| WORLD REPORT
Why Adventist Mission Tales
Are Still Needed
Photography ace Weber on the art of storytelling;
two teary-eyed translators
By Ansel Oliver, assistant director for news, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
The video producer travels far and often to update the world church on its mission projects, sometimes to places well off the beaten path.
But whether traveling to urban settings or rural locales, Weber brings back stories that inspire and educate church members about the importance of mission, both for financial support and in understanding the church’s world mission. The tales are told in various ways and time lengths on the quarterly Adventist Mission DVD. Some have described it as one of the most well-produced video resources in the denomination.
Though it’s mailed free to every church in some countries and to all world church administration offices, many Adventist Church members still don’t know about it.
Weber, 40, holds a photography degree from the church’s Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, and says he works not only to inspire church members who view the Adventist Mission DVD but also future video producers and other storytellers who will one day work for the church. In the following excerpts from a recent interview he reflects on capturing stories, the church’s status in other countries, and promoting his profession within the church.
Adventist News Network: How do you explain your job, in a nutshell?
Dan Weber: I’m a digital anthropologist with an understanding of missiology. Does that make sense? To do this job you have to understand four things: you have to understand storytelling, you have to understand technical aspects of how to tell a good story, you have to try to understand the culture that you are observing, and then you have to understand missions and the role that plays in the church. When you combine all those together, then you have a successful story.
ANN: What was one of your favorite stories to tell?
Weber: I got to go to a prison in Moldova. There they call it a life detention center—they don’t believe in capital punishment there, so if you are convicted of a heinous crime, you go to jail for the rest of your life. So I went to one of these prisons, and out of the 80 prisoners, several of them have become Adventists. I got to worship with them inside a small cell. You can be kind of skeptical about prisoners that convert because they might be trying to get out early. But these guys aren’t getting out at all. They have not converted to Adventism to try to gain favor or to get an early release. In fact, it hasn’t benefited them because often they are ostracized for their beliefs. Their faith is very strong.
ANN: You’ve recently been to Taiwan, Mongolia, Korea, and Japan. What’s happening with the church there?
Weber: Taiwan is a cool place. The offering there is going toward establishing Hope Channel China. They have a small studio set up, and they’re creating programming. And Mongolia is a [great] story because the church there is really young—the first person was baptized there in 1993. You go to the churches and it’s a lot of young people, and that’s kind of nice to see because you go to North America or Japan and you don’t see that. But Mongolia is still going through some growing pains. It’s still a mission field.
ANN: Are all your travels as inspiring?
Weber: Unfortunately it’s a misconception that [the Adventist Church is] doing well everywhere around the world. We are in some areas, but there are areas where the church as a whole isn’t doing well at all. You know, the 10/40 window [the region stretching from northern Africa to the east coast of Asia], where less than 1 percent of the population is Christian, let alone Adventist. But yet, you see the people that are there working and their dedication and their faith and their commitment. That is inspiring.
ANN: You started out as a still photographer. Is that an important first step before transferring to video?
Weber: You know, some of the best camera people I have ever met have all started out as still photographers, and I really think it is a natural progression because you start off learning how to compose a shot as a still photographer—you tell a story in one picture. When you move to video you’re learning to tell a story through a sequence of pictures.
ANN: What keeps you motivated?
Weber: Every time I pick up a camera bag and I get on a plane and go someplace it’s like I’m right out of school again. I know I’m going to experience something new. It’s the coolest feeling.
ANN: What was one of the toughest stories to tell?
Weber: Let’s see … yeah, I was in Phnom Penh [in Cambodia], and one of the small groups the Adventist Church is focusing on is people who are HIV positive. A lot of them are immigrants from Vietnam and they live in slum areas. We met a woman who became an Adventist after she found out she was HIV positive. She had been in the hospital and the doctor sent her home to die. Her mother was converted and started sharing her faith with her. Her health has gotten a lot better, and when I met her you couldn’t tell that she was someone who was going to die. What was inspiring to me is the fact that she has opened up her small room and does Bible studies in there and we got to film that. Here is someone who has a life-threatening illness, but she’s not letting it affect her life and she is moving on and sharing her faith the best that she can. When we finished the interview I looked over at the [local church president and executive secretary], who were translating for me; tears were running down their faces because they were so moved by this woman’s story. That was hard. My challenge is always to take that kind of a story and share it in such a way that emotion is going to come through.