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If You're Creative, Read This Next Time You Feel Like Complaining

If you’re like me, chances are you’re a creative professional who complains too much. In pursuit of creating my projects, I’d like a better computer, I’d like a bigger office, I could use more employees, or I’d like bigger budgets. At least I used to think that way – until I attended a church in Jakarta, Indonesia made up of Iranian refugees.

I’m in Indonesia helping produce a major outreach event for Dr. Michael Youssef and Leading the Wayministries. Indonesia is a long way from Iran, but many of these refugees are trying to get to Australia or America, and this is a good midway point for either destination.

At the service, I met an Iranian filmmaker who’s been a cinematographer and special effects designer for years. In fact, he was so good, he was selected to travel with the Ayatollah and even live in his home in Iran, filming the most intimate details of his life. But at some point, in pursuit of spiritual and artistic freedom, he began to be threatened, and realized he had to leave. In the middle of his career as a creative professional, he was forced to leave everything he knew and make his way to Indonesia. I can’t tell you his name or show you his photo because many in the Iranian community still live in fear of being tracked down.

He’s been in Indonesia for two years waiting for his papers to be processed and it will be at least a year more before he can pursue a career – he doesn’t know where. But while he’s in Indonesia as a refugee, it’s illegal to work, and his movements are restricted.

But when we met he excitedly opened a beat up laptop to show me some After Effects and Maya work he’s been doing, and I could easily see he’s a very talented artist. He couldn’t show me any of his films because he had to leave all that behind in Iran.

He’s a frustrated artist with no work, separated from his friends and family, and unable to make a living. But in pursuit of spiritual and artistic freedom, it was a price he was willing to pay.

Trust me – the next time I start complaining that I need a bigger budget or better equipment, I’ll remember my new friend, and be incredibly grateful for what I have and the freedom to create.

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Phil Cooke, Ph.D, is a filmmaker, media consultant, and founder of Cooke Media Group in Los Angeles, California. His latest book is “Ideas on a Deadline: How to Be Creative When the Clock is Ticking." Find out more at philcooke.com.