33 Hope to carry Christian message across media
TAMPA - It started with an inquisitive boy's question after watching the film "The Passion of the Christ." "But Daddy, what happened next?" Kirk Berendes didn't have the answer for his then 9-year-old son, Christian. Raised a Catholic, he had never read about the 18 months between Jesus' Resurrection and the early formation of Christianity by his disciples. "It's the greatest story never told," says Berendes, a 1987 marketing graduate from the University of South Florida. "When you think of what was accomplished against all odds, it's a story of great hope. And that's something we need more than ever in these times."That was the beginning of a multimedia project set for its national launch Thursday in Tampa. 33 Hope joins other Christian ventures such as "The Purpose Driven Life" and "The Love Dare" that incorporate books, film, music and small groups. Their intent is not to release just a single product, but to create a movement that reaches a broader market base. So far, the 33 Hope partners have invested about $200,000 in the first wave of marketing and expect to raise another $200,000 for the second wave. The elements include: a book published by Sound Enterprises, founded by actor Jim Caviezel who portrayed Jesus in "The Passion"; a screenplay penned by Tampa native and filmmaker Cristobal Krusen in anticipation of a movie deal being discussed; and a song, "He's Alive," written by Nashville producer Dale Oliver and performed by Christian band Jupiter Wind. Also in the works is a "safe harbor" interactive social networking site where Christians can chat, post videos and connect with other faith groups. The site will go live Thursday. "We're not preaching or teaching. We're simplifying the Scriptures to tell a story that was very important, and is relevant today," Berendes says. "The disciples stepped out in bold faith and changed the world. That the Jesus movement happened at all is miraculous." The principle players in 33 Hope include Berendes, South Tampa native Edward Flom, who wrote the anchor book, "Thirty Three: The Story of Hope," and Rich Hayes of Digital Lightbridge in New Port Richey, who created the project's cross mosaic and brand logo. Flom, a divorced father of two who has worked in real estate, says 33 Hope has been an "individual and collective faith journey" for everyone involved. He includes himself in that mix, saying his own redemption story began when he became a Christian on July 29, 2006. That date has special significance to him for other reasons. After meeting Berendes through business, Flom discovered the two had a shared passion for this period in history. He was already immersed in studying the Scriptures and was looking for a writing project. He started on the book about the itinerant rabbi and the impact of his life and death, finishing it on July 29, 2009. And now, the launch for 33 Hope is July 29. "A case could be made that 33 A.D. was the most pivotal year in history," Flom says. "My goal was to tell this story in high cultural and high Scriptural accuracy, and tell it in a way that people can relate to and understand. The Bible isn't always that easy to read." Brad Damon, president of Sound Enterprises, a virtual entertainment company in the faith-based market, says projects such as 33 Hope "cut to the core of our greatest calling," which is to share the message of Christ with others around the world. Berendes credits an even bigger partner in bringing 33 Hope from a simple question by a child to a potential worldwide movement. "God had a huge hand in all of this," he says. "I'm not that smart to figure this all out. Where he takes this is up to him." 33 HOPE NATIONAL LAUNCH WHEN: 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday WHERE: InterContinental Hotel, 4860 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa INCLUDES: Book-signing by Edward Flom, scenes from the book performed by local actors, and performance by Christian band Jupiter Wind. COST: Free INFORMATION: Go to www.33Hope.com
Reporter Michelle Bearden can be reached at (813) 259-7613.