It’s hard to me to know exactly where to begin this post. Some people would come to write a post like this and wouldn’t be able to come up with enough to say. I, on the other hand, have more to say than I want to fit into one blog post! My heart is so full of joy as I reflect on all God did to bring this event about. I feel I need to share the whole story to explain why The Anima Series Tour was so important and special to me. God has been orchestrating this event for quite soon time, not just with calling The Anima Series to go on tour, but also with changes that have happened in my own life. My hope is that by sharing this story, you will appreciate all God did to bring it all together.
When I First Found The Anima Series
For those of you that may not know, The Anima Series started when Jon Jorgenson and two of his friends decided to make a video of a spoken word poem Jon had written called “Who You Are: A Message To All Women”. They uploaded this video to YouTube July 2013. At first, they got a couple thousand views, but in a short time, it went viral, to the point to reaching millions of views. When that happened, they decided to use The Anima Series as an opportunity to give local artists a platform for Christ through making quality art. So they started making more videos with the goal of inspiring ordinary people to do extraordinary things.
That’s about the point where I come in. It would have been October 2013. I was in my last full-time semester of college at Ozark Christian College and was still living in the dorm. One of the girls on my dorm floor shared the “Who You Are: Women” video to my floor’s Facebook group. I don’t remember exactly what day that was, but I will never forget watching that video for the first time in my dorm room. Initially, I was almost in shock of the powerful message that had just been spoken to me. I watched it at least twice more and by then, I’m pretty sure I was shedding a few tears (Good thing I had a single room at the time. lol). Here's the video:
You see, I was at such a strange place in my life, mental, emotional, and spiritually, when I saw this video for the first time. 2013 had been a hard year, in which I had gone through everything from losing my friend Brandon in a car accident, to having my summer internship postponed at the last minute to the following spring, to attempting to prepare myself to leave the safety net of my college campus when I finished classes that December. On top of all this, I had been fighting a serious spiritual battle with my self-esteem that had been ongoing for about two years. I had gotten to a point where I had bought into some of the lies of Satan about what defines beauty and attractiveness, because I was struggling with my weight and my singleness. Fortunately, I did not turn toward any paths of self-harm that are often associated with self-esteem issues, but I did come close toward heading down one of those paths. It was God’s grace that kept me from choosing to lessen the numbers on the scale in ways that were unhealthy. Just when I was starting to come out of that, a few other things happened that made my singleness stand out like a sore thumb and made me start to question why my relationship status had never changed (and even now still hasn’t at 25 years old).
After having gone through all this and seeing the “Who You Are” video, something clicked in both my heart and my mind. I began to understand the change of heart I needed to have towards myself before I would be able to make a difference in the world for Christ. I began to realize that I, and every other women on this earth, was worth dying for and Christ believed it enough that he actually died on a cross for each and every one of us. It all made sense in a way it never had before. In a short period of time, I became content with my body and with being single in way I had thought would never have been possible when I was in the depth of my struggle. And even now I would say that I have been able to remain satisfied in the love of the Lord. It all started with a video of a guy in a white t-shirt on an empty stage with a message to share and a hope it would touch someone’s life. I know there was a difference in my heart and my life after I began to live my life in light of that powerful message. I even wrote my own spoken word poem on a very similar topic a few weeks later. It was titled “A Princess Worth Dying For”, but after I wrote it, I didn’t do anything with it for about a year. I’ll come back to that poem in a little bit.
Although I did have to do a little bit of searching to find the original video (since the first link I was given was from a random Facebook page), I eventually found The Anima Series channel, watched a few of their other videos, and subscribed. I was curious about trying to find the name of the guy that was in the first video. I eventually came to find that his name was Jon Jorgenson. I remembering being so inspired specifically by some of the other videos Jon was in, and I started hoping that I would meet him someday, but not knowing if I ever would.
How I “Met” Jon Jorgenson Online
Fast forward to the next summer (2014). I had completed my music ministry internship and graduated college that May. I was so unsure of where my life was headed. But in late June, I remember that I came across a video of Jon asking fans to submit their own versions of the “Who You Are: Women” for a tribute video in celebration of Anima’s first birthday. I was so excited to make my own version! I remember being curious about if they were going to use my version, and they did! I was so excited to have been a part of it.
I remember sending my video to the Anima Series email address, but I’m pretty sure that Jon was the one that answered it. He complimented my video and signed the email as he always signs off – “Keep being awesome.” And over the next few weeks, I discovered that Jon has his own blog, a personal Facebook page, and a personal YouTube channel. I also found out that he had published a book (Authentic Love) and I ordered it. Through looking at all these, I found that he listed his email address publicly and was willing to answer emails from his fans. About the end of July, I sent him an email introducing myself, briefly thanking him for what his videos had done for me, and asking him some general life advice. He replied and gave me some good tips through some videos links. And that started an online connection that has lasted ever since.
For over a year, we have exchanged emails back and forth (not all the time of course, but fairly often). We occasionally chat on Twitter and on his Facebook page too. Since Jon is big on inspiring people and emphasizes creativity in most of his work, he has been a constant support and encouragement to me in my creative pursuits. He always takes the time to answer my emails, and has remembered my name ever since my first email. He has watched all my spoken word poems when I send him the links, and he gives me great feedback every time. He has read some of my posts here on my blog when I ask him. He is probably one of my biggest encouragers and inspirations I have had in the creative process. There are so many things I would have never thought I could do if it wasn’t for Jon, his work, and even his personal encouragement. And all the while, I kept hoping that I would someday get to meet him in person, but wondering if I ever would.
