AlongTheWay

Trusting God Through the Camera Lens - John DeVries' Journey AlongTheWay Ep 05

May 13, 2019 John Matarazzo / John DeVries Season 1 Episode 5
AlongTheWay
Trusting God Through the Camera Lens - John DeVries' Journey AlongTheWay Ep 05
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AlongTheWay
Trusting God Through the Camera Lens - John DeVries' Journey AlongTheWay Ep 05
May 13, 2019 Season 1 Episode 5
John Matarazzo / John DeVries

South African Filmmaker, John DeVries, shares his story of how receiving a camera set him on a journey of adventure and faith. His AlongTheWay moments include growing up helping a Community Outreach Center, Studying Media in Cape Town, and Surviving a terrorist attack in Mali. Learn how John found the peace that surpasses understanding AlongTheWay

Show Notes

-Recommended Book
 Chronicles of Narnia

-Watch John DeVries on RealLife

- Go to reallife.CTVN.org to watch recent episodes of RealLife
AlongTheWay

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/AlongTheWay)

Show Notes Transcript

South African Filmmaker, John DeVries, shares his story of how receiving a camera set him on a journey of adventure and faith. His AlongTheWay moments include growing up helping a Community Outreach Center, Studying Media in Cape Town, and Surviving a terrorist attack in Mali. Learn how John found the peace that surpasses understanding AlongTheWay

Show Notes

-Recommended Book
 Chronicles of Narnia

-Watch John DeVries on RealLife

- Go to reallife.CTVN.org to watch recent episodes of RealLife
AlongTheWay

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/AlongTheWay)

John DeVries :

It was our first day and in that town specifically, we had just sat down for dinner, this massive explosion, rock the base and the the small building I was in had collapsed on me, I blacked out for a while. I had shrapnel in me and the whole works and it was bleeding everywhere. And from that it just chaos erupted. You didn't know who was friend or foe. So it's a real time of just

John Matarazzo :

Welcome to along the way. I'm John Matarazzo, your host and fellow traveler. Thank you for joining me on my journey as I try to become more like Jesus every day. I love what I have the opportunity to talk with fascinating people and learn how God has met them along their way. I believe that everyone has a story and we can all learn from each other's journeys. Through my work as a television producer, I get to interact with some of the most amazing people making an incredible impact for God's kingdom. And this episode of along the way, my journey connects me with South African filmmaker and fellow media village alumnus john de Vries. Well, john, thank you so much for being on along the way.

John DeVries :

Thank you for having me. It's, uh,

John Matarazzo :

it's been pretty cool. Knowing you from a distance. We went to the same media training school in Cape Town, South Africa, but just at different times. So I saw your picture on the wall as I would go up and down the steps. And, you know, look at all the former students and the people that have gone on to do great things in media. But we have a we have a common connection. And we'll get to that in a little bit. But, john, thank you for being here. You're from South Africa. That's right. First, before we get into some of the along the way moments of your life, I want to talk about your background and kind of your journey. Sure. So just introduce yourself a little bit and talk about who you are

John DeVries :

awesome. So I mean, that's that's a complicated question. But yeah, for sure. So. So yeah, I come from a pretty diverse family. My dad being an American, my mom is South African. They met when my dad was planting churches there for for many years for the Assemblies of God. And then I was the result of that. And so yeah, my parents and my siblings of someone of five kids came over to the states when I was when I was very young, actually grew up here in Pittsburgh, for the majority of my childhood. And then the late 90s, early 2000s, my parents felt called to come back to South Africa to work with kids in Metallica. And so I drew the short straw me being the youngest and went with him. But it really was an amazing time of God just challenging us as a family. And that started me on my career in film, actually. just helping them with the ministry and using little videos to help them raise funds and all that for the ministry. I started getting involved in film, I'm self taught, you know how to how to edit and shoot videos, and and then just started a passion for for the medium and God's already been using that. Yeah, for many years since then.

John Matarazzo :

Your dad worked at Cornerstone television where I work right now. Yeah. Could you just tell me a little bit about about that? What kind of like what you remember he did? And then also your, your connection with, with somebody that we both know.

John DeVries :

Sure. Yeah, absolutely. So yeah. So when my dad first came to the States, he was working at Cornerstone as a producer. My mom was also working there and in different departments as well. So I've had a bit of a lifelong connection with cornerstone. I don't know, back then. Russ Bixler was was heading it up. And I was very young. I think it was like four or five. And I would I know they had a show about creation. Origins. Yeah. So I, me being a four or five year old kid would just sit there playing with the dinosaurs. Well, the doing a show. I mean, that was my memory of Cornerstone is like just being so stoked to come and play with the dinosaurs. Oh, yeah. Yeah, that was like it for me back in the 90s. So yeah, that's that's about my memory of Cornerstone is, is dinosaurs and playing with them. Yeah.

John Matarazzo :

And then Tim Bergen had a big impact in your life as well. And he he did with my with me. And he was my original connection to cornerstone.

