In The Riot and the Dance: Earth, a biologist leads an exploration of God’s creativity in nature
by Marty VanDriel
June 28, 2019
Biologist Gordon Wilson sees beauty in all of creation, from mundane brown bugs to exotic colorful lizards. His enthusiasm for God’s creative genius is catching in The Riot and the Dance: Earth, available on Amazon Prime and DVD.
Wilson takes viewers on an engaging journey of exploration beginning near his home in Idaho and continuing to the Oregon coast, Manitoba, Montana, California, the Sonoran Desert, and the island of Sri Lanka. Wilson wants Christians to study creation so they can better know their Creator. “If we wanted to study someone like Michelangelo, we would want to study all his works, his paintings, his sculptures,” he says. “The way you get to know God, you study everything He wrote and made, His living creation, His creatures.”
The biologist gets his hands dirty. He dives across a rocky trail to grab a fleeing snake, explains the danger of a toad’s venom while stroking the animal in his hands, and wades waist-deep to net giant water bugs and water striders. His enthusiasm for each creature’s unique appearance and traits is contagious. Can you guess what beast he is describing here? “Only God could take so much comedy—wrinkled skin, saggy legs, bulging bellies, giant flapping ears, small eyes, long swinging noses, waddling backsides—and assemble them into creatures that are so noble.”
While marveling at the natural world’s beauty, Wilson doesn’t ignore its broken state. All creation groans as it awaits the resurrection, yearning to be made new. For now, death and struggle are a reality. (Smaller children may find the few scenes of predator and prey disturbing, although they are not overly gory.)
Wilson emphasizes stewardship: “In order to take the charge of dominion seriously, we have to know who our charges are, what they eat, how they live, what their habitat requirements are.”
So often, beautiful nature documentaries require selective editorializing by Christian viewers. Not so this work. How refreshing to hear the Bible quoted extensively while God’s incredible handiwork is displayed with marvelous cinematography.
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Training Leaders International
Jesus in Athens
Film shows inspiring Christian work among refugees in Greece
by Sharon Dierberger
Rarely do media report anymore on European tent cities crammed with desperate refugees. Jesus in Athens, a new documentary by Training Leaders International, won’t let us forget these outcasts. Exceptional videography and illustrations, compelling interviews, and personal stories tell how Christ is bringing Muslims in Greece to saving faith through Christian love.
Drone footage showing cramped camps and lines of weary women, men, and children highlights the needy multitudes. At the height of the crisis in 2015, more than 900,000 refugees and migrants entered Greece. Many have emigrated elsewhere in Europe or returned home, but more than 50,000 remain—trapped after European countries shut their doors.
Mostly Middle Eastern and North African, these refugees fled war, oppression, poverty, or slavery. The film personalizes not only their plight but their surprised responses to being treated with kindness by Christians.
The evangelists in the documentary originate from the United States, Asia, and Europe, including Greece. They and their churches reach the marginalized with practical help like language classes, legal aid, food, shelter, and showers. They also practice friendship, playing backgammon and other activities. Some ministries focus on children, protecting them from sexual predators and providing lodging, education, and Bibles.
Church planter and taxi driver Mihalis witnesses daily to Muslim passengers. A refugee told him, “God took us out of our country and brought us here in Greece to hear about Jesus.” Mihalis says, “God took away our fear and prejudice,” and he welcomes Muslims into his home. He has baptized hundreds of new Christians in a water fountain.
Footage blurs the faces of some Muslims to protect them from potential persecution, but many converts speak openly on camera of their conversion and how they are telling other Muslims about Jesus.
Writer and narrator Darren Carlson smoothly integrates what could have been a jumble of statistics and disconnected vignettes. Watching this documentary inspires, giving a glimpse of what a New Testament church might have been like: believers sacrificially loving strangers, boldly proclaiming Christ, and humbly growing together.
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A scene from Free Trip to Egypt Kindness Films
My neighbors in Cairo
Muslim filmmaker promotes cross-cultural understanding in Free Trip to Egypt
by Bob Brown
May 31, 2019
What would you do if a Muslim man approached you and offered an all-expenses-paid trip to Egypt? Seven Americans from various walks of life accepted Tarek Mounib’s invitation to spend 10 days with hosts in Cairo. Mounib, a Canadian Egyptian who describes himself as an “entrepreneur of the Muslim faith,” wasn’t selling Islam, as it turns out, but an opportunity for people from America and Egypt to unlearn stereotypes and prejudices. His documentary Free Trip to Egypt, slated for a 500-screen release in June, follows Mounib’s crusade from recruitment to reunion.
The affable Mounib dons a MAGA hat and seeks out voyage volunteers at a Trump rally in Kentucky. There and elsewhere around the United States he encounters skepticism and hostility. Mounib eventually selects Ellen, a retired Jewish woman; Jason and Jenna, two Christian friends (the latter a former Miss Kentucky); a police officer; and three others for the July 2017 trip.
Jason and Jenna get along well with the conservative Muslim family hosting them. They also get a surprising amount of screen time praying and talking about Jesus.
“I’m not worried about being misunderstood,” Jenna explains. “I’m just worried about pleasing my Father.”
Katie, a single mom and domestic abuse survivor, finds solace from her grandmotherly host. Ellen overcomes her distrust of Arab people, which she says 9/11 had sparked. The documentary’s most interesting scene comes when the Americans and their hosts all attend something like an Islamic séance with music and dancing. The Muslim family disapproves of the spiritualist aspect and walks out. Jason and Jenna beat a hasty exit, too, when they figure out what’s going on. Through a translator, they commiserate outside.
Mounib hopes the documentary (unrated, with some brief, strong expletives) will encourage people from different backgrounds to “celebrate their shared humanity.” His endeavor, designed to foster “more listening and kindness in the world,” is commendable and worthy of emulation, for, as Jesus said, loving your neighbor as yourself is indeed the second greatest thing you can do.