Faithfulness to that which is least,” says Jasper Iturriaga, a multihyphenate digital content creator using his skills for the kingdom of God. “If you are faithful to that which is little, you’ll be faithful to that which is much.”
Iturriaga is talking about building a digital ministry from the ground up; about how a young man with a gift for photography and filmmaking, a small budget, and no fancy sponsorships serves a mission of packaging the image of an incredible God that appeals to a world hungry for Him.
“Pastors in Southeast Asia [as he was when he got started] don’t have much,” Iturriaga says. “We didn’t know how to get a camera, but we had YouTube and a cell phone. So I thought, Why not? What if I could still make films and take pictures with just my phone? Because the whole concept was that if I’m faithful with it, God will increase it.” While pastoring in Indonesia, Iturriaga started filming videos of different church activities and events. And then he started snapping pictures of the beautiful people and scenery he was surrounded with—which, truthfully, is plentiful in Southeast Asia. “Ellen White said that light increases only when you’re faithful to the light that is received,” he says.
STARTING WITH A CAMERA
Born and raised in the Philippines, Iturriaga’s love of cameras and photography began early. But like many children, the call of video games became much more attractive, and he forgot about his burgeoning hobby for a while. But the young pastor found it again in one of his first church assignments in Indonesia after graduating from Central Philippine Adventist College. The rest is digital, photographic history.
Social media, especially through platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, have created a powerful place for anyone with a penchant for content creation in this type of modality. No longer are the Ansel Adamses or Dorothea Langes of the world the only people whose images receive worldwide attention. Anyone—literally anyone—with skills can take a photo or film a video and connect with millions.
Iturriaga really resonates with what Ellen White says in The Ministry of Healing: “Grace is an attribute exercised toward undeserving human beings. We do not seek for it, but it was sent in search of us.”* As a very young man, he was healed from a brain tumor and committed his life to ministry as a result. But through testing the waters of digital ministry with his camera and cell phone, he soon found that the Lord was trying to tell him something he didn’t expect to hear—something that would pull him out of the pulpit. And soon a calling to minister to the world in an innovative way beckoned. “The whole concept of photography for me was never to get clout or followers,” he says. “It was really about how I could incorporate spirituality in media, through media ministry, to my work, and to reaching out to people.”
With not much of a reference point for grassroots media ministry to look to, Iturriaga ventured out in faith. “I started making videos at church, showing them every Sabbath, and people would be blessed by them. Then came mission opportunities in the Philippines and Indonesia that I would make videos about,” says Iturriaga. “I would go to all these places and make videos supporting ministries that had no exposure.” It wasn’t long before he realized this very exposure led to an audience ready and willing to donate to worthy projects. Using a drone, Iturriaga created a video of one of the most beautiful spots in the world—El Nido in Palawan, Philippines. After editing together this footage into a gorgeous compilation and popping it on Facebook, he woke up to a viral video with 1.4 million views. And people wanted to know more.
THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA
After completely stepping away from full-time pastoral ministry a few years back, Iturriaga began working on such Adventist media projects as the Lineage programs (viewable on Adventistreview.tv) and began full-time traveling and creating, now serving Chattanooga, Tennessee-based ministry Child Impact International. “I always tell people attention is the new currency. Response is the new currency. How many people can we get to respond to our project?” Through his travels and documentation in the jungles of the Philippines, Iturriaga was drawn to finding ways to help this remote population with no access to proper education for their children. “I had this crazy idea. Imagine what would happen if we had a social media-funded school,” he mused. So Iturriaga posted a plea on his Instagram stories and, in less than a week, reached a $10,000 goal. The following week the goal was increased, and they were able to finish construction on this school—with 120 children enrolled. Thus, a school hidden deep in the jungle was born of funds 100 percent generated by social media, and last year they raised $100,000 to further the work of this project.
One of the best parts of this type of content creation is that it reaches people far beyond the Seventh-day Adventist community—people who are eager to get involved. “We still have people who are unchurched selling NFTs, cryptocurrency, all this stuff, saying, ‘Hey, we want to be a part of this jungle school project.’ ” Big companies have been taking notice too. H&M sponsored water tanks, Proctor & Gamble sent supplies, digital creation platform Canva took notice—all of this from Instagram. “Our Adventist message is not detached from the world,” Iturriaga adds. “I think people are attracted to it; it just needs to be packaged right.”
In many places well-meaning churches go about ministry in ways that are more odes to nostalgia as opposed to strategically primed to meet the needs of an audience not yet dreamed of. It’s as if we are more concerned with honoring tradition than banking everything on accomplishing something incredible for God. “God does not ordain methods. He ordains people to make methods,” says Iturriaga. “When people are filled with the Spirit of God and they make new methods, I really hope our churches embrace them.”
“God has given me more of an audience than if I had stayed [pastoring] in a church,” he says. “I’m a firm believer in the three angels’ messages, but I think they should be packaged in a way that will draw more people to them. Past methods don’t always need to be applied now—and that has been my passion.”
*Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), p. 161.