Photo 1: From left, Chelsea Bailey, Candace Mackie, Hunter Buchanan and Natalie Roush took part in the NRB competition in 2012.
Photo 2: From left, Ashley Campbell, Andrew Bradford, David Gaskin and Elizabeth Pirkle won first place in the 2013 contest.
Media professionals flock to the National Religious Broadcasters convention to check on the latest trends, conduct business for their ministries and interact with their peers. But for TWR, the annual event has also turned out to be a proving ground for young missionary recruits.
Thousands converge on Nashville, Tennessee, each winter for the NRB convention, and since 2010 media students have been invited to participate in production competitions. In the video challenge, two recent recruits of TWR (also known as Trans World Radio) proved their mettle by winning prizes.
Elizabeth Pirkle called her experience in the 36:D(igital) V(ideo) Challenge “a roller coaster, for sure” as she and her three North Greenville University teammates were given a theme and then had to write, produce and submit a fully realized video within only 36 hours.
“There was a point when we did not know whether we would have anything to turn in – it was definitely pressure,” said Pirkle, who was appointed to be a TWR missionary in November 2013. “But it was really cool because we would just pray about this project, wanting things to work out and honor the Lord in what we made and how we did it. … It was really cool how the Lord is able to orchestrate the circumstances to tell the story that he wanted to be told.”
Pirkle and team overcame multiple setbacks during the compressed production period to take home the first-place prize in 2013. The year before, a video by a team that included another TWR appointee, Pirkle’s NGU schoolmate Candace Mackie, won third place. Mackie graduated from the Christian university in South Carolina in 2012 and recently finished raising the support needed to begin missionary service soon, while Pirkle just graduated last month (May 2014) and will begin the challenging support-raising process by fall.
Both women pointed to the value of teamwork as the key lesson gleaned from the experiences – learning to compromise and not be selfish, as Pirkle put it.
Mackie said, “Before the challenge I had mostly worked alone when producing videos, so the videos would always turn out the way that I wanted them to. When you're working with a team you have to trust your teammates to do their task well. That's hard! I'm very particular. But it was good for me to just focus on my task and to trust my teammates.”
Mackie’s main job was editing during her team’s production of Captive, an allegory about the mysterious “packages” of “sins that target the deepest part of you.” For the making of A Portrait of Integrity, about an artist who locks himself in a hotel room until he can complete a painting that depicts the concept of integrity, Pirkle’s primary contribution was writing the script.
“I can promise you,” said Tyler Gates, TWR’s global video coordinator, “that we aren’t requiring all our missionary candidates to sign up for exhausting competitions to win awards before they can serve with us! But I think this does say something about the quality of our recruits and their passion for missions. Candace and Elizabeth have exactly the gifts we need as we give video an increasingly important role in taking the gospel everywhere on earth.”
And the recruiting isn’t done yet, Gates was quick to point out. He’s still on the lookout for others with the abilities, the passion and the calling of a Mackie or a Pirkle to join TWR’s growing video ministry.
Prior to the 2012 convention, Mackie had never heard of TWR, which began 60 years ago as an international broadcaster and today is also firmly established in electronic media. A lengthy conversation with TWR U.S. Mobilization Director Heather Johnson focused Mackie’s attention on the ministry’s blossoming video operation and encouraged her to become a part of it.
“Honestly, I didn't go to NRB expecting to find a future job,” Mackie said. “That was something that the Lord had planned that I was oblivious to.”
For Pirkle, an ice-cream social at the 2012 convention introduced her to the global media mission of TWR and then her participation in an NGU video project in Europe under the supervision of Gates persuaded her to apply to serve.
“I love the unique opportunity I’ll have with TWR not only to do video as a supporting role [in promoting the ministry’s work] but also as kind of a driving force in missions,” Pirkle said. “There are not a lot of people who are doing that.”