Finding Faith: Internet Safety

finding-faithI watched a free screening of Finding Faith (2013) at a local church last year. Stephanie Bettcher (Faith Garrett), Jonathan Phillips (Edwin Doss), Erik Estrada (Sheriff) and Jason Campbell (writer, producer) were guests. Estrada’s credits include The Cross and the Switchblade (1970) and CHiPs (1977-83). Bettcher performed a song from the soundtrack before the film. Avalon, Charles Billingsley, Jason Crabb, and Guy Penrod are also on the soundtrack.

Finding Faith was filmed in Lynchburg, Virginia, two years ago, in association with Thomas Road Baptist Church (TRBC) and Liberty University. Its title is a play on words. With help from state police, the Garretts try to find their teenage daughter Faith, who has been kidnapped near her Lynchburg home by Edwin and his family. He takes Faith to his home in Bedford, West Virginia, planning to sell her to sex traffickers in Atlantic City. The Garretts, their friends, and the police also find or strengthen their faith in Christ during the tense 3-day search.

Filming locations were well chosen, since central Virginia has pretty countryside. I liked all the film’s songs, especially “Hope is on the Way” by Charles Billingsley. However, Dean Haskins’ score was too heavy; it did not match the plot until the final scenes. Bettcher (Faith) and Phillips (Edwin) were the best actors. Their scenes together were emotionally tense and real. Bettcher was terrified, Phillips evil. In person, though, he is married with five children and seems nice. I was also impressed with Jamie Watson (Sam Garrett) and Erik Estrada (Sheriff). Yet Faith’s mother Jackie (Renee Ashcroft) and sister Samantha (Ellie Miller) did not act grieved or terrified, as I would have expected the family of someone kidnapped and in danger of sexual abuse to act. Stoicism is not natural in such a situation. A family member who attended the screening also thought the police were too slow in finding Edwin and Faith, since they know where people are at all times thanks to cell phones.

Regardless of quality, this film authentically portrays the dangers of Internet use to unsuspecting parents and teens, as Safe Surfin’ Foundation (SSF) member Erik Estrada can attest. [Kathy Ireland, Shaquille O’Neal, Armand Assante, and The Oak Ridge Boys are also members.] According to Estrada, a deputy sheriff in Bedford, Virginia, child predators and human traffickers have forsaken malls for the Internet, where our children are. SSF tries to educate children, teens, parents, educators, and law enforcement about Internet safety so that young people do not fall into the trap of sexual predators as Faith did. She began a conversation in a chat room with a decoy trafficker who posed as a teenage boy from Florida, the “friend of a friend.” The trafficker found Faith’s home via her cell phone and kidnapped her there.

In You’ve Got Mail (1998), Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan’s characters “meet” in a chat room, talk to one another for months, and meet at the end of the film. Although it sounds romantic, Finding Faith is much closer to the sad reality of Internet predators and human trafficking. I use social media, but I do not give private information to people I do not know or use chat rooms. So I was surprised by Faith’s gullibility. One alternative to chat rooms is special-interest forums with strict membership rules. Members must still be careful, since public posts appear in Google searches. One should also never reveal personal information. In the end, it is a trust issue: are people online really who they say they are?

“The main thing we try to do as parents is keep up [with] the hearts of our children.” – Jim Bob Duggar

finding-faithThe key is education. Teens must learn to be discerning. Parents must also learn who their children’s friends are and monitor their Internet use. One relative uses the Internet with her teen daughters, so she knows when they are online and who they talk to. The official website of Finding Faith and the National Human Trafficking Resource Center have resources on Internet safety.

Please watch this film (now on DVD) and share it with others. Parents, teenagers, educators, and law enforcement must learn the dangers of Internet use. They must also learn that God is watching over them and will take care of them if they trust him. They just need to “find faith.”

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