He was just 22 years old when he was deemed a murderer. Hearing those words spill from a murderer’s mouth left two MBU alumni feeling overwhelmed but hopeful. They were interviewing an individual who was convicted of murder in his own house, and the process was unlike anything they had ever experienced. The air was as if it was closing around them in the cluttered home. Boxes were packed up and ready to be hauled to a new place. Their hands were steady as they filmed the silence between responses. It felt as if the words took a lifetime to travel to their ears.
The man explained that his life was marked as unredeemable. Yet, despite his past, somehow hope found him at the Illinois Department of Corrections. He explained how his life changed through connecting with a local nonprofit, Mission St. Louis. His sentence of 25 years became a ministry that changed many of his fellow inmates. His remarkable story of hope and redemption made its way past the prison walls and back to his hometown.
Ultimately, telling stories like this man’s — stories of humanity and hope — are the reason Matthew Boyd Williams (’18) and Rickie Ross (’17) do what they do. The duo creates compelling pieces that spark emotion and bring light to communities all around the nation through cinematography, photography and writing. After graduation, the two set off on separate adventures in the freelance field capturing stories of inspiring individuals all over the area. Their worlds occasionally collide when they get the opportunity to collaborate on projects.
The duo has won awards for projects they have worked on throughout the years. Ross was awarded Best Cinematography and Best Documentary Under 20 Minutes in the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase this year. Williams recently directed a commercial for Purina and has worked on a film that is currently nominated for a regional Emmy.
A story that gives hope is what they’re after. They found this with the story of the man whose life was altered after a change of heart.
“Rickie and I are lucky enough to know that our humanity is pierced by the act of storytelling,” Williams said.
Both Ross and Williams have seen firsthand how capable the Lord is to redeem and restore lives.
“As creatives, you always hope that your art will impact someone in some way. That is why we create,” Ross said.
Causing substantive change through their work is what inspires them to keep going.
Even before attending MBU, both Williams and Ross knew they had an interest in the creative and entrepreneur industry. Throughout college, freelancing was always on the horizon for Williams. Ross did not consider this as an option until he participated in a program through MBU called Best Semester. Best Semester is a program at MBU through the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities providing students travel study opportunities. Ross spent a semester in Los Angeles, studying and shadowing film producers at Los Angeles Film Studies Center.
It can be challenging as a Christian to work in a secular industry. These two often find that their ministry takes the form of being a light in the workplace and sharing these redemptive stories with hope.
“In a world of creatives, it can be hard to find those who are after the heart of God,” Ross explained. “Being a person of faith in St. Louis and having a format of creation holds a unique responsibility. We can make videos on Christ and his virtues without explicitly saying, ‘Here is the Gospel.’” Ross continues, “The fact that I get to tell beautiful stories of redemption and restoration gives me assurance that I am in the right field and career.”
The relationships Ross and Williams built at MBU continue to be beneficial for both alumni. A mentor they both shared during their college years was Dr. Matthew Easter, MBU’s director of Christian studies. The two met Easter their freshman year, and he remained a key component to their growth throughout their time at MBU.
“I’m thrilled that they’re using their God-given skills in an industry desperate for the light of the Gospel,” Easter said.
Williams and Ross have worked hard to make connections and build clients over the years. Williams has worked with companies and organizations such as Purina, Mission St. Louis and Pianos for People. Ross has had the honor of working for Divine Nest, a local non-profit focused on families in the adoption and foster care process, the past three years and has completed projects alongside Williams for Mission St. Louis and Pianos for People. Some of the most meaningful projects completed were the ones that involved sharing stories and the raw moments of life. Moments that seem to be hidden under the surface are some of life’s greatest reels, both Williams and Ross believe.
Already in their career, both Williams and Ross have had opportunities to connect with individuals and bring stories to people they would never get the chance to meet. Just like the man who made a seemingly unforgivable mistake, Williams and Ross see their work as a way to share hope in a broken world.
We can all learn something from his story of redemption and resilience.
The fact that I get to tell beautiful stories of redemption and restoration gives me assurance that I am in the right field and career.