My authenticity was challenged in prison

My authenticity was challenged in prison. I wasn’t incarcerated for committing a crime, but I was certainly a prisoner of ignorance. It took the wisdom of an “outlaw” to set me free.

It was 2008 and Amelia and I were in Guatemala to receive our second adopted son, Elliot. We traveled to Guatemala several times during the course of our adoptions and were blessed to have a friend named Joel, who serves there as a missionary. We wanted to document the culture for our children, so we asked him to show us the real Guatemala – the non-touristy places. On this particular trip, Joel pulled out all the stops. He invited me to meet some gang members in a maximum security prison. To be honest, hanging out with gang members in a prison wasn’t on my bucket list. But I reluctantly agreed to go.

We were required to leave our passports with a guard at the front desk. This was the first of many uncomfortable experiences that day. My passport was the only identification which undeniably proved I was a US citizen, and not a permanent resident of the facility. But this unnerving experience pales in comparison to what followed. A guard took us down the back side of the prison, through several locked double gates. We were stamped on our arms after passing through each secured area. As we passed through the final air lock and turned the corner, my heart was racing. In front of me through heavy steel bars, was a long, dark, gym-like hall, lit only by a few small windows high above which were also covered with steel bars. It was like a anarchist’s nightclub. The air was thick with dense smoke and loud Reggaeton music growled from every cell. The guard opened the heavy gate and after we entered, he locked the gate behind us and disappeared. Joel explained that if the guard entered with us, that he would likely be killed by the gang members. I thought, “That is comforting, I don’t want to see anyone killed.” Just as that thought raced through my mind, I turned and was surrounded by over a hundred men tattooed like war paint from head to toe. I quickly remembered why this wasn’t on my bucket list.

Thankfully most of the gang members were distracted by the entertainment we brought with us – a dentist – with tools, but no anesthetics. He set up shop at the back of the cell block and began to work on teeth as each patient tried their best to look tough during the procedure. I stayed close to Joel. After all, he was friends with these guys. Slowly, I let my guard down – which is ironic, because I am certain I looked like a deer in headlights. I began to look past the tattooed faces and realized that many of these warriors were just kids. One gang member shared his story with me … and then … he challenged my own story.

He knew I was visiting with a missionary and said,

“You Christians are in a gang just like us. You follow a leader. You have symbols, language, customs and code – just like us. The difference between your gang and my gang is that you have the luxury of being a hypocrite. If we aren’t authentic to our gang, we’re killed.”

Wow. I had no response to that – only questions.

Who am I? What leader do I follow? Am I a hypocrite?

I quickly realized that had we not adopted our sons, they could have ended up in a prison like these young men … and I followed that train of thought back to my own life. If I had grown up with these limitations, I too would likely be in this prison. I would have made the same decisions as these gang members in order to survive.

I had to respond. I couldn’t just adopt my two sons and move on with my life. I was responsible for the things I had seen. I wasn’t a lawyer, doctor, or engineer. I couldn’t do those things. But I was a creative. I had other creative friends who could join me to tell stories that would expose needs and inspire response to make a difference. That’s how our organization Athentikos (Greek for authentic) was born to expose and inspire through the art of story.

What does it mean to be authentic? Here are a couple definitions:

Not false or copied; genuine; real: an authentic antique
Having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence

Authenticity is a powerful and humbling attribute, because being authentic reveals the good, the bad, and the ugly. It reminds us that we aren’t perfect and we can’t do everything on our own. Practically speaking, being authentic means acknowledging our strengths and weaknesses and confidently abiding in that identity to integrate into community with others. Like the young man told me in prison, being authentic identifies you with your “gang”. It undeniably links you your leader and connects you to others identified with you, who fill different roles.

In my case, being authentic means humbly being identified with Christ as my leader. I also means using my uniqueness in purposeful existence; it means using my creativity to tell stories that help solve problems. But it also means acknowledging my limitations and depending on others because I cannot do this on my own. I am only a small part of a much larger story.  Being authentic necessitates interdependency lived out in faith, hope and love.

Who are you?

What leader do you follow?

How can your authentic identity integrate into a solution with others to make a difference?

Diving Into Documentary Production

Diving into documentary production is like diving into the ocean. It’s breathtakingly beautiful, but you can easily drown in it.

A year ago today I said goodbye to my family to spend 2 1/2 months in Guatemala producing Becoming Fools. At the time, I was anxious to get to Guatemala to start capturing the story. I had been directing the production from the US for a couple months and that proved to be quite frustrating. Every day there was a new conflict and obstacle that seemed to distract forward momentum. At least that’s what it felt like, because bad news travels fast – especially when you are trying to do something good. So, I hopped on a plane to dive into this film and immerse myself in something I felt called to do.