When I First Showed An Anima Video At My Church
Fast forward again to October 2014, I was teaching a Jr. High girls Bible study on the topic of modesty. We were going through The Secret Keeper by Dannah Gresh (a great book for that topic) and we were coming to the point in the study when we would be talking about inner beauty, our attitude about ourselves, and comprehending God’s love for us. I’d been trying to find different videos to supplement my lessons each week, and I realized that the “Who You Are: Women” video was absolutely perfect. I believe that when a woman knows how valued she is in God’s eyes, modesty will become not just a list of fashion rules to be obeyed, but an attitude in which a woman will worship God with her life, and that video was a great example of how to find that mindset. So I showed the “Who You Are: Women” video and the girls were touched by it too.
It was also at this time that I decided to make a video of my first spoken word poem to share with the girls, which was very much inspired by the “Who You Are: Women” video. “A Princess Worth Dying For,” although I still had a lot to learn about spoken word and making that type of video, left a powerful impression on the girls the last week of teaching. Here's the video:
But I remember I had a very ironic thought while I was showing the girls the “Who You Are: Women.” As I was praying that this message would speak to their hearts, I thought how awesome it would be if we could hear Jon do that poem live. I didn’t know if that would ever happen, but I hoped that it would, then I kind of forgot about it for quite some time.
When Anima Decided to Go on Tour
When The Show Finally Happened
When the show finally started, it was like I was like watching one of the Anima videos live. It was so cool! Jon recounted stories from his time as a camp counselor at a Christian theater summer camp (Spotlight Youth Theater) and how watching these kids informed what he understands authentic love to be. He shared some spoken word poetry within the context of this narrative of his lessons from the summer camp. Jon really is a great speaker and super funny! I already knew this from his videos, but it was awesome to get to see it live. At the end, he concluded that if anyone had been inspired by any of his work, we had those kids he worked with to thank for inspiring him. (It was also pretty awesome to discover that I had connections to a few of those kids. It truly is a small world!) Then, he concluded by reading his two most famous poems: “Who You Are: A Message To All Men” and “Who You Are: A Message To All Women.” I got a video of him doing the last one.
Getting to hear Jon recite the poem that touched me so personally was incredible. Now, I know the words so well, I was mouthing them while Jon was saying them. But as I started to think back through the time I had been a fan of The Anima Series, I couldn’t help but marvel at what God had done to bring it all together. Ever since I’d seen their first video, it had been a small desire of my heart to meet Jon in person, but I didn’t think it would really happen, especially while he was living in New York. But there he was, doing a show on the stage in my church, and I knew that God had orchestrated it. I also realized that the thought I had about the girls in my Bible study a year ago seeing him performing “Who You Are: Women” live had become a reality, since three of seven girls from the Bible study were there at the Anima show that night. At the end of the show, as Jon was giving his acknowledgements, he thanked me for all I did for bringing this event together, which kind of made me smile. When I had others thanking me for organizing the event and telling me how much they enjoyed it, I knew it was a God thing.
After the show, Jon had a meet and greet time and posed for pictures. Now we didn’t have a super big crowd, but Jon was so good about giving time and attention to everyone.
Of course I got a picture with him too, which many of you who know me have probably already seen, since I have plastered it all over my social media! lol
I also got one with Jon’s wife Erin. They’ve only been married a few months.
Erin let me keep one of the beautiful calligraphy quotes she made as merchandise, and I love it! (After talking to her some, I know why Jon calls her “Sweet Bear.” She really is a sweetheart)
Jon also gave me a thank you card that also has Erin’s calligraphy on the front. It’s so pretty.
When the show was done and they packed up their stuff, Jon gave me another big hug (It’s hard for any hug of Jon’s not to be big, since he’s so tall! haha).
While we were hugging, I said, “It was so great to finally meet you, Jon.”
He replied, “It was great to finally meet you, Bethel.”
As they drove away, I couldn’t help but praise God for giving me this small desire of my heart.
I hope this story has demonstrated what God can do to change lives for His greater plan, but also bring lives together for His glory. It amazes me how this story unfolded even as I have been writing it down for this post. Jon and The Anima Series have touched hundreds of thousands of people’s lives through their YouTube videos, but they also like to touch lives on a more personal level when they have the opportunity. That’s one of the main reasons they choose to go on tour in the first place. Jon has said before that,
“Some people are called to touch millions of lives, while others are called to touch one life a million times.”
Anima’s work may someday touch millions of lives, but I think it’s safe to say that Jon is well on his way to touching my life a million times, and I don’t know if I will ever be able to thank him enough for it. I hope all of you look for and seize the opportunities to do the same for the people in your own life. You won’t regret it.
Here’s Jon video vlog from the day of my church’s show. I do have to say that I had no idea he was not feeling well until I watched this, and it impresses me all the more that he pressed on so well, despite his discomfort. Maybe it was his crazy socks getting revenge on him! lol
(There’s a short clip of me toward the end, wearing a black and white striped t-shirt)