Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Local Pastor in Movie deal to make a Biblical Epic

Local pastor, Stephen Missick, of King of Saints Tabernacle in Cleveland, Texas, is developing a script for a Biblical film for a Hollywood film producer. Film producer Harvey Rochman has contacted Pastor Missick and asked him to develop a script about the Apostle Thomas in India. In the Bible, Thomas is one of the Twelve Apostles. He is known as “Doubting Thomas” because of his refusal to believe the resurrection of Jesus without first having placed his finger through the nail print in Christ’s hands. According to extra-biblical accounts, the Apostle Thomas traveled to India in order to preach the Gospel of Jesus there.

Pastor Missick believes that his is an ideal time to produce a Biblical epic. He says, “In early 2014 we have seen two Biblical blockbusters, “Son of God,” and “Noah.” Noah had a gross of $100 million in the USA and it may have made even more money if not for the controversy surrounding it. The “Son of God” movie made $67 million dollars, although most of what was in the film was already aired footage from “The Bible: The Epic Miniseries” television miniseries. Other recent faith-based movies, such as “Heaven is Real” and “God is not Dead” have preformed well.  “God is not Dead” was made on a budget of less than $2 million, but has grossed over $70 million. Later this year “The Exodus” starring Christian Bale as Moses will be released to theaters. This shows that there is an audience that is willing to support Biblical and faith-based movies. The story of “Doubting” Thomas is marketable for several reasons. First, it will be a biblical epic (which are profitable as is seen above) and secondly, it also has an appeal to a global audience, in this case, to India. Hollywood has recently began making movies that appeal to a world audience and to India. We see this in “Slum-dog Millionaire,” “Million-dollar Arm,” “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” and “Life of Pi.” (Note, life of Pi dealt with spiritual themes, and portrayed an Indian boy coming to faith in Jesus Christ.) Also, this is something that is new and unique. The story of Saint Thomas’ missionary journey to India comes from the era of the early church fathers. However, few are aware of this story so it will seem new and is sure to spark conversation. Christianity is the third largest religion in India, and there is a large group of Christians in southern India who consider their church to have been founded by the Apostle Thomas. “

Harvey Rochman is a film producer who produced Lost Junction (2003), and Misconceptions (2009) and is an internationally known media facilitator. Harvey is a key figure in the rapidly expanding global multi-media network. Harvey has traveled the world, retracing the ancient route of Alexander the Great, absorbing the core ideas and cultural aspirations of developing nations. He has predicted that Hollywood will play to a world-wide audience in the 21st century, with heroes and stories from other venues beyond American stereotypes.

The audience for Hollywood movies is international, and now Hollywood is beginning to tell international stories. International settings are beginning to be seen in many of the Marvel Comics movies for instance.  In an interview with Michael St. John his home in Key West, Florida , Harvey Rochman said, “Studio chiefs still act like they're living in the days when the target audience for movies was Main Street, U.S.A., But they're wrong. That type of thinking is outdated. Today, the fastest-growing audiences are not on Main Street. They're in Beijing, New Delhi, South Korea, Indonesia, and Mexico, to name a few. These are countries in which people want to see their stories up on the big screen. When Hollywood doesn't deliver, a home-grown film industry will inevitably take its place. Hence the phenomenal growth of Bollywood over the past two decades.”

According to Mr. St. John, “Rochman is hard at work arranging financing for movies that tell those global stories. And as adamant as he is that the U.S. film industry must begin looking for stories from abroad for its next generation of movies, he's equally adamant that telling those stories will benefit the West just as much as it will benefit the rest of the world.” Mr. Rochman says, “The decades of Western dominance, of American and European dominance over world culture, is coming to an end. If Hollywood can see this trend, understand it, and grow accordingly, there will be a treasure trove of new, fresh, and exciting movies to make, and a global audience of billions to pay to see them. But if Hollywood insists on remaining trapped in the previous century, it will see its global importance and relevance diminish, year by year, until it's too late.”

According to Pastor Missick, the mantle of Christian leadership is also passing on to the “third world.” He says, “You often hear about the decline of Christianity in the west. I think this is greatly exaggerated, but there is doubtlessly an expansion of Christianity in the third world. This phenomenon has been written about in “The Next Christendom” by Phillip Jenkins and “Whose Religion is Christianity?” by Lamin Sanneh. Evangelical Christianity is becoming more racially and culturally diverse. I have been blessed to participate in this dynamic spiritual movement when I held evangelistic outreaches in Uganda and India. We are beginning to move beyond the “Euro-Centric” view of Christianity. I think that the story of Saint Thomas is important because it is also about the Gospel beyond the West. It breaks false stereotypes concerning how people view Christianity. Since Thomas arrived in India there has been a significant Christian community there and now Christianity is the third largest religion in India. While the essential beliefs are the same, Christianity in India is culturally eastern.” According to Pastor Missick there is a large body of literature attributed to Saint Thomas. “Among the Aramaic Christians, there was a strong devotion to the Apostle Thomas, because they considered Thomas and Thaddeus to be the founders of their church. So we have two Gospels of Thomas, an Acts of Thomas, Psalms of Thomas and a Revelation of Thomas. I am using these sources as I adapt the story for my script.”

