You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘mormon missionaries’ tag.

When civil war broke out in Liberia in late 1989, eight native Liberian missionaries of the Church were serving in the country. By July 1990, conditions were so bad that those missionaries were shuttered inside their homes, unable to preach the gospel and forced to risk death just to meet with members.

With their work grinding to a complete halt, Elders Marcus Menti and Joseph Myers, zone leaders in Monrovia, determined to go wherever they had to in order to complete their missions and serve as they had been called to do. That meant leaving Liberia, so together with the other four missionaries serving in Monrovia—Taylor Selli, Joseph Forkpah, Roverto Chanipo, and Dave Gonquoi—they devised a plan. With the help of Philip Abubakar, a counselor in the local branch presidency and the missionaries’ driver, the elders planned to travel north to Sierra Leone, cross the border, then continue to Freetown, where their mission presidency had already been compelled to flee.

(Excerpt from article The Lord Provided A Way)

Having served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I realize that it can be dangerous out there. However, when I read the article last year about missionaries who had been caught in a civil war in Africa that had to escape while rebels pursued them, I realized the challenges I faced on my mission are very minimal. The article was very inspiring, and intense. I was excited to learn that there was going to be a movie made from their experience as they overcome severe challenges to escape the country while being hunted down and threatened to be killed by the rebels.

I was able to catch up with Adam Abel (known for Saints and Soldiers and other movies), the producer of the movie, along with Garrett Baty (known for the movie, Saratov Approach), the director of the movie. They were kind enough to allow me access to the press screening of the movie and also do an interview with each of them about the making of the movie.

As I watched the press screening of the new movie, FREETOWN, which is on limited release and opening in theaters on April 8th, I was amazed at the faith of the elders as they were pursued by their enemies during the civil war in 1989. Their faith and desire to teach the gospel is amazing and the way God protects them while the rebels pursue them and nearly capture and kill them on a few occasions is amazing. The filming is great and done in Africa with African actors so it has a very authentic feel to it. It is definitely an inspiring movie that is also entertaining with intense scenes/situations.

As mentioned, I was able to catch up with both Adam and Garrett. Garrett’s interview is included below with some pictures of the filming of the movie. Adam’s interview will be published next week.

Interview with Garrett Baty, Director of FREETOWN

Garrett Baty

What was your inspiration in choosing to direct Freetown?

I read a short article about missionaries caught in a civil war in Liberia. I was intrigued because these were African missionaries, in a situation completely foreign to me, yet their motivations were very relatable. After reading their own accounts of what took place, I was determined to retell their experience in a film.

What are you hoping that people take away from watching the movie?

In addition to being entertained, I hope they appreciate the courage and determination that these missionaries had. I hope that after seeing the film, people will look at their own challenges, and feel motivated to overcome them. A prevalent theme throughout the film is “Keep Moving Forward,” which is really resonating with audiences.

Elders hunted down

What inspirational moments did you have during the filming process?

The production process was incredibly challenging, however I recognized daily “miracles” that enabled us to accomplish what we were trying to do. In researching the story, I interviewed a Liberian refugee, now in Ghana, living amongst some of the very rebels who caused him so much loss and suffering. I asked how he was able to live in such close proximity to those who were responsible for his loss. He taught me about forgiveness and moving forward, in a way that I will never forget. He stated “You can’t replace spilled water. If someone drops the vessel, you work together to get a new vessel, and fill it with new water.” His example is incredibly inspiring.

baptism freetown

What was the most challenging part of the filming process?

It was challenging to be away from family for 6 weeks. Making any film is difficult, and typically it is nice to go home each night and recover from the time on set. When you are half a world away from your loved ones, it give you a lot of time to dwell on the challenges of the day.

What was the most exciting part of the filming process?

It was exciting each day to see the footage that was being shot. We filmed a chase sequence with rebels chasing missionaries through a village, and it was a very exciting day on set. Each day’s footage was like opening a Christmas present, especially knowing how difficult it was to obtain each shot.

Freetown gun

Tell us about the actors in the film.

We auditioned over 125 actors for the film, and were amazed at the talent we were able to find. The film features some stirring performances, and the actors handled these scenes very well. We were also fortunate to have several recognizable veteran actors appear in key roles throughout the film. It was fun to have these famous Ghanain actors show up on set and be swarmed by fans. It’s not often that an independent film attracts that type of talent.

Garrett Baty with the actors

Will the movie be shown at all major theaters, or certain ones?

