Glocal Evangelism: Jesus Christ, Magdalena, and Damascus in Greater Toronto Area

The word “glocal” was originally coined to express a new interweaving of “local” and “global” in business and communication advertisements. In evangelism and missions, I propose that Christ’s followers must be engaged in local and global arenas simultaneously.1 This has also been suggested by Charles Van Engen, who says that local churches must be doing “glocal” missions.2

Glocal evangelism and missions is an alternative to the traditional practice of doing “home” and “overseas” missions, or “here” and “there” evangelism.

Glocal Evangelism in Toronto
The city of Toronto is considered by demographers to be the most multiethnic, multicultural city in the world.3 Since moving into the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) over a year ago, I have witnessed firsthand collaborative evangelistic and mission projects by several local churches, para-church organizations, and individuals committed to the cause of Jesus Christ. These individuals and groups join forces to reach GTA’s diaspora population by distributing several evangelistic films: The JESUS film, Magdalena, and Damascus. These people have become “glocal Christians” representing “glocal congregations.” Such local collaborative evangelistic outreaches have global ripple effects. Below is an introduction to each film.

The JESUS Film

  • Most widely distributed film in history.
  • Translated into over one thousand languages.
  • Seen by over three billion viewers worldwide.
  • Most accurate film ever made on the life of Jesus Christ (based on the Gospel according to Luke).
  • Approved for distribution by Al-Azhar University at the Cairo Book Fair, this film has been the bestseller for years.


  • Reveals what can happen when women (people) refuse to live in defeat and chose to discover their real value.
  • True story of Jesus seen through the eyes of Mary Magdalene: a story of tenderness, freedom, purpose, and hope for the future.
  • Portrays how the love Mary Magdalene experienced changed her life and the man she followed changed the world.
  • Available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Portuguese languages


  • Life story of Saul, whose name was changed to Paul.
  • He entered Damascus a persecutor and left an apostle.
  • Entirely filmed in Syria and released in March 2009.
  • Highly acclaimed by the Syrian government and endorsed by the Vatican.
  • Now available in English, French, Italian, Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, Russian, Turkish, and Urdu.

Power of Films Glocally
We are living in a technological age and most of our gadgets are digital. The evangelistic films distributed by many glocal Christians and congregations penetrate homes, apartments, condominium complexes, and dormitories. Imagine these films getting into living rooms, family rooms, and even bedrooms. Not many evangelists have access to these private places.

I have heard firsthand stories of Muslims having dreams about Jesus Christ, and consequently surrendering their lives to the Saviour. I have also heard stories from people of different nationalities and linguistic backgrounds who, after watching these films in the secret places of their homes, decide to follow the Master Jesus. These people then form their own “faith community.” Indeed, these films are highly effective in reaching the more private and secluded fractions of our society. I am witnessing the impact of these films in GTA.

This past Lenten season twenty-five Filipino congregations in GTA who are associated with the Filipino Ministerial Fellowship (FMF) were mobilized to distribute thirty thousand JESUS, Magdalena, and Damascus DVDs. Last year, close to 200,000 DVDs were given by two other partners of the Filipino International Network and the Power to Change (i.e. Campus Crusade for Christ-Canada).

It is even more exciting to see many diaspora people in GTA who have watched these films ask for copies for relatives in their homelands. What was designed to be a local evangelistic outreach has now become a global outreach. These local recipients of DVDs are now distribution agents back to their homelands.

Only eternity will reveal the results of this evangelistic effort. Some people may ask, “How successful is this DVD distribution to the diaspora groups in GTA?” Perhaps the best way to answer such a question is to quote the late Dr. William “Bill” Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, “Success in witnessing is simply taking the initiative to share Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit and leaving the results to God.”

Meet Alyona and Ewa,* My Neighbours
In December 2008, we gave our apartment neighbors JESUS film DVDs as Christmas gifts. Most received our gift enthusiastically with the exception of one or two who returned their copies after watching.

Months later, on 28 March 2009, there was a knock at our door from an elderly lady. She looked nervous and shy as she introduced herself: “My name is Alyona. I live in the second floor of the building. A few months ago you gave me a DVD. I watched it many times and I liked it very much. Do you have another copy? I am going to my homeland, Ukraine, this spring and would like to show this film to my relatives and friends.” On 4 April 2009, someone visited Alyona to give her copies of the JESUS film to take to Ukraine. She was there with two of her grandchildren, ages 9 and 10. After explaining the gospel and how they could follow Jesus Christ and receive eternal life, Alyona and her two grandchildren prayed to follow Jesus Christ.

Our apartment superintendant’s wife received the JESUS film in the same way. We first met Ewa when we moved into our current residence in October 2008. Immediately, she befriended us—offering to cook authentic Polish food. She was one of the first of our neighbours to receive the JESUS film DVD. Soon, she requested more copies to share with her loved ones.

If we did not take the initiative to give every family in our apartment building the JESUS film, we wonder if Alyona, her grandchildren, and Ewa would know Jesus today. Please pray for Alyona’s growth in Christ and her testimony being shared with others as far away as Ukraine. This is a story of a diaspora Ukrainian meeting a diaspora Filipino, then returning to her homeland to introduce the most influential person in her life—Jesus Christ—and the best gift ever—eternal life.

Van Engen is right: local churches must be doing glocal missions. They can, indeed, be mobilised for concerted glocal evangelism. Furthermore, Christian leaders need to be witnessing locally, even as they engage themselves globally. Media evangelism, particularly in the form of the films, is a highly effective tool for making a glocal impact.

* pseudonyms


1. 2004. “Filipino International Network: A Strategic Model for Filipino Diaspora Glocal Model.” In SCATTERED: The Filipino Global Presence. Eds. Luis Pantoja, Sadiri Joy Tira, and Enoch Wan. Manila: Life Change Publishing.

2. 2006. “The Global Church: Locality and Catholicity in Globalizing World.” In Globalizing Theology: Belief and Practice in Era of World Christianity. Eds. Craig Ott and Harold Netland. Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA: Baker Academic.

3. See

Sadiri Joy Tira is senior associate for Diasporas of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization. He is also international coordinator of Filipino International Network (FIN) and serves on the board of directors of SIM-Canada. Tira is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary and Western Seminary. Born and raised in the Philippines, he and his wife Lulu immigrated to Canada in 1981 and are now naturalized Canadians. They live in Toronto—one of the world's most multi-cultural cities.