As a writer for the Wycliffe Gift Catalog, I love learning about all the projects we feature, but this year there’s one that’s especially close to my heart: children’s Bible story videos for the Steep Mountain Zapotec in Mexico.
The name of the Bible story video series is “Deditos,” which means “little fingers” in Spanish. The videos use finger actors to share Old Testament Bible stories with kids who might never have heard them in their language before — and the production process for these videos is so neat!
About 10 years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Viña Studios in Guatemala, where the videos are made. Recently, Teresa Harwood — a friend who interned with our team in 2016 at the Wycliffe office in Orlando — started working with Viña.
Because of my special connection to the project, I wanted to share some behind-the-scenes details with you! Check out my conversation with Teresea below as we discuss the amazing "Deditos" project!
How are the “Deditos” videos produced?
Teresa: The videos begin with biblical research. Our biblical consultant talks with the scriptwriter about the vision for the story to ensure the videos are aligned with biblical truth. Then the screenwriter writes the script. A committee composed of the scriptwriter, the biblical consultant, and the dramatic director meet together to revise the script. Together, they work through the script, looking at it from all angles — cultural, visual and storyline.
Then voice actors record the finalized script, and filming begins. Originally this involved a finger actor in front of elaborate sets created by the Viña staff. With the advancement of technology, the finger actors now perform in front of a green screen, and visual effects layer them onto a digitized version of a handcrafted background. Handmade sets are modeled to be as close as possible — geographically and architecturally — to the Old Testament location.
How are the “Deditos” videos used?
Years ago, Sololá (the area where Viña Studios is located) had a New Testament in Kaqchikel, but the Old Testament had not yet been translated. The Viña staff saw that there wasn’t any material specifically for children, which made the “Deditos” videos vital for sharing Bible stories with children in the area.
In addition to creating the videos, Viña has created five lesson plans for each video that help the audience better understand the biblical story portrayed, how they are a part of that story and how that story is applicable to their lives.
A local church in the Steep Mountain Zapotec area has been reaching out to children in the area. The result is a growing number of children who are attending church, even if their parents do not. The “Deditos” videos will provide the church with materials to help the Zapotec children grow in their faith.
What was your journey to working at Viña Studios in Guatemala?
I had the privilege to work with Wycliffe at their headquarters in Orlando, Florida during the summer of 2016. Part of my role as a writer for the advancement department was helping with the 2016 Wycliffe Gift Catalog. I combed through field reports, which gave me a glimpse into the work that the Lord was doing throughout all parts of the world via Wycliffe. I had already felt the call to be a missionary, but seeing reports about lives transformed by the gospel convinced me that the Lord was calling me to not only give my money to him, but also to give him my life for the sake of the gospel.
When I finished college, I was unsure what I would do next. During a season of prayer, friends at Wycliffe sent me a job description for a graphic design intern with Viña Studios. I thought and prayed about it, and began the application process. The Lord confirmed me going and, in January 2018, I moved to Guatemala as a Wycliffe intern for Viña Studios. I fell in love with Guatemala, what the Lord was doing and how I could be a part of his work there.
After a brief time back in the United States, I returned to Guatemala in March 2019, and now serve at Viña Studios as a missionary with an organization called Missionary Ventures.
Why are you excited to see a “Deditos” video featured in this year’s Wycliffe Gift Catalog?
Children love “Deditos,” and Christ has drawn people to himself through the videos. The videos are used here in Guatemala and by organizations around the world — including Peru, the Philippines, Colombia, Thailand, Egypt and many others — to bring the Word of God to children in their language. The videos are so effective because many people globally cannot read or write their own language. Through the videos, people are able to experience Bible stories in a way that wasn’t possible for them before.
The videos are doing big things, using such small fingers!