Which came first, the mission trips or the idea for a TV show?
My brother Tim Scott and Will Decker, a good friend of mine, traveled in ministry in 1998, but at that point they didn't film anything. They were solely doing missions. Our covering ministry is Challenge for Christ ministries, and Travel the Road was solely our mission arm, designed to expose people to what missions are, then connect them with agencies that send people out.
When Will and Tim came back from that first trip, we prayed and we really felt they should film everything, to give people a glimpse of what missions were like. Even then, we didn't set out to shoot a TV series. We set out to capture what was happening, and then we cut that into the series.
Had either Will or Tim done mission work before?
Our parents are ministers, so Tim had gone overseas when he was younger with them.
What about Will?
He was not a Christian when he left.
Why did he go on the journey?
He was a professional photographer and he went out to do a photography book. Originally, my brother prayed about who to take with him. He really felt strongly he should take William, even though he wasn't a Christian. People said, "No, no, no, no, that's not good." When they were in Papua New Guinea, God just totally grabbed a hold of Will's heart and totally changed him. And within three months he was saved and he's never looked back since.
There's a great dynamic between Tim, the optimist, and Will. Whatever's happening Tim is focused on spreading the message, while Will seems more concerned with getting from point A to point B.
Right. In the beginning, Will didn't do a lot of the preaching and teaching.
This is their third expedition. They were in Borneo, China and Mongolia. They are getting ready to launch into Afghanistan.
How do they get established in a country?
Typically they try to make contacts before they go, with local pastors and missionaries there. It doesn't always happen, because some areas there are no Christians.
Did you intend the show to be a sort of travelogue as well? At times it seems we're watching more of their experiences than evangelizing.
It depends. In a lot of the areas, it's not like you fly into the big city and take a taxicab to the local church or whatever. They have to trek to the middle of a jungle or across the desert on a camel. There is a fair amount rigorous effort to get where they are going. They were figuring it all out for the first few episodes. But as the episodes go, the ministry increases. What the guys have learned is that whether you're preaching to one or 10,000, it really doesn't matter. That one person you touch may change the nation--could be the Billy Graham of Ethiopia.
But we didn't want to create a show that was wall-to-wall preaching either. We wanted to show the experience. So it's not all ministry. It's a balance of the culture, the travel, the ministry--all those elements that really go into it.
Often they try to preach, but are made to feel unwelcome.
They experience a little bit of that in Ethiopia. Typically, in the cities there can be resistance to the gospel or just to Americans, or anybody that's Western. When you get back into the villages, the people are very welcoming. Then when you get into Muslim areas, it definitely gets a little more difficult. So each area presents its own set of challenges.
Some places they go, Christianity is already well planted, or, as in Africa, is spreading like wildfire. What's the value of having an American Christian go to those places?
People get caught up in asking whether Americans should be going here or there. What it boils down to is the call of the Lord. If the Lord has called you to a specific area, that's where you are going to see the fruit. In a lot of areas, the local [Christians] are better able to be in touch with the people--they understand the culture. But that's not to say an American or someone else can't add benefits. Here, you can walk into a bookstore and pick up a Bible or Christian literature and learn. Over there, they are lucky if they have one Bible for a whole village. Those of us who are well versed and have gone to seminary can teach them a lot, and encourage them to grow in the faith.
As you said about Africa, there's quite a bit of evangelism going on, but some areas have never heard the name Jesus. Especially when you get into Northern Africa, in Ethiopia, and a lot of Muslim-controlled areas there's a need for people to minister the Gospel.
For Will Decker, the show has worked a complete transformation, but how about your brother-what's the effect on his faith?
He feels deep down it's a life-or-death choice for these people. People are dying who haven't had that opportunity to say yes to the Lord. I've also seen him grow so deep in the word. When you're out on the mission field, in a lot of these places, it's you and the Lord. You're not surrounded by all the distractions of TV and movies and the phone and everything that's around us here in America. On a ten-hour bus ride, or in your hotel room, you have a chance to grow very, very deep and strong with the Lord. It transforms your life, not only the spiritual aspect, but in the way you look at the world and see what's needed.
Definitely. In Ethiopia--on the first trip, that wasn't filmed--there was a man basically dying on a street corner. They saw people kick him or just walk by. It was an eye opener. Over the course of that day, they literally watched him die on that street corner. In Tibet, they filmed a sky burial. This old woman had died, and in the most grotesque thing you've ever seen, they cut the body open and held up the flesh and called down these giant vultures that vultures descended on this body. About 40 of them, screaming almost in a Satanic way, ate the entire body in ten minutes. It was one of the most disturbing things they've ever seen. But it's just those contrasts. So it's definitely an eye opener, but you grow used to being shocked, if that makes sense.
What interest have you had from mainstream TV?
Some of the networks are interested, but it's a little bit of a content battle, in terms of how much of the Christian message the network's willing to tolerate. So we're kind of taking it step by step.
Tim, apparently, wanted to be a stockbroker. If the show ended tomorrow, what he would do?
He continue on ministering the Gospel all over the world. When they are here in the United States, it's almost depressing for them, because they can not wait to get back on the field. They never set out to do this for a TV series. I mean, that was not their motivating purpose. The reality shows coax people in with money. These guys are living out there on $15,000 a year, including travel, food, lodging, everything. They're not making any money off this. If the cameras stopped rolling today, their hearts would still be over there.