Web series shows importance of missions

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“This is Why We Go” highlights experiences of TREK participants

By Jared Janzen

What is it like to be a missionary—to leave friends, family and the comforts of home behind and set out to live in a foreign culture, proclaiming the gospel to the unreached corners of the globe? This is the question that John-Mark Bergen, video/media producer for MB Mission, set out to answer.

The result was a web series called “This is Why We Go,” which offers a glimpse of what it’s like to serve as a short-term missionary through TREK, a 10-month, cross-cultural service program for young adults through MB Mission, the North American MB mission agency.

Bergen thought of the idea for the project because he wanted something that would bring people into the missions experience in a new way.

“I’ve never really wanted to make commercials for a mission,” he says. “I’ve always wanted to make videos that glorify God and draw people into the story, and I was thinking, what’s a better way to do that than to go and see what’s happening in real life, so it feels real.”

The 10-episode series tracks the 2014 TREK participants as they face the challenges and successes of living in a foreign culture while also learning how God is at work in the lives of Christians worldwide. The videos explain why these young men and women chose overseas service, plus the impact that the experience had on them and their faith.

The videos follow the TREK participants every step of the way, from the eight-week orientation in Abbotsford, BC, to their seven-month assignments working alongside a long-term missionary or church in a different culture, and ending with a debriefing period back in Abbotsford. The web series allows viewers to share in TREKkers’ experiences as they worship God with villagers on the roadside in the steep hills of Central Mexico, distribute evangelical materials on the streets of Paris and witness the baptism of 19 believers on Easter Sunday in the remote village of N’Dorola, Burkina Faso.

 

The creative process

Bergen was lead videographer and creative director for “This is Why We Go” and was assisted by Phil Davis, media intern at MB Mission at that time, and Davis’s wife, Celeste Davis. The three of them spent seven weeks in March and April 2014 on a whirlwind trip around the globe gathering footage for the videos. Their goal, as described at the beginning of each episode, was to capture the daily sights and sounds of living and working in cross-cultural ministry today.

They spent about three weeks in Mexico, two in France and one in Burkina Faso to get a sense of the TREKkers’ work in each location, traveling to each country back-to-back. Along the way, Bergen and Phil Davis shared the responsibilities of filming daily life, capturing audio and interviewing TREKkers and long-term missionaries. Meanwhile, Celeste Davis handled the business aspects of the trip

 “It was a lot of work, and by the time we went to Burkina, we were already feeling pretty drained during our France time, and then when we got to Burkina it was 100 degrees, no air conditioning or anything,” says Bergen. “But we were really passionate about the project, and it was a great story.” He adds that God gave them the ability and stamina to endure.

Bergen says one of the most memorable parts of the experience was returning to Burkina Faso, where he grew up as a missionary’s child. Bergen himself had a similar experience to the TREKkers he was filming because he participated in a TREK mission to Burkina Faso a number of years ago.

Upon returning to the United States from Burkina Faso, the media team took a few days’ rest before Bergen and Phil Davis were hard at work editing the hours and hours of video footage they had amassed and turning it into the 10 episodes, which average about 10 minutes in length.

The videos were originally posted online as a web series, with a new episode coming out each Wednesday between June and September 2014. Bergen and Davis staggered who put together each episode, which gave them two weeks to make each one. Working full-time on the project means about 80 hours were spent on each video.

All 10 videos can be viewed on MB Mission’s website at http://www.mbmission.org/this-is-why-we-go or on the “This is Why We Go” Facebook page.

 

The response

Feedback from viewers has been positive, according to Bergen. His vision for the series was for it to be used in Bible studies. He hoped that by posting it on social media, the series would be able to “break out of the Mennonite Brethren bubble,” as he put it. He said it was cool to see people with no affiliation to MB Mission comment on the videos.

Bergen says he would love to see this project grow, but there are no current plans to pursue that dream. He thought that if a new segment of “This is Why We Go” were to be made, it might focus on a different MB Mission program, such as ACTION, a one-month service program.

So the title of the series begs the question, why did the people in the videos choose to go and do missions overseas? The answers that they offer all come back to their desire to spread God’s news to the unreached. A woman who served in Burkina Faso said she believes that God wants to use her voice as a witness. One man on the team to France said he did TREK because he believes that following Jesus’ command to witness is a sign of love for him.

“People often think of mission as a foreign thing, that you have to be a special person to do it,” says Bergen. “But if you watch the series, you realize that people are people wherever they are, and it doesn’t take a special caliber of Christian to be a missionary. Anybody can go if they’re willing to let God work through their lives and surrender their lives to that mission.”

Freelance writer Jared Janzen will be a senior at Tabor College this fall. He was a student intern with the CL for the spring 2015 semester.

Photos provided by MB Mission

Photo 1: Burkino Faso was among the stops John-Mark Bergen, video/media producer for MB Mission, made on a seven-week whirlwind tour of three continents filming "This is Why We Go," a 10-part web series.

Photo 2: John-Mark Bergen, left, worked with Phil Davis, media intern at MB Mission at that time, and Davis’s wife, Celeste Davis, to create a video series that captures the daily sights and sounds of living and working in cross-cultural ministry.

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