FREETOWN opens in elect theaters across the U.S. on April 8th. We’re very fortunate that AMC, Cinemark, Regal and Megaplex, along with other national chains have picked up the film. Purdie Distribution is distributing the film.

Where was the movie filmed?

FREETOWN was shot in West Africa, in and around Accra, Ghana.

What makes this film unique?

FREETOWN is unique because it is an important, faith-affirming story, set in a time and place that wouldn’t typically be inspiring. The Liberian civil war isn’t addressed very often on film, and when it is, usually the focus is on the brutality and harshness of the circumstance. FREETOWN is an experience unlike anything that audiences have seen.

How did you select which actors and partners to work with and why did you choose who you did for this film?

I approached Adam Able to be my producing partner on this film because of his vast experience in telling war stories with an inspiring message. I chose to work with screenwriter Melissa Lealani Larson after reading a short film that she had written, and seeing that she had a wonderfully honest and unique style.

FREETOWN releases nationwide on Wed., April 8
It has a limited release so see it on that day/weekend!
To find a theater near you, visit http://www.FreetowntheMovie.com

FREETOWN poster

ldsmissionariesI have the great opportunity to work as a Ward Mission Leader in my Mormon Church congregation.  It is great going out with the missionaries and sharing the gospel with friends and neighbors who may not have a relationship with God.  I have seen some amazing things in the past few months as the Holy Spirit has worked miracles to ignite faith in people as they pray and study the scriptures.

One of the things I look forward to nearly ever day, are the stories that the missionaries tell me of their daily adventures as they meet with people from all walks of life.  My favorite ones are ones that involve members of our congregation as they help people in the community.  The missionaries shared an example of this the other day.

In our neck of the woods (the Seattle area) it tends to rain in waves this time of year.  For example, it will be sunny for 20 minutes then a cloud will roll in and pour rain and it goes on like that throughout the day.

One of the ladies that our missionaries have been teaching decided to walk to the store with her little child while it was sunny and on her way back a cloud rolled in and started pouring rain on her and the young child.  She was very concerned about her child’s health and wondered if she would be able to make it home.

Just then, a van pulled up to her and the door slid open.  A large Samoan man looked at her and said “Get in the Van”!  She said at first it was startling, but she had a good feeling so she got in the van.  There were a few kids in the van along with the gentleman’s wife.  They asked her where she lived and told her they didn’t feel right about having her left out in the rain.  She told them where to go and she arrived safely at home.

The next evening, the missionaries invited her to come to a woman’s activity at the church.  She went and had a great time meeting members of the congregation.  When she entered one of the rooms she looked up and noticed the same lady who had been in the van.  They both did a double take and then got excited and hugged each other and started talking.

I was so impressed with this Samoan family.  Their actions were an example of the pure love of Christ that we preach about when we are out in the community with people.  It is one thing to talk about helping others, but it is another thing to quietly go about doing good as Jesus did without recognition, which is exactly what our Samoan friends did.  This left a greater impression on our friend who is investigating the Mormon Church than any sermon could have done.

When I heard this story, the words of President Hinckley come to mind.  When asked why no Mormon Churches have crosses on their buildings, he stated:

…The lives of our people must become the most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship. (Ensign, 2005)

I am very grateful for the opportunity I have to work with these great members in our congregation along with the great missionaries and people they teach.  I have witnessed the hand of God working through all of us who give of our time and try to live as Jesus would have us live.  When we do this, miracles happen and lives are changed.

ldsmissionariesI’ve been very busy working with our full-time Mormon missionaries in our ward the past couple months and have been very impressed with all the work and effort they put in.  It has been a while since I have been this heavily involved in missionary service.  Some days can be very awesome and others can be very trying.

I am reminded of experiences on my mission when I meet or speak with the sister missionaries in our ward (congregation) nearly every day.  There are many, many people out there who have little or no concept of who God is and who Jesus Christ is.  Many people when asked say they are Christian, but when speaking more in depth they rarely pray and have little or no concept of what the Atonement of Jesus Christ is and how it applies to our lives.  I have been re-ignited in my faith as to the importance of this message by actively going out and meeting people in my community and seeing the challenges they face and the struggles they have trying to rely on their own strength rather than Gods.