John DeVries :

Yeah, but yeah, absolutely. So when, when my parents were commissioned to go out, Cornerstone from the beginning was we played a very vital role in helping them set set up that side, in the sense that they had laptop, some very basic editing software back then, and a little camera that they gave to my parents to, you know, make those little short videos that little help them and my parents being of a different generation, like here, son, learn. And so that that actually was the catalyst for for my career and got me moving into the direction into film. Just finding that the passion I do about how you can take something that was so little, especially back then when I knew nothing, but was actually still reaching thousands of people and able to raise funds and support the ministry. So yeah, Tim Bergen was a was played a big role in the beginning of my career when you think about it.

John Matarazzo :

Yeah. Just that initially, that almost a gift of a camera and some editing equipment. Yeah. And that's, that's what got you started.

John DeVries :

Yeah. And it's just amazing how God use something like that. something small, and just turn it into something something big, you know, and it's just, that's his nature, multiply. And I think that's just, that's amazing how we think back. And that's where it all started. Yeah.

John Matarazzo :

So do you remember the first video that you made?

John DeVries :

Man, I don't. I know, I know, when I first got started, it was very rudimentary I, back then you didn't have YouTube, you didn't have you know, online learning platforms and all that. So it was a lot of trial and error. It was a lot of me watching other videos, wherever I can get them reading a lot of magazines, and, and just kind of, you know, whatever feels good, looks good. And it works, you know. So I don't I don't necessarily remember the first thing. But I know, I did a lot of really weird little short films. When I was living, I started with little stop motion animation stuff. And yeah, it took just sent me on the journey to learning more and more.

John Matarazzo :

And you were basically charged with a make videos showing what they're doing. So that we can report back to our friends and family here at through Cornerstone TV and the supporters there. Because as they support Cornerstone, then Cornerstone is able to support other ministries around the world. And so there's just that accountability. And that transparency of this is where your money is going. Yeah, that's really cool that you were able to do that. So could you just tell us a little bit about what life Community Services does?

John DeVries :

Absolutely. So when my parents came over, in short terms missions with, with a church that's, that's here, covenant church, Pittsburgh, they would do these sort of short term missions, and they ended up in the city of George, that's, you know, everyone knows Cape Town, so it's about four hours away from Cape Town. And they realize that, you know, as a result of South Africa is very complicated political past, but also the problematic leadership since the transition of government poverty has really entrenched itself in in this in the communities. And an unfortunate because of the the history of segregation that it hits. Sort of the mixed race and and, you know, there you call black African communities the hardest. And they really felt stirred by the need, where you saw a whole generation of kids growing up in very broken homes, where alcohol drugs abuse is very prevalent. And on top of that, you have poverty, lack of education, lack of infrastructure, and lack of operation unity. And so they felt compelled that God was calling them back to to work with kids. And so when they came down in 2001, we moved and set up shop that said, they sold everything in Pittsburgh and started a new life, they're just a step of faith. So it started with a center that would operate on a Sunday as like a Sunday school for some of the kids does get them away from their abusive situations and give them a safe place. And also give them a meal, sometimes the only meal that they'll get, and that day. So it was something like 24 kids, and then God quickly grew the ministry to to a place where they all they have seven centers and are ministering to over 1000 kids every day. Wow. And and it's what's incredible, what they do that goes beyond just charity or aid is that they really, really care about the kids. And, and every single one of those kids feels loved feel safe, and has an environment where they not only get fed, they not only you get loved, but they also get a proper education, which they won't get in the in the surrounding schools. And sometimes they'll sometimes the kids will actually be running the household, you know, you'll have like 12 year old kids, that will taking care of their five year old siblings, because their parents are the you know, have passed away from AIDS or just run away and, you know, gone, or just drinking and leaving them to fend for themselves. So they create an opportunity for these kids to especially these these kids that are running the households to come have a place where their siblings are safe, and where they can be kids, you know, instead of being parents that these these older kids can be kids again, and can can have education and have opportunities and just play, you know, and have a sense of normality in a world that's just gone crazy. So yeah, it's it's education, it's food, it's the gospel, most importantly, and place where they can really receive love and give a given a proper chance at life. You know, so this

John Matarazzo :

is this is different than the other community services are that you mentioned aid. What is what is the difference between the aid that we think about, like with just charity and things like that, versus what like Community Services does?

John DeVries :

Sure. So I've worked as a filmmaker, I've worked with a lot of different aid organizations all over the world, you know, I've worked across Africa, Middle East, I've worked with UNICEF, I've worked with a lot of you know, they're doing a lot of great stuff, and not to criticize them. But I think one of the missing components in aid in general, is what do you do? After you feed a kid? What do you do after, you know, you build a house. And and I think it's so easy for people to think that money can solve problems, but it doesn't not in itself, and aid and charity itself doesn't solve a problem. You know, so you can feed a child, but if it's not coupled with education, for their parents, you know, they're going to be back right at the same place. And I found that I mean, I've worked quite extensively in Liberia. And, I mean, we go in weed, weed film, kids in a hospital that are severely malnourished, just because they're their parents are not educated on how to give their kid proper nutrition. Now, obviously, poverty plays a role in that, but most of the time, it's ignorance. And, and it's quite tragic to see this kid on on death's door. And then, you know, they spent a few months rehabilitating the child giving them the nutrients they need, they're healthy again. And then a few months later, back to the same problem. And so it, it really highlighted that aid in itself is not the answer, especially for Africa. And what makes life Community Services different is that they take a holistic approach, they realize that a child is more than just the basic needs, you need to go above and beyond that, and I think that's difficult for a lot of people to grasp. And even more difficult for people to commit to that kind of that kind of commitment, really, it's a big deal, right. And in many ways, my parents are the parents of thousands of kids, because their own parents are just not interested or just not in the picture or, or have passed away because of lifestyle choices, HIV AIDS, you know, drugs, alcohol, the works. So that's, that is where the big difference comes in. So it's beyond just providing the basic needs, which they do. But it's education, it's empowering the kids to take their destinies into their own hands, and then make a change for themselves. It's saying that, you know, your aid is not going to sustain you for your entire life, you need to be able to stand on your own two feet and become an entrepreneur become a productive citizen, and break the cycle of poverty in your life. How successful have Have you

John Matarazzo :

guys been?

