HoA documentary reveals new approach to ministry

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Kaleb Eisele and Justin Khoe.

With an intention to foster genuine connection and understanding, and to answer life’s big questions, Humans of Adventism (HoA) creator Kaleb Eisele and YouTuber Justin Khoe set out across the United States to create a documentary about Adventists from a unique perspective.

“Our main focus is the human experience, told through the lens of Seventh-day Adventists,” explains Kaleb, documentary editor and director. “We’re not out to teach people how to think. There’s one outcome I want: to get people to start asking questions and to get people curious about each other.”

“As weird as it might sound, doing the whole ‘human interaction thing’ isn’t something that I’ve seen modelled a lot in the Church. [It’s] often times a sterilised environment where all we talk about is ideas and scripture,” adds Justin, cinematographer for the project.

Premiered to YouTube on January 28, Humans of Adventism: The Series is a new 10-episode documentary series that explores the lives and perspectives of more than 30 Seventh-day Adventists from diverse backgrounds, with an aim to normalise Adventism as
a denomination and to inspire intentional connection between church members.

“The entire project really accomplishes a couple of things,” said Justin in a Record Live interview with Adventist Record editor Jarrod Stackelroth (February 10). “Minimally, it creates a more rounded sense of who we are as a people. Yes, we believe in the Sabbath and eat haystacks and that’s all great, but we’re a complex and diverse group of people with a lot of different life experiences and different ways of relating to each other beyond the church walls. It’s meant to be a tool that connects people closer together.”

Made possible thanks to a partnership with the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists and the Adventist Learning Community (ALC), the project is a first of its kind, with a unique creative approach.

“It’s entirely supported by them and so we’re very grateful to both entities for giving us a shot at something that’s maybe a little new for Adventism,” said Justin.

“We are convinced that everyday experiences and stories are crucial to building healthier interpersonal relationships in the [Adventist] Church,” explains Kaleb on the NAD Ministerial website. “Think about a person’s first exposure to Seventh-day Adventism, imagine the first information they find. It could be a flyer or a video. Maybe it’s the website of their local Seventh-day Advent- ist church. For the person seeking to learn about us—what will they find? As much as we would love to say the first thing they find is something like ‘the truth’ or a welcoming community, this often isn’t the case. In fact, establishing the very human, relational connections to people in our church can be difficult. This is where storytelling plays a vital role.”

According to Justin, the documentary “doesn’t try to give you gimmicks”. It’s “a deep conversation, what you might have with a friend after a meal”, and reflects a different, more person-centred approach to ministry.

“When we think of ministry, all too often we think of a person on a stage wearing a suit and tie, holding a book in their hands. And not saying that isn’t ministry, but in the book of Matthew there are no more than five sermons recorded. The rest of the book is Jesus showing up in the lives of people. It’s been very powerful to me to see what happens when you are slow to speak and quick to listen.”

To hear the powerful testimonies of Adventists recorded in Humans of Adventism: The Series, you can visit Justin Khoe’s YouTube channel.