Video series intended to garner support for new church plant projects
By Connie Faber
At first glance, Chubby, Chad and Kimberly don’t appear to have much in common. Chubby is a veteran from Portland, Ore., who struggled with alcohol and drugs and spent time fighting and partying when he returned from Iraq. Chad, a pastor serving in Omaha, Neb., attempted suicide as a college student. Kimberly is a young mom from Salt Lake City whose life once centered around the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in spite of not having a Mormon husband.
The trio has never met and yet they are members of the same family. Not a biological family but a spiritual one. Chubby, Chad and Kimberly are each part of a different USMB church—Trinity Church, Stony Brook Church and South Mountain Community Church, respectively. Each one has experienced God’s transforming work in his or her life, and all three share their stories in a new series of video testimonies produced by USMB.
“When I watch these stories of actual life-transformation it’s both encouraging and fueling because it connects with our mission statement,” says Ed Boschman, USMB executive director.
The USMB mission statement says that U.S. Mennonite Brethren congregations “partner as one family to serve one Lord on one mission, for the transformation of individuals, families and communities.”
Boschman says, “When transformation happens and our national family gets to hear that report, it’s very fulfilling.”
DVDs of the video testimonies, released individually over the past six months, have been mailed to all English-language congregations and are posted on the USMB YouTube channel.
Reactions to the video testimonies have been encouraging.
“Without a doubt, people are responding positively,” says Don Morris, Mission USA director, who has shown the video testimonies prior to preaching.
J Epp, USMB director of development, reports that one congregation is showing the testimonies during the Advent season as they prepare to daughter a congregation in their area. A second congregation showed the testimonies as part of their Harvest Missions Festival and then collected an offering of $17,000 to support church planting.
The videos were also been viewed in July at the USMB national delegate convention and in November at the Central District Conference convention during the church planting banquet.
The video project was initiated just over a year ago when the USMB national office was in the process of launching a development department with Derk Madden, pastor of Discovery Bible Church of Collinsville, Okla., serving as the part-time director of development. Madden has since concluded his work as a USMB staff member, and this past October Epp assumed the position of director of development on a full-time basis.
As director of development, Madden was and Epp is responsible for raising funds for an ambitious church planting effort—planting six new USMB churches every year for the next decade and securing the funds necessary to do so.
“It was in part Derk’s initiative to provide stories to show prospective donors what we are doing,” says Boschman.
Madden cites two goals of the project. Encouraging USMB congregations to support church planting by celebrating life transformation stories from within USMB church plants is one objective of the video series. Madden also hopes that people who see the testimonies will “relate to God working in someone’s life, be inspired and want what people in the video have.”
Boschman says, “We wanted to show what it is that we are prioritizing in our ministries and to highlight the centerpiece—church planting, We wanted to invest resources in capturing that story, linking life transformation with church planting.”
With funding approved by the USMB Leadership Board, Madden was able to secure the services of Helmut Schleppi, a Southern California film director, editor and videographer with whom Madden had worked in the past.
Madden says Schleppi is someone who connects well with people, who brought his professional expertise as someone from the Hollywood community to the project and who is also a believer.
Schleppi, the son of missionary parents, “understands the importance of missions and is personally committed to the mission of Jesus,” says Boschman.
Madden worked with pastors Paul Robie at South Mountain and Art Azurdia at Trinity to identify individuals within their congregations who would be willing to tell their transformation stories.
Madden, who accompanied Schleppi on his filming trips to Salt Lake City and Omaha, estimates that Schleppi came away from these filming trips with four to five hours of footage per trip. That footage was edited down to six minutes or less with an emphasis on the ongoing nature of each individual’s journey, says Madden.
These video testimonies focus on real lives and congregations that are on the front lines of evangelism, says Madden. “These are real people with real stories that focus on the Gospel,” says Madden.