What Do You Want To Do?

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I remember that meeting at Panera Bread. Scott and I had been trying to connect for about a year at that point but our mutual friend Major insisted that we had to do it this time.

Scott sat across from me at that outside table, sunny day, few patrons walking in and out of the food establishment. As he explained his idea of taking a team to Guatemala to capture some stories in hopes of putting a documentary together I kept having little flashbacks of the talks I recently had with my wife. I had shared with her my desire to have a chance to use my skills in film and video for something larger than what I can see, something that would be honoring of God’s call on my life. I began to question whether this was it. Was this project Scott was explaining to me that one chance? As Scott completed his “pitch” so-to-speak, he looked at me and asked me for my thoughts. I responded with a question of my own. “What do you need me to do?”

Scott replied, “What do you want to to do?”

[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/10.10.13_02.jpg” image_width=”800″ image_height=”350″ crop=”true” lightbox=”false” frame_style=”simple” target=”_self” caption_location=”inside-image” align=”left” margin_bottom=”10″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]That was a very good question.

I think many times we set the bar too low when it comes to the vision for our lives and what we have to offer. The goals we set for ourselves pale in comparison to the vision God wants for us. Even now as I type this out I’m facing with some tough decisions to make because work as been very slow the last several months. As a freelance video producer a slow month or two is fine and expected, but not several months in a row. The dreaded term “day job” has crept back into my discussions with my wife. But all that to say, most of us have a tendency set our sights too often on the temporary and react. The question Scott posed to me years ago that sunny day at Panera Bread gave me a chance to really think beyond just the task at hand.

At the time I wasn’t convinced Scott’s proposal to join the team to go to Guatemala was really that chance I had been seeking. So much so that when my wife asked me how the meeting went, I laid out the details and after her excited response, I voiced my hesitation. She did a verbal slap over- the-head as she responded with “What? How can you not see this is the chance you had been praying for and seeking?” Even after half-heartedly accepting Scott’s proposal, going through the pre-production for the trip, making all the travel arrangements and even sitting down in my seat on the plane, ready for take off, I still wasn’t convinced that this leap of faith was the right decision. It really wasn’t until I stood on the edge of the Guatemala City cemetery that things in my heart began to shift. While overlooking the largest dump in Central America, witnessing hundreds of people scavenging for discarded materials, smelling the foul stench in the air while I was surrounded by vultures and death I finally started to answer the question Scott had posed to me several months before.[/vc_column_text][mk_image src=”https://athentikos.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/021_IMG_0123_600p.jpg” image_width=”800″ image_height=”350″ crop=”true” lightbox=”false” frame_style=”simple” target=”_self” caption_location=”inside-image” align=”left” margin_bottom=”10″][vc_column_text disable_pattern=”true” align=”left” margin_bottom=”0″]

I’m a firm believer in the fact that trying to answer a call on your life, whether you’re a Christian believer or not, can be difficult without stepping outside of your surroundings. This is especially true for those of us who live in industrialized nations where our culture makes individual comfort a high priority. It takes accepting chances and opportunities that you’re not quite sure of in the moment but for some reason you know you should do.

I knew in that moment of standing in the cemetery overlooking the El Basurero (the Dump) my desire to create my own fictional stories would not stop there. It extended to doing what I can to tell the true life stories of people who live out their transformation and better the lives of people living in their communities, their country and even around the world.

I’ve also been blessed to see other creatives and other artists discover the answer to that same question and begin living it out in their every day lives. Some take leaps of faith to go after their

dream job. Others have gone on to build organizations with a mission to create community and better the lives of the people around them. It truly is a blessing. But I don’t think it would have begun without someone asking that question. I’m thankful I didn’t miss that opportunity.

So…
What do you want to do?

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Reflections on I Am Art

It’s been several months since returning home from my first trip to Guatemala with the Athentikos team, and I can honestly say that it crosses my mind at least once a day.  I felt very strongly from the moment I learned about this trip that I couldn’t say no to an opportunity like this; an opportunity where I could share my love of art AND be used by God through the talent He has given me while working alongside children from La Limonada and 5 other beautiful and very talented women … on a mural – Sign me up!!

I only had an idea of what to expect and had seen a few pictures from previous trips, but God opened my eyes to something new each and every day.  So many things about the trip, so many people, captured my heart over the 10 days we were there for I AM ART.  How could they not?  The people of Guatemala are beautiful and the children are so full of hope.

