A great story from email we got at The Jesus Film Project (Feb 2016):It was the summer when we hosted an eight year-old Eastern European orphan through a summer hosting program. It was our job to show Liam (name changed) what American family life is like. Someone suggested we get The Story of Jesus for Children in his Russian language, so we did, placing it on the shelf and forgetting about it for some time.
Liam was with us for five weeks, admittedly some pretty difficult weeks toward the end. When his bio said he spoke Russian, I never dreamed we couldn't use Google Translate to communicate; all the training we'd received said Google Translate would be sufficient, but he couldn't read Russian yet, so he couldn't type back to us. Google was only a one-way translation (English to Russian). We couldn't find a program that could "listen" to Liam, then capture what he said and translate it to English for us. Thankfully, he was fairly easy to get along with, and patient with us.
As the weeks wore on, the lack of communication made our lives more difficult. He was crankier, and didn't want to interact with us as much. The newness of America had definitely worn off. It was painful to hear all the wonderful discussions other host families were having with their orphans who could speak a little English or read Google Translate. We were only getting yes or no questions or food requests like "peeza, cheeken, or gamburgers." We were unable to discover what life was like for him, what he was thinking, etc. Xbox was the only thing he wanted to do - an escape from a people with whom he couldn't communicate.
Finally, nearing the end of our hosting time, God broke through. Two nights before his departure, we finally watched The Story of Jesus for Children, with English subtitles for us. I worried he would balk at giving up an hour of Xbox. But once he heard the Russian language, he was completely taken in - never budging, throughout the movie.
Our entire family piled on our bed, watching this young boy learn about Jesus for the first time. He happily giggled when Jesus (speaking in Liam's mother tongue) performed miracles. He was visibly touched and wiped his eyes when Jesus was crucified.
At the end of the film, when the child actors explain what it means to ask for forgiveness, follow Jesus and receive eternal life, Liam enthusiastically nodded and responded. He wanted Jesus to forgive his sins. He wanted Jesus to be Lord of His life. Yes, yes, yes! Then he prayed to receive Christ.
Wanting to be sure he understood what he just did, we hit rewind, backing it up to the beginning of the salvation message, making sure he heard it again. Though limited by our language barrier (and my deep ache to tell him myself about Jesus' love), it was obvious the film made the incredible love and forgiveness of God clear to this little guy. I know God will honor Liam's childlike step of faith.
When he left us a few days later, we sent with him versions of this film and the original JESUS film. I'm sure he will share with others at his orphanage. We were told the hosted kids often bring home DVDs, and orphanage directors appreciate this because all the kids benefit from watching the movies. We also sent a Russian children's Bible, so one day, when he learns to read, he will have it.
It is humbling to watch God break through an impossible obstacle to reveal himself to someone for the first time.