For a youth worker, there’s nothing better than an inspiring true story. The testimony of a real-life hero to share in conversation with students. Someone who authentically lived out their faith and held on, no matter what. And if it’s a guy or girl their age? Let that story shine.
We have been given such a light. Thanks to Sony Pictures, a film from Hollywood (as in, finally, big money Hollywood) is coming to a theater near you April 8th, based on the life of pro-surfer Bethany Hamilton. Bethany was 13 years old when she was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark, severing her left arm, and leaving her to question her faith at such a young age. I had the opportunity to screen the movie, Soul Surfer, and wanted to share my thoughts with you about the film.
Okay. Bethany has an amazing story to tell. But I didn’t know what the movie would be like. Based on some other Christian movies from the past, I came in with expectations for Kraft cheese cubes on a paper plate. I’m just being honest. But instead I got a full buffet of visually enticing and mouth-watering tropical fruit and other naturally satisfying sweets. There were a few cheese slices, sure, but that didn’t bother me one bit. The message was made as crystal clear as the water in Hawaii (by the way, take me there as soon as possible, please) but it was intended to be that way for its target audience. Overall, I was delighted that my expectations for the film were blown away.
I loved this movie.
There is an impressive known list of actors. AnnaSophia Robb plays Bethany and does an amazing job creating a believable Born-to-Surf character from a loving home of Born-to-Surf parents and brothers. Her dad (played by Dennis Quaid) and mom (Helen Hunt) lead an easy-going life of riding the waves and taking care of their children, gently pushing them to take risks with the assurance that they will be supported all the way.
The surfing scenes were incredible and the surfer, herself, even more so. Her determination and guts to get back on the board after the accident and learn how to surf with one arm makes you want to stand up and cheer.
Probably one of the best things about the film, however; is the story of the entire Hamilton family. And how they emotionally cope with a tragedy and hold together tightly because of their faith. Knowing the background story written and told by Bethany will tell you that it is undeniably their faith in Jesus Christ alone that got them through such a trial. The movie purposefully resists that exact language, but I’m okay with it.
That’s where youth workers like me (and parents…and aunts and uncles…and big brothers and sisters…and mentors…and friends…the list goes on and on) come in. Here is a good movie that could be a great starting point to a conversation. What makes Bethany’s testimony so unique?
Let that story shine.