This update was shared by LCMS missionaries James and Christel Neuendorf, who serve the Lord in Latin America. Photo: An image from the film in production, “Chitachay”
“I [James] have been tasked with developing a very special set of tools to be used by missionaries in Peru, the Dominican Republic and Spain. The last few months have been filled with meetings and brainstorming to come up with plans for these creative outreach materials. The first major project we decided to take on was the production of a group of tools for the fledgling LCMS mission in Lima, Peru. This included designing a website for the mission to interact with the public, as well as writing up a script for a short film that will bring people into contact with God’s Word through Bible study and discussion.
“Mission is all about communicating the Gospel, but when it actually comes down to it, there are a lot of cultural barriers to understanding the Gospel that need to be overcome. For one, language — not just the differences between English and Spanish, or even the regional differences in the sorts of Spanish being spoken, but also the subtleties of language which are often lost or miscommunicated, even when strictly communicated within our own culture. Everyone comes into a situation with their own preconceptions and ideas that affect how they receive the message. For countries like Peru, these can cause for some pretty spectacular misunderstandings.
“The message we are sharing is about how Jesus saves us from our sins by dying on the cross in our place and then rising from the dead. While it’s an incredible story, it seems fairly straightforward to those of us who grew up in the Lutheran church. However, the cultural context in Peru has led to an idea that Jesus on the cross is a scary image — that it demonstrates the overwhelming wrath of God and should shame us into robotic obedience. Jesus is a judge and will punish us all unless we worship his mother Mary, who at the crucifixion is weeping because of what we did to her son. There is even a Peruvian film, ‘Madeinusa,’ about a town where, once Jesus dies on Good Friday, everyone gets a weekend where they are free to sin, since after all, God is temporarily dead and can’t see what is going on.
“So how do we share the Good News about what Good Friday is really about, without it getting mixed up with a pre-existing context? We approach the same story from a different or new angle, giving people a chance to hear the story again as though it was the first time. In our case, we have chosen to stay with imagery from the Bible and tell about Jesus’ death and resurrection by sharing another account from the Bible that foreshadows that crucial event: the sacrifice of Isaac, found in Genesis.
“To attract Peruvians to the film, we chose to retell the story as though it took place in the Andean context, using the ancient Peruvian style of dress and way of life to connect with secular Peruvians. For most South Americans, movies made in their own language and country are very few — consequently, the existence of one makes it a big topic of conversation throughout the country. The name of the film is ‘Chitachay,’ which means ‘Beloved Lamb’ in Quechua, the local indigenous language spoken by millions of Peruvians and considered the Peruvian heart language. Once the film is produced, the mission team in Lima will set up several public showings and aim to get the movie on television and in select theaters; to get the city of Lima talking about the movie and interested the Son who dies in our place.”
“If you’d like to be a part of helping make this project in Peru a reality, feel free to contact us and let us know what you are able to do. We are particularly in need of people to help with Sound Design, Coloring (digital post production), Digital Special Effects (we need to matte paint a night sky) and we also need a violinist and classical guitarist who have access to a recording studio. There are other ways you can help out—primarily by praying for this project. In many ways it overwhelming, but we know that God will guide us and use it to touch lives.”