Our Stories

Lucas Hernandez: Filming in Faith

"My faith in God guides my life." - Eric Jorge, "Tres Jorges: Faith, Obedience and Immigration"

Lucas Hernandez '05 just wanted to make a documentary film. He didn't realize it would renew his faith in God.

"Documentary filmmaking is one of my passions," says the recent Willamette University rhetoric and media studies graduate. "My parents told me about a man named Jorge who had given up everything to come from Mexico to build a church in America. I thought it would make an interesting story because it's usually Americans going to Mexico to build the churches."

Although Hernandez had always believed in God, he didn't intend to make a faith-based film. Raised non-denominational Christian, he graduated from Santiam Christian High School in Corvallis. However, like many young people, by the time he came to Willamette University, his faith had faded.

"In Mexico, Jorge was upper middle class," explains Hernandez, who is visiting on leave from the Air Force Reserves in Florida. "He was doing well and had his own security company. But in order to follow his faith, he and his family came here to live in abject poverty. I thought that was amazing and wanted to tell his story."

To fund his film, "Los Tres Jorges: Faith, Obedience and Immigration," Hernandez applied for and won a $3,000 Carson Undergraduate Research Grant. These grants are designed to encourage original research and study outside the classroom.

Hernandez interviewed and filmed three generations: Jorge, his father, Don Jorge, and Jorge's son, Eric Jorge. He shot 12 hours of video to make his 27-minute film. The interviews told an inspiring story of faith and sacrifice. "Jorge's wife got cancer and he prayed to God to heal her. He told God, 'If you do this, I will do whatever you ask.' His wife was healed. Then Jorge's pastor asked him if he'd come to America to help establish this church. He told God, 'I'll do this if everything I own is sold within one week." It was all sold in three days. And so he came."

"Wherever He wants me to go, I will go. If God is with me, I lack nothing." - Jorge

One of the biggest barriers Hernandez faced during the filming was language. Although he'd spoken Spanish as a child, he had all but forgotten the language. Neither Jorge nor Don Jorge spoke English. In order to interview them, Hernandez had to resurrect his native tongue. "I was not only trying to re-learn Spanish, I was trying to learn interview techniques and to use those in Spanish. It was really hard."

"When I came here and couldn't speak English, it was the worst year of my life. It was like I had something in my mouth I couldn't get out. But God gave me the strength to keep going." - Eric Jorge

Sometimes Hernandez couldn't understand what his interview subjects were saying. "When they'd answer my questions, I didn't know what a lot of the responses meant until I got back home and my father helped me translate them."

To make his film accessible to English-speaking audiences, he created English subtitles. "I had to transcribe the interviews in Spanish and translate them into English. Then I had to try to understand the meaning of what they were saying and translate it into English subtitles. It was frustrating. There were times I literally cried in front of my computer."

"During the first year [that Jorge was gone], communication with my son was hard. He didn't tell us how difficult things were for him." - Don Jorge

Hernandez also struggled with the video editing process, something he'd never done before. He had to learn a complex new software program and he ended up creating seven different versions of the film before he was satisfied with the results. "If you talk to someone for 10 minutes, you have to spend an hour editing it. I spent months editing and trying to get the film down to 27 minutes. I had no idea how much time it would take."

One of the great joys of his project was traveling to Salamanca, Mexico, with his parents to interview Don Jorge. "We lived for about 20 days in Mexico with Don Jorge and his wife Lilia. It was awesome. There was a little bakery down the street from his house and every day we'd go there and buy fresh sweet bread. Lilia would make us the most amazing chilies and salsas. Don Jorge and I hung out and talked a lot. My own grandfather is dead and Don Jorge felt like my grandfather. Even though I didn't always understand everything he said, I could feel the love he has for me. It was the family I never had."

"The first few years after Jorge left, it weighed heavily on me. We had been very united so when they left, I suffered a lot. But now I see they are doing well." - Lilia Jorge

Hernandez says he's been surprised by the response "Tres Jorges" has received. "This film has an effect on people who see it. It doesn't matter what faith you are, even if you just believe in the human spirit, this is a story of human triumph. People who see the film learn from it."

Perhaps most important is the fact that Hernandez, who will soon be attending military graduate school in Washington, D.C., has been inspired by the Jorges' strong faith. "This project increased my own faith. It showed me I can face challenges I thought I couldn't. I learned that the limits I put on myself are just in my mind and that I can overcome them through faith. Now I worry less and I have a lot more peace."