John DeVries :

Yeah, so they it's a tricky thing, as with any ministry to gauge the success, right? Right, right. Because you never know where a kid would have been if you hadn't been there. Very true. And you also don't know where they're going to be in 10 to 20 years, but I think the main thing is planting a seed. And being there when nobody else would be the being with the untouchables being with the kids that everyone had just disregarded. But I can definitely say that, over the years, you see the success stories coming out. And, and often my mom doesn't even know about it, you know, she'll be she'll be, you know, in a shopping center. And again, someone would walk up to and said, You know, like, 15 years ago, you were there when nobody else was, and that always stuck with me. And now I've got a job, I've got a family, you know, I've made something in my life, and it's all because of you and then happens time and time again. And that that kind of thing is I think what keeps them going. Because it's often a very thankless job. They're out there in in a very obscure place trying to make a difference. And there's that often come against a lot of obstacles and opposition, from politic politicians, to even to churches and to other groups that early. Yeah, unfortunately. But just, it's a thing of jealousy. It's a thing of just being not politically aligned to the right people in politics, unfortunately, run South Africa, including some churches, and it's just the unfortunate reality. But they've never played that political game. They're out there and making making Jesus famous in a world where, you know, it's it's tough. And so yeah, I think they're they're a lot of success stories are a lot of kids that have come through the ranks that have given a been given a chance that we would never gotten otherwise, you know, a lot of lot of kids you see that are pushed through high school just to keep the success, pass rate numbers high for the government, but a lot of these kids, they get to get to high school but can't even read. Wow, and but least in life, community services are given a chance to build those foundational blocks for them and give them a chance.

John Matarazzo :

That's an incredible, complete ministry. It's a you know, treating the whole, you know, taking care of the whole person, not just the hunger, not just the education need not just the situational, but it's really all encompassing,

John DeVries :

absolutely. Its mind, spirit, body soul,

John Matarazzo :

it's really holistic. That's what I was looking at. Absolutely. Yeah. So john, you grew up in this type of environment. And you could have gone on many different paths. And how did you end up in media, we saw, we touched a little bit on you, you got these, you got this camera, and you started doing some videos for your family. But it could be easily you could easily have been pulled back into just doing things for life community services, and the family ministry. Because that's, there's a big need there. How did you kind of make that journey into media?

John DeVries :

Yeah. So what really struck me when I was making those videos for them, is that, you know, I had very meager resources, I had this little home video camera, and, and a computer, and that's just my own drive, I suppose. And God was still able to take what little I had to give and turn it into something big, you know, despite my my videos being very subpar, and you know, the best I could do at that time, he still was able to take that and multiply it and and use that to raise funds that could change people's lives. And that really struck me on how powerful the medium is that with what little you have, you can make a big impact. And that coupled with just the passion I have for film, The Power of it, in order to transport somebody from their physical environment to a totally different world, you know, you can be all anywhere in the world. Through the power of film, you can experience your grief, love, joy, even terror. And it's such a powerful tool for change. And so my, my passion for the gospel in the sense of transforming a generation and bringing morality back to cinema and bringing the conversation of you're challenging the status quo in our civilization, coupled with a passion for film, I think just set me on a path to to wanting to make content that glorifies God, but also challenges people's mindsets and makes them make them ask questions. Your

John Matarazzo :

next step in the process took you to place what we have in common is media village. Yeah, just tell me a little bit about that. And then also what you're doing now?

John DeVries :

Sure, yeah. So I spent quite a few years just trying to get my freelance career going. And I was, you know, doing the normal thing when someone starts out in the industry, you know, weddings, and corporates and all that kind of stuff. But God really puts media village training center that's associated with YYM. In my path, and I really was thinking about it for a long time. And I really want to go to this place. It looks like exactly what I want people like minded passion for media and industry in God. And so yeah, eventually I was I had the opportunity to go, I first studied radio, and ended up teaching it for for a little while. And then after that did the School of video production to kind of give me more practical tools to go out there and make myself more marketable. But it's really an amazing experience when you're meeting guys that have come from all over the world, all with the similar kind of passion and drive to use media to make a difference. And, and I know you ended up there eventually

John Matarazzo :

did the radio school, two years after I said in 2009, and so yes. Phenomenal. I loved it.