Harvey Rochman discovered Pastor Missick through the article that he had written for the Journal of Assyrian Academic Studies on the Christians of Saint Thomas in India.

Stephen Missick graduated Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and serves as a chaplain in the United States Army National Guard and has served in Iraq twice. His church, King of Saints Church is a non-denominational church that meets on 2228 FM 1127, Cleveland, Texas. Services are held Saturday morning. For more information call 281-592-4104

Don't feel helpless with the current situation befalling Assyrian Christians, there are many way you can help.

1. Pray - that God protects them from this evil and gives them strength and hope.
2. Donate - There are many christians organisations, NGOs helping the Christian Refugees.
3. Spread the news - Tell everyone about the situation, the more people know the plight of Assyrian Christians in Iraq the better.
4. Get online and spread the Message about the situation.
5. Tell you local government members, write letters, through social media, any means.

You can do all or many of the above, not doing anything does not help anyone!


Radio Program

American Family Radio serves a vital function in keeping American Evangelical Christians abreast of important issues and events. Right now there is a crisis for the Christians in the Middle East.

Most American Evangelicals have a profound ignorance about our brothers and sisters in Christ in the Arabic and Islamic world.

It is important to support Israel, but there are Christians in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt of whom we need to be aware, who we need to pray for and advocate for. It seems that Evangelicals view the Middle East through the prism of Israel, but there is a significant Christian population, certain important dynamics that are playing out, and other perspectives of which Evangelical Christians must be aware.

Now is a critical time. The population of Christians in Iraq has declined to less than 1/3 of what it was ten years ago. If these trends continue, we will see the disappearance of Christianity in the land of its birth. And, Christian communities that have survived 1,400 years of Islamic persecution will finally die out, during our life time. With the rise of Isis, the Assyrian Christian community in Iraq may disappear in a matter of months.

There are important Aramaic-speaking Assyrian villages in Eastern Syria, now under Isis control. Now, the Assyrians of Northern Iraq are also under ISIS control. This could be the end of the Assyrian Christian community’s presence in their homeland.

We need a paradigm shift in how American Evangelicals view the Middle East. We tend to view the region through the prism of the Arab-Israeli conflict. There are other things going on that we must be aware of. It would be unacceptable for Americans to view all of Europe through the conflicts in Northern Ireland and looking at the entire region of  the Middle East only through Israel is also folly. I believe  Israel is important. But Evangelical support for Israel is highly organized while we leave the Christian there to die.

It is imperative for Evangelical Christians to act now. I want to appeal to the American Family Association to consider starting at least a weekly one-hour radio program that focuses on issues of Christians in the Islamic world. The program can focus on the historical legacy of Middle Eastern Christianity, its history and theological contributions, and issues of religious persecution and discrimination arising out of Islamic extremism. I believe this is an urgent crisis.

If ISIS prevails, Assyrians are doomed. If Iraq becomes an Iranian protectorate, Iran’s radical Islamist regime will control Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon and parts of Afghanistan. This does not bode well for the future. And it is a consequence of bad foreign policy decisions on the part of the Obama administration.

I have lived in many countries of the Middle East and have extensive knowledge about the Assyrian Christians of Mesopotamia and the Coptic Christians of Egypt. I have visited Egypt, Israel and the “Palestinian Territories,” Lebanon, and Syria. While I served in the Iraq War, I lived in Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar.

I have several videos up at my youtube channel if you want to check me out (www. I have graduated with a Masters of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. If you are interested, please contact me at 832-455-2978 or 281-592-4104. I reside in Cleveland, Texas. Perhaps, at the very least, some of your hosts for your radio programs can let me call in and we can discuss who the Christians of the Middle East are and what are the problems that they are currently facing.

The religious cleansing of Iraq's Christians

Published June 19, 2014

Just a year ago, after months of bombings, shootings and kidnappings, Baghdad’s Monsignor Pios Cacha made a grim prediction. He said that his Iraqi Christian community was experiencing the kind of religious cleansing that eradicated the country’s once-thriving Jewish community half a century before.

