J. Jasper Wilkins Jr., the pastor at Wake Chapel Church in Raleigh, was on his way to visit a sick church member in 2014 when he started thinking about the challenges children in America face, especially in their own homes.
During ministry work, Wilkins had seen the effects of broken homes, and he wanted to reach out to youth.
“Children are dealing with real issues,” Wilkins said. “We want them to know that they’re not alone. You don’t feel like an oddball. There are plenty of other people dealing with the same sort of things.”
Wilkins’ thoughts became the inspiration for “There’s My Angel,” a film affiliated with Wake Chapel Church. It will premier Saturday, July 30, at the Carolina Theatre in Durham.
In the film, 12-year-old Bobby Romo is deserted by his mother, who is abused by her boyfriend and has other personal problems. His mother’s best friend, Helen Bates, steps in to help, and the two quickly develop a bond.
But Bates and her family are not exempt from life’s struggles, and Bobby’s emotional roller coaster does not seem to slow down.
The film portrays characters struggling with abuse, abandonment, drug addiction and poverty. Why delve into subject matter that makes some people squirm?
“That’s real life,” said Wilkins, who also owns Wake Media Films and served as executive producer for “There’s My Angel.” “We want the audience to be able to relate to (the film) and see themselves in it. I don’t think that could happen if we Hollywood-ized or Christian-ized it up.”
Wilkins and Willie Hodges, a Wake Chapel Church member who directed the film, issued a casting call to the congregation, brought in acting coaches and hired professional actors for the main roles.
Caroletta Daniels, an actress in the film, decided to audition because she was immediately drawn to the plot.
“(The story) will allow the audience to have hope and to heal,” she said. “Also, it will make them think, ‘Hey, maybe this is one way I can help someone else.’ ”
When viewers exit the theater, Wilkins and Hodges hope they walk away encouraged to never give up, because redemption is possible, no matter life’s circumstances.
“You have to help people where they are, not where you want them to be,” Wilkins said. “It’s the good, the bad and the ugly. Never, ever give up.”
The film premieres at 9 p.m. Saturday, July 30, at the Carolina Theatre in Durham. Tickets are $9 each and are available through Ticketmaster.
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler