A Movie For (and by) the Santali People Making an Impact

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“Among all varieties of evangelism, film makes one of the deepest impressions, even more than hearing a proclaimed message, reading words of Scripture or listening to a friend’s witness.” — Atlas of Global Christianity, 2010

Two years ago, I blogged about discovering a ministry called Create International, an offshoot of Youth With a Mission that is making films for people groups most of us have never heard of. Because I have seen the Lord use motion pictures to reach literally millions for the Gospel, I was jazzed to learn that, through this organization, people groups such as the Hui, Issan, Aceh, Bamar, Awandi and Balinese were watching Gospel films in their own languages, and not using subtitles.

Recently, I caught up with Pastor Daniel Kikawa, a consultant, teacher and trainer working with Create International, to get an update on how a new Create International film in the Santali language (which is predominantly spoken in India) was reaching people for Christ.

Bob Waliszewski: Recently, you told me about a man named Sushil Marandi and his parents, and the remarkable work he’s doing. Give me a bit more of the backstory as it relates to this latest film project by Create International.

Daniel Kikawa: Actually, the backstory of that is that Sushil was the first Christian in his village [in Santali-speaking India] and the first one to go to college, where he found Christ through Campus Crusade for Christ, now Cru. He was quite a well- known Christian in his village, but his parents had never come to Christ. He wanted a film for his people, an evangelistic film in their language. So, I told him he had to come to a class on culture-specific-evangelism first. I was teaching such a class in Jaipur, India, for Create International. We paid for him to come to this class. There, he started understanding how important it was for his people not to see Christianity as a separate foreign religion, but it has to be that Jesus is the Son of our God that reconciles us back home to our God. That He’s not a foreign god or a white man’s god, He is our Creator. He loves Santali people just as much as the Westerners. …

Waliszewski: So after he took the class, he made a film in Santali. What’s the film’s message?

Kikawa: The film is about a Santali Christian who rejects his culture and his people to become a Christian. Through his journey he realizes that the Creator God of the Santali is the same Creator God of the Bible. That there is only one Creator God and that Jesus Christ was sent to reconcile us back to Him. Not to a foreign god, but to our Santali God, the God of all people.

Waliszewski: And Sushil’s parents were impacted?

Kikawa: We did the filming in his village and his father plays the native head man and Sushil plays that figure in the movie that rejected his culture. [After the filming and partly because of its message] his father got baptized and the following year he passed away.

Waliszewski: If you’re going to make a film for a culture group why not just do it the easy way using English-speakers and subtitle it and just let people read it in their language?

Kikawa: Most of these people groups, for one thing, are illiterate. You cut out the majority of them from seeing the film and understanding the film.

Another way to look at it is this: We support missionaries who are in Papua, New Guinea and they’re reaching out to a group of only 5,000 people. They’ve spent 15 years plus translating the Bible into their language, and yet they already have the Bible in the trade language of Papua, New Guinea which they understand. For a while I was even thinking we’re spending a lot of money supporting them for 5,000 people when they already have the Bible in an understandable trade language. But they showed us a film of a native woman of that language group who said that when she reads the Bible in the trade language, “it bounces off my skin. When I read it in my language it penetrates deep in my heart.”

Waliszewski: Your church in Hilo raised funds to give the Santali people 5,000 DVDs of this Gospel film. How are they going to watch it?

Kikawa: Not in all of the villages, but in a lot of them, there will be a person who has a TV and a DVD player. Then the village will come together and watch it with a generator for their electricity. [But] in Sushil’s village, there wasn’t even [anyone who owned] a car. What Sushil has been doing—working with Cru and the Jesus film who’ve donated two projectors with screens and generators and sound systems—is to take films to the villages and show it. Sushil had already been doing that with the Jesus film and some cartoons. The whole village comes out. So, now they’re going to be showing this new Gospel film along with the Jesus film as they go out with this equipment. For a smaller village of 50 people, you can get a projector that’s the size of an iPhone and a screen that folds out like one of those sunshields for your car and a little sound system. You can put it in your backpack and have your solar charger and walk to a lot of these villages and be able to do that.

In closing, if you’ve ever thought that Plugged In doesn’t like entertainment, think again. Entertainment can be a tremendous catalyst for positive change—if used in the right way. Just watching what Sushil’s doing with his movie is, I think, a great example. If you’re interested in learning more about Create International’s outreach to the Santali people, click here.

Who wrote this?

Bob Waliszewski is the director of the Plugged In department. His syndicated “Plugged In Movie Review” feature is heard by approximately 9 million people each week on more than 1,500 radio stations and other outlets and has been nominated for a National Religious Broadcaster’s award. Waliszewski is the author of the book Plugged-In Parenting: How to Raise Media-Savvy Kids With Love, Not War. You can follow him on Twitter @PluggedInBob.

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