Two twenty-something beach-town girls take a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo, a place with little law and low on hope. The risks are enormous: rape and murder are common in the DRC. However, while hope is small, the country is not a lost cause.
That’s the gist of CongoCast, a documentary web series put out by Port City Community Church about Robin Tabbiner and Wendy Merritt. Both give up much of what they own to travel to the DRC as Christian missionaries to help people in the war-torn region.
Be warned: this show is high on emotion, with good reason. The danger for these women in the DRC was real. According to the BBC, the average life expectancy for women is 48 and men 45. According to the show’s website, “rape in the DRC is more than a violation of a woman’s body and spirit, it’s a weapon used to destroy a culture.” After watching CongoCast, you will care for these women, and you will feel for those people they help.
Still, don’t expect the show to pull a guilt trip. Both Evan Vetter, director of CongoCast, and Tabbiner strongly emphasized that the documentary is about the hope and beauty of the DRC despite the region’s difficulties.
“It’s not all brokenness and suffering over there. There’s lots of life and laughter,” said Tabbiner. “One of the big things for me was that it wasn’t romanticized … I really got to see the Lord working in people’s lives. I got to see people get emotional healing and join in deeper community with each other.”
Vetter, said he wasn’t sure how many have watched the show but hopes that viewership will continue to increase. In addition to directing CongoCast, Vetter is also the Director of E*Media at the church.
For much of the shoot, Vetter said he stayed in the United States while Tabbiner and Merritt lived in the DRC. So how does one direct a documentary from a distance? Vetter said both women took turns behind the camera and mailed the footage to him for editing. Tabbiner also mentioned how little experience she had shooting a documentary.
“Wendy and I have no film background. We had no idea what we were doing,” said Tabbiner. “Evan just made it look so great.”
According to Tabbiner, Merritt lived in the Congo for about nine months while she stayed for around a year. The missions were put on by Answering the Call. According to their website, ATC “is an international mission organization devoted to reaching people in difficult to reach places.”
The web series first episode was released in July, 2007. Since then, 16 more episodes have been put online. According to CongoCast’s website, the final episode and epilogue is set to be released sometime this summer, both on the show’s website and available for download on iTunes.