The year I was born, 1976, a meeting took place between producer John Heyman and Bill Bright to discuss a project to put the entire Bible on film. The project was eventually scaled back to only one book of the Bible, Luke. The result of that project—the Jesus film.
The film has since been translated in more than 1400 languages. Much to our surprise, the entire film had been translated into the Masikoro language (a language which only has one book of the Bible translated so far). Even more surprising, some of our Masikoro friends were used as the voices on the dubbed over adaptation of the film. Our Malagasy pastor friend was the voice of John the Baptist, and his son was privileged to utter the voice of the demon possessed man.
We’ve been serving in Madagascar for almost three years now, but have never used the film in our ministry…until a few weeks ago. There were several reasons why we didn’t use the film in the past: reproducibility, relationships in the villages, and the development of our team. However, we were sensing that God was giving us the green light to try.
The plan was to send out a team of Malagasy believers to work in three villages where we’d been sharing Bible stories for several months. The team would share the gospel with the villagers during the morning, run a kids event during the afternoon, and then we would show the Jesus film at night. Prior to the film, a young man who had chosen to burn his idols in order to follow Christ, would share his story about what it meant for him to follow Jesus.
DAY 1: VILLAGE #1
On Monday everything ran smoothly up until the part where we were to show the Jesus film — then it all fell apart. The generator stopped working, the projector shut off and the computer glitched…all at the same time. We modified our plans, packed up and scheduled to return to the same village the following night hoping to show the film in its entirety.
DAY 2: VILLAGE #1
The main source of our problem, the night before, was the generator, so on Tuesday morning I dropped off the ‘gropy’ (Malagasy for generator) at a local “repair shop” — a small, empty, dirt-filled lot filled with leftover car parts, chickens and dirty, shoeless employees. I did not have time to fix it myself (not that I could have even if I had the time), or oversee the work because I had scheduled another trip for that morning and afternoon. Therefore, the generator was left in the greasy, incapable hands of the eager employees. When I returned that afternoon to pick up the generator I was assured that it was working perfectly as it had been used to charge all of the employees electronics for the past 4 hours without a glitch.
That night we all hoped that the generator would hold up long enough to finish the film, but unfortunately it did not. We only made it about 30 minutes into the 2 hour film and then the generator conked out again. The carburetor wasn’t cleaned. Strike two!
DAY 3: VILLAGE #2
On Wednesday the team had to move on to the next village a few kilometers east of the first village, so we rescheduled to return to the first village on Friday. After striking out on night one and night two, Caden, our youngest son, told me that if we struck out again, we’d be out! So, we decided to go with another plan.
Sitting at our home was a 7500 watt Generac generator — the granddaddy of all generators. This thing could run the whole village let alone a small film projector. When our power goes out, we start up this bad boy and lights come on that we never knew existed. It’s powerful!
This is no ordinary generator. Yes, it’s powerful, more than adequate, and brings me joy every time I start it up; but it’s also special in another way. This was my grandpa’s generator.
The six months before leaving for Madagascar we lived near my grandpa in northeast Ohio. We met almost every Tuesday at McDonalds for a cheeseburger and a chat. I wouldn’t have missed those appointments for the world. The week before we left America grandpa wanted to give me his Generac GP7500E 7,500-Watt gasoline powered portable machine, and so his generator made its way to Madagascar.
Knowing that when we said goodbye in 2013 it would most likely be our last time seeing each other, his gift brings me joy, a reminder of my grandpa, and a smile each time I crank it up.
That night it worked like a charm.
DAY 4: VILLAGE #3
On Thursday the team moved to another village further east. After one successful night under our belt we felt confident this next village would be stress-free. Not so fast. As we were setting up, in the dark, it became apparent that we were missing a very important piece of equipment — a 2 inch long, 1/8 adapter which was key for connecting the speakers to the projector. Without this gold plated 1/8 plug we would be without sound. After searching in the moonlight for some time, in the sand, we once again deviated from the original plan and jimmy-rigged a new sound system.
Side note: Grandpa’s generator purred like a kitten.
DAY 5: VILLAGE #1 (AGAIN)
On Friday we came back to the first village to finish the film for the people who had waited in anticipation for days. No problems. Everything ran smoothly.
DAY 6: HOME
On Saturday we returned home with the team.
Grandpa will probably never know the impact his generator had on the over 1,400 villagers who heard the story of Jesus in SW Madagascar this past month. The team calculated over 60 new believers who chose to follow Christ during the week and as we continue to work in these villages we hope to see 3 new churches planted soon. Thank you God, and thank you grandpa.