John DeVries :

Yeah. And it's it's a small world. So since then, I mean, we've been trying to connect for many years. Yeah, I mean, that knowing a lot of the same people. And absolutely, it's just amazing, because I both of our journeys kind of started in Pittsburgh. And it's at one point, yeah, went into Cape Town of all places. And Tim Burton was a big part in helping us get

John Matarazzo :

get the video village and

John DeVries :

everything I mean, small world, like,

John Matarazzo :

it's not a cliche, it's, you know, it's it is a small world, it's not as big as we think it is. Because we're so connected. And also, God is a great country. Yeah, he really is. Absolutely. And the other day, when we got to meet for the first time, you told me a little bit about just some of your experience with the radio school and how people like as you were teaching it, I want to talk a little bit about that, because he painted a great picture. Yeah, whenever we were talking the other day.

John DeVries :

Yeah, so one of the big challenges, and it's in the first world we we sometimes look past, the real challenges experienced in the third world. And the radio school especially attracts a lot of people from all over Africa. Because in Africa, radio, at least up until recently, had been the main medium in terms of reaching people, because you don't have infrastructure, especially back then you didn't have TV infrastructure, you didn't have cell phone coverage, and all that kind of stuff that you do now. So every household had at least one radio, and they would all gather around and listen. And so a lot of people came from, you know, Uganda, Ghana, all over to come and learn radio. Now, the challenge here is that radio and sort of being a self sustained radio host, I suppose, you have to have the technical knowledge as well as the the presence to be able to present a show. And to edit audio, as you'd know, is not not the simplest task. And you have the least have a little bit of technical acumen and learn the processes. But a lot of these people had never even used a computer in their lives, let alone the tackling advanced editing software, or using a recorder. So one of my challenges when I was teaching, and we had three months to prepare somebody to go from never using a computer in their life, all the way to editing and producing their own shows three months, which is remarkable. Yeah, and a lot of them could barely speak English as well, which was an added challenge. So you know, it was as rudimentary as this is a mouse. This is a keyboard, this is how you turn a computer on. All the way to you know, this is this is how you edited audio file. This is how you, you know, set your sample rates and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, there was a lot of challenges. But it was very rewarding to see how people grew in three months from being very frustrated with their lack of competency all the way to being empowered in order to tell stories that change lives.

John Matarazzo :

Yeah. And do you ever hear back from some of those students?

John DeVries :

Yeah, yeah. So at the end of the school, and even even over the years, you know, some of the guys are kept in touch, and just hearing and seeing their stories of how they've grown as people and as producers, and some of them have stuck with radio, some of them going on to other things. But I think it definitely was a stepping stone and a building block for for success and success in the kingdom and reaching reaching the lost, which is what it's all about. Yeah, media village was a great school. And I had, I had a wonderful time there. And I learned a lot I love the cross cultural aspect of it. One of those kind of along the way moments for me when I was there was one of my fellow classmates was from, I believe, the Congo. And he would work very late into the night and he would

John Matarazzo :

we all saw the guy stayed in the same room. And so whenever he would be done editing his projects, or whatever he was doing, he would come in and turn the lights, whenever we're all sleep. And I'm like, What the heck is going on? as I'd be like, Hey, buddy, you know, please just don't do that. The next day, same thing, and it's like two o'clock in the morning, three o'clock in the morning. And I'm like, What is going on? So I talked to my school leader who's from Kenya. And I said, klaxon. Why is why is this guy doing this? And he's not stopping? And I'm like, this is so disrespectful. He said, let me let me explain something to you. He's in his country, they're under, you know, there's civil war going on right now. And so he's turning on the light. And he's announcing his presence that I'm a friend. Yeah. Not, you know, because if somebody comes into his room and it dark, that's like, they could be there to kill you. So he's coming, he's turning on the light. So that, you know, so that we all know that it's our friend, you know, like, Oh, I never thought about that before, you know, my, my, the way that I looked at things was totally changed because of that. And I was like, I'm not gonna be mad at him anymore. He's trying to show respect to us, just in a way that I'm not very well receiving it. So I learned that I'm going to, you know, sleep with a, you know, blindfold over my eyes. But yeah, media village was a great experience. For me, I want to jump ahead a little bit, because you're, you're making films, and you're doing some really, really cool work. And I want to talk about that. And then we'll go back to kind of the spiritual side of things. But yeah, so what, what kind of work are you doing now?

John DeVries :

Yeah, so, you know, after media village, and after that whole journey of my life also went on to study and got my degree in film and media production as well. And then, you know, I worked in the commercial space for a long time, working my way up through the ranks. And I realized, and I kind of got a really sobering view of the of the industry, where it's an industry of a lot of broken dreams, a lot of people coming in thinking they're going to change the world and not or hoping that they, you know, one day become a director and never realized that dream. And by 40, you know, it's too late to restart life. And it's, but also, it's an industry where, where that attracts a lot of broken people. And there's also, you know, a lot of hierarchies and a lot of politics and a lot of things. So it's it's not a very healthy industry as a whole lot of times. And that's about to speak to the whole industry. But really, that was my experience. It was, it was very, very sad to see, you know, my my dreams being kind of dashed that this is the reality. And I really felt that, that God was bringing my heart to, to start a company that made a difference, you know, and it was a real step of faith for me at that point, because I had no money, I had spent everything on studies and getting started. But I stepped out started a company with with $10 in my pocket, and it was, we were going to go take the industry. So buddy of mine from university, and I started this company, and we just started with corporates, we started working we up the chain, sort of really establishing great collaborative relationships with other people in Cape Town that are on the same journey as us Christians that are in the industry. And we started making short films and started honing our craft winning awards around the world. Once again, God using little and turning it into something big. And yeah, so we went from there started building this company. And then she started People to People started taking notice. And we started making, making films that went around the world, we started producing TV series, we started doing a lot of stuff, to a point now where we are well established in South Africa and Africa as a production company, and also busy building a bit of a satellite base in Los Angeles. So it's been a really awesome journey to see how God has kind of taken us on this little treasure hunt around the world. And slowly but surely revealing his plan for us as a company, but also for me as someone who, who wants to tell stories. So you were just talking about

John Matarazzo :

seeking God's purpose and God's plan for your life. One of the questions I like asking people is, do you remember the first thing that you heard God speak to you?

