By Mark Ellis
Some college students embark on travel adventures after graduation, but not many choose to visit 10 countries in a yearlong trek dedicated to serving Christ. These four grads also made a documentary about their quest, “The AC Project: To The Ends of the Earth,” which recently screened at the Newport Beach Film Festival.
In his junior year at CU Boulder, Doug Wekenman took a drive above the campus with his friend Ethan Matott. They took in the view of the Flatirons and carped about dating, which had resulted in a “lame Saturday.”
As they read the Bible and blasted music from their truck, they began to dream about taking a trip with friends after graduation. Both had become more serious about their faith in the last year.
“For the first time we were reading the Bible on our own, taking this Jesus thing seriously,” Doug recalls. “Jesus asks us to share his love with anybody who will listen and make disciples and do these things to the ends of the earth,” he notes.
Doug and Ethan had taken some short-term mission trips with their college group known as The Annex. “We realized that during those weeks, that’s when we felt the most alive in our lives.”
“During those weeks we were wholeheartedly serving and loving people and spending time with Jesus. Maybe we felt most complete because that’s when we were most in our purpose, why we were made.”
Suddenly it dawned on them simultaneously. “If that’s our purpose, let’s go do that because there are people who need help all over the world!”
Doug’s brother Ryan also caught the vision, along with their friend, Matt Fons. In 2012, after months of planning
— and leaning on God for miraculous provision to raise $54,000 for the trip — the four grads left on their global expedition with the goal of helping people in need.
Their first destination was Haiti, where they spent several weeks in Saint Marc helping Youth With A Mission (YWAM). They did ministry in a local prison and worked at a new village two hours from the capital of Port-au-Prince. The village was built to provide housing for refugees devastated by the 2010 earthquake.
Across the island in the Dominican Republic, they taught English classes and helped refurbish a YWAM base. They assisted in building an orphanage in Belize. In Fiji, they educated rural families about water filtration.
One very moving segment of their documentary involved with work in Miraj, India, with sex trafficking victims, especially a young girl named Hacena.
“She was born with HIV because her mom was a prostitute,” Doug notes. Because of the HIV, she was abandoned in the streets, without adequate food or shelter.
Timothy Jalam, a local pastor and founder of the Home of Hope, rescued Hacena, and she now seems to thrive in spite of her disease.
“She knows she doesn’t have a lot of time left,” Doug says. “The reality of Jesus and eternity is very real for her. She may be sick on the outside, but on the inside, you sense a ferocious soul. She knows God in a way I want to know God.”
The rest of their trip was in the African countries of Uganda, Burundi, Zambia and South Africa. In these
countries they worked in schools helping to raise awareness about HIV-AIDS and teen pregnancy prevention.
Doug’s favorite destination was Gitenga, Burundi, working at an orphanage in the heart of the mountains. “It was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever seen and we lived and worked with 50 kids who became our brothers and sisters,” he recalls with fondness. A special memory was teaching the boys to play baseball and playing catch with them until it was too dark to see.
The documentary also captures a romantic angle, with interviews of Doug’s girlfriend Samantha, who talks about the challenges of maintaining their relationship during the year-long separation.
They shot video footage on the trip with a Nikon D5100, purchased at Costco for about $1000, along with a GoPro. “We wish we spent more money on equipment,” Doug says. Sometimes they joked that the Holy Spirit was in their camera, because the resulting footage looked better than expected.
Editor-Director Brandon Lied with Steel Rock Films in Colorado shot the post-trip interviews and created a visually captivating and enthralling final cut.
In addition to the Newport Beach Festival, the film has also screened at the Inspiration Film Fest in Florida and the Idyllwild International Film Festival.
They plan to blast the trailer out to hundreds of churches and provide the opportunity for youth groups, young adults, and mission teams to view it. They won’t charge for the film, but will ask for an honorarium to support the ministries seen in the film, along with future projects.