“When I look in their faces, I see the face of Jesus.” This explained it. Phoebe, a seminary student from Indonesia, cared for our children while we moms were in Bible study. My children warmed to Phoebe immediately, regardless of her “differentness,” and loved her dearly. These words about our children on her last day there explained why. She loved them because she saw Jesus in them.
It’s a challenge in our everyday lives to look at the people around us, strangers or otherwise, and see the face of Jesus. Recently a spate of documentaries have challenged me to do that by opening a window into the lives of people around the world, people who might easily be overlooked or dismissed.
InThe Drop Box, Pastor Lee Jong-rak of Seoul, South Korea, couldn’t bear to see another baby abandoned in the streets. He built a “drop box” for people who wanted to give up their babies, through which his church community has been able to help over 600 babies. Many were born with disabilities or to desperate teenagers. The filmmakers make clear that this cultural devaluation of life is not only an issue in Seoul; babies are abandoned in cities around the world, including North America. Pastor Lee follows God’s call to love others as God has loved him.
Dordt College professor Mark Volkers and teams of his students have put togetherThe Fourth World, a documentary that explains the immense growth of slums and gives voice to the difficult stories of those who live in them. Felix in Nairobi, Tanya and Selma in Guatemala City, and Jovelyn in Manila open their daily lives and their histories to the camera, giving viewers insight into a life hidden from most.
In the U.S. there are 1.6 million homeless youth on any given day. Calvin College grad Kirsten Kelly and her directing partner, Anne de Mare, followed three Chicago teens inThe Homestretch, exploring the reasons for homelessness and different approaches to solving the problem. One woman in particular, Maria, sees a young man at the school where she works and offers him the love she herself needed as a teen. The Homestretch is scheduled to air on PBS as part of their “Independent Lens” series on April 13.)
The Overnighters is about Jay Reinke, a pastor in Williston, N.D., who opens the church to the men who have come to town looking for work in the booming oil fracking industry, finding instead a high cost of living and a shortage of housing. While Reinke’s secrecy and personal failings ultimately lead to the demise of the church’s “Overnighters” program, his eloquence about the need to show love to the stranger at the gates is powerful and worthy of any adult church group’s discussion.
Any of these films will challenge viewers to show love to the stranger, to find the image of Christ in anyone. Like Pastor Lee or Maria, if we keep our eyes and hearts open, we can be a channel of God’s peace right now, right where we are.