Friday, July 6, 2012

DVD Review: Walk His Trail by EthnoGraphic Media

In recent years, EthnoGraphic Media has produced three incredible films chronicling the events surrounding the death of several Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) missionaries in the Amazon Jungle in 1956.  Beyond the Gates of Splendor tells the story of these missionaries in dramatic documentary fashion, with reenactments and testimony from surviving family members.  End of the Spear tells the same story, but has more of a feature film approach with actors playing the roles of those involved. The Grandfathers is a highly stylized documentary told from the point of view of the grandson of one of the victims.  I highly recommend all of these productions, and you can read a more detailed review of the latter film here on The Calico Critic.

EthnoGraphic media has taken material from all three of these works and put together a movie message series for pastors and church leaders to use in teaching to their congregations.  The Walk His Trail DVD is divided into three lessons.  Each compelling lesson has footage from a corresponding EGM film, with inserted commentary from Steve Saint, son of martyred missionary Nate Saint.

Lesson 1:  Beyond the Gates of Splendor 

The theme of this episode is sacrifice. The MAF missionaries sacrificed their lives to convey God’s message to the Waodani people. They understood that when we give up something now, it’s not sacrifice, it’s an investment.

Steve also conveys the message that God has a plan for all of us, and will someday make sense of pain and loss.  When life beats us up, we want someone to come to us who can relate to our pain.  He can relate to us in a way that no one else can. The Lord is writing our story, and as we readers know, the Author always gets the last word.

Lesson 2 – End of the Spear

The theme of this episode is reconciliation. God has given us a message of reconciliation and he has made us his ambassadors of reconciliation to the world. This was powerfully shown in a scene when a former tribe member is explaining this concept to one of the Waodani men who speared the missionaries:

“Why didn’t the wood bee {airplane} men shoot us?”

“They came to tell you Waengongi {God} has a Son. He was speared, but he didn’t spear back. So the people spearing him would one day live well.”

This message led to the softening of the hearts of the Waodani, and an amazing transformation of these formerly murderous people.

Lesson 3 – The Grandfathers

The theme of this final episode is heritage.  It’s very much the story of Jesse Saint, grandson of Nate Saint. As it’s told from the perspective of a much younger individual, the style is very artistic and modern, and I was completely riveted by the full film when I saw it last year. ThisWalk His Trail lesson captures the feel of the film and also adds in Steve’s commentary as well.  A particularly compelling moment comes when Steve recounts his crisis of faith during a family tragedy, and how a Waodani was the one that God used to comfort him in his moment of grief.  The heritage of the Saint family is not only carried on in the life of Jesse Saint, but in the lives of the Waodani.

All three of the Walk His Trail episodes would make for an amazing teaching series for any pastor or church leader.  The basic themes of sacrifice, reconciliation and heritage are related in a way that both unbelievers, new Christians and mature Christians can be blessed from.  The DVD is structured in such a way that each lesson can be played in full for about 30 minutes, or the lessons can be played with built in breaks, to give time for further lecturing and/or group discussion.

Given the intense nature of the Waodani before their conversion, I would not recommend this series for young children.  There are scenes of people getting speared, and impaling injuries are clearly seen.  The recounting of many murders is discussed on multiple occasions. The tribal men wear loincloths with no coverings for their backsides, and in some scenes, the women are topless in their natural habitat.  Nothing is gratuitous; life is portrayed in a realistic fashion.

There is less of the mature content in the Walk His Trail DVD than in the full-length features.  However, because of the PG-13 material, I would not recommend the films or Walk His Trail lessons to be shown to a general church audience where children or the easily offended are about.  It would probably be best to be shown in a small group setting, or at an evening church program when the audience has been given advance notice of the content they are about to witness.

The events chronicled in the EthoGraphic Media films are difficult, but the overall message is a glorious one, and I cannot recommend all of these videos highly enough.  The story of the MAF missionaries and the Waodani people is truly inspirational. If you are struggling with forgiveness or pain in your life, God’s message of hope conveyed in these films can give you the strength and comfort you are looking for.  As Steve Saint states, “God wants your will as His quill and your life as His slate.”  That can happen if we walk His trail.

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For more information on Walk His Trail and how your church leadership can receive a copy, visit the EthnoGraphic Media website here.

EGM Films - Walk His Trail Series

Film Trailers

Walk His Trail

Beyond the Gates of Splendor

End of the Spear

The Grandfathers

Mission Aviation Fellowship


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