His rather prophetic words made headlines in Lebanon’s Daily Star: "Iraqi Christians fear fate of departed Jews."

Father Cacha’s reflections couldn’t have been more prescient. As he knew very well, Iraq was once home to 135,000 Jews. Today less than ten Jews remain in the entire country.

And now, with the raging incursion of ISIS – a brutal Al Qaeda affiliated terrorist group – the religious cleansing of Iraq’s Christians is nearing completion as well.

Iraq’s Christian community is hardly a western innovation or a colonial relic. It dates from the 1st Century, when two of Jesus’ disciples – St. Thomas and St. Thaddeus (also known as St. Jude) – preached the Gospel in what was then Assyria. There has been a Christian presence in Iraq ever since.

The heartland of their community has always been in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain. There, in recent years, the Christian population has swelled, as refugees from Basra and Baghdad have sought protection.

And now, as ISIS sweeps through Iraq, an estimated 150,000 have had to flee Mosul and their ancient Christian heartland, some for the second time in a decade.

Thousands of homeless families have surged into Kurdistan, where they have found provisional shelter and security, thanks to the Kurdish people and their battle-hardened Peshmerga militia.

Yet, strange as it seems, few in the West are aware of the Iraqi Christians' plight or their uncertain future.

My Hudson Institute colleague author Nina Shea writes, “The wave of persecution that has been directed at Iraq’s Christians after 2003 has never received much attention by either President Bush or President Obama’s administrations, but it has been a grave human-rights problem. The campaign against Christians has encompassed 70 deliberate church bombings and assaults, as well as assassinations, an epidemic of kidnappings, and other attacks against clergy and laity alike. In recent years, particularly since 2004, a million of Iraq’s Christians have been driven out of the country by such atrocities. This can be rightly called targeted religious cleansing, and it is a crime against humanity.”

Christians in the Middle East know very well about the ferocious system of Islam enforced by ISIS terrorists. When the group attacked Raqqa, Syria earlier this year, they gave the Christians three options: “Convert. Submit to Islam. Or face the sword.”

In order to save lives, Raqqa’s Christian elders chose to submit to ISIS’s 7th Century version of Muslim Sharia law and became dhimmis, a subservient, second-class minority under Islamic rule.

Among other severe demands, particularly about women’s dress, their oppressors also forbade the repair of war-torn churches, worshiping or praying in public, ringing church bells, or wearing crosses or other symbols of faith. Bearing arms is forbidden, and of course alcoholic beverages are banned.

The Christians in Iraq know all too well what they face as ISIS carries out its triumphant assault on Iraq – the terrorists’ vile reputation has preceded them. Images of ISIS beheadings, crucifixions, rapes, torture and mass execution have been widely disseminated on social media, including graphic YouTube videos.

To make matters worse, rather than offer assistance to their Christian neighbors, many Sunni Muslims in the area have simply turned

 a blind eye or even joined the invaders.

Iraq’s Christians have been left with little choice but to flee.

But where will they go?

In fact, the Middle East is overflowing with refugees. Millions of displaced Syrians are living in tents and shacks, particularly along the borders of Turkey and Jordan.

Thousands of Syria’s Armenian Christians have been relocated to Yerevan and its surrounding communities.

Coptic Christians have fled Egypt by the thousands since the so-called Arab Spring began. Those who remain are hoping and praying for better days under the new President al-Sisi.

And now most of Iraq’s remaining Christians are on the run, too, many of them leaving behind everything they own.

Canon Andrew White, the beloved Anglican “Vicar of Baghdad” reports, "Things are so bad now in Iraq, the worst they have ever been….The army [has] even fled. We urgently need help and support….We are in a desperate crisis."

Some fifty years ago, Iraq’s Jews were able to flee to Israel when they faced similar terror. But there is no Israel for Christians. Where can they go?

With that in mind, I asked my Hudson Institute colleague Hillel Fradkin, an expert on the Middle East, for his thoughts about their future.

“Considering the present developments in Iraq,” he said, “it is almost certain that Iraq will cease to exist as a united country. It will probably divide into three parts, one of which will be an independent Kurdistan. Since that’s home to another long-oppressed Iraqi minority – the Kurds – the Iraqi Christians’ best hope for surviving in the region may well be found in Kurdistan.”

Indeed, thousands have already found provisional shelter there. And as the rest of Iraq’s terrified Christians rush headlong into an unknown future, we can only pray for them as well.

May they find peace, renewed hope and protection – wherever their tragic journey takes them.

Lela Gilbert is author of "Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner" and co-author, with Nina Shea and Paul Marshall, of "Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians." She is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute and lives in Jerusalem. For more, visit her website: Follow her on Twitter@lelagilbert.



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