Saying goodbye to my son to go to Guatemala for 2.5 months to produce Becoming Fools.

I thought my presence in Guatemala would somehow bring continuity to production. I thought that things would be easier once I was physically in the country. But, I thought wrong. Proximity to conflict doesn’t give you any advantage to control it. It wasn’t any easier. It was just a different kind of difficulty – and in many ways, even more difficult. I was simply closer to the waves that kept crashing down on everything and was quickly carried out to sea just like everyone else. But I know two things about waves that also hold true for documentary film production:

  1. Don’t fight the current
  2. Never swim alone

Charles Dickens was onto something when he wrote, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness …” That prophetic description held true for the Becoming Fools production. It was grueling. It was stressful. It was absolutely heart wrenching at times. But, it was also one of the most joyful times of my life. I locked arms with close friends and purposefully dove into the crushing breakers with them because we believed in something greater than ourselves. We were all swept away by the crashing waves and pushed beyond our comfort zones. But somehow, “together was better” because we weren’t swimming alone. It was this community – this mutual trust and interdependency that gave us confidence to keep going in the face of enormous adversity. We all dove in together.

This is what you call irony – because in reality, none of us knew how to swim in the first place.

None of us had the capacity to accomplish the goal. All of us had failed at some point. We weren’t the dream team and at times it felt like a real nightmare. But somehow our group of incapable individuals was made capable, because it was called together by the One who makes all things possible. In this calling, my incapacity gives someone else strength … and vice versa, when we are committed to each other in the collaborative process.

But working together it isn’t easy. It’s ugly and full of dysfunction in the process. We all make mistakes at times and hurt each other in ways that would seem to prevent anything from being accomplished. A group of frightened people climbing on each other, gasping for air to survive in a surging tide will almost certainly drown each other. But we have a life raft if we will choose the right perspective. Somehow over the long run, the ugliness cancels itself out in a beautiful algebraic expression of grace, if the equation is built on a constant of God’s love. That love makes up for our mistakes and turns our pride of self ambition into a sacrifice for others. Thankfully, that love is a life raft big enough for all of us.

I dove into the ocean of documentary production hoping to make a difference in the lives of youth living in the streets. I’ve spent the last year being tossed around by a current I cannot control, and I still have no idea where it’s taking me. But, with help from my fellow fools, I’ll keep holding on to this life raft of love that transforms an ocean filled with broken people into an ark of redeeming grace, capable of bringing hope to distant shores.

 

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More Than A Trophy

We gained more than a trophy at the Omaha Film Festival.

Despite a total white-out blizzard, the turnout was pretty decent. Over 50 students, teachers, filmmakers, parents, grandparents, friends and family braved the snow to experience Becoming Fools in Omaha. We learned that there were at least another 100 people who planed to come, but couldn’t due to the snow. Ironically, Omaha enjoyed 60 degree weather every day prior to the Becoming Fools screening. That was an emotional hurdle, but we quickly accepted the fact that we don’t have any control over the weather.

The aftermath of the blizzard in Omaha, Nebraska.

I found myself at peace when the Becoming Fools title sequence began to play, despite knowing that the film was not yet entirely finished. There were still grammatical errors in the subtitles, audio in a few scenes needed to remixed, and none of the beautiful animation that our friend Beaux is working on, had been edited into the film. These things just couldn’t be finished in time for the screening. But in the scope of all the work already completed, these things were small – and hopefully, most people wouldn’t notice.

After the film ended I had the opportunity to answer questions from the audience. As a filmmaker, this is a golden opportunity to get feedback and gauge the impact. I was delighted to answer questions about the production and our motivation to produce the film. I even called attention to our son Micah as a visual aide, noting that children as young as him were living in the streets alone. I could sense the weight of this reality sinking in as members of the audience gasped and shook their heads in disbelief.

Our sons wearing clown noses at the Omaha Film Festival.

At one point, someone asked me if we had staged a specific scene in the film. I tried not to smile too much when I answered the question, because it was a legitimate thought. After all, the scene in question could seem “too good to be true”. I responded with something like,

“I know it could appear to good to be true, but in all honestly that is the way it happened. In fact, I wish I could have had some sort of control over the film, because I certainly would have done many things differently.”

But I didn’t have control … and I still don’t  (obviously – I mean … a blizzard on our screening day!) … and really … I will never have control.

