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The Safest Place on Earth, Part 2

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

In 2012, the Mars Hill Board of Directors went to Haiti to observe The Creole HOPE in action. At the time, there were still over 500,000 people living in tents as a result of the 2010 earthquake. The power grid was on only 4-6 hours a day. Unemployment was at 80%. What most North Americans would consider a desperate situation had become the “new norm” for Haitians.

Safest Place Pt 2

According to Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart grow sick.” As frustration and hopelessness grow, civility decreases, human life is devalued, and lawlessness increases. In Port-au-Prince, we were constantly aware that we were in a dangerous place.

  • The director of the mission compound where we were staying warned us we should not be out at night. But knowing we had come to show The Creole HOPE, she said that if we must be out late, then we should not take the short route back to the compound. “Even the police do not patrol that road at night for fear of armed gangs.” Our driver told us that killing had become a game.
  • In one location where we showed The Creole HOPE, four missionaries had been shot only a few months earlier.
  • Haitian children were referred to as animals. Many parents gave away their children to anyone who could provide them with minimal food and covering, effectively giving them over to slavery.
  • One Port-au-Prince neighborhood, Cité Soleil, is generally regarded as one of the most dangerous places in the world.

And so it was, our last evening and we had just finished showing The Creole HOPE to several hundred young people and it was getting late. Five of us packed into the back of a Land Cruiser, with our two Haitian drivers in the front seat. Little did we know what we were in for.

That evening was the first night of pre-Carnival, which leads up to their version of Mardi Gras. The streets of Port-au-Prince were packed with people on foot, mingling, dancing, and shouting. Ours were the only white faces in a sea of black faces, and we were on display in our glass box, inching through the crowd. Now I know what it feels like to be a minority. Checking their watches frequently, the drivers knew that the later we got on the highway to the compound, the more potential there was for danger.

The drivers decided to take a detour through the neighborhood. They planned to find a street paralleling the congested main street, and then rejoin the main street further down the road after the pedestrian traffic had thinned out. It was not a good plan. We took a right turn into the neighborhood and drove . . . and drove. There was no left turn to a street paralleling the main street.
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The Safest Place on Earth

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a safe place? This is a story about the safest place on earth.

In 1985 Mars Hill was working on a film called Angel of Light. It dealt with the “New Age” movement and spiritual deception. One evening while in production, my wife, Nancy, and children were on the set. I could see that filming was going well past midnight, so I suggested to Nancy that she take the children home. She was driving our van, and on the way home, while stopped at an intersection, several men approached the van and started banging on the doors, trying to turn the handles and open them.

With the men pulling at the doors, Nancy hit the accelerator and sped off. Arriving home, she got out and went to open the side passenger door to let the children out. The van door was a little ajar and slid open easily at her touch. What kept those men from doing the same?

Nancy was still awake when I got home and related the whole story. We prayed together and thanked God for keeping them from harm, then settled down and went to sleep. Later that morning, while it was still dark, something woke me up. I felt as though someone was watching us. I sat up and saw two figures just beyond the sliding glass door from our bedroom to our patio.

One figure was clearly in focus and the other was behind and somewhat translucent. Both were imposing in stature and cast in bright light. I pinched myself to make sure I was really awake. Could it be? Angels! They did not speak, but a great sense of awe and then peace came over me. Like a flash of light on an unexposed piece of film, their image was etched in my mind. And then, they vanished. Continue reading


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Prayer – The Last Resort, or the First?!

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

The Lung Surgery that Wasn’t Needed
by Fred Carpenter

You’ve no doubt heard this before. Someone facing a challenge or a crisis has done all they can do. And then it is said (often with some resign), “Well, it’s in God’s hands now; all we can do is pray.” But, what does the Bible teach us about prayer? Is prayer our last line of defense?

Late in 1998, I was experiencing some respiratory issues and my doctor said I should get a chest X-ray. The X-ray revealed a very small spot on one lung, but the doctor was not overly concerned at that point. He recommended we should check it again in a year, which is exactly what we did.

The next time they did a CT chest scan, and the results took a more serious turn. The spot had grown. The doctor told me wanted to remove the affected area and get the appropriate tests run to see if it was malignant. He even talked about the possibility of needing to remove an entire lobe of my right lung.

Being faced with such sobering results, I now saw this as a situation that needed serious prayer. In James 5:15, the Bible cites two prayers of the prophet Elijah as examples of effective prayer. In the first of these (1 Kings 17:1), Elijah prays that it would not rain in Israel until he prayed for rain. And then, 3 ½ years later, when Elijah prayed for rain (1Kings 18:42-46), it rained. The interesting thing about these prayers is that they don’t sound like prayer. When he utters them, he is not asking God, he is simply proclaiming what is going to happen. Upon closer examination of 1 Kings 17-18, we understand that Elijah is simply speaking what God told him to speak (see 18:1).  Continue reading


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Does Wisdom Really Come from Many Counselors?

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

A Verse That is Often Misunderstood by Fred Carpenter

You’ve probably heard it said, “There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors”. You won’t find that exact quote in the Bible, though there are a number of verses that speak to the value of stepping outside your own frame of reference to seek counsel from others.

