the more that i expand my world-view and study injustices around the globe the more that i am confronted with the inescapable reality that these "issues" are more than facts on a piece of paper. more than statistics. more than unfamiliar faces. more than far away issues in far away places. 
they are 
true stories.
real lives.
 S O U L S.

at times it gets overwhelming to take it all in. it should be overwhelming, because it is too big for humans alone. a few days ago in a morning prayer meeting the speaker had us turn to the person beside us and stare into their eyes. initially this was extremely awkward, but as we got over ourselves and began to relax an unvarnished truth cut to my core. 
there is a God who SEES US
 and doesn't turn away.

literally translated this african greeting means, "i see you". sometimes merely recognizing one's needs is all it takes to spark hope in their life. let's take time to truly SEE one another. once our eyes are open we have a responsibility to take care of one another, to refuse to ignore the disparities of society and instead address them in whatever capacity we can.


photogenX update: I DO!

In just a few months Steve and I will be celebrating our one year anniversary! As I have been reflecting on the days since we said "I Do", I am amazed at the radical, redemptive love of our God who loves and pursues us. I am compelled by this same love. For us, marriage and missions have gone hand in hand, as we made vows to God not just for each other, but to Him and His kingdom as well. The journey we have been on this past year has been one of searching, contemplating, dreaming and believing. Together we have seen such transformation, in our own hearts and in the lives of those around us. We have witnessed the most astounding hope along side the most drastic despair. Both of these realities have opened our eyes to just how much the world needs the living Way of Jesus Christ.

Working with PhotogenX as a community and an organization has been life-altering for us. The joining of physical missions {aid work, evangelism, mercy ministry, community development, etc.} with mass communication & awareness {photography, publication, advocacy} has become our burning passion. We start by sharing with and mobilizing the Church to pray for the voiceless around the world, and than collaborate to physically move in a direction of justice. This is our heart, and our vision for the establishment of the Kingdom of God across the globe. These are the gifts God has given us as artists to give a voice to the voiceless. This is the place God has brought us to share the LOVE of Christ with whomever we meet. It is also the reason PhotogenX exists as a ministry and the reason we have come along side it...

This past year has been one of testing the waters. We have seen some change, some hope, and a glimpse of the Kingdom. We have come to the stark realization that the impact we have is directly affected by how committed we are to the vision. Although we have been passionate about our work with PhotogenX, we have romanticized working with other organizations and kept an open door out (just in case). We have been learning that the longer we continue to float from project to project, never laying down roots, the longer real, lasting change will be waiting. We want to invest in ONE thing. After a lot of long days and nights spent in prayer and council and an open invitation from Paul and Susi Childers (PhotogenX Founders), we have decided to officially commit to joining PhotogenX. Whereas before we have participated in a short term trip here and there, we have decided to change pace from being "involved" with missions, to being "full-time" missionaries. Similarly to the vows we made almost a year ago, we are marrying the ministry of PhotogenX.

We will be returning to the "mainland" to visit (with as many of you as is physically possible I hope!) early in September (specific dates to follow as soon as we have our itinerary) and than moving on to lead a track of photographers around the world, building bridges for making actual, measurable change withing many of the injustice issues we deal with as a mission.

I will be sending another update soon explaining our specific roles Steve and I are stepping into with PhotogenX, some more specific plans and how you can continue to get involved with us in a long term nature as missionaries.

I can honestly say that your prayers and support have literally held us up over this past year. Any and all of the hope that is sparked through our work is a direct result of your involvement with us. Despite being thousands of miles away sometimes, we are honored and blessed to be walking out life alongside of you and pray that we can journey together for a lifetime.


becoming the answer to my own prayers.

I have the tendency to think that I am communicating better than I actually am. At times I have assumed that everyone knows what is going on in my head and in my heart, but really there is so much that goes unsaid, and so for that I apologize. I ask for your grace as I learn to communicate better and for your attention as I share a story that has been stowed away in my heart for too long. 

Off of the "main highway" in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan there is a rocky dirt side street. And at the corner of that side street there is a concrete building. And at the edge of that building sits a woman in a filthy, tattered burqa that seems to swallow her up and make her invisible against the concrete backdrop. Her name is Shamuel. 

[above photo: johanna lessing]

Each day as we drove by that corner our curiosity grew about the woman hiding beneath the burqa. Was she Old? Young? Crippled? What was her story? We were dying to know. One day as we were driving back from distributing food in a nearby village we couldn't wait any longer. We stopped the van and Johanna and a translator got out to bring her a bag of sugar, the only thing that we had left from the food distribution. My heart raced as I watched the covered woman greet Johanna with three masked kisses on her cheeks, followed by a hug. I don't know the words that were exchanged between Johanna and Shamuel that day, I only know that as Johanna climbed back into the van everyone began to cry. We felt an overwhelming love for this stranger. 

The next day Johanna and I packed up a traditional afghan rice meal, pilau, and together with a translator went to sit with Shamuel at "her" corner of the road. She wasn't there but a neighbor showed us where she lived. We knocked on the door and were greeted by her landlord who led us to a tiny mud room with a tarp roof which was Shamuel's home. He asked us if we were the ones who had brought Shamuel "a fattened sheep" the day before. A bit embarassed, we explained that we had only brought a meager bag of sugar. With a smirk on his face he explained that to Shamuel, that bag of sugar was a fattened sheep. We left the food for her along with a message letting her know we would come back again. 

Shamuel's rent was 500 afghani's (about $10 USD) per month and she begged in several places around the town, so it was difficult to find her. But we were intrigued about who she was and compelled, I believe, by the Love of God to find her and hear her story, so we kept going back. Finally we found her and invited her for tea at our house. As she lifted away her burqa to reveal her face I felt like a hidden treasure was being revealed. Surely she was God's most beautiful daughter with her small face, marked with the harsh lines of much suffering. We learned that she was a widow and had a son who had died in war. Her only living child, a daughter, was too poor to take care of her and could seldom visit, so Shamuel was alone. We were able to pray for her (with the help of our translator), and Shamuel prayed a blessing on us in return. With tears in our eyes and hearts pounding within us, we were so humbled and thanked God for this beautiful gem. She thanked God for her new "daughters" and on the day that we said good-bye she told us that she was so happy to have daughters in America. She is now connected with some friends who live in Mazar who are discipling her.

"Someone should do something about this".  I have lost count of all the times that those very words have crossed my mind or come from my lips in response to an issue that pangs my heart or about a situation that doesn't make sense. It would have been so easy to dismiss Shamuel as "just another beggar" or to have connected her with an organization or program. I have come to the realization that often times I think God looks back at me and says, how about YOU do something about it? How about you change this? How about you do that? And so I will. Because everything must change, and I believe it starts with my own heart.

poverty is so hard to see
when it’s only on your tv and twenty miles across town
where we’re all living so good
that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood
where he’s hungry and not feeling so good
from going through our trash
he says, more than just your cash and coin
i want your time, i want your voice
i want the things you just can’t give me
[derek webb]

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