By Kelli Trujillo
November 17, 2011
He could have escaped—left his misery and his past behind.
One of 16 children raised by a single mother who bootlegged liquor to get by, Joel grew up in squalor in a shack in Mathare—one of Nairobi’s largest and most dangerous slums.
Yet as a young man, Joel committed his life to Jesus—and he found hope. He studied construction engineering and soon became a successful professional. He had his ticket out.
But he stayed.
Now known as Pastor Joel, he works with his congregation to provide education, vocational training, health care, food and the hope of the Gospel to those scraping out an existence in Mathare Valley’s indescribably awful living conditions.
Pastor Joel and his church are living out the true fast of Isaiah 58: “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”
Travel the GlobeIn 58: The Film, you’ll walk with Pastor Joel along the alleyways of Mathare Valley, and you’ll see the Gospel changing lives.
You’ll meet Christians in India breaking the cycle of modern-day slavery through their ministry to laborers in illegal quarries.
You’ll journey through gang territory in Recife, Brazil, as Auri—a former gang leader—builds relationships with those hardened by crime and violence.
You’ll go undercover with courageous believers in Asia risking their lives to save teen girls from imprisonment in the sex trade.
In the midst of the darkness of poverty, disease, drug addiction and slavery, you’ll see the vibrant light of the Church living the true fast of Isaiah 58. “These Christians in impoverished communities are actively reaching out to the most vulnerable around them,” says the film’s co-director, Tim Neeves. “They are living like Jesus.”
Shot on location in 15 different countries by father/son directing team Tony and Tim Neeves and Prospect Arts, 58: The Film starkly portrays the very real struggles of the world’s impoverished and oppressed. But this captivating, narrative-driven documentary goes far beyond sad stories; it offers profound reasons to hope—to raise the expectations for the future of the world’s poor, to see and believe that ending extreme poverty is actually possible. And it compels viewers to respond not out of a knee-jerk reaction of guilt, but rather through embracing a deeper understanding of God’s heart for the poor, the oppressed and the vulnerable.
Answer the Call
“As we read our Bibles and understand God loves the poor—as we ask, ‘What is it that God is calling me to do with my life?’—Scripture clearly shows us the will of the Father is for us to help the vulnerable,” co-director Tony Neeves says. “That’s ultimately what Isaiah 58 is about—it’s a call to care for the vulnerable, from those living in extreme poverty to the little old lady who lives down the street.”
58: The Film invites Christians to respond to that call. To find inspiration from low-income teenagers in Queens who choose to fast in order to feed others who are poorer than them. To follow the example of Ethiopian Christians working to plant trees and restore their environment. To join people like Bo, an American coffee shop owner whose business fights poverty through a commitment to fair trade.
When Christians respond—when their actions resonate with God’s heart for the vulnerable—they experience a new vibrancy in their spiritual lives. “As I personally get more engaged in issues of poverty and justice,” Tim Neeves says, “I feel that I come alive. This is what we, the Church, are called to be.”