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The students have been learning about their rights as children.  So, through the mural and workshops, we focused on ten basic rights: name, nationality, protection, love, education, recreation, food, housing, medical attention and family.  As a mama of three, it was, and still is, hard for me to grasp the fact that not every child is automatically raised in an environment where these ten rights don’t come naturally. But unfortunately, this is their reality. This created a deeper passion and love in my heart for the mural while painting with the children throughout the week.  Seeing their excitement and passion for art only fueled that love.  These fearfully and wonderfully made children sometimes have no food to eat at home, some have no place to lay their head at night, some are abused, they’re all surrounded by gang violence and looked down upon by other surrounding communities.  The art workshops and mural gave them a chance to escape their circumstances for a moment and simply be children.  There’s definitely something freeing and therapeutic about painting and creating, and it was evident through the smiles, laughter and fun I saw and felt through the children each day.  I also love how the mural adds a bit of sunshine to the community and will be a daily reminder that each child is important no matter their circumstance. Hopefully, every time they pass the mural, the children of La Limonada will feel joy knowing they played such a major part in creating it.

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A few of us also had the honor of visiting an extremely talented shoemaker and his family in La Limonada.  Otto had three others helping him make beautiful women’s flats in a small section of his home.  I stood in awe of how efficiently they worked with so little space and resources, and the quality of these handmade shoes.  A God-given talent for sure, and the smile and spirit that beamed from Otto’s face as he worked was pure joy.  I met his adorable daughter whose smile could light up any room, and his son whose somewhat quiet personality was full of respect and love.  I was excited to have a bag full of goodies to share, and it didn’t take long before more sweet children were slowly passing Otto’s door looking for the “Sticker Lady.”  I could’ve stayed there all afternoon passing out stickers and sharing a smile or laugh with those precious faces.  What a joy they added to my heart.

During our stay, Joel Van Dyke asked us to look for Jesus each day, and I found myself looking for Him in almost every circumstance.  The truth is, He was everywhere I turned.  He was in the beauty of the land, the smile of an elderly man passing us on the streets, the laughter of the children painting, the love and passion of the Lemonade International teachers and volunteers, the hope that is felt when you look over the slums of La Limonada.  Luke 6:20-23 says, “ 20 Looking at his disciples, he said:  “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. 22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 “Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.”  His love and wonder has no boundaries.  He’s there.

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I’m not certain the plans God has for me in the future, but I do know that He left my heart wanting to do more for La Limonada. Maybe it’s for our family to sponsor a child from there, for my daughters to raise money through a lemonade stand for the fall art camp or for me to go back again one day.  I’m hopeful that His plans involve all of the above. What I do know is that He sparked a passion for I AM ART and showed me the importance of this camp that can help these children express their emotions, surround them with encouragement and love and help heal their spirits through art.  I’m so very grateful that God led me to this opportunity and that I said, “Yes.”  I’m also honored that Athentikos allowed me to be a part of an incredible experience and their amazing team.

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Am I a Product of My Decisions or Circumstances?

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I recently read a quote that said, “I’m not a product of my circumstances, I am a product of my decisions.”

That phrase has been like a splinter buried in my skin, constantly irritating and demanding attention. I’ve wrestled with it over and over and tried to figure out why it bothers me. Then, it dawned on me. At the core, this statement is about justice …  and was obviously written by someone with opportunity … someone like me.

I understand the context of taking responsibility for the decisions I make in my life, but I’ve had opportunity. I was born in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, to a financially secure and emotionally stable family, with parents that loved each other and loved me. My parents encouraged me to study hard in school that was easily accessible and free because I lived in the US. I was given fertile soil in which to grow and blessed with freedom to make good decisions. But this is not everyone’s reality.

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A young girl at the Terminal Dump in Guatemala City. Photo by Scott Owen Moore.

For the last five years, I’ve been immersed in stories about the least, last, and lost – people whose circumstances include things like civil war, murdered family members, drug addicted parents, physical and sexual abuse, poverty, prostitution, theft, gang culture, street life … and survival. Are these people also products of their decisions? Yes … but where I had the freedom to make good decisions, they have been forced to decide between bad and worse, just to survive.

Circumstances filter the options from which to decide. But, creativity gives us the power to see beyond our current circumstances and limitations. 

