Six years ago the associate pastor at our church, Nace Lanier, alerted me to Shusako Endo’s masterpiece Silence about the persecution of Christians converts in Japan in the early 17th c., the journey of two priests who travel to bring back to faith an apostate colleague, and the question of where God is in the midst of suffering.
Little did we know that our own journey would start.
Three years later, an email from my assistant confirmed “lunch with Mark Rodgers and George Furla (Silence Producer) on Friday Oct. 25 @ 1pm. The venue will be Cast at the Viceroy Hotel in Santa Monica.”
We sat outside and talked about the film and the funding still needed to green light production. Over the course of the next year, my partner in Cave Capital, Dale Brown, agreed to engage financially, and we started to hammer out the terms, eventually bringing in other capital along with ours. When the majority funding fell out in 2014, together with the other investors we stepped up to provide the funds needed.
And throughout it all, Nace was praying. And suffering. Last year, Nace’s son Josiah was diagnosed with brain cancer.
The journey for us has been a complex one. A particular joy along the way was to cajole a dear friend, Mako Fujimura, to capture his own journey as a Japanese-American artist into a book. We served as his agent for the publication of Silence and Beauty: Hidden Faith Born of Suffering.
But there have been valleys. Josiah’s cancer was ravenous. I know for his parents God often felt aloof. Distant. But they never lost sight of His presence. Last Christmas, Nace wrote: “We remember the Prince of peace coming as a baby. He was fully human. He knows pain and frustration. He knows sorrow and alienation. Take all your cares to Him for He knows our hearts and how our bones can ache. He is fully God and will redeem these days. He will use them for His glory and our ultimate good. How? When? I don’t know, but I know He will.”
Throughout the journey of the production of the film, Nace organized a prayer network with such spiritual giants as Andy Crouch and Father Jim Martin. He helped coordinate our exhibit with Mako’s work and artifacts from Japan with Wheaton. He reached out to scholars for a collection of essays just released by Picador, the publisher of Silence, and wrote the introduction of the new edition for them.
And he suffered along with his son.
Josiah’s health deteriorated throughout this year. On May 19th, Josiah, age 10, went with the Lord. Months earlier my daughter gave Josiah a picture of Aslan she had drawn because the lion is how she imagined Jesus being there for Josiah. He is a picture of strength and comfort. Soon after the memorial, Nace gave out coins to all the children who had been praying for Josiah. He wrote a few reflections about Josiah’s journey from the coins (that bear the image of the lion) to help other families teach how God is there even when He doesn’t come through like we ask Him.
Read more about Silence:
Silence Reading Guide, Introduction by Nace Lanier
Can Film Inform our Politics, by Mark Rodgers, October 14, 2016
Beauty out of Ugliness, by Mark Rodgers, February 17, 2015