The Overnighters, a film by Jesse Moss is a documentary that was entered in the US Documentary Competition at Sundance. The catalogue offers the following synopsis - When hydraulic fracturing unlocks a vast oil field in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, tens of thousands of unemployed men descend on the state with dreams of six-figure salaries. In the tiny town of Williston, busloads of newcomers step into the bracing reality of slim work prospects and nowhere to sleep.
Over at Concordia Lutheran Church, Pastor Jay Reinke is hell-bent on delivering the migrants some dignity. Night after night he converts his church into a makeshift dorm and counseling center. But as broken men arrive in droves, the congregants sling criticism, neighbors get suspicious, and the town threatens an ordinance to shut Reinke down. When the Williston Herald gets wind that sex offenders are among Reinke’s “overnighters,” even the pastor’s supernatural determination can’t stop things from spinning out of control. How much will he sacrifice for his crusade of compassion?
With unfettered access to electrifying and poignant moments, it’s impossible not to be riveted by the pastor’s dogged battle in a treacherous world where no man is immune to losing everything. Sitting through the 100 minute film one feels like a cheerleader, encouraging Pastor Reinke to press toward the mark despite obstacles and ordinances; or a coach in a boxing ring encouraging his fighter to fight the good fight of faith – literally.
The ‘crusade of compassion’ mentioned above can best be described as a Pastor being accountable for his brethren and opening the doors of the church to help those in need within the community at large not just those within his four-walls. This act of kindness and servitude adheres to the true call of being a Shepherd of the Lord, walking boldly against the masses.
But as with all narratives of life there are intricate details that also must be addressed. In this case, Pastor Reinke wrestles with a sin that causes him to relate to the brokenness in the men. With this revealed motives are now called into question. I personally felt bamboozled upon Pastor Reinke’s confession. Has all that has been witnessed ‘selfless’ or ‘selfish’? I am not to judge.
However, my biggest concern is the issue this film raises about Servitude. The world maintains that no one does anything out of the goodness of their heart, and that everyone always has an angle or something to gain. Interestingly enough the filmmaker, Jesse Moss is not a Christian but said he found the story compelling and had to make a film sharing Pastor Reinke’s story. Told through the lens of Jesse, I perceived that he shares in the jaded perspective of the world and its opinion. Debates could be fervently had over if Pastor Reinke’s story needed to be told, showing first hand human fallibility in our Leaders or if he was used to serve a greater agenda. This is truly the power of film.