The story captured and presented in Becoming Fools is an authentic depiction of chaos made beautiful by a God who knows a lot more, cares a lot more, and ultimately LOVES a lot more than I do. The film presents beautiful grace, but ultimately doesn’t end with everything wrapped in a bow. That simply isn’t reality. These kids are still living in the streets. Some of them are now purposefully in jail. Others have been admitted to the hospital for knife wounds. Their status has changed several times since we began post production, because that is the nature of life in the streets.

We hope to finish the film this month and begin planning a fall screening tour, but we don’t really have control over that either. We dug deep into savings to finish the film and don’t have the resources needed for a screening tour. But we trust that resources will be provided. We hope that others will choose to join us in Becoming Fools.

This journey has been chaotic and it’s been beautiful in the midst of chaos. We didn’t set out to tell this story because we knew how it would end. We simply felt called to authentically amplify the voices of these youth who live in the streets in the hopes that audiences would want to join the effort to make a difference. We didn’t win any awards at the Omaha Film Festival, but the audience affirmed our hope. Several people shared how the film inspired them to do something and engage the issue of at-risk youth. To us, that’s worth more than a trophy.


 

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The Official Becoming Fools Movie Trailer

Drum roll, please …. After much anticipation, we are thrilled to release the official Becoming Fools Movie Trailer.

We’re not yet finished with the film, but we’re close. It’s in the final phase of post-production: coloring, music, mixing, animation, art, and credits.

After a year of pre-production and research, 6 months of production and 6 months of editing and post-production, we are rounding the turn towards the finish line. My heart has swung through all emotions imaginable over the course of this journey – from loving the story, to absolutely hating it, to loving it again.

The production phase is my favorite. It is a time when we are out in the world together, collaborating, capturing a story and experiencing the richness of community. It’s hard work, but somehow we don’t notice because we are together. You should hear the laughter at 2 AM when we’re logging footage, after a 12 hour shoot in a dirty environment … and the water is off, so you can’t take a shower before bed. It is a true joy!

Then there is the flip side. If production is a joy because of community, then editing is the Alcatraz prison of loneliness. To be honest, I often wrestle with depression while editing a film. It is a long period of isolation in the “editing cave” with only small spurts of community when we evaluate the film. And because those small doses of community are focused on critically evaluating the film, it usually results in me having to spend more time editing in isolation. Don’t get me wrong. I greatly value constructive criticism during the process and want our films to be the best they can be! It just begins to take its toll after 6 months of 16 hour work days. Needless to say, I am very glad that I can see the light at the end of the editing tunnel!

After all this work, the film is slightly different than we originally imagined. But, this is normal because you never have control over all the production elements in a documentary. In this case, we were thrown some pretty big wild cards during production. I compared it to riding a wild bull. We just held on tight, kept the cameras rolling, and prayed we were capturing what we needed to tell a great story. Thankfully, we captured some great stuff!

During a recent Athentikos meeting, we engaged in a deep and honest discussion about the film. We asked some  tough questions ….

Is this a compelling story?

Does this film achieve what we set out to do?

Is the story depicted in the final edit the same story we passionately felt called to produce in the beginning?

It was unanimous. Even though the story is different than we initially imagined, it compellingly accomplishes the goal we set out to achieve. This is the story God called us to tell.

It’s full of warm characters, beautiful tension and redemption that we couldn’t have written better if we wrote it as a narrative. It still makes me cry … and I have seen it thousands of times over the course of editing! So, either I am completely off my rocker, or this story truly connects to the heart.

As we work diligently to wrap up the final details in this project, I have mixed emotions. I’ve committed 2 years of my life to developing, filming and editing this story. I’ve grown to love these street youth as dear friends. Their delicate charm has captured my heart! I would love for this film to raise awareness and bring needed resources to this issue! But, I have no idea what will become of it all.

We raised enough funding to get through production. But we still lack the financial resources to release the film. Unfortunately, we can’t subsidize this next phase with our sweat equity. Unless we receive additional funding, we will be forced to put the film on hold. We truly believe this story has the potential to make a difference in the lives of street youth around the world. But we need your help … will you consider giving a donation?

As of right now, we only have one official film screening planned. Let’s make it count!

Becoming Fools will screen at the Omaha Film Festival on Sunday March 10 at 12:15 PM.

Gather your friends and meet us there! If you are too far away to attend, please help us make noise so we can try to fill the theater. Use every means necessary to tell people about this opportunity to see the film: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, phone calls, post cards, smoke signal … and especially talking face to face!

Please watch the trailer and share it. Give a donation if you can. Work with us to help bring the film to your city. Let’s become fools together and make a difference!

Give a tax-deductible donation to help us release the film.