John DeVries :

Man, was that? Yeah. So I think the one thing that God's really burned on my heart over the years is just his fatherhood. And I think that's something I really struggled with for a long time is, is what does that mean? You know, and learning to trust God, as a father, as someone who has my best interest in mind, I think was the hardest lesson to learn. Growing up. I had a great education, I suppose, living in a mission family where, you know, we'll, you know, we'll have no money will wake up one day and not know how we're going to even and we'll pray as a family, and we'll get a knock on the door, and there's food. And it's those kind of miracles that kind of sustained me. And it was that learning to depend on God. And I know a lot of people say that as a byword. But honestly, that's how we lived. And I think learning that lesson about God's fatherhood. And that was him speaking to me, and that was the biggest lesson he was teaching me is he's got this. He's out there, he has my best interest in mind, and he has a perfect destiny in store for me, and learning to trust that process, despite everything in the physical looking the opposite. And looking at all the challenges that there are set before me in terms of breaking into an industry that seems so hard to break into, and so dark and so anti God, and knowing that he will sustain no matter what. And that was probably the first major lesson God, God try to give to me on the road. Wow.

John Matarazzo :

It's good stuff, man. That's a good, that's a good lesson to learn. Learning to see God as provider is going to lead and guide us along the way. So, you know, we know that God has our best plan in mind. But for you, what would be a what would you look back and say, that was a really difficult step of faith for me to take? Could you just tell me about that,

Unknown Speaker :

man, what do I begin?

John DeVries :

You know, every day I is a decision to trust God. Especially in the kind of journey that I that I'm in at the moment, it's every day is just God revealing his plans slowly but surely. I think one anecdote, I suppose is I I've done a lot of work around the world, with with the UN, and really challenging situations, really heartbreaking situations. But more worked in conflict zones in Iraq and Molly and I've actually found myself in the middle of, of a terrorist attack once and you know, running for my life really, literally. And I think in that moment, God did something very special in my heart, with chaos around me with with with bloodshed around me with not knowing whether I'm going to make it to the next day. God gave me a real sense of peace. that transcends understanding it really did. We're in the middle of chaos, I was able to just feel his presence and no, no, no matter what he's got me. And, and I think that is something that if anything, could be a lesson of him just being there with you, no matter what being it, you know, being a guiding light and in protecting factor, Father, you know, no matter what, yeah, no matter what the what the physical looks like, no matter what's going on. He's there beside you. And I think that was, yeah.

John Matarazzo :

Can you tell me more about that? That experience?

John DeVries :

Yeah, absolutely. Literally. So we were working in the northern part of Mali? This is you were working with the UN? That's correct. Yeah.

John Matarazzo :

Making videos and what was what was the purpose there?

John DeVries :

Yeah. So Molly, being a conflict zone, we were working with the UN and more specifically UNICEF, on education and nutrition projects up there. So in the midst of the conflict, you know, one of the first things to fall away is a kids education, they're not going to school, you know, you know, think about that, but yeah, the kids aren't going to school, they're losing years of their life to a conflict and all and the medical arena and nutrition arena also breaks down you know, that they don't have a hospital go to they don't have, you know, a shop to go to to get food, you know, so there when, when it when it was small child especially loses those those crucial developmental years to malnutrition, it affects them for the rest of their life. So UNICEF was really adamant on maintaining some sort of nutrition base for these kids. So we are out there, myself and a photographer. We were shooting, little promotional video documentary kind of videos for their projects. And so we ended up in a northern town and the north of Mali called go. And so they have different levels of danger. And this was a level five out of six, and in terms of your safety precautions, so it was a pretty intense time. And we were staying on a small un military base there. And we had it was our first day in that town specifically. And we had just sat down for dinner. And just this massive explosion, rock the base and the the small building I was in had collapsed on me I blacked out for a while I had shrapnel in me and the whole works and it was bleeding everywhere. And and from that it just chaos erupted. And you know, panic set in and the electricity shut down of the attack. And you didn't know who was Friend or Foe you had the lot of the soldiers who had never experienced combat before, not knowing what to do chaos on the radios. So it's a real time of just panic. And a set off a chain of events of us just trying to get out of of gal. And it was really it was it was on the face of a terrifying but honestly, when I say that it's not just a cliche, I really felt a piece that made no sense. I just knew that that God was with us that no matter what happened, we were in his hands. And all I could do then was just you know try and comfort people and try and and live out that piece to other people that are obviously just devastated about what was happening. Eventually, after a series of events we got we were we were backed out of the base and taken to a bigger base that was that was a little way down the road when armored vehicles and they treated my injuries and I was able to help other people that were suffering from their injuries. Tragically, a couple of a couple of people died that night. But a worse event was completely stopped because they had basically let it happen is they drove a suicide truck into the base compound blew the defenses up. And then they were coming in with the with a falling attack, jihadists coming to wipe us out. And that follow up attack had run into randomly a un military convoy and there was a firefight and had disperse the plan. So it was a miracle let's let's get real, it was an absolute miracle that I'm that I'm actually sitting here today because the the level of chaos that erupted in that base, I doubt they would have been able to hold off a sustained attack. And, and so God really came through in that moment, because that that could have been my last very easily

