Where There is Despair... | Sojourners

Where There is Despair...


It’s a long way from Hollywood to the slums of Brazil, Peru, and the Philippines. But filmmaker Gerard Straub traded producing television shows, including the successful soap operas General Hospital and The Doctors, for a far more fulfilling life among the poorest of the poor.

During a visit to Wheaton College to premiere a rough version of his documentary, Poverty and Prayer, this thoughtful 58-year-old Californian told students about how his conversion gradually led him to a deep understanding of Christ’s love for the poor. He’s made six films, each of which is filled with graphic images of global poverty in Brazil, Mexico, Peru, El Salvador, India, Jamaica, the Philippines, Kenya, and the United States. His journeys have exposed him to poverty on a scale he had never imagined, and some of the most dramatic segments in his films are of those who live on garbage dumps in the Philippines, Jamaica, and Mexico, earning their livelihood by picking through other people’s waste. They are the poorest of the poor, and, as Straub reminds his listeners, "scripture tells us that to forget the poor is to forget God."

His films—part documentary and part spiritual reflection—are designed to be challenging, to make people think and to reflect on their own lives. "I want you to see Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor," Straub says. "Global poverty is the result of selfishness that stems from a lack of authentic love of God and of our neighbor." For Straub, setting oneself as higher than others is a form of blasphemy, and consuming more than we need is a form of stealing. "Justice requires that people have a place to sleep, enough food to eat, and work that makes them feel worthwhile," he says.

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2005
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