The theme of the second annual Adventist Mission film contest was announced this past April: “My Story, My Mission.” For this contest, college-aged students from around the world were given the task of producing a one-minute video showcasing what this theme meant to them.

In October, four finalists were selected by a panel of five judges, and voting was opened to the public. On Oct. 19 at the Society of Adventist Communicators conference, Caleb Haakenson, a junior business administration and photo and video imaging student at Union College, was publicly announced as this year’s winner.

For Haakenson, mission is his mindset, passion and calling. “My first exposure to mission trips was in high school at Sunnydale Academy. I got to go to India twice and Nepal once for evangelism preaching trips. The experience was incredible. It stoked my interest for missions and helped me realize how important it was to me,” he shares. “Coming to Union and being able to spend a year as a student missionary in Pohnpei strengthened that passion and made me realize other opportunities.”

Haakenson was in Kenya, assisting on a documentary with ADRA when the contest finalists were announced, so he wasn’t aware of the results until he managed to get a wifi connection the following day when he was on his way back to the States.

Upon learning he was a finalist, Haakenson immediately began spreading the word, so family and friends could watch his submission online before placing their vote.

“When I got off my last flight, I quickly refreshed the page to see the updated vote count, and I was winning by, like, 50 votes.”

Taking hold of every opportunity

Winning the contest is a surreal experience for Haakenson, and he’s excited for the opportunities it will provide. While the grand prize is a trip to film with Adventist Mission, Haakenson is still relatively new to the film world.

“I had never made a video in my life before coming to Union,” says Haakenson. But during his freshman year, after persuading a professor to allow him to film a video compilation for a final project instead of writing a paper, Haakenson dove into the world of videography. “For the project, I made a video every day while I was in Lebanon visiting family and I loved it. It told a story and helped keep memories alive.”

The following year, during his time in Pohnpei, Haakenson took the opportunity to grow his skills and learn whatever he could about videography, so he could take advantage of the beautiful scenery and story potential the island offered.

“Union has helped show me that my passion for missions isn’t just hit and miss–it’s a true passion, something I feel called to do. It’s not just an ‘I want to travel to this place for a while, so I may as well do some mission work while I’m there,’ kind of thing.”

Haakenson’s passion for mission lies in creating relationships with the people he gets to meet while he’s serving.

“Because missions is such a passion, that’s where I see myself working–even if I’m not getting paid tons of money. I believe God is planning to use that to help different organizations and give me incredible opportunities around the world,” shares Haakenson.

He continues, “Whenever people ask, I’ve always said my dream job would be creating videos and quality media content for mission organizations all over the world. I don’t know what organization I’ll work for or in what capacity, but I’d love to do media work and film full-time for church or mission organizations that don’t necessarily have the budget to pay for huge marketing corporations.”

For winning first place, Haakenson will travel with Adventist Missions to film a Mission Spotlight video at one of their current filming locations around the world.

Photos courtesy of Caleb Haakenson

Danica Eylenstein is a senior communication student at Union College.