Wrestling With Thanksgiving

I’m wrestling with Thanksgiving.

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I’m not wearing a Lucha Libre mask, leaping high off the ropes to grapple a turkey (although that would be epic). I’m talking about being honest with myself about what I’m thankful for.

I’m typically thankful for the good things in my life:

God, Family, Food, Shelter, Health, Education, Friends, Travel … things that warm my heart and put a smile on my face.

But what about the other stuff?

What about the stuff that has angered me, saddened me, or hurt me? What about the things that have really been a struggle? Am I thankful for those things? What things fit into that category? Depending on my perspective (or lack of one) … anything can.

I’ve been immersed in Becoming Fools for the last three years. It has been a stressful journey and I have found myself growing more and more exhausted … and less and less thankful for the opportunity to be involved with the project. I used to feel the same way about Reparando. But that changed over time, after we released the film.

Like most humans, I forget too easily.

During my Becoming Fools scouting trip in 2011, Tita asked me to personally attend a screening of Reparando. I was honored for the invite, but was exhausted from two weeks of 16 hour days interviewing people and capturing footage in Guatemala City. Part of me wanted to just go back to my room and go to sleep. I couldn’t understand why it made a difference if I was there. I thought, “I am just a silly Gringo. They won’t care. And besides … I’m in Guatemala for Becoming Fools, not Reparando.” But Tita was persistent. She said she really wanted me to come. So, we drove straight from our production across the city to a church near La Limonada. Tita met us outside the church with hugs and we watched the film from the back of the room.

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After the film ended, Tita called Shorty and I to come up in front. She hugged me, and while everyone was clapping, they presented a gift from the people of La Limonada: A T-shirt covered with signatures of people who live in La Limonada … People who were very thankful we made the film. I could not have been more wrong about … everything.

My perspective was renewed.

Reparando brought me closer to many things in the list I made above – God, family, friends, education, and travel. On a personal level, it helped me understand my sons’ stories in a way that I could never grasp otherwise. On a broader level, Reparando has inspired countless resources given to mission that have blessed people with much more struggle than I could ever image – people who are very thankful.

I believe that Becoming Fools will do the same eventually. So why am I wrestling with thanksgiving over Becoming Fools? I’m human. I forget. That’s why we’re called to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (continually refocusing our perspective on truth). We forget. That’s one of the reasons we celebrate Thanksgiving: to remember. I am personally challenged to remember things that might not seem to easily fit into a warm and fuzzy Thanksgiving box. Because most of the time, I’m just trying to put these things in the box from the wrong angle.

Here’s the right angle:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Everything fits in the Thanksgiving box with the right angle.

It’s not easy, but hopefully if I continue to wrestle, Thanksgiving will eventually win with a knockout.

What Thanksgiving do you wrestle with?

Homeless Youth Aren’t Always Orphans

Homeless youth aren’t always orphans.

Becoming Fools documents the intriguing story of homeless youth in Guatemala learning to heal through the art of clowning. During production, we developed friendships with youth who began living on the streets when they were 7 years old – and we learned a lot about the issue. One of the most profound revelations is that a great number of these youth living in the streets actually have family that they could return to. But these youth choose to remain in the streets.

Some children lose their families. But many other youth CHOOSE to live in the streets – sleep in the rain, eat scraps from a dumpster, disengage from society, constantly “exist” in the threat of harm, and fall into the trap of drug addiction or prostitution …  etc … rather than return home to a roof and company of a family? Why? Often, it’s because violent city streets are actually more peaceful than the homes they left behind. It’s difficult to wrap my mind around that fact. But, I grew up in a healthy family.

Many of these youth were born into extreme conditions that will continue to incubate drug addiction, child labor, violence, and abuse … unless something changes the paradigm and endless cycle.

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Becoming Fools features stories from youth who fled to the streets for different reasons – but in a way, are exactly the same. Mefi lost both of his parents when he was 7 years old and moved in with a family member who abused him. Sandy was sent to the streets at an early age to sell candy to help provide income for her family. She was beaten when she didn’t return home with her quota. Raul lost his mother at an early age and lived with his alcoholic father who repeatedly abused him. They all have family … but their family members are abusive. They are guaranteed to be abused at home. At least there is a small chance of peace in the streets.

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It’s an extreme issue in Guatemala that doesn’t have an easy solution. For many reasons, there isn’t yet a strong culture of adoption and foster care in Guatemala, but that wouldn’t matter anyway. These children aren’t orphans. There isn’t a strong social services program with funding and resources to intervene. Unfortunately, Guatemala is riddled with violence and many people confuse homeless youth with violent delinquents (gang members, drug traffickers, organized crime) and ignore opportunities to make a difference. As result, these youth slip under the radar as they wander the streets trying to survive.

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But all is not lost. There are organizations responding to the issue, developing relationships with these youth and working with them day to day, in the hopes that their lives will be healed and transformed. During Becoming Fools production, we saw first hand how these “fools” pour their passion into the uphill battle of rescuing and rehabilitating homeless youth. On one occasion, a couple organizations partnered together so street youth from Guatemala City could share their clown performance with orphans outside of Antigua. Part of this event ended up in the final cut of the film and the symbolic significance of the event still echoes in my mind: homeless youth clowning for orphans, organizations partnering together, and joy conquering tragedy.

Help us conquer tragedy with joy by giving a tax deductible donation to the Becoming Fools Screening Tour.

Encouragement

Encouragement is a blessing. In this age of Twitter and Facebook, a handwritten letter is a treasure chest full of gold that fills the emotional bank of our hearts.

