A new film, based on God's call in Isaiah 58 to “loose the chains of injustice” and provide for the poor, puts a face on the problem of global poverty and oppression, and calls Christians to act on their faith.
“58: The Film” was filmed over the course of two years in 15 different countries, and is set to begin showing in October in select theaters, on iTunes, on television and in major church screenings.
It features powerful stories of the poor and of those who are out to help them. Audiences will be introduced to individuals who live on the drought-ridden Ethiopian plains and in the slums of Kenya. There are also stories of people surrounded by gang violence, chemical addictions, the sex trafficking trade and more.
In addition to sharing heart-wrenching tales of extreme poverty, “58:The Film” also takes a look at several groups and individuals who are fighting against and, following the commands of God, are offering hope in places that it isn't frequently felt.
Some stories of assistance include an American business owner who sells Fair Trade coffee, a Brazilian man who works to spread the Gospel and help those struggling with addiction, and a group of young people in New York who fast and pray for the sake of the impoverished.
"The purpose of the film is really to stimulate and to motivate and really to challenge Christians to respond to the biblical mandate for social concern and action,” said Tony Neeves, who codirected the film, in an interview with The Christian Post on Monday.
Neeves and his son, Tim, worked together on the film project. Tony Neeves recently retired from the post he held for 16 years as a vice president of Compassion International, a Christian organization that advocates helping children around the globe who live in poverty.
Overall, Neeves has worked for nearly 40 years to benefit the poor and the oppressed, and said that the film project stems from some upsetting trends that he sees in today's church.
"It comes out of a sort of frustration, really, that I have had over a number of years with the church losing its influence and the church losing its relevance.”
He said that in developing nations in which churches exhibit great concern for the impoverished, he sees churches that are “vibrant and growing.”
What Neeves wants Christians to understand, and he hopes they will learn through “58:The Film,” is that following Jesus is costly, but it is a joy, he said.
In 1975, at the end of a visit to a West African island, Neeves spoke to a poor farmer who told him he would be praying for Neeves as he made his way back to his everyday life in the United Kingdom.
“I thought, ‘I should be praying for him,’” Neeves said.
The farmer told him, “You’re poor, because you have God and things, and we just have God, and so we're quite satisfied.”
People living in poor communities, Neeves said, often go to one extreme or the other. Some areas in these communities can be the centers of violence, addiction and suffering.
On the other hand, many people who live in impoverished communities are strongly united by their common suffering, and in many cases, by their common faith.
People who live in areas with little food and drinking water and are faced with the potential of violence every day tend to rely on one another and enjoy a stronger sense of community than their wealthier counterparts.
Those who find their hope in Jesus Christ also share their joy with other members of the church.
In order to end extreme poverty, highly-regarded international organizations have formed an alliance that offers everyday people an opportunity to help out.
The “58” alliance consists of 10 organizations, including Compassion International, ECHO, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, HOPE International, Food for the Hungry, Living Water International, International Justice Mission, Micah Challenge, World Relief and Plant With Purpose.
More information about the film, the alliance and how to get involved can be found on the alliance’s website, live58.org.
Christians interested in helping out must “make a commitment to study God's Word,” Neeves said, and pay particular attention to the passages that talk about helping the needy.
Though everyone needs to hear the Gospel of Jesus, those who live in poverty also have physical needs that need to be met, and Christians should not ignore them. Jesus addressed both physical and spiritual needs as they came to his attention, Neeves pointed out.
"The Bible is really clear that God loves the poor and the oppressed, and has a very special concern for them, and really calls his children, his followers, to have that same heart,” he said.