Creativity doesn’t just open existing doors, it creates new structures and frameworks to walk into. Creativity multiplies opportunities for everyone regardless of circumstance because it enables us to dream. Creativity empowers a child born into a slum to escape the cycle of survival and move into a new hope of opportunity like micro-enterprise. Creativity also enables leaders to envision governmental structures built upon justice.

Children Playing at the Terminal Dump in Guatemala City. Photo by Scott Owen Moore.
Children Playing at the Terminal Dump in Guatemala City. Photo by Scott Owen Moore.

Our nation’s forefathers dreamed beyond rule of monarchy when they wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Our forefathers collaborated in creativity born from and for justice because the God who created all men equal, also created the creativity which enabled these men to see beyond autocratic rule.

God is the creator of everything … including creativity. Creativity flows from God through us in a spiritual language that shares prophetic vision of who God wants us to be. It’s an opportunity to meditate on truths that we are unable to speak or comprehend on our own. Creativity invites each of us on a shared journey through opportunities that were once invisible. In the midst of fearful survival, creativity illuminates opportunity for justice.

As someone with opportunity, I choose to help others who live without it.

Through creativity, I choose to dream with others to share a story greater than myself. Our story is a beautifully diverse ensemble of broken and lost souls singing songs of grace, mercy, and undeserved forgiveness from a creator who loves us so much that He created a way to redeem us all through his own sacrifice: the ultimate expression of creativity AND justice.

If this resonates with you, we’d love for you to join the community in Athentikos: I Am Art .

Let’s explore creativity and justice together.

I’d love to know your thoughts. What do you think?

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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?

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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Father’s Day and a Becoming Fools Related Anniversary

Coincidentally, June 16, 2013 was Father’s Day and a Becoming Fools related anniversary.

As I celebrate the fact that I am a dad, I also remember the purpose of our film. A year ago, street youth performed with professional entertainers on a Broadway stage as part of Becoming Fools. Here’s a bit of the opening narration:

“When I was a kid, it felt great when my parents came to watch me in a sport or play. Think back … Chances are, someone was there for you too, rooting you on with a smile. Someone was your number one fan, encouraging you to never give up.

But what if things were different?

What if … instead of rooting you on, your parents abused you … or what if they weren’t even there at all? How would that have changed your life? What opportunities would you have missed? For some, this “different reality”, really isn’t different. It’s all they’ve ever known …”

I am grateful for my dad. I’m also very thankful to be a father to my own sons, who happen to be from Guatemala.

When I tuck them into bed at night, I can’t forget that there are a lot of kids in Guatemala (and around the world) who don’t sleep in a bed and didn’t celebrate Father’s Day with their dads. That’s why we produced Becoming Fools to help make a difference.

Here’s a bonus feature, a scene from the Voz de las Calles Show.

Prodigal Clown – Scene – 03 from Athentikos on Vimeo.

 

We need your help to share the story.

Will you join us in Becoming Fools and give a tax-deductible donation to help us release the film?

Give a tax-deductible donation.

The Implosion of Becoming Fools

A year ago today, we were in Guatemala documenting the implosion of Becoming Fools.

We were three days away from a big theatrical event called “Voz de las Calles”, which was the culmination of five months of rehearsals with street youth and professional entertainers. The road had not been entirely smooth. In fact, there were some major hurdles along the way. But, with the help of gracious volunteers, it looked like they were going to pull it off.

And then … three days before the show, the bottom dropped out …

One of the street youth with a leading role in the play had been in drug rehabilitation for a year. Three days before the show, he left his rehab and went back to the streets to consume drugs. My heart was broken. This guy wasn’t a “street youth” to me – he was a friend. I was rooting for him and his peers as they wrestled towards their goal of performing on a Guatemalan Broadway Stage.

A year ago today, we didn’t know if they would be able to pull it off. It seemed impossible:

  • Most of the cast were youth who still lived in the streets
  • The original director wrecked his motorcycle and couldn’t continue with the project
  • Funds had not been raised to pay for the theater rental
  • The cast had never finished the entire play in rehearsal
  • One of the lead characters left the show 3 days before the event
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The cast rehearses a symbolic scene where the hero is attacked by shadows.
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This is probably how Roberto, the theatrical director felt, as he tried to pull the show together in three days.
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Scott Moore documents the implosion of Becoming Fools, on his knees.
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A tired cast receives notes after rehearsal.
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The night ended with conflict as one of the cast members quit the show.

We didn’t know what would happen a year ago, but we all walked forward in faith .. Becoming Fools.

