{salam ya'll!}

the truth is, I wasn’t sure exactly how to begin this blog…a simple “hello” or “dear readers” didn’t quite encapsulate the awkward marriage of east and west that’s made me it’s offspring over the past few months. steve and i have been back in america for about a month and are getting settled in (whatever that means) in memphis, tennessee. we have been warmly welcomed by the amazing community here. my heart is so encouraged knowing that it is surrounded by so many who share its passions. it’s been awesome to pray through issues and than practically come up with ways to {be the answers} to our own prayers, trusting in the sovereignty of the Father to guide us as we seek to further His kingdom.

we are  finally feeling much healthier, but strangely, the more we “recover” the more our hearts become sick with the general attitude of th
e west. admittedly I have felt a bit {crazy} upon returnin
g to ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’, though I have enjoyed some of it’s praiseworthy qualities (grocery stores, for instance, thank you GOD for grocery stores! and clean, running water is always a bonus) and it has been undeniably refreshing to spend some much needed {quality time with family and friends}, it's strange to feel closer to home while on the other side of the earth and have your heart ache for the other side of the earth as soon as you return "home". this constant heart pull bears witness to the very reason I {love} to immerse myself in cultures that are so foreign to me (and perhaps the reason why steve and I constantly catch our thoughts and prayers drifting toward travel. It has become so hard to sit still. the headlines on CNN are no longer headlines, they are familiar faces and families).

it’s about the part of the trip where you realize you are no longer the western "outsider" being smiled at and started at out of curiosity and politeness, but to have been accepted as a sister. it is such a humbling experience to find yourself truly accepted in a culture that places such value in sisterhood. a concept that is {entwined} into each woman’s very existence, a sense of belonging so strong.creating bridges between cultural boundries, breaking down the walls. for this same reason, i have so enjoyed sharing stories with people (once I get going it’s hard to stop talking, I am smitten with these beautiful people). I am dying to introduce the west (and anyone who will listen) to a culture that completely caught me off guard and ruined all of the preconceived ideas that I had formed in my head as a westerner, to a nation of women who aren’t sulking about under burqas but who are downright silly, funny, happy, animated, irreverent, smart, strong, complex women; a nation of strong, serious men with extraordinary {family values} and a reverence for God that blows me out of the water. (and yes, as with every culture there are exceptions to the rule, sometimes we forget that oppression, depression, corruption and abuse exist in the good old U. S. A. too). behind every veiled face and gap toothed smile is a testimony that silences my feeble words and stirs my soul.

thank you to everyone who opened their hearts to hearing the stories behind the photographs that we have captured over the past months (especially to our families, who never seem to tire of the slideshow). I really look forward to sharing more with you as we continue to live the questions together.

"if i am crazy it's because i refuse to be crazy in the same way that the world has gone crazy"
- peter maurin (co-founder of the catholic worker community movement) 


contemplating realities.

We have been in afghanistan for over a month and are spending about one more month here. the time passes by s l o w l y. there is a peace and a confidence in knowing that you are walking in obedience to the Father...even if that walk exists as a trek through the deserts of a war-torn land. admittedly, the conditions of this place are weighing heavy on my heart. i am feeling tired and weak. i take courage in the fact that i never walk alone. i am at the place where i can truly submit my restless heart to my Father, pray THY WILL BE DONE and REALLY mean it. these words have been my bread; "...more than that we {REJOICE in our sufferings}, knowing that suffering produces endurance and endurance produces character and character produces hope and hope does not put us to shame because God's love has been poured out in our hearts..."
romans 5:3-5

I have had to ask myself some LOADED questions over the past few weeks. it is easy to agree with “being content in every situation”, but to actually live that out with your chin up and a smile on your face is a different story. To literally be “patient in tribulation and constant in prayer”. I am so grateful for the strength in the eyes of my husband , the awesome community I am surrounded by and the support and prayers of my friends and family in the west.
Despite the raised eyebrows we received from some regarding starting our married life in 
A-stan, I can tell you that this has undoubtedly been an awesome experience for us as a couple. We are living out the vows that we made to each other and experiencing a grace that covers us like the chuppah we were married underneath.

We are continuing the classes that we teach at the NGO {English, conversation, art, drama, religion} and will be spending the next few weeks running an education seminar for teachers and working with students in a small village outside of Mazar. We will also be doing some food distribution to victims of the famine this week. It is easy to get discouraged here as the fruit of our labor is not always evident. But I KNOW that our work is not in vain. As i extend my hands to the poor, as i kneel low to look in the eyes of the orphan, as i photograph the woman who has never felt valued, there is something INSIDE of ME that happens. Some thing in my very core breaks and tha
n sparks to life. The small acts of ruthless grace and redemptive love, the practical declarations of peace that come with simply choosing to live amongst the afghan people are what make it all worth it. And so we walk on…

*[Jesus] worked miracles not to shock and awe or to feed his own mouth but to feed the masses. So, we might not be able to turn water into wine, but if we can help the two billion people who are dying of thirst find water, that is a miracle.

