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A dear friend recently invited my wife Vanessa and me to join him and a group of 40 other friends at the Mountainfilm festival in Telluride, Colo. So we made our way across Oklahoma and New Mexico and then into the mountains. A snowstorm made part of the drive treacherous, but we were awed by the beauty of it all -- rushing rivers, pine and aspen forests, endless peaks and valleys.

Our days in Telluride were spent riding the gondola from venue to venue or strolling the quaint village while waiting for the next movie to start. Between the beauty of the scenery, the amazing conversations with old and new friends, and the relaxation of being away for a few days, we'll have much to cherish from our trip.

Undoubtedly, the things that will stick with us the longest will be the stories we encountered through film. We were excited to see American Heretics, a film about progressive Christians in Oklahoma. I also enjoyed Brooklyn Inshallah, which featured a pastor in Brooklyn who ran for City Council. The Age of Ondra introduced me to the world of mountain climbing through the eyes of the world's best climber, Adam Ondra, and breathtaking cinematography.

But the story that will likely stay with me the longest was told by a short film called R.A.W. Tuba. It traces the tale of Richard Antoine White growing up in inner city Baltimore. His mother was an addict, and Richard spent many days alone, shoeless, searching for either food or his mom on the streets. Eventually, he was found by child protective services, placed in foster care and then adopted. He argued his way into the Baltimore School of the Arts and learned to play the tuba. He ended up becoming one of the world's most accomplished tuba players, earning his doctorate in tuba performance and landing a spot with the New Mexico Symphony. Given how few professional tuba gigs there are, the film pointed out that one has better odds making it to the NBA than becoming a professional tuba player.

Richard's story of overcoming wasn't just about him, though. While he made amazing and unlikely personal achievements, his half-brother William took a much different route. He stayed in Baltimore and got engrossed in the stereotypical aspects of life on the streets. Once William landed a job at McDonald's, he was finally able to spend a little more time developing his skills as a free-style rapper.

The film chronicles how Richard and William reconnected and were able to talk through how they ended up in very different places even though they had the same starting point. They collaborated on a musical performance with Richard laying down the beat using his tuba while William rapped about their brotherhood. When the film ended and William took the stage to rap for us in person, the assembled filmgoers rose to their feet.

A couple of days later, I sat with a few friends in a small bar in Telluride and watched Richard and William perform live. Tuba. Rap. Brotherhood. Inspiration.

Robb Ryerse is a pastor at Vintage Fellowship in Fayetteville. Connect with him at

NAN Religion on 06/08/2019

Print Headline: Through others' eyes

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