MOORE — Two local Christian film producers are making a documentary designed to answer the question on many lips after the May 20 tornado: Where was God?
Brian Cates said his production company, Behold Motion Pictures, is putting together a montage of stories about the many ways Moore-area residents discovered the divine amid the devastating storm that barreled its way across the city.
The documentary, titled “Where Was God?,” will be released in 2014, he said.
“We're looking for stories of hope, faith, miracles and life change,” said Cates, of Oklahoma City, the film's executive producer and director.
Chris Forbes, of Edmond, a longtime church media consultant who has worked with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and other groups, is the documentary's co-producer.
“It's really a movie about finding hope in the midst of a storm, and there are people who are excited to tell their stories,” Forbes said. “God showed up, and that's something to celebrate.”
Cates said he thinks it is important to tell stories of what God has done in the lives of people who have faced disaster.
“We want to give people a platform — a worldwide megaphone,” he said.
“The national media is gone. One day, the construction trucks are going to be gone. People will get back to some semblance of normalcy or a new normal, but the stories about God and what God did will outlast all of that if they are given a platform. It's the stories of faith that will remain,” he said.
‘A spiritual story'
Forbes, 50, said he was on his way to the deadCenter Film Festival held in June in Oklahoma City when he came up with the idea for the documentary. He said he had just seen firsthand some of the devastation wrought by the tornado and kept asking himself, “What is the story here?”
“I kept thinking there's a spiritual story to tell,” Forbes said.
A big part of that story is that “God showed up with all of the churches who came to help” storm survivors, he said.
“God just doesn't sit back and watch our suffering. He participated in our suffering on the cross. He meets our needs,” Forbes said.
Cates said he and his wife, Jina, heard many people asking about God's role in the tornado. He said everyone was asking ‘where was God?' when the deadly twister touched down, killing and injuring people and animals and destroying numerous homes and businesses.
“We quickly came to realize that was a question that a lot of people asked, both people in the faith and outside the faith. And people who don't believe in God were blaming God. It seems that when tragedy strikes, everyone looks to God in some way,” Cates said.
“We said, ‘What if that's our movie? What if we tell the story of where God was in the storm and, in doing so, offer hope?'”
Focus on Moore
Cates and Forbes said they have been meeting since mid-June with people affected by the storm. The interviews have taken place at Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College, 3201 S Frontage Road in Moore.
Funding for the filming is coming from private donations, he said.
Forbes said most people — residents, officials and volunteers — have wanted to share their stories of how God helped them, protected them and guided them in the storm. He said on the other hand, they have interviewed some individuals who wished to talk about what happened but were still grieving and trying to come to terms with the troubles brought on by the disaster. Forbes said those storm survivors will not be included in the documentary because they need more time to recover and heal.
Forbes said the documentary focuses on the Moore area because of the number of major storms the city has withstood and the magnitude of those storms.
“Moore has a unique place in history to tell this story,” he said. “This is an opportunity for Moore, spiritually.”
Forbes said the Rev. Steven Earp, lead pastor of Elevate Church, has, along with several area chaplains, been a valuable resource for the project because he has attended most interviews with storm survivors and has helped counsel them or connect them to other needed support. Earp's church meets Sundays at Hillsdale.
“The ministry value excites me,” Earp said, explaining his interest in the film. “I think it's going to provide spiritual and emotional healing for people, and it's also about meeting their spiritual needs and emotional needs. We can make a much more significant impact on the church as a whole.”
Cates said he, too, sees the film as a ministry tool, particularly because it seeks to show the Lord's presence in the lives of storm survivors.
“Maybe the film can play a small part in taking people to that place where they can reflect on it in an edifying way,” Cates said.