The above is the short movie Homesick poster, on August 25, 2018 we held a premiere in Rohnert Park Chinese Christian Church, CA. It kicked off our screening tour for the next 2 months. We invited Pastor Huang, Ming-Zhen, to be our guest speaker. Huang is a minister serving in Taiwan Prison Fellowship for more than 30 years. Taiwan Prison Fellowship was established in 1981, its staff and volunteers frequently visit the inmates; its Halfway Houses provide transitional housing for inmates who just came out of prison; its Juvenile Houses offer housing for youth from dysfunctional families.
Some of those prisoners were rejected even by their families, but now were purged with fire by the mercy of God. How were they transformed? In almost every prison in Taiwan, there are volunteer women, constantly visiting these prisoners in jail. These middle-aged women looked so fragile in comparison to the gruff, harden-heart prisoners, but they love those prisoners with all their hearts. People in the prison would often call them “Prison Moms”. Prison moms would lead prisoners to study the Bible, believe in God and repent from their sin. God uses the love of these Prison Moms to revive their souls, and then lead them to break away from their old habits and behaviors through discipline life learned in the transitional housing. Homesick is adapted from their stories, which truly recorded the process of how their lives are transformed.
When we started to shoot “Homesick”, we received much assistance from different people, such as Director Wang freely loaning us a whole set of very expensive camera equipment. The prison warden not only quickly approved our application to shoot in the prison, but also received our crew with the highest courtesy. A retired drug-raid policeman took us to buy all the props we needed for the drug bust scene. It was also a very smooth process for us to acquire all the shooting locations. The first scene we planned to shoot was at the church, that day was Sunday; all of our crew members attended the morning service. The preacher that day happened to be a gangster-turned-minister. We know that for most churches, Sunday speakers are arranged way ahead, this was not just a coincident that he was preaching that day. He also held an opening prayer for us over the beginning of our shoot. All these various divine arrangements let us feel that it was God’s own passion to see this movie into fruition.
During the post production stage, a young man walked into our lives. He was a talented musician, always longed to make music for movies, but was deeply troubled by his depression. We invited him to do the background music for this movie, recognized his talent, encouraged him to compose, and embraced him in all of his weakness. The music he made expresses the pain of rejection so well. Though he still struggles with difficult moments, people around him were able to surround him with support and love. At the premiere ceremony, his family was touched to the point of tears by the music he made. We believe he will continue to grow stronger day by day.
God is so patient in the process of transforming people’s hearts in each moment. Bit by bit, He gradually turns them into future warriors.
The Love of Prison Moms
Homesick is adapted from the book of “From Death to Life” written by Zhang, Luo-Ming, a former drug addict who had been in jail for 11 years. In his book, he mentioned a volunteer who he called Mother Luo. When he was incarcerated in a very remote location, Mother Luo kept visiting him every week for 3 years. She would come to see him, teach him how to study the Bible, prayed for his every need. For 3 years, there wasn’t any other person in the prison willing to accept her invitation to study Bible. Whenever she visited, the jail officer would ask Zhang to come out to see her. Not knowingly, after couple of years later, Zhang wrote his story into a book. This book spread into many prisons and touched the hearts of thousands of incarcerated people. This miracle was made possible by an obedient woman who answered God’s calling to go visit those in prison.
We arranged a visit to Mother Luo with Zhang on 9/27/2019. She had just received a spine surgery, and was therefore very feeble and weak. She was happy to see us, even though she was in pain. Very humble she was in sharing how she had dedicated herself to visiting those in prisons. When God’s small impression touched her heart, she quickly picked up the call and encamped herself outside the prison. She has since served as a counselor for inmates for many, many years.
Luo Ming brought his guitar, suggested worshiping together. As he was playing, the tattoo on his leg was showing under his pant. I looked at him and turned around to look over at this humble lady. How is Mother Luo, with such a feeble body, who also has her own family to take care of, able to have such a big heart that constantly takes care of these inmates? It must be through the love of God that can move these volunteers to spend years and years of hard work in taking care of these prisoners. So when Zhang saw Mother Lou, he directly calls her “Mom” .
The Unexpected Calling
The evening of Friday, September 7th, 2018 was the Mission Night in the Roland Heights Christian Chapel in Los Angels. Prison Fellowship minister Huang, Ming-Zhen was the speaker. Also Homesick was screened during this meeting; however, things weren’t as easy as we thought. The church building was very large, with projections on either side of the stage that can easily distract people. Although there were many people present, many of them were new believers. It worried us that the message of the movie wouldn’t be received well.
After that meeting, we returned to Taiwan to continue the screening. One day, we met up with the author Zhang, and attended the early morning devotion time together in Taiwan Prison Fellowship. On that day, Pastor Huang introduced a man that came from Los Angeles. It turned out that he was from that church in Roland Heights and was very touched by Homesick. He had been thinking to retire early to devote his time to serve the Lord. He prayed if it was God’s calling for him to serve in Taiwan Prison Fellowship. Ten days later, he arrived at the Taiwan Prison Fellowship, not expecting to encounter the producer, director, and also author of Homesick. When he was sharing this, he became so emotional that he even had a hard time speaking.
Grace Gospel Choir and Homesick
Grace Gospel Choir is a cross-church organization in Los Angeles. Every year, they would tour 49 prisons in Taiwan by traveling on a tour bus, and give concerts to prisoners through singing, sharing and giving altar calls. Through the hard work of the group, there are lots of prisoners that now believe in Christ.
