Jerry and Elizabeth Averill serve in Scotland as missionaries engaged in writing and drama with artists and audiences in Dundee and beyond. Here Jerry reflects on how God was at work in their Christmas productions in 2020.
As pressure to write the nativity script grew last summer, I watched the news each day with everyone else in our profession and asked, “But when will the theatres reopen?” Then I heard the voice I have come to cherish. “Do a film,” He whispered. Without much more than that, I went to the nativity committee and explained that this year would be a film. Then came the questions—the whens, and hows and whats. I’m sure the Father had a good chuckle during our Zoom committee meetings. My initial response was to say I didn’t have answers, but that God had told me to do this and so that’s what I’ll be doing. Then I turned to the Father in prayer to ask how I was going to do this and to ask Him to walk with me. Fortunately, the committee came on board and the process began.
In our work as playwrights and directors, we mix non-believer artists with believer artists. Our ministry is also to the artist—not just the audience—and we trust that God’s Word is faithful:
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
I have to trust that something sticks when I see any non-believer handling, memorising, and digging into the Scriptures and truth in our scripts.
Jesus said, “And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded” (Matt. 10:42). Our prayer is that a scene, a phrase, a song or even a moment in the film was a cold drink to one of the thirsty souls of 2020. It’s the same prayer we raise for the actors, dancers, singers, musicians, technicians, and producers—both those who know Him and those still on that journey. There are so many one-on-one miracles and little blessings that happened in the process of making the film.
We actually produced two separate films last year: one with a group of community artists in Dundee and one with a private boarding school in Perth. Both productions included a slew of cast and crew members as well as dancers, choirs, orchestras and performing artists. The Perth film began with two “drive-in movies” for the students’ family and friends and there have been over 1,300 views on YouTube since.
The Dundee film has had a similar number of views online, but we also made 1,000 DVDs to distribute in hospitals, care homes, prisons, churches, and the Salvation Army. Most of the DVDs went in the first week! We also produced an audio description version for churches’ telephone ministries as well as for the visually impaired. Many churches went on to post our video directly on their websites, including a post on the Church of Scotland website. Another independent church shared our nativity in their Facebook Christmas Watchnight Service and had around 2,000 views, and we’ve shared it far and wide within Greater Europe Mission here in the UK and in Europe.
In 2020 our Father invited us to move outside the norm and to trust Him with the results. Last year’s nativity has been seen by more people this Christmas than all the previous nativities together in its 10-year history. To see and hear little glimpses of “His Kingdom come” in the lives of our crews and audiences, both believers and non-believers, are wonderful treasures. That I still cry when I watch it is the greatest thrill of all. It tells me I did not walk this journey alone, and you all were part of this through your prayers and your support. Thank you.
If you’d like a copy of the Dundee Nativity, please contact us here and include “Dundee Nativity” in the subject line. Below we’ve included a link to the production on YouTube.