God’s Math–Part 1

The Chosen: Feeding of the Five Thousand

It is the only miracle that was written about in all 4 gospels—the Feeding of the Five Thousand. In the simplest form possible, it went down like this: Word had gotten out that Jesus was in town. People came to hear him speak. After awhile the people were getting hangry, but they didn’t want to miss anything that Jesus said so they weren’t leaving. The disciples were thinking Jesus needed to wrap it up so people could go get themselves something to eat. Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit and said the disciples should feed them. Huh? With what? One of the disciples said, “Hey Jesus, this kid has 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.” Jesus does His thing—blessings and miracles happen–next thing you know, the disciples are serving the masses bread and fish and even had 12 baskets left over once everyone had their fill.

Around seven or so years ago, I read the book, The Grave Robber, by Mark Batterson. It is a wonderful book about miracles and I highly recommend it. One particular quote spoke to me and I wrote it down to remind me about writing for God’s purposes. Batterson said, “I write because I am called by God to write. A book sold = an answered prayer. Each time a new book releases, it feels like giving God my two little fish. All I can do is trust that God will multiply what little I have to offer and feed multitudes with it.”

I was touched by his faith and I was inspired by his purpose for writing. I tried to keep that in mind as I wrote a Bible study (“Joy Cometh”) for people who were going through divorce. I completed the project and brought it to “She Speaks”—a Christian women’s conference which provides opportunities for individuals to meet with publishers and agents to pitch book ideas. So many moments leading up to the conference led me to believe that God was the driving force behind my book. As a single mom, I couldn’t afford to go out of state for a conference. However, the cost of everything–the conference registration, hotel, transportation, and food was paid for entirely by gifts from my family, friends, co-workers, and church family members who encouraged me to go. They each gave a bit and it added up to be A LOT! It was so humbling to know that so many people believed in me and this prayed-over project.

However, despite my best efforts, and meetings with publishers, and attempts to build a platform, and letters from influential supporters, I was never able to find a company that was willing to publish it. I was really really disappointed!! Although I was repeatedly rejected, I tried not to question the “whys” of the book. I became resolved with the fact that God’s plans are not always the same as ours and I had to just leave it at that. I shelved the Bible Study and I folded up the quote by Mark Batterson. I put it in a drawer in my desk and pretty much forgot about it…that is, until a few months ago when I “met” Dallas Jenkins.

Dallas Jenkins is the creator, director, and co-writer of The Chosen—a multi-season series about Jesus that has been the biggest crowd-funded media project in history. I learned about the series from my mom, of course. (Watch “The Chosen is Not Good” ad campaign https://youtu.be/Wo-UzSaWcIA to see why this is kinda funny). This is the most non-cheesy Christian show I’ve ever seen. The portrayal of Jesus is so relatable and I would like to think it’s a close representation of His personality–completely kind and non-judgmental–forgiving in every possible way.

Several years ago (2017), Dallas Jenkins had his life’s huge disappointment—a failed movie. I read that he felt like God had been so present in the whole movie-making process and so he couldn’t understand why it would’ve failed like it did. I completely empathized with that feeling of being let down. At the time, God impressed two things on his wife’s heart—the story of the Feeding of the 5000 and the phrase, “I do impossible Math.” (quote from www.becomingyourbest.com, episode 234). He and his wife didn’t know what these things meant, but they knew they were an integral part of what was going on in their lives. And then on that very day of disappointment, at 4am, Jenkins received a Facebook message from someone named Adam who he never even met. The message was, “Remember, your job is not to feed the 5000. It’s only to provide the loaves and fish.” In that moment, Dallas received the nudge that he needed and realized (just like Mark Batterson did) that we are not responsible for the results of our work for God.

Upon hearing this story, I searched my desk for that piece of paper—the one with Batterson’s quote on it. I needed the reminder that it was time to get back to writing. I need not worry about the results of what I write, only that I do my part, and do it for God.

I figure there is no better opportunity to help me get back into the swing of writing, then with the retelling of my experience at an event that was hosted by Dallas Jenkins himself!

One of my bucket list items has been to be an extra in a film. When I read that The Chosen was offering its fans the opportunity to be an extra in the filming of one of the scenes for Season 3, I talked to my husband and we decided we were all in for the opportunity. We paid it forward (PIF) the required amount so that we could be extras and so that others could continue to watch The Chosen for free. When we learned the scene that we would be a part of was the Feeding of the 5,000, we were beyond excited!