This week was particularly difficult for us.  We had been working with a great family the past few weeks who had begun to embrace reading scripture together, coming to church, and praying as a family.  The father of the home even made the comment of how different his kids were (in a good way) since coming to church.  However, things changed pretty quickly when his ex-wife heard about her kids going to the Mormon church and meeting with the Mormon missionaries.  Although she hasn’t ever gone to church (according to her kids and ex-husband), she was very passionate that they quit going to the Mormon church and start going to the Catholic church she was raised in.  Needless to say, when the sister missionaries went to visit Rick and his kids and found out about their mother’s concerns and also that the kids and Rick wouldn’t continue on with lessons, we were pretty discouraged.

It was during times like this when I was on my mission that I reflected on the inspiring times in my life so I could stay positive.  With this in mind, I thought I’d share an inspiring story from my Mormon mission in Frankfurt, Germany during the mid ’90s.

Inspiring Mormon Missionary Story

The most inspiring moment on my mission was working with a man named Herr Neuhaus.  Hr. Neuhaus was an older gentleman who had lived a very rough life.  When we came across him, he was very angry at God.  His wife had recently passed away and he was very depressed.  Life for him when we met him was drinking and smoking and staring at the TV.

I learned on my mission in Germany to be very direct and bold.  That was their style over there.  So when we first met him and he bellowed out that he didn’t have any interest (they all said that initially), I told him that he might not have interest, but God had interest in him.

He replied that “God doesn’t love me…” which gave me a window into his tortured soul.  I immediately felt compassion for him and I feel that by the grace of God I was able to feel for Hr Neuhaus a small amount of love that God has for each of us as sinners.

I engaged him in conversation on why he thought God didn’t love him.  This is when he shared with us his story of his wife dying despite all the prayers he had offered in her behalf that she would live.

That first day, we just listened mainly and I really felt so awful for him.  However, I knew that through the power of the Atonement, he could be made whole again and Jesus could fill him up with love once more.

I testified of this and challenged him to read the Book of Mormon, especially the parts on the Atonement of Christ and faith.  I promised him if he did this that he would feel God’s love once more.

To make a long story short, God was true to His promise to those who show faith in Him.  Not only was Hr Neuhaus healed from his suffering, but he was also healed from his addictions of smoking and drinking.  I felt honored when he asked me if he would baptize him, which I did on May 11, 1997.

This was the only person I baptized while I was on my mission.

When I reflect on this experience, I am once again reminded of the importance of being a witness for Jesus Christ.  I have seen personally and many times have witnessed other people such as Hr Neuhaus who chose to embrace the teachings and gospel of Jesus.  Their lives are renewed and the cares and struggles of this world are swallowed up in hope and deliverance.

Please take a moment and share your favorite missionary experience either as a missionary, or a pastor, or just in your daily walk with God.  I think it would be very beneficial for other readers of this blog.

In a recent article in The National Catholic Weekly magazine, a writer brought up the great marketing the LDS church is doing in New York City.  His article highlights the Mormon.org billboards that are all over as well as on the taxis, etc.  and how great of a missionary tool it is.  Something he wrote about in his article stood out to me about his perspective on the traditional Mormon missionary strategy.  He writes:

The “I’m a Mormon” campaign, showcases video and print portraits of young, diverse and energetic Mormons — and steers clear of images of missionaries in white shirts and black pants or talk of theology —

“Steering clear of images of missionaries in white shirts and black pants…” is the line that stood out to me.

What is the image that most people who aren’t LDS think of when they see the Mormon missionaries knocking on doors like they have done the same way for probably close to 100 years now?  Is that still an effective marketing tool, or should the church shake it up and allow missionaries to wear clothes that match the culture where they are?

 I know from personal experience that I felt much more at ease being a missionary without my white shirt and nametag than when I was wearing it.  I was a Mormon missionary in Germany for two years and I also lived in Switzerland and worked for awhile after my mission as well.  When I was a mormon missionary, people would bar the windows and lock the doors and bring the kids out of the streets the moment we walked into the neighborhood.  The white shirt and black nametag turned them off.

However, when I was dressed in my normal clothes as a “regular” person after my mission, I had many more missionary discussions with people who opened up to me because they perceived that I was a “normal” person. 

On the other hand, the Mormon missionaries have been branded by the white shirt and nametag and for people who are searching for them, they are easy to identify.

What are your thoughts on changing the Mormon missionary strategy and having Mormon missionaries wear “normal” clothes while proselyting?

Cleanse your Soul with Grace for Grace “Spiritual SOAP”

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 892 other followers

GraceforGrace Community

Pages

Blog Stats

  • 495,465 hits