“Without consultation, plans are frustrated, but with many counselors, they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22

But is it true, does wisdom come from a multitude of counselors?

In 1986 we released our 8th film, One In A Million. Like the films before, it was a short dramatic discussion-starter that raised a life issue for teens and leaders to grapple with in pursuit of biblical answers. In 9 years of ministry through media, we had developed a solid reputation and user-base. But now, I had no clear direction for what the next film project should be so we decided to send out a survey to some 20,000 youth workers to see what topics they wanted us to address.

We got back a sizable response. The most commonly requested topics read like the “top ten” list of youth issues from a youth worker 101 training curriculum; dating, parents, drugs & alcohol, self-image, etc. Only 2 or 3 made any mention of helping kids come to know Christ or helping them share their faith with their friends. I certainly considered all of this valuable feedback, but more importantly, I committed all of this input to prayer….what did God want?

I became concerned that my “multitude of counselors” had become so relevant in their profession, that they had almost become irrelevant. They were having difficulty seeing the forest for the trees. God gave me the conviction to listen to the few counselors that wanted a film to lead their kids to Christ and to move them to share their faith with others. So, we set out to create the hardest hitting evangelistic film possible. Continue reading


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Have You Discovered the Christian Life is Not Difficult … It’s Impossible?!

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

A Verse That Will Change Your Life
from Fred Carpenter

If I had to name a handful of Bible verses that have most changed my life and work with Mars Hill, Galatians 2:20 would definitely be one of them.

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” – Galatians 2:20 NASB

Giving it All and Hitting the Wall – How this Came to be Such an Important Verse to Me

In 1983, I had just completed our most difficult film project to that date. Although the project was highly successful, I was totally spent from all the pressures of making it happen. I hit the wall hard and found myself wondering if I could keep this up and do it all over again. Not only had the stress drained me mentally, but I wound up in the hospital with some physical issues caused by the way I had pushed myself. I remember my Dad saying, “Fred, you have to quit trying to save the world in your own strength.”

It was at this time that I was introduced to a book by Dr. Bill and Annabel Gillham called “Lifetime Guarantee.” Their teaching in this book expanded on the truths we find in Galatians 2:20. It set me free. I discovered that the life God has for us is not really about what we do for Christ, but rather, what He does through us.

The Exchanged Life – His New Life for Our Old One

Hudson Taylor said that Galatians 2:20 taught what he referred to as “The Exchanged Life” (Consider investing a few hours and read his short but powerful story of the exchanged life in Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret). Taylor understood that none of us can live the Christian life in our own strength or resist temptation by our own will power. He came to realize that only Christ can successfully live the victorious Christian life for it is, after all, His resurrection life which reflects His victory over the power of sin and death. Continue reading


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Specific Answer to Specific Prayer Glorifies God

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

Lessons in Praying Specific Prayer
By Fred Carpenter

The year was 1985. My work in media ministry was growing as was my young family. My wife, Nancy, and I had 2 small children and a third one was on the way.

One day I got a phone call from my distressed wife. She reported that she had been driving on the freeway with our two young children in the backseat, in their car seats, when suddenly our boisterous son, Wes, tried to open the back door of the car…from his car seat! Needless to say, Nancy was unnerved.

At that time, I was leading a men’s Bible Study. We always closed the study time with prayer, and on this day I shared what had happened with Nancy and Wes, and I requested prayer for their safety. Nothing more was said about the matter at that time.

God, of course, was continuing to move in my heart and mind to pray for my family as they traveled about town in our old Honda. It had been a great car, but it seemed that my family was about to outgrow it. I started asking God, “Do we really need another car or do I just want a new car? Show me, Father. I want to pray according to your will.” Continue reading


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Blossom Where You are Planted

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Mars Hill Productions! In this devotional series, president, Fred Carpenter is reflecting on the important lessons of God that have guided us in ministry and led us into a deeper understanding of His ways.

“Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” – Proverbs 16:3 NASB

When we are young adults, looking at the endless possibilities before us, it seems logical to pick a goal and map out a plan for how to get there. But, when you are a follower of Christ, you become aware that you are not alone in these decisions. In fact, you learn that He already has plans, big plans; so it becomes a matter of discovering what those plans are and what your role in them will be.

I have shared in the previous two devotionals that upon graduating from film school God had given me a deep conviction that I would someday make films that would introduce people to Jesus Christ. However, I had no direction or idea about how that would come to pass.

At that time, I was living in Houston, doing odd media jobs, waiting tables, and strategizing what my next move should be. I attended a church but had not joined a church or become involved in church life because I didn’t know if I would be staying in Houston. Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York seemed the more logical places to pursue a film career.

While searching for something encouraging in God’s word one day, I read Proverbs 16:3, “Commit your works to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” The Holy Spirit spoke to me through this verse. I thought I would find something about my plans coming to pass, but what I saw was not what I was expecting. I realized I had been reading that verse backward. I was trying to make a plan and commit it to the Lord, expecting Him to then show me the work. Continue reading