Tired, Loco, Busy…

By: Matt Eldredge

In preparing for my return trip to Guatemala to help on production for Becoming Fools, I heard a lot of keywords of what to expect like tired, loco, busy, long, tired, hectic, tired, etc…I tried to plan ahead with which audio adapters to bring and just be mentally ready for the hard work and long hours ahead. After a minor scare of not finding my bag right away, Bobby and Tyler showed up at the airport and we all made our way cleanly through security and customs with all the gear, thank God.  I had flown out a little earlier and gone through Dallas while they flew through Miami, and we both landed in Guatemala City at right about the same time, but an hour late, go figure.

We were a little too late to make it to our first rehearsal to see what all the kids had been working on, so opted for some KFC and settling in at Joel’s.  Evidently, we had missed quite an eventful rehearsal as one of the main characters in the Voz De Las Calles production, Mefi, had left the cast after missing several rehearsals and then showing up under the influence and fighting with the other cast and crew. We began to feel some uncertainty as to how well this whole event was going to come off but pressed on and hoped for the best as we continued planning.

The day before Voz De Las Calles, our whole team held a morning production meeting with a local film producer named Rafa to help us prepare and film the event. It was a great meeting from a production side as we got everything lined up and we were encouraged by everyone offering their resources and talents to pull this thing off well.

At the Friday night rehearsal, the eve of the performance, we were hopeful to have the cast of kids finally get through the entire performance at the rehearsal theater, but it didn’t exactly turn out that way. Believe it or not, it’s actually quite a challenge to get all of these different performers, volunteers, let alone kids living out on the streets, together at the same time for hours enough to rehearse a large production all the way through. But instead, we worked on several scenes and saw a lot of the kids displaying the new talents they had been working on for months, and then the director gathered everyone together and all sat down on the stage in a big circle. What happened next was even better than finishing a rehearsal as they began to share their hearts, their struggles and accomplishments thus far, their purpose for pressing ahead, and then they gave thanks to God and lifted each other and this special performance up to Him in prayer. I could just feel God stirring in hearts and smiling down on this special group.

Saturday, performance day, we headed to the theater to set up and get establishing shots. As we tried to prepare in this beautiful venue I was just hopeful that the kids would make it through the performance all right. It was a real treat to see all the actors and crew and musicians and photographers buzzing around backstage. So many people there giving their time and talent to this project. It was also really fun watching the kids get transformed into all the different clown makeup. The energy for the performance was really building and then we were all surprised by who showed up next…Mefi!

Fortunately Scott and I got to rush over and capture a humbled Mefi return to apologize and accept the consequences of his actions. He knew that he had messed up but still just wanted to be a part of the play in any way that he could. He then had a really hard conversation with the director, accepted that he would not get to perform his original part, but again asked humbly that he could just be a part of it and said that he didn’t want to give up on his dreams and all the hard work that he, and his friends, had put into this performance, he wanted to be here for himself and for them and was willing to say he was sorry for his actions. And then he was allowed to get his part back!! What an inspirational picture of God’s grace and forgiveness and the truth that he always gives second chances and open arms!

During the play Scott and I stayed backstage to capture all the energy and action. We did get to see a lot from the side stage and also quite a lot of frantic running around, warm up routines, jitters, and a girl struggling to get her stilts on right, it was a little nerve racking! But the most fun part was hearing all the laughter and applause coming from the audience! The performance went really great, and ended in a climactic joyous celebration, amazing! I’m sure that you can’t wait to see it… 😉

Now, this was only 2 days into our production trip! I was continuously inspired in so many ways…

During our trip to Lake Atitlan I was inspired by the strength of a young man Raul, who had to watch his friend and mentor, Italo drown right in front of him, and who was able to share that pain and tell his story at that very lake spot.  During one of our many trips into the city streets I was inspired by a business owner who shared the use of his building, roof, and even his security guards to allow us to film and move about getting shots we wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise.

The adventure didn’t come without a little struggle, being in a foreign land and realizing how needy we were for help with direction, translation, transportation, and with our limited resources. So I was especially inspired by the Voncannons who graciously escorted us all around the city to profound areas of ministry, by their own hearts to sacrifice and pour out to very difficult places, meeting people right where they are: hungry, addicted, broken, hurting on the street, and sharing the love of Christ with them. Oh and for a little thing like giving us their van for a couple of days so we could actually get around and film, amazing!