So when we were traveling to LA, Grace Gospel Choir invited us to meet up with them. They wanted to watch the movie to see whether they could adopt Homesick into their program. We watched Homesick together. After that, they had a long discussion on it and even tried run in one prison to observe the effect of the film. At last they decided to adopt Homesick into their evangelical Prison Tour in Oct, 2019.
In our ordinary lives, we are unable to “I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:36). We are blessed to be part of the glorious journey with this film. We thank God’s favor towards us, so that we are able to make Zhang’s story into a movie. We pray that God will strength us in keeping on making more films to portray His amazing work.
The Tear Dropping Movie
9/28/18 was the 37th anniversary of Taiwan Prison Fellowship and also the premiere of Homesick in Taiwan. Many of the guests that day were former inmates, workers, volunteers, and even the families of victims. This was also the first time that the author, cast, and crew were watching it together. When the song, “Thank You for Coming to See Me” started playing towards the end of the movie, it was almost like a chemical reaction happened in the venue. Many people wiped their tears silently. The main actor Yu-Ming (Zhang’s younger brother) and the author Zhang, Luo-Ming were so emotional that they had a hard time speaking on stage. Zhang’s wife, Huang, Wen-Zhen posted on Facebook, “It was like a tear bomb was thrown into the crowd that released so many tears in the audience. The film touched everyone’s heart. In mere span of its 15-minute length, I cried several times. This is the first time I saw my husband shed tears in public. Praise the Lord.”
Zhang, Luo-Ming later went up on the stage and stated that he had shared his testimony many times, and that there was never a time he would cry. However, while he was watching the scene where the neighbors were gossiping behind his father and mother’s backs, he totally collapsed.
His younger brother Zhang Yu-Ming stated, “My heart is filled with gratitude. I truly hope that Homesick will be able to touch more souls and that they would return and walk on the path of salvation. Let them be embraced by God’s love, let broken families be mended.”
Screening in Hsinchu Prison
Zhang, Luo-Ming was able to book an hour at the last minute to show the movie at Hsinchu Prison. The venue was upstairs with no elevator. Zhang’s 95-year-old father managed to climb the stairs step by step to the 2nd floor. Everyone were inspired by the determination of his father.
The venue housed almost three hundred inmates. Everyone was so focused on watching the movie without any distractions. Zhang’s wife gave the altar call, and then several of the prisoners raised their hands to receive Jesus Christ as their savior.
The Adullam Rehab Village
The Adullam Rehab Village was established by 8 former drug addicts. One of the founders Lin, Ming-Liang decided to use his own experience to help other addicts cutting off their addiction. The village is in a 1780 sq/ft metal building that is accommodated with all the bare necessities of a kitchen, living room, and bathroom. Through teamwork and care, more than 50 people had conquered their drug addiction.
Aside from helping people fight against drug addiction, they also help people reintegrate into society. In 2016, the Adullam Kitchen, a catering business was opened, and it successfully assisted seven rehabilitated persons. Brother Lin is currently planning to open a second facility with hopes of helping even more former addicts in the future.
“Fighting against drug addiction is like a war between life and death”, stated Brother Lin. They don’t use medicine to help their drug addiction but instead read the Bible and pray. With the team supporting the addicts 24/7 with the gospel, they are able to come out clean and thus lead new lives.
Some of our actors are from Adullam Rehab Village. We wanted to show them the movie to encourage both the ministry and their members. Since Adullam Kitchen did the catering for church on Sundays, their service falls on Sunday evening. At the night of the movie all the seats were occupied. After watching the film, Brother Lin said that he wasn’t a person that cried easily; however, the movie made him to tear up. He believes this film would encourage their members, who are still struggling with drug addiction, that there is a loving Father that cares for them.
Real Man for Real Action
The role for the prison thug in the movie was supposed to be played by a former inmate; however, he suddenly disappeared and we weren’t able to reach him. Mr. Gu came to become our actor. At the age of 9, Gu’s mother committed suicide. The abuse from his stepfather caused him to run away from home. He started to make a living at a very young age. Gu was guilty of illegally owning guns and ammunition and was placed in a high security prison for severe crimes. His violent displays of emotion often got him placed in solitary confinement. Fortunately, one of the Prison Moms was able to reach out to him, ultimately leading him to the Lord.
Gu worked as a night-shift security guard after coming out of prison. His occupation made him unable to attend church services. There were also often ex-gangsters who would come and visited him during his night hours. He prayed to God and asked for a job that could allow him to attend church in the morning. One day, an ad on his phone popped up, and it was about a company looking for hiring. He immediately called to inquire more about the job. It was actually a shipping company owned by a Christian man. Gu was able to get the job. Now he can not only attend service, but also do morning devotion with all the other coworkers in the office everyday.
This renewed man came to watch Homesick, and he couldn’t stop crying after finishing the film. He said he couldn’t control his emotions. These are tears of gratitude, remorse, and empathy. Through this film, I was able to understand Jesus’ heart. If He had a hundred sheep and lost one, he would be willing to leave the ninety-nine sheep behind and go out to seek the one that was lost until it has been found. The love in Homesick represents the persevering love Jesus demonstrates as he seeks for the lost sheep in the wilderness.