Adventures of St. Paul

by Steve Ray on July 8, 2004

What’s it like to dangle in a spinning basket 3 stories above a busy street? I learned what Paul already knew. What’s it like to fall off a horse in the desert? I discovered what Paul already did. What’s it like to float on driftwood in the Mediterranean Sea. You guessed it. I experience a small bit of what Paul suffered.

 

On September 1st we will release our huge project “St. Paul: Contending for the Faith”. It has taken well over a year and a half to put together with 5 weeks of filming in six countries. And of course I can’t just walk around talking about Paul, I have to play out the little kid still in me (according to my good wife) and discover adventures everywhere I go. So, Paul and his life now come alive in the very places he lived and suffered for the Gospel.

 

Want to hear an amazing story, just one of the miracles that happened along the way? Ok, here goes. Does God have control over governments and dignitaries like the Bible says? Yup!

 

A filming crew needs special permits and visas to work in many countries. Syria and Turkey tend to be the most bureaucratic countries in the world to deal with. After months of negotiating and rangling we still did NOT have our permits to film in either country the day before we left with our crew and equipment. We were scheduled to arrive the next day in Turkey to begin filming in Tarsus and still no permits.

 

But let me step back a moment. We have always considered the Lord to be our Producer and Director. And he has let me know at times that things would not happen as expected or hoped. Many times things would linger until the last moment so we would KNOW a miracle had taken place. This was one such time . . . so, back to the story.

 

One hour before we left for the airport to head for Turkey my fax machine rang. I stood and waited. The paper began to move slowly through the machine. Wow! It was permits from Istanbul Turkey giving us visas to enter the country for filming. I just about dropped. But, Syria was still a problem. How do I explain the Damascus Road experience of St. Paul without going to Damascus?

 

We arrived in Turkey and filmed at Tarsus, Antioch, and Ephesus. Then on to Israel and Rome. Still no word from Syria. From Rome we had plane tickets to fly to Amman Jordan and then guides to drive us across the border into Syria. But still no permits. We called and called. We e-mailed and faxed. We were desperate! Two days before we were to arrive in Damascus I went to the Syrian Embassy in Rome. “Please, you must get us permits! We have been working on this for over six months.”

 

“Ha,” they laughed, “It takes dignitaries and politicians over six months to get such permits. Who do you think you are, St. Paul, that you will have a miracle?”

 

Well, yes. I did believe God performs miracles. So, my wife and I told all the legal aids and the dignitary, “Yes, I am a Catholic and I believe God DOES perform miracles. In fact, I will be back here tomorrow to pick up my permits and visas so please have them ready for me!”

 

Disgusted snorts demonstrated their anger as they turned away and went back into their offices.

 

The next day, shortly before leaving Rome for Damascus, we were filming at the tomb of St. Paul in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome. We were praying, “St. Paul pray for us” as we filming the segment of his death and burial.

 

While standing in front of his tomb talking into the camera my cell phone rang. It was the Minister of Information calling from Damascus. “Mr. Ray?” “Yes,” I said. “I hear you want to film in my country.” “Yes,” I said again.

 

“Good. I am Mr. Ali and I am the Minister of Information in charge of such things in the country of Syria. I personally invite you to my country and will send my people to meet you at the border to help you across. In the meantime, go to the Syrian Embassy in Rome in the morning to pick up your permits and visas. I would like you to visit me in the Government Building during your trip so I can meet you.”

 

The dignitaries in the Syrian Embassy were not pleased but they saw the hand of God that day – as did I and my crew. The next day we arrived in Damascus with cameras rolling.

 

And, for the rest of the story you can watch “Paul, Contending for the Faith” when it is released on video and DVD in September by Ignatius Press.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Scott Zuniga April 24, 2009 at 1:29 AM

Mr Ray,

My crew and I will be filming in Syria starting at the end of the summer. I know we might be a little late but we’re just now starting the the permit process. I have looked a lot of places but haven’t found much information on the matter. Could you give me some insight as to how we could get permits to film in Syria. Your help would be extremely appreciated.

Thank you,

Scott Zuniga

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