John Matarazzo :

done are fun moments to be in. But you talked about the peace, that God the peace that surpasses all understanding. You know, obviously we can understand that piece. But what did that feel like? For you? What did it feel like you were watching a movie or like, I've gone through some traumatic experiences in my life, and it felt like, I don't understand what's going on around me. But I feel like I'm watching it instead of being in the middle of it. I don't know, what did you feel?

John DeVries :

Yeah, you know, it's it's a it's a tricky one. And I've always wondered what I'd be like in sort of a combat similar situation. You know, I was wondering, would I hold my nerve? What I run, would I be afraid what I panic? Would I freeze up? You know? And what it really followed that? I mean, I suppose Yeah, you kind of feel like it's an out of body experience. Like, is this actually happening? Am I actually here? And, and I suppose it's the adrenaline and all the things that are happening in your mind. But it was actually kind of not comical, but I felt like laughing at my situation. It's like, of course, this would happen to me here of all times of all places it would be when I arrive, of course, there would be an attack, you know, it's just kind of day that you arrived yet the day. I mean, they had they hadn't had any attacks for a while and was literally the night we arrived the attack. And I was like, yeah, of course, you know, naturally. So yeah, I suppose it was it was a bit of an out of body experience, in a way kind of just looking at the situation from the outside and looking at how strange you know, we were living a new story at the moment, you know? Sure. So yeah, it was it was, it was it was profound, like I didn't feel all the things I thought I would feel feel, I thought I'd feel fear, I thought I'd feel some sort of anxiety, but nothing, nothing kind of just was able to keep a cool head. I mean, it's little things like we couldn't go back and get our stuff, we had to evacuate immediately and try and get out and basically run. So you don't have your your phone or anything or phone chargers. So you know, my friend, it's at the end of the day, it's busy running flat. So turn off the phone is the first thing you do keep a cool head and know that you have going to rush in that like 20% of battery for the next three days trying to get out. And it's just those little things that God was able to give me the presence of mind to think about. And, yeah, he was just with us. It's there's nothing else I could say other than he was with us looking out for us.

John Matarazzo :

So you were you were kind of aware at that moment that Jesus was walking with you. Yeah, a lot of times, I'd like to ask people questions like, okay, when you look back at your life, where do you realize that Jesus was walking with you? But you didn't. But you didn't realize it until you looked back? It seems like you were aware right in the middle of that situation?

John DeVries :

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And it's just, it was baffling to me how I wasn't freaking out. Because that every reason to. And I mean, the my photographer friend, and I, like she was distraught. Because, you know, in those in that part of the world, if you're a woman and you're captured, you know, there are fates worse, worse than death. And she was she was terrified. But at the same time also had a strange piece about her kind of resigned, like, if I go I go, you know, and that's probably best up, be home with Jesus kind of, you know, and say I was profound. And it It wasn't that I had that weird, you know, Everything's going to be all right kind of mindset, but I knew that no matter what God was with us, and no matter what, even if this was my last moment, I'm home, you know? And so yeah, it was profound. It's, it's hard to explain, and to anyone who hasn't, hasn't gone through something like that before. But yeah, it was just an absolutely profound experience. And the hardest part for me, when we we had a actually eventually the next morning that close to be closing down the airspace, and and other NGO had heard about us being in the area, and they send somebody to pick us up and we we gunned it to the airport and jumped on to a small little plane and got out of there. But flying out, the hardest thing for me was thinking about the kids we left behind. And as tough as it was, for us kind of seeing what we saw and seeing the bloodshed and, and all that this is the reality that these kids deal with every single day, and they can't get on a plane and get out. They have to stay they have to survive. And and I think that was the hardest part for me, is just coming to that realization that yeah, this is this is reality for people every single day.

John Matarazzo :

Yeah. So that thank you for sharing that story. That's a that's kind of a personal tragedy moment. Do you have like, a lot of people would have PTSD from that. I'm sure you had a little touch of that. Yeah. Thank you for sharing that. Yeah. But I really appreciate that you, you know, you could sense that Jesus was walking with you. And you didn't miss that opportunity. And that's kind of why I wanted to share this why I want to have this podcast is because sometimes we just miss those, those moments where Jesus is walking with us, and we kind of overlook it because we're busy. And so that's that's a, it's a very touching story. Very emotional story of how you saw Jesus was walking with you. Right there. One of my favorite questions I'd like to ask people is, what advice would you give yourself? If you could go back into the past? and speak to yourself at a younger age?