Becoming Fools is an official selection for the 2013 Omaha Film Festival

Becoming Fools is an official selection for the 2013 Omaha Film Festival!

We are grateful for the opportunity to share Becoming Fools with Omaha and look forward to enjoying the festival events!

We would love to pack the house. Please save the date: Becoming Fools will screen sometime during the festival between March 6-10, 2013.

Stay Tuned for more details.

Thank you to the wonderful team at Omaha Film Festival!

Why do we keep marching forward in something that seems so foolish?

We are fools.

Why do we keep marching forward in something that seems so foolish?

Seriously, sometimes I wonder if I am just stubborn or stupid. Either way, we are foolish for marching forward. Today, I finally finished editing Becoming Fools … and …  we received our first response back from a film festival in which we submitted the film. It went like this:

“I’m sorry to inform you that your project was not selected … Best of luck with your future projects.”

Not the most encouraging news on this milestone of production …

Now, let me set the stage for this message. I’ve been working on the Becoming Fools documentary for two years; full time for the last year and a half. And really … Full time is an understatement. It’s more like 16 hours a day, 6 days a week. I don’t share this for sympathy. I share it to reinforce the fact that I am truly, without a doubt … foolish.

From the very beginning, every step of this journey has been foolish. It’s been a marathon of impossible hurdles strung together to taunt our souls to give up:

▪    The protagonist of the story died while we were in pre-production.
▪    Amelia and I lost our day jobs within 3 weeks of each other & we were left without secure income.
▪    Our Kickstarter fundraiser failed to raise the funds we needed to produce the film.
▪    Funds were not raised to pay for the live theatrical event which is documented in the film.
▪    The lead character of the live theatrical event quit and went back to the streets.
▪    485 hours of footage needed to be translated before we could edit it down to feature length
▪    The edit took 5 months of working 16 hours a day, six days a week.
▪    We missed the opportunity to enter several large film festivals for the season.
▪    Technical difficulties made finalizing the edit very difficult.
▪    Our 1st Film Festival notice was negative.
▪    We don’t have any funds to release the film.

… And yet we continue …. WHY?

There are days in which I wonder if I have wasted the last few years of my life investing into this foolish endeavor. Somedays it stings the very core of my being and I feel like a total failure.

But then I take a deep breath and remember why we started this project: it is a story that needs to be shared so that it may inspire.

What is failure? What is foolish? Italo could be considered both. He lived his life according to the passion that God gave him. He risked his life in dangerous city streets to care for kids who were not likely to change. In fact, most of the kids he cared for still wrestle with some sort of addiction and never totally left the streets. But Italo didn’t die in the streets where he risked his life. And … His passion was reborn into not just one person, but an entire community of fools that believe they can make a difference together.

Was Italo a fool? Yes. Was he a failure? Absolutely not.

Like Italo, we continue because we ARE fools living life according to the passion God has given us, and with that established, there is no way we can fail. So we keep marching forward …

 

Will you consider giving a tax-deductible donation to help us finish this story & make a difference in the lives of homeless youth?

Give a tax-deductible donation.

 

2012 was a year of adventure and blessing for Athentikos

2012 Athentikos Collage

We are grateful to be able to share the journey of 2012 with you:

  • Athentikos took a risk and began production
    on the Becoming Fools documentary without full funding, believing God
    would provide. As of December 2012, the film is 75% complete.
  • Athentikos was blessed with our first production intern, Brandon Rojano.
  • In June, Athentikos partnered with Guatemalan Churches, NGO’s, Local and Federal Government in a consultation event to explore homelessness and present an official report to the Guatemalan Government.
  • In June, homeless youth shared their story through a theatrical performance in front of over 400 people in Guatemala’s historic Teatro Abril.
  • Athentikos served on a leadership team with Lemonade International & Vidas Plenas to host an annual Art Camp
    for 100 at-risk kids in the community of La Limonada. Guatemala.
    Athentikos provided over 70% of the funding through individual donations
    and a grant given by LEGO.

Stories inspire change and hope. We are thankful to be
able to share these incredible blessings from 2012! They would not be
possible without you! Please help Athentikos continue to inspire through
the art of story by giving a tax-deductible gift of $50, $100, $200 or
more. Your investment will be exponentially returned as it inspires through the art of story throughout 2013 and years to come!

Thank you for believing with us and generously sharing your time, talent
and treasure! We are all part of this story to inspire together!

Help us inspire hope by giving a tax-deductible donation.

Please give online today or send a check to:

Athentikos PO Box 1902 Springhill, TN 37174

Thank you,

Scott & Amelia Moore

www.athentikos.com

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.