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Rebecca St. James Opens Up about Unsung Hero: ‘God Redeems Our Story’

Michael Foust | Crosswalk Headlines Contributor | Updated: May 01, 2024
Rebecca St. James Opens Up about <em>Unsung Hero</em>: ‘God Redeems Our Story’

Rebecca St. James Opens Up about Unsung Hero: ‘God Redeems Our Story’

Grammy-winning singer Rebecca St. James says she prays that a new film about her family’s trials upon moving from Australia to the U.S. gives moviegoers hope and leads them to “treasure” their family. Unsung Hero (PG) follows the story of her parents, David and Helen Smallbone, who moved to the U.S. in the early 1990s but were forced to scramble to make ends meet when the job that led to their move didn’t materialize. Jobless and nearly broke, the family did odd jobs to survive.   

“I pretty quickly moved into babysitting and cleaning houses,” St. James told Crosswalk Headlines. She also cleaned the house of Eddie DeGarmo, a Christian music legend. Eventually, she found a career in contemporary Christian music and changed her name from Rebecca Smallbone to her stage name to appease music executives. Much later, her brothers, Joel and Luke Smallbone, launched their own group, For King and Country.

The film, though, doesn’t focus on the family’s successes but instead on their battle in the early 1990s to find joy in the middle of trials. It stars Daisy Betts (Last Resort, Chicago Fire) as Helen Smallbone and Joel Smallbone (Journey to Bethlehem, Priceless) as his father, David. Candace Cameron Bure (Full House, My Christmas Hero) and Lucas Black (Birthright Outlaw, NCIS New Orleans) portray a neighborly couple.

unsung hero movie poster

Image Credit: Lionsgate 

“God redeems our story, no matter how hard it gets,” St. James told Crosswalk Headlines. “And I think a lot of people are discouraged in our world today. They're discouraged about marriage, they're discouraged about family life, they're discouraged about faith. A lot of people, I think, need hope and need to be reminded that God is the great redeemer of our story and of our life. I think that's why people are responding to the film the way that they are.”

The film’s title gets its name from Helen Smallbone, the “unsung hero” who worked behind the scenes to encourage her husband and children. The film depicts David Smallbone as battling depression when his career falls and, later, when his father dies and he does not have the money to travel back to Australia. Despite their hardships, the family finds joy.   

“We in the Western world live such frantic, busy, achievement-oriented lives,” St. James said. “And I think that we can almost start to think, ‘My family, maybe they're keeping me from this thing that I want in career or the certain thing that I want to achieve financially’ or whatever. And I think the film really kind of undoes that mentality that joy is not found in stuff or in achievement or career. It truly is found in relationship -- God gives us relationship with Him, and then relationship with each other. And the family, the health of the family, really is what the health of a nation is built on.”

Family, she said, is “something to treasure.” St. James noted that the film ends with a paraphrased quote from Mother Teresa: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” 

“My main dream has always been to be a wife and a mom,” she told Crosswalk Headlines. “And so even in all my nearly two decades of music -- first time around, and I'm doing some music again now -- but that was my dream was to live what my mom had lived and I'm living it now I, I have a husband and three kids and I pinch myself that God gave me that dream at 33. And I started having kids at 36. He redeemed my story.”

David Smallbone was a successful Christian music promoter in Australia who moved his family to the U.S. when he faced financial hardship.  

“I remember telling my friends at school [in Australia] that we were going to the US and they were like, ‘What? Disneyland! You get to go to Disneyland!’ That's all that they could talk about, which is kind of funny now. I just remember it being so exciting,” St. James said.

Soon, though, the family’s big dreams were dashed. 

“We were raking and mowing our own rental house yard. And people kind of noticed and just started asking us to help at their house too. So we all contributed to the raking of the leaves around that time. … It promoted this work ethic as a family … this kind of commitment to working hard [and] pulling together.”

Unsung Hero is rated PG for thematic elements. 

Image Credit: Lionsgate 

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Rebecca St. James Opens Up about Unsung Hero: ‘God Redeems Our Story’