*excerpt from {Jesus for President} Claiborne & Haw


diamonds in the rough

I had the awesome opportunity to photograph at a local women’s prison here in Mazar. An NGO in the area is working to raise support to better the conditions of the facility so I got to use my camera to help with that process. 

The assignment was to photograph the conditions of the facility. 


 I didn’t think that I would even have the opportunity to photograph the [treasures] that make their home inside the prison walls. The [women] shyed away from the camera, avoiding it at all costs as if it would steal their soul. Hiding in corners and covering their faces with their headscarves.

the children were scared of the camera too.

what are children doing living inside of a prison? when a woman in afghanistan goes to jail, her young children become prisoners with her. if she has older children they are sent to an orphanage.

 there are no grassy patches to play in. no sandboxes, crayons or toys. there are [sparks of hope] in the eyes of these tiny people. they are diamonds in the rough.

my first twenty shots were of crying babies. who knows if they had ever seen a camera before. thank GOD for digital photography...as i began to show these two and three year old babies their portraits their crying subsided and i even got a few smiles out of them. 

when their mothers saw their children's faces on the LCD they began to warm up
 to me. Within a few minutes there was such a drastic change...they came alive. Before long their faces were unveiled and they were dragging me by the arm from one side of the courtyard to the other, fighting over who got to have their picture taken next. as soon as the shutter closed they would dive towards me to see their faces in the screen. 


as i began to look into their eyes, my heart was shattered as i empathized with the intense pain, anger and angst written on the faces of these broken women. such stony exterior masking delicate hope. diamonds in the rough. 


out of our minds...

salam from mazar-e-sharif. i will try my best to explain the other-worldliness of this place, but I do suggest that if at all possible in your lifetime you visit afghanistan (at least once!). I can attest to the fact that it is, afterall, only a hop, skip and a jump away. after eight days of hopping, skipping and jumping from kona to tokyo (for one night) to india (delhi for four days), to kabul (long enough to live through a bombing) and finally an eight hour van ride through some of afghanistans finest dirt roads and mountain passes, we have arrived in MAZAR. seven days of travel brought us a day ahead of the western world and back to the year 1347 (according to the afghan calendar). 

it only seems fitting that it is the year 1347 because geographically, i'm sure this place has not changed much since then. close your eyes and imagine mary and joseph riding on donkeys through “that little town of Bethlehem”. what do you picture? perhaps dust flying about in the dry air, camels, sheep and goats wandering through the rocky, dry roads, women with faces framed by scarves chasing after children, men in long cloaks selling fruit from wooden carts, clay houses built into mountainsides….if this is the picture you had in your mind know that you were actually picturing [mazar-e-sharif] in all its
charming simplicity.

no matter how super-human we have tried to be, or how hard we try to force the shell that encompasses our person to snap into shape
and adjust to the blazing heat (usually about 130 degrees) or the time-change or the unfamiliar foods, our entire team was sick for about the first week that we were here. we are recovering (some of us more slowly than others..) 

the physical discomfort is a constant reminder that we were created for another world. the physical change echoes what my heart feels of the constant pull between the world that I live in and the one that I was designed to live in. as long as I walk this earth my soul will ache for its home.

 life here is simple. there are none of the comforts of the western world or the familiarities of home to distract me from this truth.  we present the gospel plainly, as it should be presented. there is no room for a candy coated gospel concocted in a la-la land prayer meeting. we do not bend the truth or complicate the story of the God Man for the sake of relevancy. we are not fluent in Dari (although I am excited to report that we are becoming quite conversational) so there is no option of fluffing up Christ’s love with fancy veils of enticement. 

we have learned to operate strictly in the practicality that IS the kingdom come. in simple acts of mercy. the kingdom is here. in loving embrace. the kingdom is here. with dancing. the kingdom is here. with warm smiles. the kingdom is here. coloring with crayons. the kingdom is here. In patient understanding. the kingdom is here. with broken english. the kingdom is here. in the eyes of the orphan. the kingdom is here.

we are living out the ministry of reconciliation. 
drawing our new friends into the relationship with their Father that they were intended to live out , one practical act at a time. “not regarding anyone from a worldy point of view”, but loving unconditionally. despite culture. despite circumstance. despite convienience.

these are the
mustard seeds that we are sowing into this dry land. 

“ …in a distracting, violent and tempting world, keep sowing the seed of love. sow it even when it is seemingly being choked or seems too small to make a difference…” -shane claibourne


echoes of grace...

