Even So, Trust Me

By Dietrich Gruen

For many years, James Lane has followed his God-given, family-cultivated dream for missions and videography. James’ call to missions is rooted in his late father, who pastored in Dallas-Fort Worth and Amarillo. Their Amarillo church attracted the “Lost Boys of Sudan” who later accompanied James’ family and coworkers to help that fledging nation replant its first sustainable local church.

James in South Sudan with the pastor of their Sudanese church in Amarillo, Texas

This upbringing and missions push has meant trusting God in outreach to closed-door people groups, international adoption, and ministry to urban youth through City Church in Amarillo, and—now—videography at JAARS. For each step along the way James has had to trust God—no matter how far, no matter how foreign, no matter the foe, no matter the funding.

Trusting God—no matter how far. Short-term mission trips to South Sudan and West Africa took James far from his wife and children. During 10- to 20-day trips to West Africa, 40–50 days a year, he filmed for the Joshua Project, an organization dedicated to reaching closed-door people groups. Their teams practice medicine by day and show the JESUS film by night—all to people lost but not forgotten.

Trusting God—no matter how foreign. Often these trips meant four showings, four villages, and four languages—all in one trip. Members of a tribe from the Lake Chad region speak French, Arabic, English, or Kenari. But to accurately understand the gospel, they needed to hear it in Kenari, their local dialect. Lining up appropriate “proclaimers” (pre-recorded gospel readings broadcast by crank-up radio) was difficult. So, religious leaders, unfamiliar with the gospel, had to volunteer. If only the gospel was not so “foreign” to their hearing—a burden of language and cultural barriers placed on James, which eventually led him to JAARS.

Watching the JESUS film in Mali

Trusting God—no matter the foe. Such foreign language barriers were not the only “foe” to overcome. To get a Bible in each group’s language, other barriers loomed large—geographical, spiritual, historical, and extreme poverty, to name a few. JAARS, James would later learn, confronts such foes.

Other foes are more personal, lying in wait to destroy families involved in overseas missions. Weeks-long, far-from-home missions in hostile environments can tear some families apart. But not the James Lane gang who always work together in mission. These Sudan missions brought James and his wife, Jennifer, closer—even to the point of adopting a child from this region. Thanks to God and the US State Department, the Lanes received Ethiopia’s last adoption referral. Thus, world missions brought the James Lane gang together as a fivesome.

James and his family at Wycliffe’s headquarters in Florida

Trusting God—no matter the funding. In Amarillo, Texas, James produced and funded documentaries featuring inner-city relief work, to raise funds for the work. But by 2019, James longed to do something different in media and mission. He longed to keep family together and pursue missions elsewhere—but where?

A Google word search of videography and missions pointed to JAARS. James isn’t a preacher or even a Bible college student, but he values international missions; his gifting in media now supports global missions: “JAARS values the support role—I love that,” he says.

To work full-time at JAARS, James dutifully embraced partnership development but had limited success. So he and his family came to North Carolina anyway, trusting God to care for them. He sold his house and his studio equipment in Texas to finance the move. With a commercial video cabling contract with a company in Monroe, North Carolina, he would support his family and work part-time for JAARS.

Then COVID-19 hit, canceling that contract. A persistent James, now a bi-vocational worker, has secured ‘tentmaking’ gigs, but still finds time for videography. Through it all, “JAARS was flexible, excited and welcomed any part of me they could have,” James explained.

James feels blessed for trusting God. He will now help anyone else pursuing God’s call in this ever-changing pandemic. He knows a JAARS video would have helped him raise support in Texas, so he now makes videos to help others in partnership development, as well as videos to help spread the work of JAARS.

Behind the camera while filming the Scripture Celebration video

“COVID-19 and other job-related hits keep on coming,” says James. But he depends on God throughout these ups and downs with an abiding sense that God is reassuring him, ‘Even so, trust me.’ Trusting God—no matter how far, no matter how foreign, no matter the foe, no matter the funding—that’s what’s involved in affirming God’s call on our lives.

James’ latest work includes the Scripture Celebration 2020 video here and a virtual tour of the Museum of the Alphabet here.