We captured a beautiful story that walks a tightrope between tragedy and comedy.

Fast forward to today …

We feel much like we did a year ago. It seems impossible.

We never raised the money needed to finish the film. But we believed in the project, so we subsidized it with our blood, sweat, tears, and personal savings.

The good news is that the film is finished.

The bad news is that so is our funding.

We need your help to share the story.

Will you join us in Becoming Fools and give a tax-deductible donation to help us release the film?

Give a tax-deductible donation.

 

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?

Real Social Innovation … Straight from TED Talks

Real Social Innovation ... Straight from TED Talks

In 2008, Athentikos was founded through a calling of authentic response to tell inspiring stories of hope through the art of story.  Over the years, we have sought to do so in a way that is self-sustaining.  But now, as we begin the process of marketing our second documentary, Becoming Fools, we are unfortunately little more self-sustaining than we were 5 years ago.  Why?  What role do we play in social innovation that brings positive change to the world around us while at the same time allows us to continue working in the way we feel called?  We have asked ourselves these questions so many times.  We have brainstormed for endless hours to develop new campaigns that will allow us to continue telling stories of hope.  And each time, we walk away with the same 3 solutions:  One, we need more money.  Two, we need more people.  And three, we need more time.  Other non-profit organizations we have met through our many endeavors face the same limiting and complicated roadblocks.  At times, it seems that in order to be a non-profit, your organization must face limited human and financial resources as well as time restraints.

BUT we haven’t lost hope.  And how could we?  Over the past 7 months throughout the editing process as I watched Becoming Fools, I was repeatedly reminded of the street kids’ hope in themselves, in the future, in the hope of something better, in the hope of change despite the odds stacked against them.  Then a few days ago, our good friend Joel Van Dyke sent us a video from TED Talks.  (I watched it immediately, as I fell in love with TED Talks after attending a TEDx Conference in Guatemala last year.)  This particular video Joel sent us was about social innovation, real social innovation.  The speaker, Dan Pallotta is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, author and social innovator himself.  His presentation challenged the audience on the role of the non-profit sector in the business world.

Pallotta began by posing the question:  Does the non-profit sector have a serious role to play in changing the world?  And if so, then why have non-profit organizations failed to make a large difference in the world?  Pallotta suggests that there is a double standard that prevents the non-profit sector from assuming a position powerful enough to reach large-scale social change.  He gives several staggering statistics to support his point:

  • In the US, giving to charities has remained at 2% of the GDP since the 1970s.
  • From 1970 to 2009, only 144 non-profit organizations crossed the $50 million annual revenue barriers while 46, 136 for-profit organizations crossed the same barrier.
  • Poverty has remained stuck at 12% of the US population for the past 40 years.

Pallotta suggests that there is one rulebook for the non-profit sector, and a contrasting one for the rest of the world. He supports this point by addressing 5 specific areas in which there is a discrepancy between what is expected or allowed from the non-profit sector in contrast with what is expected or allowed from the rest of the world.  The major limitations placed on non-profits fall into the categories of compensation, advertising/marketing, risk taking, time and profit.  In addition to these limitations forced upon the non-profit sector, Pallotta warns against our nation’s obsession with keeping the overhead of charities and non-profit organizations low.  He explains the limitation of this obsession by sharing the history of a largely successful for-profit business, Amazon.

Amazon went their first 6 years in business without returning any profit to investors.  The investors waited patiently because there was a long-term goal they knew they could reach.  But what would happen to a non-profit organization if they went 6 years building their infrastructure before giving any money to the poor?  Pallotta’s answers: crucifixion.

Pallotta ends his presentation by stating:  “Our generation does not want its epitaph to read, we kept charity overhead low.”  With laugher and applause the crowd shows their agreement with this statement.  Obsession with overhead prevents a for-profit business from growing their team and their reach, which in turn grows their profit and benefit to society.  The exact same is true for a non-profit organization. The focus shouldn’t be on an organization’s overhead, Pallotta argues, but rather charitable and generous giving to mark this generation’s contribution to social innovation and change.  But what will it take to transform our nation’s minds from demanding a different business plan for non-profit organization than that allowed to for-profit businesses?

