2022 has been a really big year for us in many ways. We served a lot of organizations and ministries near and far with trips to Malawi, Tanzania, Serbia, Portugal, London, Stockholm, Pittsburgh, and Black Mountain, NC as we continued to follow our calling to serve with our cameras, but we were pushed and challenged in ways like never before with bigger and more complex projects. For instance, we were approached by FirstHealth, the hospital in Cassie’s hometown that has become a regular client since we first worked with them in 2019, to pull off a creative project similar to something they found online— something very different from what we’re used to doing. The production was technically challenging, which involved hiring a lighting company to build a scaffold system for the lighting design we needed and hanging pipe and drape to transform a church auditorium into a film set. It was also our first time directing a large group of people during a video shoot, as 50 hospital employees took part in a social experiment about unconscious bias. It was a challenge, but the film day was a success and we were all extremely happy with the outcome, so take a look!
Another example of a project that pushed us this year was with an organization we have worked with in the past, World Villages for Children, which operates schools around the world where the poorest children are cared for, educated, and prepared for a career that will end generational poverty in their families. They had just opened a new campus in Tanzania and sent us to document several stories, producing six videos total. That all probably sounds like par for the course if you know anything about what we have done in the past, but the catch here was that we would be producing each of those six videos subtitled in eight different languages – a total of 48 videos! The complexity involved in keeping everything straight between the different versions and incorporating changes specific for each international charity’s country-specific branding and language was a new challenge. They also wanted the videos to be in formats that could be shown in theaters, but that was no problem for our new Sony cameras. Wait, did we mention that we completely switched out all of our camera gear in the middle of this year, changing from the familiar Canon brand that we have used for 14 years to a completely different system with Sony? Talk about a challenge! The videos came out great though and we are excited to share these stories showcasing the impactful work World Villages for Children is doing in Tanzania.
Now let’s talk big. We had some of the biggest projects of our lives this year, including one for a global missions agency that hired us to produce six videos for re-branding their global family of ministries. Again, it sounds like a typical project, but the trick here was we would not be traveling to film any of the actual ministries in action. We did shoot interviews in Pennsylvania, but then we had to dig deep in our archives for all the video footage that would visually tell these stories. It was way more difficult than it sounds, digging through hard drives in search for the perfect 5-second clip among hours and hours of footage, but the end products were great, and the organization ended up hiring us later in the year to film and photograph their missions conference and produce seven regional videos about their work all over the world, again using our archived footage.
Probably the biggest project we had this year was for a charitable initiative called Make Every Block Better, a partnership between H&R Block and Nextdoor, which awards grants for community improvement projects around the U.S. You may even recall that Jordan applied last year and was one of 10 nationwide winners to receive one of these grants for our community garden project, which we did a video about. Well, they apparently liked our video last year because they hired us to produce all the videos for their 12 nationwide Make Every Block Better projects this year, which included projects in Alaska and Hawaii! The one catch was that we wouldn’t be doing the filming ourselves. This project was different from anything we’ve ever done before, requiring us to consult with and coach the local videographers to capture the footage we needed to create compelling stories, unique for each place. The biggest challenge for us was directing other creatives about how to shoot what we needed, and I think we gained some great perspective about the gift that God has given us in our ability to use a camera and tell an impactful story.
Not only have we learned and grown so much professionally this past year, but we have also grown personally. Both of us have made a consistent effort to develop discipleship relationships with people around us, and we have seen God’s spirit moving. We have also continued to work on building community here in Wilmington, mostly through our neighborhood group, Friends of Greenfield Lake. We are diligent about putting together monthly gatherings and we had some great ones this year, including trash cleanups, tree plantings, picnics, compost discussions, and serving breakfast at a local homeless shelter. When the city announced a new development master plan for the city park around Greenfield Lake on which we live, we were able to show the developers and local officials that we have an organized and invested community that cares deeply about the quality of life around the lake. Here’s some photos we took when we paddled out on Greenfield Lake (our front yard) in on our canoe this fall.
Probably the biggest area of personal growth was taking steps to become licensed foster parents. We went into it with intentions of taking full-time placements, relying on “respite” (short-term) care for our frequent travels, but we came out realizing being the respite care providers would be a better fit for us and for the kids who desperately need stability. We took our first placement in June, caring for two sisters, ages four and six, for two weeks in between trips to Africa and Europe. The experience was one of the hardest and most exhausting things we have ever done, mostly on an emotional level as we dealt with lots of behavioral issues and health problems. It definitely wasn’t a very rewarding experience, but we are not doing it for a reward, we are intentionally giving of ourselves for these vulnerable kids who are going through a very rough time in their lives, and for the foster parents who need a break. Then we got to take a break.
We actually took several “breaks” this year, including a bucket list safari trip in Tanzania, an epic campervan roadtrip and island-hopping adventure in Portugal, and an out-of-character city exploration trip in Stockholm, Sweden. These were all trips tacked onto film trips, so check out some of the videos we produced from overseas ministries and the side-trip vacation photos below!
Our first destination during our trip to Africa was to document the work of Partners in Holistic Development in Malawi, a non-profit that exists to help people love and follow God and experience wholeness. Their ministry has many aspects, but one of the ways they serve is by translating the Bible into the indigenous Yao language.
On Safari in Malawi and Tanzania
After documenting the work of Partners in Holistic Development in Malawi and World Villages for Children in Tanzania, we had the opportunity to take a safari in each country. We did a one-day safari in Malawi with the mission team we served with, which involved two game drives (one during the day and one sunset tour that continued into the night with a ranger spotlighting wildlife) and one boat tour where we spotted elephants splashing, hippos wallowing, and crocodiles lurking. Among the places we visited during our five-day safari in Tanzania were: Lake Manyara with its famous tree-climbing lions, the endless plains of Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, one of the few areas to find the remaining population of critically endangered black rhinos (spoiler alert: we were blessed to spot one of the 30 rhino that live there!). The trip was once in a lifetime, and for better or for worse, I think we’ll never be able to visit a zoo again after seeing these majestic animals in the wild!
In July, a project took us to Europe to document the church planting efforts of two Serbian Baptist pastors. Our trip coordinated with a mission trip from a Raleigh-based church, Providence Baptist, which supports both of these church plants (plus three other churches and a seminary in Serbia, which we will be returning to document next year!). The Raleigh team went to help the churches put on a Vacation Bible School program for the kids in the neighborhood who couldn’t afford to go to summer camp and to teach them about the creator of the universe who loves them. It was very interesting to hear how the two different churches just three hours from each other serve people with completely different cultures and languages.
Uljma was the first village we visited in Serbia, and the pastor Toša is ministering to the “Roma” people, the Romanian gypsies who live there. Below is his story.
In the second town we visited, the pastor, Jovica, and his wife, Kaća, started a restaurant to financially support themselves, but also to help minister to the village by creating relationships, delivering meals to the elderly and hosting events. Check out Jovica’s story below!
After our project in Serbia, we headed to Portugal. We drove up and down the coast of Portugal in a campervan named Vanessa in search of waves for Jordan to surf, but our beach-surf vacation turned into a serious hiking trip once we left mainland Portugal. We island hopped from São Miguel Island in the Azores, a lush, green island chock-full of blooming hydrangeas, to the island of Madeira, with its steep cliffs and mountains.