John DeVries :

Yeah. Honestly, I just, I go back to myself and just say, keep trusting. keep trusting. Because the one lesson that I supposed to sustain me for a long time, is just how God has my back. And he's not going to send me into into a place said, he's not going to sustain me. And, and he, yeah, just to trust him more. I suppose if there's one thing I could tell my younger self is trust God more. And don't be afraid to step out. And I think that would have saved me a lot of struggling back and forth with. I'm the kind of guy that likes to overthink, I suppose sometimes is as adventurous, I suppose as my life has been. I. I hesitate. And I think and sometimes I overthink sometimes. And so I'm the kind of guy that my personality, I love to plan. And I love to think things through before I do them. And you know, be very careful, which I suppose in itself isn't a bad thing. But I think it also forces me to deliberate more than I should. And I think just knowing you know, back then what I know now about God's nature, I think out of Yeah. Just taught myself to relax to rest and trust God more.

John Matarazzo :

So do you have it? Like a an age that you would go back to?

John DeVries :

Yeah, I think I think was when when things were just starting out. I mean, started in the film industry quite young, I started really working at 16. So I think back then already, I'd go back and tell myself to dream bigger to trust more and to risk more.

John Matarazzo :

Do you think that your 16 year old self would take your advice?

John DeVries :

I think my 16 year old self would be very surprised that he's talking to you know, his future self first of all. Israel. Yeah, exactly. It might be pretty profound experience. Yeah, I think so I think. I think for me, my, my, my whole journey has been, the more I interact with people that have gone before me and have succeeded and have, you know, listen to God, and God's answer their prayers, and really just trusted and pioneered with him, the more it's really encouraged me to trust more. And so yeah, I think I would I think I'd listen to myself. Good.

John Matarazzo :

Good. So, john, what is God teaching you at this point in your life,

John DeVries :

God's teaching me to attend, let go a little more. He's teaching me to trust more as the journey been from the beginning or end, he's also teaching me to trust people more, I suppose. And he's putting a lot of amazing people in my life at the moment, that are really encouraging me, helping me through quite a challenging time to transition. And so yeah, he's he's really, yeah, taught me to trust people more as the big lesson at the moment is that he's put people ordained from the beginning of time people in my path, to help me achieve what he's what he's put out there for me to do and to embrace that, and and learn from people and learn from other people's mistakes and successes, and accept help when he gives it.

John Matarazzo :

Yeah, really? Do you have what I would consider a life first?

Unknown Speaker :

Yeah, there's many,

John DeVries :

many verses that I think I've struggled with and wrestled with and listened to. And that kind of become my verse, I suppose. But I suppose one picture that's always come back to me. Is this actually twofold? There's two things that really impressed in my heart is in Joel two, I think it is where it talks about God's army and how he raises up people that don't look left or right, but continue marching on towards a, you know, a goal, I think that's one thing that's that struck me from a young age is how God's forming a group of people that aren't interested in playing political games that aren't interested in furthering their names, but are focused on the one thing and that's reaching the lost. And that's something that, that burns in me about, you know, him forming a group of people that that are just wholly dedicated to him. And me wanting to be a part of that. And me always checking my spirit to make sure my motivations are in the right place that whatever I'm building, especially in the film industry, that's built on, on egos and self aggrandizement that I'm, I'm building his kingdom, not mine. And that that's something that really struck me and my company's called TH form. So this is the other I suppose verse and songs were talks about, you know, your Father in heaven owning a cattle on 1000 Hills, and my foot, my phone company, TH Farms is based on that Thousand Hills, it's a god. What is your provider God is your healer, God is, is the one that is going to sustain you through the hard times, and through the good times. And and I always pray that God, you know, releases everything he has for us in order to make his kingdom known.

John Matarazzo :

Do you ever feel like this is too hard? I just want to give up every day, every day, what keeps you going?

John DeVries :

Yeah, yeah, every day is a struggle, especially when you're out there on your own. You know, a hard thing is that even the church doesn't necessarily understand what I'm doing. Because my calling is very strongly in the secular world. I love Christian media. And I really encourage people who are out there doing things for Christ very overtly. But I really feel that my specific calling is to is to the the secular industry and making a difference there. And that is the the 10 pole of society. That is what's what's filtering down the moral norms and the future of our societies is what's on the screen. And so it's difficult, it's really hard. Every morning when I wake up, I'm like, is this really what I want to be doing? You know, yeah, should I just give up and go get a normal job somewhere, like a normal human being, but really just seeing how how God has brought me from where I was, to where I am today. And I always, always come through for me, no matter what, no matter how desperate it seemed, is what sustains me from day to day, just knowing his faithfulness, and knowing his compassion, and always coming through it sometimes right at the last minute, right, but always coming through and always being faithful.

John Matarazzo :

God loves coming through with the last possible moment he

John DeVries :

does. And this is another thing that really kind of, has been a learning for me as when Moses was supposed to be hearing from God, they need water, strike the rock, there's water. And his big mistake was thinking that he can predict what God wanted or thinking that God he could, he could understand God, and replicate God's power through his own understanding his own power by striking the rock again, without seeking God. That thing revealed a really big part of God's character to me is that he wants us to be wholly dependent on him, or an understanding that our own skills or or anything, he wants us to daily, daily, seek Him and be dependent on his voice, and to listen to what he wants to do when he wants to do it. Because God's a God of, of doing something differently. And even with Jesus with his miracles, you know, it's so diverse the way your feet heal somebody notes, you know, he put mud on, on on some of these eyes, you know, it's like, it's, it's something that that's really just just revealing of his nature is he wants us to listen to him, and listen to a specific voice in that time and not be dependent on our understanding or abilities or anything else. He deserves the glory through it all.

