Last year eight teens, with the support of their families, made a documentary. They had no real prior experience in the business, and those who were interested in film-making had envisioned something more along the lines of glamorous action-flicks; certainly never a boring political documentary. Nevertheless, they jumped at the opportunity, and ended up having the experience of a lifetime. The resulting feature-length documentary, entitled “The Child,” has been shown at over 1,200 grassroots screenings nation-wide, been aired on national television, and is back-ordered after selling 3,000 DVDs. I had the honor of directing this documentary, and experiencing a first-hand miracle.
When discussing the making of “The Child,” one of the most frequent questions I am asked is, “why did you do it?” What led me to do something so... unusual (putting it kindly) for someone my age – or our ages, for that matter. Why make a documentary, much less a documentary about parental rights? There are many reasons, the primary being “how could we not care that parents are losing their rights to make basic decisions for their children?” If the hand that rocks the cradle truly rules the world, this is an issue that everyone should care about. I don’t have space to explain the whole situation here (after all, “The Child” is 90 minutes), but I urge you to visit ParentalRights.org - or watch “The Child”! - to learn specifically how and why parental rights are being threatened.
Once we grasped the critical status of parental rights in America, of course we wanted to share this important news with others. Something needed to be done, so we volunteered to help. But the next most frequently asked or implied question I receive is, “what led you to think this way?” Most people are surprised to see young people thinking and caring about issues that don’t directly concern them. Well, besides how our parents raised us, my answer is Generation Joshua.
Generation Joshua reinforced what our parents had always taught us: to defy expectations of self-centeredness and short-sightedness so common for teenagers, and care about something that affects others, if not ourselves. It challenged us to think ahead, to perceive how politics today will define our world tomorrow. Student action teams, lobbying trips, and iGovern camp provided opportunities for us to apply our convictions and ideas in meaningful ways that made a real difference. We learned that we aren’t limited to observing our world, but are actually shaping it. Gen J inspired us as Christians, to search the scriptures for truth, and then proclaim it boldly in the public square, shining the light of Christ into the dark, nasty world of politics. Gen J encouraged us to care first and foremost about God’s standard and expectations, not man’s. All of these lessons culminated in making “The Child.”
Granted, Gen J built on the foundation our parents laid. But by providing practical experiences to develop these convictions and hone our skills, Gen J gave both us and our families some measure of confidence that we could take on something like “The Child.”
“Intimidating venture” is an understatement. Not only were we attempting something none of us had ever done before, but we knew we had to perform at the level of adults in doing so. In some ways, there were advantages to being so young. We had the energy to sustain weeks of driving from interview to interview, with 6 a.m. wake up calls, 12 hours on the road, and hotel check-ins around midnight. We had the time to devote our summer and fall to something that would pay us in experience, not cash. And we had the naive boldness to attempt the whole thing in the first place.
Still, there were definite disadvantages to being teens. No one would give us a pass for being young and inexperienced when working with us or viewing the finished product; to this day most people who have watched “The Child” have no idea who made it. I didn’t mention our ages when booking interviews, so most were in for a surprise when young people, sometimes without an accompanying adult, showed up with camera equipment. Some were excited and impressed by our ages, others were skeptical that this was worth their time. Some were understanding when we made mistakes, and others less so. Most of the time our interviewees knew more about the interview process than we did, and yet sometimes we were interviewing people just like us, who had never done anything like this before. It was like a walking a tightrope; acting like we knew what we were doing, even if we didn’t, yet with enough humility to acknowledge our lack of experience, knowledge, and maturity. Respect for us and our project was hanging in the balance.
By the end, we were stretched physically, mentally, and emotionally, but most of all, spiritually. I think the biggest lesson learned was “commit your way to the Lord” (Psalm 37:4). You can never know where a life committed to Christ may lead. It has asked some to face gladiators and lions, others, politicians and kings. Some are led to live a life of poverty and obscurity in a foreign land, others are lifted up as leaders in their homeland. James 4:14-15 tells us that we cannot know what tomorrow may hold, but should let the matter rest ultimately with God's will for us and our lives. You may have a definitive idea of what your next few years will look like, or not. But don’t count anything out.
Another big lesson was realizing is how important it is to have support. The crew was composed of eight young people, but we all know that we were simply representatives of our families. My parents wanted to see “The Child” made, but didn’t have the time to take on a second job directing a documentary. I did, but just because I was the point person for the production didn’t discount the fact that my siblings were pitching in with chores around our house and farm to let me do this project, my dad was going to work to keep our family running, and my mom was the person who really made everything happen, from food to laundry to transportation. Beyond my family, many people were praying for the production. It was quite humbling to realize that us crew members were simply the faces of a much larger team.
Finally, we’ve probably all heard that sometimes God picks the least likely candidates for a job, just so that there is no doubt who gets the credit for making it happen. We’ve heard it, but last year eight teens and their families got to live it. There is no reasonable explanation for how “The Child” was made. Why did God ask us to do it? Who knows; we’re just honored that he did.
By Grace Tate, Generation Joshua Leadership Corp member.