We were responsible for our own travel and costumes. We prayed that the filming dates would coincide with our work schedules so that we wouldn’t have to take too much time off. The filming was set to take place in Midlothian, TX at a Salvation Army Camp that had the large open field needed for this scene. We decided to drive since it would take us about 10 or so hours each way. Apparently over 11,000 people signed up to be extras for the scene. The producers decided to split the group into two days of filming—5,000+ people per day. We were thrilled to learn the dates of filming—June 7th and 8th –the week after my summer break began!

We were provided guidelines on what to wear to be considered “1st century appropriate.” Dressing a 6’6” light-eyed and light-skinned man so that he could blend in during a Middle Eastern event was presenting us with a bit of a challenge. Kim’s costume went through a few variations. He started out looking like a Russian grandma (a.k.a. the babushka, Lol!!) but in the end, he really embraced his role and he especially enjoyed the opportunity to grow in his facial hair! We were so grateful to my parents for their sewing skills and their assistance in helping to make us look the part. We were ready for our film debut!

We selected June 8th as our filming day. The heat was a big challenge that week—the heat index was forecasted to hit 100 degrees. Many of our costumes required multiple-layered clothing and head coverings so heat exhaustion was a huge concern. We also had to jump through the SAG Covid requirements–negative lab PCR tests within 3 days of filming and a negative rapid test the morning of filming. Thankfully we were able to cruise through the hurdles and made it to the set with the intent to witness the reenactment of one of the Bible’s greatest miracles.

They had hundreds of people working the event to try to keep us hydrated in the oppressive heat. They split us into three groups and filmed different parts of the scene before bringing us all together at the end. In the meantime, they provided entertainment and food to keep us occupied during our time off set. We got to meet lots of other fans and were excited when it was finally our turn to walk to the field for filming.

The first scene our group (of about 1000 people) filmed took place AFTER the 5000 were fed. We were told our assignment was to express excitement with the people around us as we all just experienced a miracle. We were able to see a few of the actors in between takes, but to be honest, this wasn’t the most exciting part of the day. It was hard to imagine “after the miracle,” since we weren’t part of the Feeding of the 5,000 scene…yet. They did SEVERAL takes of this scene. Each time they yelled “action,” we became more and more animated and comfortable with the people who were standing around us. By the last take, we were hugging strangers and shaking hands and I think at that point, our group was finally giving a convincing portrayal that we had been through something spectacular together. Dallas Jenkins thanked us for being there and was so genuinely grateful for our part in this life-altering event. We were then instructed to return to the tents where we would wait to be called back for the final filming of the day.

When all of the groups were called back to the field, Dallas wanted to make sure he got all the scenes he needed since this was the last time his group of 5,000+ would be together. We finally got to be a part of the reenactment of the miracle that we were so faithfully yearning to witness. The actors were walking around with their baskets, prepared to hand out the bread and fish. The masses were hoping that they would be lucky enough to be sitting in a spot where they could reach up and grab a piece of bread. (Needless to say, the dried out smelly fish wasn’t as coveted! Lol!) Overall there was a lot of excitement in the air and there was a collective joy that went with being a part of this moment.

Once we were all seated in our places and the restless movement paused in anticipation of filming to begin, I got to look around and take it all in for a moment. Despite the heat which caused our heads to throb, and the hardness of the ground, and the blazing sun on our red-burned faces, there was a realization in that moment that took my breath away….Here I was, with over FIVE THOUSAND people sitting on the grass in a field and the Bible says, “They all ate and were satisfied.” (Matthew 14:20 & Mark 6:42 & Luke 9:17, NIV). Over 5,000 people fed to satisfaction with 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread–it is absolutely positively mind blowing!! The sheer grandeur of this miracle was astounding and for the first time in my life, I could see it. Only with God’s impossible math could 5 + 2 = 5,000 (with a remainder of 12)!

As the sun set and the filming was wrapped, our tired bodies were ready for air conditioning and rest. I can only imagine how the original 5,000+ were feeling after their miraculous event. By the time we were handed our boxed dinners and we were loaded onto the bus to take us back to our cars, it was completely dark.

Our bus drove away from the field for a few minutes and then it stopped. We didn’t know what the hold up could be, but to be honest, we were comfortable and “we were satisfied.” Within moments the lights turned on and I looked up to see Dallas Jenkins charging down the aisle of the bus giving every single person a high five and once again expressing his gratitude. Wow! We later learned he went onto every bus that night and high-fived and thanked all of us!! Quite frankly, that was one of the most impressive parts of the day for me!

Dallas Jenkins’ commitment to his calling for Jesus is truly inspirational. He has set an example that is one of genuine love. He and his beautiful show, The Chosen, have left me with the awesome reminder that with God, the impossible can become possible!! All I have to do is offer up my fish and bread, and the rest…is up to Him.