Other sources of inspiration: our incredible team! Scott our fearless leader and master of the BRPs, Amelia getting amazing stills and our underwater filmmaking champion, Bobby making us all look good and driving like a boss, Tyler Balboa keeping the momentum alive with the eye of the tiger, Ericha coordinating and taking care of business, Darlene with the creative vision and fresh dance moves, plus all the help from Joel, Jonathan, Josue, Dave, Mono, of course Hubert, helping us conquer Pacaya, Nathalie, Brandon- you guys are the best! And pretty much every day seeing all of God’s beauty, Lake Atitlan, hiking Panajachel past a 75′ high waterfall, lightning storms, amazing sunsets, and on top of a freaking live volcano walking over liquid hot magma!

We had so many more adventures, trials, and triumphs, and the theme set here would continue throughout the entire trip…things didn’t always (ever?) go quite as we planned, but God was always faithful to our efforts and He allowed us to see and capture more than we could have even planned for in any production timeline. I was inspired in many other unexpected ways, even in a coffee shop in Panajachel called Crossroads. I got to see God orchestrate events and connect us together in unexpected ways to tell His story of Grace. We may seem limited, but He has no limits, for His purpose and glory, and I can’t wait to see how this story unfolds!

To Become a Fool

By: Tyler Bradley

It is crazy to believe that a little over a month ago I was in Guatemala with some amazing people, spreading the Gospel and capturing life in a very raw sense. I have been out of the United States several times, but this was the first trip that had a layered agenda, to document a broken world in hopes to rebuild it, to help people along the way, to show and share love, and to bring back the need for help and share that with others. I thought that was going to be the extent of what happened on this journey, but little did I know, it would change my life in a significant manner.

 

If someone would come up to me and say, “would you help us shoot a documentary out of the country for a couple of weeks?” Without a doubt I would say yes, however this wasn’t just some ordinary excursion of a documentary, rather this is a sequel if you will. Athentikos’s first documentary “Reparando” weighed heavily on my heart upon watching it. The film gave insight to various serious issues in Guatemala and the need for outside help, because help within is sparse. The documentary showed me how shattered a civilization, yet at the same time how Guatemalans continue to trudge forward and overcome adversity. With that said, that was even more of a push for me to go on this trip to document footage for Athentikos’s second documentary “Becoming Fools”.

I will admit I was scared to go to a country I had never been to, where there would be some culture shock and where I could personally experience some adversity.  I went down there blindly, only knowing one person, Bobby Marko. I knew I was going to serve a loving and gracious God, so with that instilled in me, everything was going to be just fine.

Upon my arrival to Guatemala I had a warm welcoming from the Athentikos crew, as well as a lot of Español! I knew I had made the right decision the second I met everyone. From there on I knew I was there to minister, serve and do my job as a camera operator so we can influence the rest of the world and bring this story to them. The one thing I wasn’t counting on was changing my own outlook.

Without stringing this on, I was broken of my own walls and priorities, God showed me a side of life I had never seen before and He wasn’t holding anything back. Visualize this, a child who is barely a teenager, or even younger, who is just now entering the 6th grade. To us we would see them as a youthful being, probably playing a sport after school or doing some sort of extra curricular activity. In the United States we see the youth as a precious generation. Yet if we take this same age and apply it to a child in Guatemala, they are probably living on the street, don’t have a family, hardly any education, are malnourished and addicted to any drug they can get their hands on.

For me, seeing children struggling to live, to look to the future and see no hope, to not know love or God just kills me inside. To experience their lives as we did was so shocking, eye-opening, and at the same time humbling. If I could pick a day that impacted me the most, it would be a day when we were just driving around looking for children selling goods on the streets. We encountered a group of people ranging 10 to about 40 years old. We got out and did some interviews with them, but what became glaringly clear is how these children and adults were coping with their street life, and that was by huffing solvent. It is one thing for me to see a grown man or woman doing drugs, but when you see a 10-year old child huffing solvent just to quench their hunger, it does something to you. And even more so while we were interviewing these children the local police drove by and honked at us to get out of the street, and you can see that they could care less about the children who are addicted to drugs not but 5 feet from us. In a sense, as I am writing this, I am speechless because words cannot describe how hopeless these children and adults are, how this is their release, and that to them this is the best way to live.

If there was one thing that can influence/inspire others to lend a hand and support the street kids of Guatemala, I would say that the severe dependence on drugs is the most motivating factor.  Now don’t get me wrong, not all hope is lost, there are some children who, with guidance, find a way out of the addiction, but the lack of guidance and love is what is keeping the other kids on the street.

