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Reaching People Where They Are

April 15, 2021

Reaching People Where They Are

April 15, 2021

Reach Beyond missionaries are using television to share the GospelTelevision might not be the first ministry that comes to mind when you think about how Reach Beyond is sharing the Gospel around the world, but it is a medium that the mission has been using in various forms for over 60 years. Mario & Suzi are Reach Beyond missionaries who are leading efforts to reach the people of Croatia through online and broadcast television programming.

One of the most exciting opportunities came because of governmental regulations of television in the area. There has been a growing trend of broadcasters repurposing content from other countries for their broadcast, which isn’t necessarily bad. But in order to promote and encourage the creation of local content, the government mandated that 10% of all programming originate from Croatian groups.

Stations found themselves with an abundance of submissions from local producers looking to get featured because of this new rule. But God had a plan to use this to glorify Himself. Mario witnessed as God showcased His orchestration of over 20 years of professional relationships with local television stations as well as Mario's professional career in that space to get his team's videos chosen for local broadcast on secular stations.

“At that time, we had started producing Christian programming including testimonies, talk shows, and more. We only cared about these shows being showcased to as many people as possible. So we went to the stations to say that we would give them these programs for free to broadcast. That way, they could meet their needs for what the government requires, and they would do it as cheaply as possible. And we would be able to see more people hear the Gospel through these programs than before.”

This partnership enables Gospel-centered programming to be brought to potentially 7 million people in Croatia and the surrounding area. Because Croatia is 0.18% Evangelical Christian, Mario says, “We need a lot of people who can witness with their whole life. Only then can we see fruitful witnesses and fruitful disciples.”

Preparing for a television interview on the set.Mario, Suzi, and their team got started in video production by filming local celebrities who are Christians and had them tell their story of coming to faith in Jesus. They posted these videos on YouTube and very quickly developed a following of local people who were interested in exploring what life with God looked like.

From there, they pioneered a talk show including some of the guests they had done features on. In this show, they ask more in-depth questions about guests’ stories of coming to know Christ and how knowing Him has changed their life.

“We currently have 12 different stations that are showing our programs across the country. They all broadcast online as well. As we started working with them, we realized we had opened pandora’s box. Our content was out there, and we were excited that it would reach more people than we could’ve imagined.”

AS PEOPLE STAY AT HOME, VIEWERSHIP SOARS

The complications of COVID-19 have meant many peoples’ lifestyles have had to change as well. There is far less travel than there used to be, and that means people mostly stay at home. “What do people do when they can’t go anywhere or do anything? They turn on the TV.”

“Social life in Croatia is very important, but there have been strict guidelines that have made that not possible.” So people turn to what is available on television to pass the time. This has caused many to tune in to such shows and hear the Gospel who may not have otherwise done so.

Reaching people right where they’re at is something Reach Beyond missionaries around the world do in many different contexts. The digital media landscape provides ample opportunity for videos and viewership to continue to rise as people remain in their homes looking for more content. Mario sees these new technologies and spaces as a place for them to empower the next generation.

“The question for me has become, ‘How can I not be an obstacle but empower the youngest generation?' Kids today are able to use technology that is way beyond their elders. We need to allow them to do the best they can with it."

Social media, YouTube, and other online methods are clear opportunities for the unreached to hear, choose, and follow the Good News of Jesus. Video is one of the most used and accessible forms of media on the internet. And with a little repurposing and reformatting, the same content for traditional broadcasts is ripe for a wider audience online.

In Mario’s eyes, the opportunity to leverage technology for the sake of the Gospel is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. “We have the knowledge of salvation and the Gospel. We have the most important message in the world. We can’t afford to be behind when it comes to using technology.”

Inside the television production room during the recording of a programTHE TEAM BEHIND THE IMAGE

The life of a production team can be demanding. Planning out filming, capturing exactly the right visual shots, and the infamously time-consuming editing process are the kinds of work that no one sees and yet create every moment that people experience while watching a video. But though they are some of the best-in-class in the area for production talents, Mario says that’s not the most important part of what they do.

“What we do in making these shows and videos is not really about how well we produce or how expensive our equipment is. It’s not about that at all. It’s about what kind of testimonies and interpersonal relationships are being brought into the story. Are we being witnesses for Jesus or not?”

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35 (ESV)

Mario takes this distinction from Jesus to heart when leading his team in their production duties.

GREATER THAN WE CAN ASK, THINK, OR IMAGINE

Today, the work that Mario and his team are doing is impacting lives across Croatia and surrounding countries–far greater than he had hoped for while in school.

“Back when I was studying communications at Moody, my idea was to go back to one town in Croatia and help local Christians to establish Christian media. The aim was to be nationally present. Today, our team covers Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, and across the world through the internet. It’s pretty incredible what God has done and continues to do.”

Do you remember in Matthew 14:18 when Jesus beckoned His disciples “Bring [what you have] to me,” when faced with a great need of over 5,000 people to feed? There’s a great reminder here that when we are faced with a larger-than-life need, God stands ready to use us to do the impossible. And as we learn to trust Him by bringing what we have, whether that’s our time, talent, or treasure, we will see Him do more through us than we ever could have done on our own.

“When God does things, He does it greater than what our vision is. I continue to bring just a little faith, and He expands it and uses it to do much larger than I think is possible.”

The people of Croatia are different today because of God’s work through Mario, Suzi, and their team. Through your partnership, we will continue to help the Gospel spread throughout Eastern Europe and beyond.

“It’s not about you. It’s about Him.”