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Tuesday, May 05, 2015

What I Learned From McFarland USA

Last weekend we watched McFarland USA and we enjoyed the movie (my 11 year old son who runs with me everyday couldn't stop talking about it). It is based on a true story and though it has some departures from the real events it stays close to real events. The plot is simple but it shows  things to learn about the Hispanic culture and the needs found in so many communities like McFarland. I recently did a few short posts on  Hispanic culture and this movie supports many of the things I mentioned. As a Hispanic (born in El Salvador and married to a Mexican) and as one who also has worked in some of the most challenging schools I could identify a lot with what happens in schools like McFarland. Yet it takes one man (in this case Jim White "Blanco" as he is called) to change the school culture. Mr. White is a man who reluctantly and has no other choice either (according to the movie but not real life) becomes part of the city of McFarland. He learns a lot about the Hispanic culture, helps them by coaching seven boys (in reality there were more but Hollywood took some liberties with the plot) to become cross-country runners and winning their first State title (they have won nine total in White's 23 year career). In the end, coach White stays there (he still lives there according to the movie) even though he has been offered a well-paid position in another city.


I was reminded of several things as I watched this movie that are important for all, especially the Christian community.

1. There are many places like McFarland that need someone to come along and help them find hope. In our country we have many places that need help.  Many of them are poor and from diverse cultures. They are easily overlooked and ignored. As Christians we should care about them because they also need the Gospel of Christ. The Gospel can bring a radical transformation.

2. The value of community. 
No community is perfect but we all need to have a community that is much more than just being neighbors. Community is where people care for one another, support one another and help each other on a daily basis. Mr. White's family finds out quickly the value of community. This is something they never had before and it becomes a strong part of their lives. In Christianity, community ("koinonia") is firmly rooted in our faith in Christ. Yet, this is an aspect that I believe we Christians lack in our churches.

3. The value of family.
This movie brings out an aspect of Hispanic culture that is one its core values. Family is family no matter what. Family holds everything together including the community. We value this as Christians and all believers are part of the family (household) of God. See Galatians 6:10.

4. Hard work pays off. 
Unfortunately, in this movie we have young boys working picking produce in the fields which is hard labor. They do it because they have no other choice. They have to help their family. The boys who become part of the cross-country team work hard to become runners and eventually their hard work pays off. The ethic of hard work is an essential element for believers as well (see Colossians 3:23-25).

5. We need more missionaries in America
Where was this in the movie? In this movie and in the real story, it is a teacher who helps McFarland High School to become good at something (i.e. cross-country). He does this by becoming part of the community and embracing the culture. Furthermore, Jim White states that he "wanted to be a godly man, and I wanted to be a godly example for the kids.” He coaches the boys but also serves them as well. They in turn embrace him as one of its own. Missionaries (Jim White is a Church of Christ minister) have to do this as well but their end in mind is to share the Gospel. We need more Christian missionaries throughout America offering the hope found in the Gospel of Christ.

The poster art copyright is believed to belong to the distributor of the Film, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, the publisher, Walt Disney Pictures, or the graphic artist. Qualifies as fair use under United States copyright law.



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