Special film screenings were part of the program for the three evenings of the CALLED Pastors’ Family Convention held June 19-22, 2022. NAD Ministerial Association arranged to showcase Return to Palau, shown over two nights; The Book of Joshua, shown on both Sunday and Monday night; Arnion, a Sonscreen Films production based on the book of Revelation, and several student films, shown on Tuesday night; and short missional films, also shown on Tuesday.
Return to Palau
According to an article published this spring, the documentary film Return to Palau tells the story of the DePaiva family who moved from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, in 2002 to pastor the Koror church on the island nation of Palau, only to suffer a shocking tragedy. The film shows how the tragedy not only impacts the family but the entire nation. The president of Palau publicly apologizes for what happened and calls for a national day of mourning. And through recently uncovered archival footage and first-person accounts, Return to Palau tells an incredible story of survival, faith, and forgiveness.
[The official trailer can be viewed on YouTube.]
The film’s global premiere was held in Palau on March 16, 2022, with more than 1,500 people in attendance, the largest ever indoor gathering of people in the history of Palau, according to the president. The film has also premiered on the campuses of Southwestern Adventist University and Andrews University, both with repeat showings, and at the International Christian Film Festival in Orlando, Florida, on May 6, 2022.
“Return to Palau is a gripping story of tragedy and redemption,” said Beverly Sedlacek, HIS Rest Ministries, after seeing the film at one of the earlier screenings. “The movie captivates the audience from the opening scene and deeply touches the heart as God’s love is expressed through the act of forgiveness. You will be moved, challenged, and inspired by this stunning documentary.”
“It's just amazing … how God can redeem spaces and redeem people in relationships. God never wastes our suffering,” said Melissa (DePaiva) Gibson, whose life changed drastically when her family was killed and she was left for dead. Through the years, Gibson received care from family members and professional counseling — and healing as she learned to forgive the man who murdered her family when she was 10.
Gibson helped introduce the film at the CALLED convention. After the screening and favorable reactions from the audience, Gibson said, “I'm humbled. It's not my comfort zone to be out in the open like this. But I am humbled by the fact that people are interested and would like to share, and they are touched by something that was so painful and so tragic … I hope that it continues to be a blessing, however [the documentary] is used and wherever it goes.”
The Book of Joshua
The Book of Joshua, a film produced by the NAD Ministerial Association and directed by Paul Kim, was screened at the 2019 Sonscreen Film Festival. With the majority of North American churches in decline, the role of the local church pastor is as difficult. Clergy suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than the average American, and turnover is high. This film shows the struggles of a millennial pastor leading a small church district in an economically depressed city, while exploring a handful of leaders who have managed to turn around their dying churches.
Joshua Nelson is the pastor of a Seventh-day Adventist Church in Albany, Georgia. “I saw a church that looked old, dated, and on a pretty steep decline. There was a lot of frustration, pain, hurt, and hopelessness. The situation at the church was really a microcosm of the city,” says Nelson in the beginning of the film. He learns more about needs of the community and his church members, observes other small churches and the role their pastors play, and works hard to bring renewed hope and sense of commitment in his members.
“I was intrigued and could relate to many of the things that the young man was going through,” said Paul Smith, a pastor in the Georgia-Cumberland Conference. “It brought back memories of famous church fights and issues from the past scars and wounds, but I unfortunately healed from those now. And yes, it's possible with the Spirit's presence and with good modeling to change the culture of a church.”
“It’s very painful to watch a church die. He's right, you have to make a lot of changes,” said pastoral spouse Linda Smith after watching the film at the CALLED convention. “In order to make those changes, sometimes people have to die or leave the church. Or you have to stay for a long time to get their trust. Pastors who have gone through something similar will think about their own feelings as [they] watch the whole movie.”
The web series Arnion (“The Lamb”), a collaborative effort with the NAD, the Walla Walla University Center for Media Ministry, and Rachel Scribner, a Walla Walla graduate student who adapted the script and produced the NAD’s version, premiered at the 2019 Sonscreen Film Festival. Arnion was originally produced by Hope Media Europe, a Seventh-day Adventist media center. The NAD purchased the rights to adapt this series on Revelation geared toward a postmodern and Adventist audience, and created a shorter, web-series version of the 10-episode series.
The series combines creative visuals, filmed by the Hope Media team, with discussion by NAD hosts. Each episode covers a concept from the book of Revelation such as identity and salvation.
“Arnion is a fresh look at the book of Revelation,” Scribner said. “It focuses on life’s big questions such as ‘who am I?’ and ‘what’s my purpose?’ — and for each question the answer always centers around arnion, which is Greek for ‘the lamb.’”
The hosts, Scribner and Julio C. Muñoz, Sonscreen Director, shared that the first episode of Arnion is available to watch now on Sonscreen.com, and that other episodes will be released on the Sonscreen website in the coming weeks.
“We are excited about Arnion, because this is a resource people can use,” Scribner said during the screening. “You might have a study group with some who are interested in the Bible, but don’t know a lot about it, and you could show one of these episodes and then have a study after.”
During the screening, a pastor in the audience requested official companion study guides, to combine with the series, which Scribner promised to look into. Several audience members asked questions about the Arnion series, as well as the student films shown.
In addition to Arnion, Muñoz screened several award-winning student films from the Sonscreen Film Festival, as well as a trailer for Hope Media Europe’s upcoming Encounters series, which will be released online July 1. He concluded by sharing a teaser for a future project: Daniel: Ancient of Days. Members of the creative team behind The Record Keeper are currently developing the series, in partnership with Sonscreen Films, the NAD, and Pacific Union College Department of Visual Arts.
“It was wonderful to be invited to the CALLED convention to screen some of the award-winning films produced by student filmmakers as well as original content produced by Sonscreen,” said Muñoz. “We are striving to provide a safe space for young Adventist creatives as well as use the medium of film to tell relevant stories to connect with new audiences. We were so thrilled with the support we received from the CALLED audience.”
Mission on the Ground
The “Missional Movies” night on June 21 was themed “Mission on the Ground: Stories of Evangelism.”
“Mission on the Ground” is a series of short documentary videos showcasing churches and ministries across the North American Division. In these films, convention organizers shared, “you’ll see how people are impacting their local communities and growing their understanding of what it means to be CALLED.” The films are designed to show how people are impacting their local communities, expanding their online outreach, expanding their definition of ministry, and finding their ministerial calling.
“Seeing stories of evangelism on the big screen at CALLED is motivating,” said one attendee. “I can draw inspiration from the experiences shared in the films. I especially found the COVID-19, digital ministry story from the Carolina churches inspiring.”
“Those who missed the films can go to ALC’s resources tab and search for ‘Multiply Stories’ to watch these stories,” said Ivan Willaims, NAD Ministerial Association director, explaining that the short documentaries were sponsored by the Ministerial Association, and produced by Adventist Learning Community with several freelance producers including Mark Comberiate, Nina Vallado, and several others. “We hope these stories help inspire people to hear [God’s voice] leading them into new ministry opportunities.”