-baseball player, Calvin Campbell (Kristoffer Polaha—TV’s Ringer, TV’s Life Unexpected) and a losing relationship with his teenage daughter, Katie (McKaley Miller—TV’s The Gates, TV’s Hart of Dixie).

Juggling the demands of a pushy boyfriend and teen life overall, Katie is sick of being the only responsible person in the household. Her dad fails to keep his promises and she cannot rely on him for anything. Worse: the roles are reversed and Katie ends up bailing him out of an embarrassing situation.

If the story sounds cliché so far, a surprise element makes it not so. Calvin’s turnaround begins in the local grocery story where he meets an unlikely friend—Produce (David DeSanctis).

Produce is an authentic Down syndrome man who possesses a heart of gold and a brilliant memory for numbers. In his child-like innocence and pure faith, he is catalyst to Calvin’s redemption.

With compelling integrity and affection, Produce is enough to melt the hearts of anyone, even Calvin Campbell and his daughter, Katie.

Produced by Lionsgate, this inspiring film will be out in Blu-ray, and DVD on August 25th. Digital and HD Special features include:
·      Entertaining deleted scenes
·      Casting David DeSantis featurette
·      Stop the R-Word featurette
·      Audio commentary with writer/director Chris Dowling and actor David DeSantis

Find out more about WhereHope Grows here.

This is a fabulous movie that you’ll want to visit more than once.

This story will also appear in Assist News Service

Janey DeMeo M.A.

Copyright © August 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Father's Love, movie

Some stories are not fast-paced drama, but they are believable and inspiring. The Father’s Love is one of those films. The characters seem authentic and the plot is raw and relatable—especially to young people hoping to find true love.

Filmmaker Sarah, played by Angela Lin, enjoys her new life in New York where she keeps herself busy with work and socializing with friends. But, while all seems to be ok on the surface, deep inside she bears the scars of a broken past and unanswered childhood questions about love.

Then along comes Reece (Erik McKay)—a handsome and charming man who woos Sarah’s heart and sweeps her off her feet with his relentless romancing and promises.

Successful in business endeavors, poised and self-confident, Reece seems to have it all together. But after several inconsistences from Reece, Sarah comes to the sad conclusion that he is leading a double life and her trust and affections are shattered—again! Sarah is left disillusioned and heartbroken—now with more unanswered questions about love.

But even in the cutthroat world of the big city, God’s love has a way of winning through.

Awarded the “Family-Approved” Seal for ages twelve plus by Dove, The Father’s Love
Comprises of compelling narrative, good acting and cinematography.

Find out more about The Father’s Love here.

Janey DeMeo M.A.

Copyright © July 2015