{may the ground beneath our feet be an echo of His grace}

i am so proud to be [mrs. schallert]! words cannot express how thankful i am to each and every one of you that celebrated with us (both near and far away) on our wedding day. we truly feel your prayers and are so thankful for your support. i am blown away at how every single detail for the ceremony fell into place, so {perfectly orchestrated} in Grace. God's provision streches beyond our physical needs into the hidden places of our hearts and dreams. 

It was such an unreal day and the perfect start to this beautiful, reckless adventure together.  I am so excited to walk out life's questions beside Steve, drawing ever-closer to the heart of the Father. 

our hearts are itching to travel and to start putting some of our training into action...in one week we trek to [kabul] (via japan and india...a few days of travel) and than will be living in [mazar-i-sharif] for the next few months; we will be learning their language so that we can build relationships and will be distributing food to those affected in the severe famine that is taking place in afghanistan right now. we will also be using our art to capture the beauty and culture of these unique people. 

contact via phone and e-mail will be limited for the 3 months that we are there, so please get in touch sometime this week before we head out ( yes, we are "honeymooning", but we are so eager to hear from you! call/write anyway!).
after [afghanistan] we are headed onward for the {'round the world track}! 




Wearing justice like a turban...

hello my dear family&friends. i hope that you are all doing well. i am really starting to miss you and will be glad to have a new phone next week so that i can hear about what's going on in your lives and share what is going on in mine. i fear if I don't tell you soon my heart will EXPLODE. i am once again overwhelmed by God's grace and provision...in every.single.area of my life. i have been really busy this past week and have been stealing away every moment that i can to hideout and just BE. i am being challenged physically and emotionally and i really value the time where i can get away to process all of it and just melt in the peace of God.

[because we serve a God who takes care of His kids] wedding plans have been literally falling into place. thank you for your continued prayers for steve & i as we prepare our hearts for the next 100 years (so what if i want to be 122 years old...)

photogenX as a group has established a definite outline of where we will be traveling within the next two years (whereas before we had more of a general outline) we are going to have the opportunity to develop some amazing projects to make some changes in this world through visual media...not just taking photographs for the sake of art or to evoke PITY. but, creating art that CAPTURES the beauty and individuality of the subject and exposing desperate situations so that there can be JUSTICE. as i prepare to do this, every part of me is aching for to meet and photograph these people and this has been my hearts cry this past week;

job 29:12-16 
"...I rescued the poor who cried for help and the fatherless who had none to assist him. the man who was dying blessed me, I made the widows heart sing. I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban. I was eyes to the blind. and feet to the lame. I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger..."



the fusion of faith and photography.

Aloha! I am currently living in Kona, Hawaii where I have roommates from Zimbabwe, California, England, Wisconsin, New Zealand and Denmark. 7 Sisters living under one roof. We are all part of a group called photogenX, a team of photographers seeking to make a change in the world with their art. There are artists and missionaries representing 41+ nations here; it is such an amazing experience to work and worship together despite cultural and denominational differnces. The people of Hawaii are so gracious and held a protocol ceremony for us upon our arrival, inviting us into their land and into their "Ohana", which means family.

They are not the only ones who gained a new "Ohana". On April 12th Steve and I were with the team at Pololu Valley (never heard of it? Ever seen Jurassic Park? You know that opening helicopter shot...yeah, THAT valley). As we sat on a rock wall in the parking lot of the valley we were overwhelmed by God's grace and the plans that He has for his children. Steve asked me to be his wife, and ...on June 14th I will become just that ; ) (Yes, June 2008...God's timing defies human logic sometimes...)


Venturing Out.

"We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting, and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it? It might be time for you to go. It might be time to change, to shine out. I want to repeat one word for you: Leave. Roll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn't it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don't worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed."- Donald Miller

Over the next two years I will be traveling with a group of artists,photojournalists and missionaries through the Pacific, China, Cambodia, India, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, South Africa, Chad, Germany, and Venezuela capturing the beauty and culture of each nation and unmasking the desperate issues at hand (human trafficking, sexual slavery, female genital mutilation,gender discrimination and female suicide bombers to name a few). This project will then work towards developing and distributing communication tools to raise social awareness about these issues, hoping to make a dent, through print media, by educating and informing those who have little or no knowledge of the "voiceless".

I am so excited to be a part of this project. I could not do it without YOUR love and support. It means so much to know that I have such an awesome group of family and friends backing me as I venture out. THANK YOU to every single person who has contributed, both financially and prayerfully. I am overwhelmed with graditude and feel so blessed to have you in my life. Your continued support is needed.

From April until June 2008 I can be reached at this address in Hawaii:
Please send any mail "Airmail" (not "ground" or "surface")

Diane Byrnes
PhotogenX DTS
University of the Nations
75-5851 Kuakini Hwy Box 432
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740


© 2010 unless otherwise stated all photos are copyright diane schallert and may not be used without permission. thanks.

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