At the time of this writing, I am flying somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, praying through the turbulence in hopes that this post will eventually make my Blog. [If you are reading this, then my prayers were answered. I am listening to “Awakening” by Chris Tomlin; an anthem for my time in Liberia, “You and You alone awake my soul.”]
Of all the places in the world for God to take me, Liberia, Africa is a place that I never expected. [The turbulence is really rocking our plane at the moment. We are only a couple of hours into our eleven hour flight to Atlanta. The flight attendants have been called overhead to return to their seats.] Liberia is a country only ten years removed from a fourteen year long civil war. I don’t know as much about the war as I would like, and will definitely be doing my reading on that upon arriving in the States.
Prayer has had a lot to do with my first Missions Trip. Man does not live on bread alone, and that is something I never took too seriously before. I am still processing the trip, even after having great conversations with fellow team members, and journaling often. [I am replaying “Awakening,” because it moves something deep inside of me.]
After landing in Liberia we drove to where we would be staying in Monrovia. The sun was setting over Africa. We were driving past a rust-covered water tower when it struck me that this was not a photograph during a Missions Sunday at church, and this was not a movie I was watching on a screen. The air was heavy and distinctly different. The light grew faint as I was lulled to sleep in the car.
During the first week, our team worked to build relationships with children at an orphanage through both having fun, and through practical things such as repainting their walls and providing mattresses and mosquito nets.
The first day we arrived the children were ecstatic. We were greeted almost immediately with hugs, and the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen. I was floored. With all of my baggage, I couldn’t begin to comprehend how these children, who had no parents, were able to smile so broadly. I asked myself “How can these children smile and sing when they have nothing?” Without hesitation, God asked me “You mean ‘How can they smile and sing when all they have is Me?’” I had no answer.
Children have an amazing ability to draw out joy from people- even people who are so broken, burdened, and baggage-heavy. It was healing and humbling to be with them, and I am pumped just thinking about the trip next year.
Despite being plagued the entire trip with the Big “Why” Questions (Why was I born with so much, when so many have little to none? Why haven’t I obtained the contentment that these children have?), I have miraculously been able to find peace in God’s Sovereignty. His Sovereignty is something I have wrestled with intensely for over two years, but I finally felt a glimpse of comfort in it. Being able to almost completely unplug from my cell phone, emails, and internet has proved tremendously necessary for my faith, and even my health.
This trip was my first Missions Trip, but it was also my first assignment as a budding journalist. I literally had a document I needed to carry around just in case I was questioned about what I was doing with all of my camera equipment.
On the trip, I learned so many things as a (photographer, Christian, human, man)
– Some of my favorite moments in shots are what is going on in the unfocused area of a photo.
– I love photographing sports.
– My sharpest and most versatile lens is absolutely the 100mm Macro L Lens. I have a 50mm and a 35mm f1.4, but I can’t rave enough about my 100mm f2.8
– Children want to be touched and held. They want your presence and attention. They don’t need you to have “it all figured out,” they just want you.
– If our God is for us, then who could stand against us?
– Liberian children may not have the most amazing teeth, but by far they have the most beautiful smiles.
– My god is much smaller than the true God.
– Alisha is a better model than Shawn. Sorry Shawn.
– In my life I have never prayed for food, shelter, or comfort.
– My heart is absolutely broken in a way that I am so thankful for.
– Never take Nyquil in River Gee.
– Speedlights are more than worth the challenge.
– We have all been given different gifts to serve with.
– Like Jeremiah, we have all been given words to speak.
– I love sitting on the sidelines and soaking in human interaction.
– Going to Africa feels a lot like falling in love. It is frustrating and it is worth it.
– Too much Fill Light in Lightroom 3 makes photos look flat and gross.
– No agenda, ideology, religion, or law will ever heal the human heart. We are all corrupt, no-one is pure, and we need Jesus Christ to transform us.
– My identity has nothing to do with what anyone thinks of me. My work does not define me. Cultural definitions of what a man should be can’t compare to what God calls men to be.
– Christians need to daily preach the true Gospel to themselves- that we are saved only by Christ. He is our salvation from beginning to end.
– African dust is insanely red.
– Some fish is not worth eating.
– Fan Milk is incredibly, edibly, delicious.
– The African breeze is a gift from God, and without coming across as animistic, I am almost positive that in some way, God Himself is in the wind.
– I live in grotesque blessing and even wealth- to the point that I question how much of it is actually a blessing.
– Having over 130 GB’s of video to edit is going to be a minor nightmare.
– Liberian Churches know how to get down.
– I really need a shower. Planes should have onboard showers.
– God continually breathes new life into us through stepping out in faith.
– I am way too competitive at the game Taboo. Sorry, Ladies.
– I am on a rice-free diet for the next year.
– Let go and let God. [I tend to hate cute, Christian, catchphrases, but I’m onboard with this one.]