Yesterday, I opened a letter addressed to Athentikos from Pennsylvania. We normally don’t receive a lot of mail from people, so this was already a unique experience. Inside the envelope was a check and a handwritten letter that included the following:

“Dear Mr & Mrs Moore,

I viewed your documentary – Reparando – last evening on Hulu Plus and I was moved by the conditions that exist, and the work being done to repair them. Praise God! Enclosed is a gift of $25 which I will send each month for the next year …”

I was unprepared for this encouragement and my eyes filled with tears. The emotional bank of my heart has long been overdrawn – invested in Becoming Fools – a worthy, but underfunded project that has been subsidized with my life for the last three years. To be honest – at this point in production, it’s easy to get discouraged – trapped into thinking the last three years were a waste of my time. It feels like we’ve put something on layaway and made payments every month, but we’ll never get to bring it home …

Three years is a long time, especially in an age when we get instant feedback. We can drive up to a window and get food in seconds. We can instantly watch any one of thousands of movies or tv shows, and if we don’t like that one, we can change our minds and instantly watch another. It’s easy to forget why we do what we do when we are focused on tasks to finish something – especially when we’re insulated and isolated from the reason we are doing it in the first place.

We produced Becoming Fools to share it with an audience – not so that the audience will tell us we did a good job, but so that the audience would be inspired to do something to make a difference in the lives of at-risk youth.

I’m grateful for this letter of encouragement. It testifies the power of story, the importance of our mission, and reminds me that our efforts are not in vain. This individual blew wind into our sails with encouraging words … and financial partnership that helps us amplify authenticity and multiply the mission of other organizations serving on the ground around the world. The irony is that this person was moved to encourage us after watching Reparando on Hulu – a film we released three years ago – the same amount of time that we have invested in Becoming Fools. Maybe three years isn’t that long of an investment when we consider that stories can be passed down from generation to generation, with a return greater than we’ll ever know. It is worth it …

Help us leverage Becoming Fools by giving a tax-deductible donation.

 

This handwritten letter of encouragement is a treasure chest full of gold.

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Becoming Fools with AMG International

Athentikos will leverage Becoming Fools with AMG International in a US Screening tour to make a difference in the lives of homeless and at-risk youth.

Athentikos will present Becoming Fools in a US screening tour beginning in spring 2014 to engage audiences in the issue of homeless and at-risk youth, and present opportunities to respond. Our global response partner for the US screening tour is AMG International, a Christian missionary agency that holistically serves in over 30 countries around the world. Becoming Fools audiences will be given opportunities to respond through the AMG Bridge to Life initiative, which protects at-risk youth from 3 years old to young adulthood.

 AMG Bridge to Life includes:

•    Family
•    Health
•    Protection/Restoration
•    Education
•    Discipleship
•    Community
•    Higher Education
•    Employment

Examples of children in the AMG Bridge to Life Initiative

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The Becoming Fools story takes place in Guatemala, but the issues of at-risk youth and homelessness exist everywhere.

In addition to AMG, Athentikos will present unique opportunities to respond to the issues of at-risk youth and homelessness through a local organization in each city, including homeless shelters, counseling services, food banks, vocational training centers, and organizational cooperatives.

Becoming Fools is a documentary inspired by the legacy of a man who lived as a fool and died as a friend.

Italo Castro was a professional clown who became a father figure to countless street youth in Guatemala City. After his tragic death, professional entertainers rally around street youth to honor their fallen hero in a theatrical production on a distinguished stage. The odds are stacked against this dysfunctional troupe, but they’re determined. Perhaps they’re fools for believing it can be done. Or perhaps … Becoming Fools is exactly what they needed … because the journey of a fool leads to the heart of a child. The film was inspired by the passion, commitment and legacy of one man – Italo Castro. Imagine what is possible with a group of fools working together!

 

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Amplify Authenticity : Multiply Mission

Amplify Authenticity : Multiply Mission

We founded Athentikos in 2008 as a way to give back to Guatemala – the birth country of our adopted sons.

We produced Reparando as a way to say “thank you” for our sons, not realizing the impact that story would have on people around the world. Since its release in 2010, Reparando has inspired audiences to generously give hundreds of thousands of dollars and volunteer their time to mission organizations serving in Guatemala. To be transparent … we didn’t see that coming, but we’re grateful God is using the story in ways we never could have dreamed. Over the last five years, we’ve been able to hone in on our unique vision and calling.

Watch our new video bumper.

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There are a lot of organizations telling stories, but we focus our stories on authenticity, because authenticity invites others to join in the greater story. Authenticity acknowledges both strengths AND weaknesses, defining limitations and reinforcing the need for true community – diversity working together.

We wanted to make a difference in marginalized communities around the world, but quickly realized we aren’t doctors, lawyers, or engineers – we’re creatives. So we decided to authentically be ourselves and use creativity to make a difference, believing that stories would inspire other people with diverse strengths to respond. Guess what … it does.

Among others, Doctors, lawyers, and engineers have responded to Reparando by giving their time, talents, and treasure.

The response has been so overwhelming, that we’ve decided to clarify our mission and vision:

Athentikos leverages the art of story to amplify authenticity and multiply mission.

Amplifying Authenticity multiplies mission by inspiring audiences to give their time, talents, and treasure, because we all want to be part of something greater than ourselves.

We’ve produced a new video bumper that highlights the mission of Athentikos.

 

[button type=”churchope_button” url=”https://vimeo.com/77464647″ target=”on” ]Watch our new video bumper[/button]

When we’re authentic to our identity, our origin is unquestionable.