Note: This post and interview is cross posted at Hollywoodjesus.com.
“What is the highlight of your career?”
Erin Bethea paused for a few seconds, unsure how to answer the question. Some might argue that it was starring opposite Kirk Cameron in the independent film Fireproof. And they may be right. The role as Cameron’s wife changed Bethea’s career path. Others might say it was landing her first professional appearance as sportscaster Alicia Houston in the hit Facing the Giants. Or, it could have been the four years she was Belle from Beauty and the Beast at Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
Born and raised in South Georgia, Bethea got her start in professional acting after graduating from the University of Mobile with a Bachelor of Arts in Theater. Her role as Alicia in Facing the Giants was her first professional gig.
The pause before Bethea’s answer does not evince uncertainty about her work, but a humble heart. “I have been privileged to work with some awesome people,” she finally says. And that privilege has led her to starring in the film This Is Our Time.
The film is the interwoven stories of Luke (T. J. Dalyrmple) and Ale (Erin Bethea), who marry right after college and move to India to serve as missionaries in a leprosy village; Catherine (Kate Cobb) is an aspiring financier who joins a prestigious financial institution with the determination of changing corporate America; Ryder (Matthew Florida) lands an incredible job in social media and is eager to use the powerful medium for a greater good; and finally, Ethan (Shawn-Caulin Young), who serves as the odd-man-out character, struggles to find his vocation in life.
Vocation is what the film is all about. Each of the characters struggle with discerning who they are in a post-graduation world. Even when they think they have found out what they are to do, they bump up against different barriers. What they each discover is that God instills a calling in all our lives. Indeed, Bethea feels that God gives us two callings: “The first is God calls us to some path, plan, or action. It could be ministry, medical, or education. The second is the call to who we are as faithful and obedient followers.”
The film’s theme of calling is something that Bethea hopes viewers will connect with. She does. She has come to understand her own calling in the medium of film: “God gives me these gifts and passions, so I go in that direction.” She thinks the film could be a great conversation starter for young people who are discerning what direction their lives will take. She hopes it will help them consider in what ways God is calling them to fulfill a purpose. And, as Bethea points out, “It may not be what we intended it to be, but it’s all for God’s glory.”
Possibly the most amazing part of the film are the scenes at the leper colony in India. Bethea said that those days shooting there were life-changing and educational. “It was like something back in the Bible,” she remembers. The movie-makers worked with the organization Embrace a Village. Embrace a Village is a Christian based, non-profit organization that transforms the lives of those affected by leprosy by raising the standards of living.
Bethea remembers with great fondness meeting one older lady in the village. She was only about sixty pound and had neither hands, feet, nor nose. “She didn’t look human,” Bethea recalls. But despite her small size and her handicaps, during the singing of praise songs, she sat in the front row and her voice rang loudest. While this woman is unlikely to have survived, Bethea finds peace in the knowledge that she is no longer in pain.
This humble meeting with a woman whose name we may never know might just be the highlight of her career.