In the preface to her new book, "Jesus Camp: My Story," Becky Fischer notes that it's been six years since the filming of "Jesus Camp," a documentary film that raced through the media like wildfire. In the months following its release, Fischer found herself the center of a media firestorm, the recipient of a deluge of hate mail, and a frequent guest on talk shows in which she attempted to explain her charismatic children's ministry.
Fischer remembers the furor well and knows in writing the book, "I'm sticking my head out of the sand a little bit."
Fischer, whose Kids in Ministry International headquarters is in Mandan, said that reliving the "Jesus Camp" experience in the book has brought her both exhilaration and tears, but that on balance, the documentary has produced growth for her ministry.
Viewers look at the footage filmed at "Jesus Camp" - showing children involved in what Fischer and other Pentecostal or charismatic Christians would call "supernatural" witness, in ecstatic prayer and preaching, often in tears of emotion - in very different ways depending on their beliefs, Fischer said.
"People are seeing two different movies," she said. "Those who are not of our religious persuasion look at it and see child abuse and brainwashing. But through the eyes of the charismatic Christians, you see hope, life and vision for children that's exciting."
Five years ago, when the film came out, "from the minute the trailer was released, I had a decision to make," Fischer said. "I could deny it, repudiate it, or let it go and ride it out."
Fischer decided, she said, "there was enough good in it, I wanted it out, even with its flaws."
Her goal in allowing the documentary to be filmed was to reach the Christian community, not the non-Christian audience, she said.
"It was for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear what was going on in children's ministry," she said.
But "the Christian community wasn't the one who came to the documentary," Fischer said. And very few secular audiences outside of Pentecostal Christians and some evangelicals could look at it and fill in the missing context, she said.
"The controversy in the film was a double-edged sword - it's really not who we are, but I'll take it in order to get the message out," she decided. "This was the vehicle that was given to us," she said.
As it turned out, Fischer said, it was the controversy that expanded the KIMI ministry explosively around the world.
Fischer recently returned from speaking at a Singapore conference attended by people from 22 different countries, many of whom saw the "Jesus Camp" footage on YouTube, "and that's what they wanted for their kids," Fischer said.
Fischer said her intention in writing "Jesus Camp: My Story" was never to get even with the filmmakers or discredit them.
"I still believed there was enough good in it that it would change lives. This is why I let the movie be made, because I believed in it," she said.
KIMI remains very low-key in Mandan, using its offices there as its national and international headquarters, with an auditorium for conferences.
Fischer maintains a full travel schedule, having trained directors for KIMI in Mexico, Australia, Kenya and India in addition to the U.S., and having curriculum materials translated into more than a dozen languages.
"We teach people how to work with kids in the church, so kids are interested and engaged and will remain active," she said.
"God is using this movie as a great tool for expanding supernatural children's ministry around the world," she said.
"Jesus Camp: My Story" is available at www.kidsinministry.org/store in paperback or as a download, as well as on Amazon.com.
(Reach reporter Karen Herzog at 250-8267 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)