I think that the documentary “Becoming Fools” will change peoples’ lives and break them in the same way this experience broke me. It will make you not only want to help these street kids, but it will make you re-evaluate your own life. We are so fortunate and have so many resources readily available to us that we live a sheltered life. I was living a sheltered comfortable life myself, living day to day, finding happiness in monetary items, and not praising God the way I should. Yet to see a child smile or a glimpse of hope in their eye because you are there to help them, to show them a way out of the darkness and spread that word to others around the world… that is the meaning of life and that is where true happiness should be found, in knowing you are helping someone else in their life struggle and that because of you and the faith you have, these kids have hope and see a brighter future. I would say “I have been fooled,” that I was a prime example of someone who needed a wake up call and that I had been tricked by a material world. Yet to have become a fool and realize what life really is about is the most rewarding factor of it all.

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

Nothing fills the soul like applause. As the receiver and the giver.

So many emotions flood that one moment: the sense of accomplishment, the sorrow of the end, the struggle of the hard work and the desire for more. It is reflection of countless hours of rehearsal and sacrifice; and of the belief that you could be more. It’s a time to celebrate, to come together. In this moment, you realize you didn’t give up, that your voice was heard, that others accepted you.

Life without applause slowly crushes the soul. Who believes in me? Who will be my champion? Who will celebrate with me? Who will allow me to have a voice?

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

For one week in June, I sat in a dark rehearsal theater in Guatemala City watching youth from the streets who have been given the opportunity to accomplish a huge task. I wondered if most of their lives were like the dark, cold theater. No audience. Little light. Unfinished work. Doubt. Disbelief. Frustration. Silence longing for applause.

Disbelief filled my thoughts, “There was no way this was coming together.” I was here as a champion for them, but I disbelieved. Could this event really come together? Could they REALLY accomplish this task? Did they have enough determination, enough skill… enough confidence?

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

For those of you new to our story: My husband and I are connected to Guatemala through the adoption of our two sons. We wanted to have a continued investment in the country and decided to respond with our skills in film and photography by sharing inspirational stories of hope. Therefore, we produced a documentary film, Reparando, which was completed in 2010.  We are now working on a second documentary film project, Becoming Fools. This project is about young men and women who left their homes, lost their family or were abandoned as children and grew up on the streets of Guatemala.  The streets of Guatemala City are home to more than 6,000 youth. Many of these children start their life of streets as young as 8 years old. They sleep in abandoned lots, beg or steal for money and get high to forget their hunger, the cold, the rain or worse.

However, they are not alone. Individuals and organizations working in the streets are making a difference in the lives of these marginalized children and young people. And one such man had a dream to host a clown workshop.

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

The handful of youth participating in the clown workshop had the opportunity to perform in front of 400 people at a large theater in Guatemala City. The purpose of this event was to bring to awareness the situation of youth and children living on the streets of Guatemala City. This theatrical performance was the final event in a series of weeklong activities entitled Festival: Voz De Las Calles. Through laughter and learning, professional clowns have been investing time and love into this group, teaching them the beautiful art of clowning. This performance was a dream for many members of the community. It gave the youth a chance to perform with professional clowns, taught them to dream, believe, achieve and receive applause from their community.

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

Applause The Show

The story of the show reflected their real life story acted out as clowns. Here’s the synopsis: The heartwarming journey of a clown turns into a tale of friendship and adventure as he finds new friends in unusual circumstances and teaches them his art of clowning. They find new joy in their skills and each decides to follow him to “The King’s Party.” Along the way, they encounter some obstacles, but are determined to together bring laughter and faith to the community around them.

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

The Purpose Of Our Documentary

As you may know, Scott spend two months in Guatemala this spring documenting the preparation of the clown event, the progress of the rehearsal and interviewing experts about the issue of kids who live and work on the streets. I was able to join him for the last two weeks, which included the theatrical performance. It was definitely a stressful week leading up to the show. Nothing is stable or consistent in the lives of children and youth living at risk on the streets. Their thought processes, decision making and behavior only mirrors the lack of stability in their own lives. While it is extremely devastating to see their immature actions, I am humbled by their courage to continue to live, grow and find family in the midst of difficult odds. While their clown performance is only a small moment in their lives, the hope and prayers of the community is that they would all see the rewards of hard work and this would be an inspiration on a variety of levels. I know it was for me.

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

And I am extremely proud to say that even in the midst of chaos and drama, the performance was beautiful. It was an honor to stand and give applause to the youth performers. Their talent and determination is amazing. And so we will be sharing their stories AND their performance in the documentary film, Becoming Fools, which we hope to complete by the end of 2012.

Here are some more of photos of the film production, which included a trip to Lake Atitlan and some underwater filming for me. This area has a special place in the story of the project; and is now one of my favorite places in Guatemala! And we got to have a little fun too. We also spent time with a sweet group of siblings who recently tragically lost their mother.

You have the opportunity to join the applause. We will share more about our documentary as it unfolds, however you can support the project now through a donation.

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

A Moment of Applause Fills the Soul

Photography by Amelia Moore for Athentikos.