John Matarazzo :

That's a very powerful revelation. How do you apply the revelation that God has given you to your life?

John DeVries :

Yeah, I think it's a day dying daily, kind of a thing where, you know, as soon as you see pride, or any sense of achievement coming in, it's that continual humbling of oneself and just saying, God, I acknowledge that none of this would have been possible without you. That, yeah, that's, that's how I try to apply it every day. It's like God, what is next? What is your heart saying, I don't want to build something apart from you, because that is not something that will last I mean, I'm so aware of the, the temporary nature of our existence. And my one of my other passions in life is history. And just seeing how empires have risen and fallen and become a footnote in history, if that, and all these people's sacrifices and the things they built ended up, coming, really nothing in the long term. But those things that are of God will remain and will always bear fruit and will always have value. And if if I know that my actions are leading someone, to better know the nature of Christ, and to know Him and be part of his family, then that's what sustains me.

John Matarazzo :

Wow. So humility is definitely tied in with it.

John DeVries :

Absolutely. And it's all it's all him, it's nothing. He uses me as a tool and as a vessel, and I can I can work and sure I must work and I must work in excellence, and I must do my best to make the best films possible, and work with passion, but at the end of the day, apart from God, we are nothing. And that's something that's so sobering. Yeah.

John Matarazzo :

Do you have any books that you would recommend that would impact my life?

John DeVries :

Man, so I am an avid reader of fiction. So I, so something that that really struck me and and this this may sound, you know, normal, but so reading CS lewis's works, all of them. I mean, I highly recommend it. But something that is profound, and I encourage everyone to read our his The Chronicles of Narnia, it seems, you know, it's like it's sort of like a kid story. It's written in that in that kind of, in a kind of that way. But the revelation that CS Lewis had on Heaven, on God's nature on the creation of the universe, and his just nature is something that if you read it with those eyes, can change your life forever. I'm trying to remember the line exactly how it goes. But when they were talking about Aslan, which is the allegory for for Jesus, as a lion, they asked, you know, is he a timeline? And they said, No, it's not a timeline, but he's good. And I think that's something just so profound. It's like this revelation of God is this powerful, unrelenting force, but at the same time he is innately good is not something that can be contained by our own understanding or, or or contained by our ideology or even our religious structures that we put in as humans but he is God no matter what he's the same yesterday, today and forever. He's a powerful force for good and and he above all is innately good. And so that's, that's something that was always struck me and changed my life and changed my understanding of God.

John Matarazzo :

So the Chronicles of Narnia Yeah. I love it, I think do you start with the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe? Or do you start with The Magician's Nephew?

John DeVries :

Mitchison? So just start start right right from the from the beginning from the creation of the magician's. Okay, so you you like that way, I'm more of the Lion, the Witch and the Lord, I go back anyway. Okay.

John Matarazzo :

But they're all tremendous books yet. Those have had some great memories of those from my earlier years, too. Yeah. Very cool. Well, john, thank you so much for being a part of, for being a part of this podcast and sharing your along the way journey. I just really appreciate the fact that our paths have crossed a couple different times, but just at the wrong times, we haven't actually met until just recently. And thank you so much for the work that your family's doing, and the work that you've been involved with with them, and the work that you're doing in media today. And look forward to see how God continues to lead you along your way.

John DeVries :

Yeah, well, thank you so much, and right back at you.

John Matarazzo :

It was a real treat for me to finally meet john de Vries, and then get the opportunity to do this episode with him. As I mentioned in the interview, our paths have crossed a few times, but not at the same time. Meeting john was really encouraging. Here's a guy very similar to myself. It was really lived a life of faith. There's a lot of things that I've learned from my short time with him in person. From our conversation, I'm reminded of the verse in Matthew 28, verse 23, his Lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant, you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things, enter into the joy of your Lord. That is a promise from God about our faithfulness, and that we should work on our faithfulness. But that also gives us a look at how to grow our faith in God. learning to trust in God and the small things will set us up for the times that we need to trust God in the big things. JOHN talked about, not even knowing as a kid, where the next meal might come from, but learning how to trust in God through that his faith is incredible. And I want to be more like him. John talked about being wholly dependent on God and His voice, and he attributed his survival during the terrorist attack, to giving God control. You know, that makes me think about the bumper sticker that used to be popular a few years ago saying that God is my co pilot, and then the subsequent response if God's your co pilot change seats. This is a challenge to my life daily to give God the control of my life. But when we do that, we can really experience God's peace that surpasses all understanding. I love that quote from The Chronicles of Narnia, I really need to read those books again. If you want to know more about John, you can go to his website TH films.net. His parents ministries website is life community.co.za, the media village school that we both attended. Their website is media village dot info. And as always, you can go to real life CTV n dot o RG to watch more episodes of my show real life. Thank you for joining me along the way. If you've enjoyed joining me along my way, please rate and subscribe to this podcast and follow us on Facebook Instagram, and check out my website at along the way dot media. I hope that you've enjoyed this part of my journey and made you realize when Jesus is walking with you along your way