What do you get when you put together a down and out addict, a Florida county with numerous hurting homeless individuals and families, a jaded, cynical reporter, an “angel unawares,” and a pastor and his church with a passion to love others? You get a powerful story of miracles and lives transformed by God’s love. That is what the movie “No Vacancy” is all about!
During the last recession, Lake County, Fla., had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Homelessness for individuals and families was growing and Pastor Cliff Lea, of First Baptist Leesburg, had a growing burden to help by purchasing and renovating a run-down motel, but he had no idea how they would ever raise the purchase price and convince city officials to approve the sale. “No Vacancy” tells the amazing true story of how these things came about, starting with the transforming of the life of Cecil Johnson, a drug addict just out of jail for attempted murder and the impact of that changed life on a cynical reporter.
In one scene where the pastor is pleading his case for the purchase of the motel with the county, he is told that it can’t be zoned as part of the church since it doesn’t fit in with typical church activities. The Pastor rightly responds that helping the poor and homeless is indeed part of what is normal church activity. And indeed, this film challenges believers to do our part to help the poor and broken – not just with natural needs, but with spiritual as well. “Faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6b) is what changes lives!
Seasoned actors play the leads in “No Vacancy.” Pastor Cliff is played convincingly by Dean Cain (“Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” and faith-based films such as “God’s Not Dead”). The reporter, Brandi Michaels, is played by Sean Young (“Dune” and “Blade Runner”). The recovered addict Cecil Johnson is played masterfully by T.C. Stallings (“Courageous” and “War Room”) who prepared for this challenging role with help from Cecil’s wife and the film’s Writer/Producer Art Ayris. He so immersed himself in this role that he is hard to recognize. Stallings has been a believer since he was a child but had his “Damascus Road” experience in college. He shared what a positive experience it was to work with a highly skilled cast that had devotions each day, working together for the glory of God to put the message of this amazing story on film. Aside from some minor tweaks to move the movie along, Stalling said the story presented in the film accurately portrays what happened. The lesson that he personally took away from his experience with the film was that “sometimes all it takes is for people to take a moment to love somebody and then listen to the Lord for Him to tell you how to serve that person.” He said that’s what his character represents. “It’s about someone who took time to love Cecil, listen to him and then ask God what they should do about what they heard.” That led to Cecil’s life being changed, followed by many other changed lives.
A relevant message
Although “No Vacancy” is not as polished as bigger budget films, it is a much-needed film that tells a powerful story that will touch and change many lives and hopefully motivate people and their churches to do what Stallings has shared: “One small act of obedience to the Lord, loving somebody, and listening to their needs can lead to amazing things happening!”
“No Vacancy” will be in select theaters nationwide for one night only, May 9th. However, from May 10th to June 10th, churches and other organizations can register to host showings. I hope that many will help this film touch and change lives by praying, helping to spread the word, and by bringing groups to see it in the theaters and by hosting other showings. To see a list of theaters and purchase tickets go to: fathomevents.com. For other information about the film and to register as a host location, go to: novacancymovie.com
CLICK HERE for a listing of Faith Films Coming to Theaters This Spring!
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Stanley Goldenberg has been involved in grassroots promotion of Christian films for 16 years. He hosts a regular “Movie Connection” program on LIFE-FM (90.9 FM) in Miami. He is also a federal hurricane research meteorologist who has published scientific articles and appeared in numerous TV hurricane specials.
Read other articles by Stanley Goldenberg at goodnewsfl.org/author/stanleygoldenberg/