This video from TED Talks gave me new insight into the world of non-profit organizations.  It gave me inspiration and hope for Athentikos, for our future, for something better, for social innovation, for change.  I believe our mission is simple: to tell inspiring stories of hope through the art of story.  And our goal is clear: to inspire people to authentically respond in order that change may occur in the lives of those they help as well as in their own life.  The only thing left to figure out then is: how do we become a successful, self-sustaining organization that can continue to live out our mission and pursue our goal?

Watch Dan Pallotta: The way we think about charity is dead wrong.

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Love Lived Out On Film: Becoming Fools Review

Love Lived Out On Film: Becoming Fools Review

Our supporters have kept us going through the ups and downs of production of Reparando and Becoming Fools.  It encourages us to hear the stories and see the ways God is using our films to inspire authentic response in the United States, Guatemala and around the world.  One of our faithful supporters is Kali Pliego.  She has deep ties to Guatemala as she started her own non-profit organization, Se Luz, in Santiago Sacatepequez, Guatemala.  She discovered Athentikos after the release of Reparando, and most recently was able to be a part of the first screening of Becoming Fools at the Omaha Film Festival in March.  From Minneapolis to Omaha, she drove 6 hours through the snow to be with us to premiere Becoming Fools.  Here is her reflection of the experience and Becoming Fools Review.

Becoming Fools Review from Kali Pliego

I was introduced to Athentikos when a friend posted something about their first documentary Reparando on facebook.  I, of course, am interested in anything related to Guatemala that I can get my hands on, so it did not take me long to get my own copy of Reparando.  Then naturally, when I heard about the new film, Becoming Fools, I was an early adopter.  I donated what I could afford during the pre-production Kickstarter campaign, and recruited others to do the same.

Sidenote: One of the perks given to me for my donation was a mention in the end credits of the finished documentary.  I didn’t think that mattered much to me until I actually saw my name up on the screen after having watched the film and just burning with pride to know that I supported the telling of this important story.

One day, I saw some photos posted to Facebook on the Athentikos page that made me take a second look.  I recognized one of the street youth in the pictures.  On several occasions between 2000 and 2005 I visited kids like these in Guatemala City with a friend who did ministry in the streets.  The day I saw the photos online, I dug out my old pictures to see if that was indeed the same guy.  After careful comparison, I am convinced that the young man in my pictures is the same one who showed up on facebook.  You could say I was already ‘all in’ on supporting Becoming Fools, but that day the film became personal.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I admit I am thoroughly biased and therefore probably not a very good film critic.  I have nothing negative to say about Becoming Fools.  I thought the storyline was laid out very well, weaving individual histories into the countdown of days until the show.  There was a palpable tension regarding both aspects of the documentary—would the street youth be able to pull this production off?  And, in the end, would everyone turn out okay?  Would these kids have their ‘happy ending’?

I have two favorite parts in Becoming Fools.  First is seeing the youth, who were preparing a clown performance to honor their mentor, in various shots just sitting in the seats of the Teatro Abril and letting the significance of the show sink in.  The Teatro Abril is Guatemala’s finest stage, normally reserved for high class, cultured performances.  And here we have a group of street youth, that is homeless, invisible, rejected, hurting kids pulling together to pay tribute to their beloved mentor, Italo, on that very stage.  I love the paradox of that.  Somehow the distance, some would call it disparity, between the street youth clown performers and their privileged audience adds to the significance of the event.  Second, I loved seeing the professional clowns and the director work with such dedication to and compassion for the street youth.

It was love lived out on film.

“Becoming Fools” is not just a cute title for this documentary.  I believe it is a mandate of scripture for all believers.  To the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18).  He goes on to teach that it will be the fools who shame the wise in God’s kingdom and the weak who will shame the strong (v. 27).  We get a glimpse of this Truth in the documentary.   We see the power that ‘becoming fools’ has in the lives of each youth involved to bring them back to the childhood they had lost, and innocence that was forgotten long ago.  We see the youth reclaim dreams—of a reunited family, of getting off the streets and off of drugs.  Within the act of becoming fools, we’ve stumbled upon a key to unlock the chains that bind us.  What a beautiful message of hope!

Athentikos needs your help to bring Becoming Fools to your city for a screening.  I am committed, and have already sought out potential partnerships with homeless youth advocates in my city, Minneapolis, who may be willing to host a screening.  You see, while the setting of this documentary is in Guatemala, which may seem a million miles away, the theme of homeless youth hits very close to home, no matter what city that is.  I will do everything I can to spread the word about Becoming Fools and to spread awareness of this issue.  Will you join me?