After a almost a year of focusing on family, photography and career I have almost a years worth of trips lined up. I have five upcoming trips to plan and I'm so pumped to be getting back on the mission field. Every trip I go on is special to me. I have two this year that will be for the books. The Pope family is planning to go to Mexico and serve in Ensonada with Hugo Ministries this summer and in November 2013 I will be back in Rwanda do a big project for Visiting Orphans. More on that later. Sorry for the lack in posting! The next two months are going to be busy so I will be posting more on what I'm working on.
When you have a calling on your life you know it. The question is if you are going to answer the call, put it on hold or treat it like telemarketers and just ignore the constant ringing. I have been hearing it ring for a while and I have picked it up a few times to see if it was really for me. Every time I just told the person on the other end that they had the wrong number. The calls of late seem to be the correct number but the message is still unclear but is starting to come into focus.
Every time I return from the mission field I go through a time of reflection that turns into feeling of responsibility to do more. As I get back into the swing of life, going through the daily grind, this call slowly slips away and only comes back when I see a compelling image from the trip that stirs up the feeling of responsibility again. This time I don’t want the call to go away. I have come to the realization that telling the stories of those that don’t have a voice is important. Telling that story visually is critical in the process and can have a great impact on the viewer and more importantly the subject. Author Anne Lammot says, “That to be great, art must point at something. What you decide to point at - whether it’s the ugliness of injustice or the beauty of Vermont in the fall - is your vision. How you point at it is your craft. The more unique your vision, and the more practiced your craft, the more powerful your art.” For me it is something I strive for in my work. To point at darkness to show the light and allow others to experience what I call “Pure Faith”. Faith in that God is in control no matter what the circumstance. Could I have that faith? Faith in that feeding my family from the leftovers from the garbage dump and knowing it is going to be all right. Faith in that I am loved by someone somewhere even though I live in an orphanage with no one to give me a hug. I ask myself if I have the faith to endure what they endure every day? I hope and pray that I would but feel it would be a struggle.
Telling these stories and hearing the response from people like you gives me hope. Hope that one photograph taken in a split second of time can compel others to step forward and make a difference, or better yet, step out on faith and take up a cause as their life’s work.
Have you had a call? What have you done about it? Many people that I talk to say they didn’t lose anything in Africa, South America… I tell them it isn’t about finding something you have lost but finding something you never knew you needed.
We spent a day and a half at the Imbabazi Orphanage near Gisenyi, Rwanda and it was a stark contrast to what you would imagine an orphanage being. Don’t get me wrong it was still an orphanage full of teenage children orphaned due to the genocide that occurred in 1994. Over 850,000 people were murdered in less than four months with some estimates being over 1,000,000. Thanks to Roz Carr the founder of the Imbabazi Orphanage, over 400-orphaned children have been taken in and loved over the past 17 years. During our time there we connected with many of the orphans and heard the dreams of their hearts and the concerns of the their futures. The contrast that we noticed in this orphanage compared to others we visited was that they had hope and dreams. Some of them were attending trade schools and other forms of higher education. It was amazing to see a positive situation in place we consider to be hopeless.
When you are in Africa you will hear voices and music that reaches down into you heart and stirs your spirit. That is what happened to me at Imbabazi. While hanging around with a group of the orphans on the first day they started playing the guitar and singing and I was surprised that I knew the tune… Bob Marley’s “One Love/People Get Ready”. I just listened and thought WOW that is an amazing sound. So, I asked what music they like to sing and they said, “Worship music.” As they started to play some worship music in Kinyarwanda, it was as if I understood every word. It was a moment that I will never forget. They sang half a dozen songs and I was honored to be able to record them. Below are two of the tracks so that you can understand what I was hearing.
As a photographer I go into places like Imbabazi and I always want to make sure I’m not just “Taking” photos, video or audio in this case. I want to make sure I’m respectful to the people we are connecting with and the host that allows us to be in such an amazing place. On this occasion it was clear to me what I was sent there to do. As I recorded these beautiful voices I wanted to share it with them. The next day when we returned I was able to give them a CD with all six songs they had performed. We borrowed a CD player from one the staff and played the CD. The look on the face of the young man that was playing the guitar was as if he had never heard himself play before. So I asked him “Have you ever listened to yourself play before?” He said, “No” and he just stood there and listened. Later he came to me to tell me thank you and that he wants to compose his own music. It just re-enforced something that I have always known — it is more important to give than to take. In this case it was the first time I was able to witness the result of the gift.
The young man listening to his recording.
To learn more about Imbabazi please visit their website. It is an inspiring story. imbabazi.org