July 28, 1999






Thousands viewing 'Jesus' film in Juárez
___By Mark Wingfield
___Managing Editor
___JUAREZ, Mexico--Jesus has been seen all over Juárez this month, thanks to the efforts of First Baptist Church of Midland, Campus Crusade for Christ and several hundred evangelical Christian churches in Juárez.
___Every night from June 30 through July 30, the "Jesus" film is being shown on portable outdoor screens at anywhere from 70 to 100 locations.
___On city plazas, in public parks, in parking lots, even on blocked-off city streets, the Spanish-language version of the time-tested evangelistic tool is being shown to crowds averaging 200 people per showing.
___An extensive media campaign has saturated the city with news of the film, declaring "He Visto A Jesus en Cuidad Juárez," or "I've Seen Jesus in the City of Juárez."
___"The most popular phrase in Juárez right now is 'I've Seen Jesus,'" said Francisco Presendo, media director for Campus Crusade in Mexico.
A GRIMACE OF PAIN momentarily sweeps the face of a man having a tooth pulled by Dr. Dan Ferrarro, a member of Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington who participated in a free dental clinic in Juárez sponsored by First Baptist Church of Midland in July.
___This message--and a similar one, "Jesus is Close to You"--has been painted on billboards and walls, printed on posters and fliers, sent over the airwaves in radio and television ads and even displayed on an electronic board over one of the main bridges from Juárez into El Paso.
___"We want to wake up a desire in people to see the film," Presendo explained.
___It would be hard not to see or know about the film if you're anywhere in Juárez, especially after dark. With 70 to 100 free screenings per night, the project aims for a total of about 2,500 showings by month's end.
___Judging by the rate of attendance demonstrated by mid-July, by month's end perhaps a half-million people will have seen the film depicting the life of Christ as told in the Gospel of Luke.
___In the first week, 11,000 spiritual decisions were recorded on response cards given to people who viewed the film.
___Each of those making such a decision were visited within 48 hours by volunteers from local evangelical churches. In addition to the spiritual counseling offered at the screening site, the Christian volunteers offered additional counseling, discipleship materials and prayer during the subsequent home visits.
___Campus Crusade officials cited the involvement of hundreds of local churches as the key to the success of the "Jesus" film strategy.
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"Churches that are participating are experiencing a revival, and it's very different from a stadium crusade," Presendo said.
VOLUNTEERS from a local church change the reel at the mid-point in showing the "Jesus" film on a city plaza in downtown Juárez July 15.
___Churches across Juarez have been preparing for the July campaign for months. Campus Crusade staffers have trained 2,000 people in evangelism and discipleship, as well as provided the expertise for church-based volunteers to run the 100 16-mm movie projectors that are being shuttled around the city for each night's showings.
___The portable screens are made of material that allows the film to be viewed from both sides. So in the plazas and streets of Juarez, crowds have been camping out all around the screens.
___The two-sided viewing comes in especially handy in locations where not everyone who wants to see the film wants to be seen in the crowd.
___At one showing in the Bella Vista colonia of Juarez, a community known for its violence and drug deals, volunteers from a Christian church blocked off a short section of a street and set up the screen in the middle. Some people watched the film while sitting in folding chairs set up on one side of the screen, while others sat in or on top of cars parked along the streets, others peered out the windows of their homes and some stood on the shadowy street corners behind the screen, watching and trying not to be watched themselves.
THE BUILDING WASN'T FINISHED, but that didn't keep vacation Bible school from happening at a mission site in Juarez where First Baptist Church of Midland is sponsoring a new congregation. Volunteers from South Plains Baptist Association conducted VBS there and at five other locations in mid-July.
___At some locations, volunteers handed out popcorn and snacks to those watching the film. At all locations, they handed out response cards and Christian literature.
___At the conclusion of each showing, all those who wanted to know more about a personal relationship with the Jesus shown in the movie were invited to small-group gatherings with counselors. Children huddled in one group, teenagers in another, adults in yet other groups.
___In addition to the presentations of the 16-mm film, some churches adopted a strategy of delivering videotaped copies of the film door-to-door in neighborhoods where residents were well-off enough to own televisions and video players. Campaign organizers hoped to distribute 10,000 of these video copies of the "Jesus" film.
___The month-long film project will conclude with a free concert in an 18,000-seat stadium featuring the popular Christian singer Yuri. Once called the Madonna of Mexico, she later became a Christian and now presents a strong testimony of how God's love changed her life.
___Organizers anticipate several thousand decisions for Christ could result from the concert alone.
DALE POND (right), minister of missions at First Baptist Church of Midland, leads a prayer time with Campus Crusade officials before going out one evening to check on viewings of the "Jesus" film.
___The overall project received its major funding from First Baptist Church of Midland and Border Ministries, an affiliate of First Baptist Church. The West Texas church conducts extensive year-round ministries along the border, even employing a full-time on-site coordinator, Butch Villareal.
___First Baptist of Midland is having a profound impact on the border through its missionary commitments, Villareal said, citing the cross-denominational "Jesus" film project as an example.
___"A key reason the Baptist associations in Juarez are involved is because First Baptist of Midland came down and endorsed it," he explained.
___Deborah Fikes, a layperson who chairs the Mexico missions committee at First Baptist, believes cooperating with other evangelical Christians on projects like the "Jesus" film is a wise investment. It's also the way to build the kingdom of God, she said.
___"We're really sold on the 'Jesus' film because it's a kingdom thing," she said. "It unites the churches. It's God's plan, and we're just proud to be a part of it."
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