All posts in "Africa"

Jesus and his Message



Jesus, the Jesus of history, the Jesus who was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth, the Jesus who was raised by his parents Joseph and Mary, the one who grew up as all good Jewish boys did memorizing the Torah, attending the synagogue and pilgrimaging to the temple; this Jesus began his public ministry with a simple announcement, “The Kingdom of God is near!”

For Jesus of Nazareth, from that point on forward, what began as his opening announcement remained his central message in all that he said and did.  He stayed on course with his Kingdom of God motif right through to the very end of his life.

If this was Jesus’ main message then we might ask: “What is the Kingdom of God?” and “how is it near (at hand)?” Many did ask Jesus these questions and other questions just like them.

Now, Jesus had a peculiar way of communicating his message when people would ask their questions. Many times he simply answered people’s questions with another question.. He had a way of seeing behind people’s questions to something deeper and quite revealing.

He also wasn’t nearly as literal and precise as we are today. Our modern sensibilities seem to prefer describing things in more of a straight forward and direct approach.  In contrast, Jesus chose to explain his message through simile and short stories called parables. Jesus went about saying such things like:

The Kingdom of  God is like a mustard seed..

The Kingdom of God is like yeast the a woman mixes into flour..

It is like a man who scatters seed on the ground..

It is like.. when a certain man was preparing  a great feast..

If Jesus were around today we could imagine Jesus being interviewed on the TV show Larry King Live. Larry might ask Jesus if he could explain more about his main message.  Jesus would begin explaining, “The kingdom is like this.. or the Kingdom is like that ..”  Larry King might ask Jesus in the closing 15 seconds of the show to simply break down his message into a headline or soundbite, something short, concise and clear. Jesus might say, “Well Larry, the Kingdom of God is like..”

You probably get the point already.

I have been on a journey of following this Jesus. The one who was born, lived, died and resurrected a couple millennia ago. When at first I started following Jesus, it was for a variety of different reasons and motivations (I could talk to you about those reasons some time in greater detail.) The point I want to make now is that I now find myself following Jesus for a different set of reasons. Some of the orignal reasons  remain, some have evolved, and many are brand new reasons altogether.

Paula and I are learning together what it means to follow Jesus. Recently we have been learning about and deeply exploring this central message of Jesus; the Kingdom of God. There are four accounts of the life of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. When I first seriously started reading the story of Jesus I began in Matthew (because it was the first book in the New Testament). Matthew has Jesus going everywhere talking about the “Kingdom of Heaven“. At the time when I first started reading Matthew some people told me that Jesus came to teach people how to get to heaven when they die. Therefore, I used to read Jesus’ parables explaining “the Kingdom of Heaven” and think that he was describing what Heaven will be like for us one day after we die and escape this earthy physical dwelling. I assumed he was talking about a place somewhere else, not here.

Kingdom Of Heaven, Kingdom of God

Rosa Celeste: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean 19th century

In contrast, Luke’s and Mark’s Gospel’s tells us Jesus was talking about the “Kingdom of God”. Even though these Gospels had “Kingdom of God” instead of “Kingdom of Heaven” I hadn’t really asked myself why the language was different in their account of things. I just assumed that all of these stories and parables were Jesus’ attempt at describing what Heaven was like and what we needed to do in order to get there some day.

Originally my motivations for following Jesus was more about getting to heaven, escaping this life. My hope was for a distant spiritual place far away from this physical place.

Recently, my motivations have been changing. I am waking up to the reality that actually Jesus wasn’t going around teaching people how to escape this world, rather he was planting creative stories in the minds and hearts of people which were explaining how God’s Kingdom was breaking into this one, the here and now, with renewing and transforming power.

I have been discovering that Jesus’ Kingdom of God Message is about the present, not simply the future. It is about what God is doing through us, not only what he does in and for us. Following Jesus and living for his Kingdom is not the least bit about escaping this world, rather, it is about shaping our world.

Our Lord teaches us to pray for the reality  of God’s-realm (heaven) to become meshed with our-space (earth).

“May your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

This has become our prayer. May the reality/life of heaven become reality in your life today. The Kingdom of God is at hand.

Harrowing of Hell/ 15 c. Hermitage

Harrowing of Hell 15 centurey. Hermitage

 

Where in the world?



I can hardly believe we’ve been in Cape Town for six weeks already. In some ways we’ve experienced a lifetime worth, and on the other hand, it feels like yesterday we were waving our (temporary) goodbyes to our Zambian family for this next season. Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, if you ask me. The mountains tower high over the land as the ocean shores crash in all its wildness. We’ve been enjoying it’s countryside immensely all while journeying a heart’s path that will make these moments truly last forever.

Table Mountain Photographer South Africa

We’ve enjoying the life of a Jesus community that we happened upon in South Africa. This community has been grappling with things like: how to do life in an African setting while serving and empowering the Africans, how to celebrate the love of Jesus with people without changing their cultural context, and how to effectively serve the oppressed and walk a journey with them in contrast with the foal to “convert” people. Loving and serving people simply for the love of people. Imparting a vision of a valued and cared for humanity. God has really been in the midst of all this, shaping our hearts, bringing beautiful relationships to surround us with, and showing us His love and grace in this process.

Walter Wink wrote a book called Jesus and Non-violence, one that Nick and I are currently reading together. Some of you might have already seen this quote on my facebook. “What does God require of me in response to the needs of others?” It’s not, “How can I be virtuous?” But, “How can I participate in the struggle of the oppressed for a more just world?” That’s where we are. At the very core of who Nick and I are, we are seeking God’s heart to participate in this struggle. How to live out Isaiah 58 and “loose the chains of injustice, untie the cords of the yoke, and set the oppressed free… share your food with the hungry, to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked, clothe them.”
How it looks and where that takes us in the future is an open book.

 

But where is that taking us right now?

Nick and I are headed on yet another wild adventure, and heading to India. We will be there for approximately two months, staying at the base of the Himalayan Mountains, sharing life with the Tibetan people residing there.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
He enables me to tread on the heights.

Zambia to South Africa



I’m a photographer. I see the world in highlights and shadows, composition and shape. Sometimes I don’t want to be ‘framing’ my world within the contours of a viewfinder, but I do. It’s not a burden, but a gift. Being in Zambia, the world around me has changed. I feel a bit like a kid in a candy store with all the new and wonderful treasures there is to capture; the people especially. We have journeyed with the beautiful people of Zambia for about 5 months. We have learned a bit of their language, their culture, and their faith. We have seen the hardships they face and we have seen God move in beautiful ways. It has been my pleasure to freeze them in my camera. To freeze the moments of time we have spent with them, and to freeze their burdens and trials into a means of raising awareness and connecting worlds. That’s my hope and my prayer.

documentary photography Zambia Africa

zambia and south africa photographer

On a personal note: For those of you who don’t already know, Nick and I will be spending the next few months in Cape Town, South Africa as we go through the CPx training and schooling with All Nations (the parent organization to Love’s Door). We are excited to be back in South Africa, in a town we love and with people we cherish, but will deeply miss, for this short time, the people of Zambia, the villagers we shared life with, and the opportunities to serve with them… but this is only the beginning for us….

Prayer points: For those of you who are continually praying for us and showing us support and encouragement, Thank you! We are forever grateful! A few things we are praying about and hope you can join in are: A mode of transportation. We are thinking about getting a little scooter to get around Cape Town during our schooling and are praying for the funds to come in. We are also prayerful about the outreach phase of this schooling, as we want to be and go where we are supposed to be. There is so much need and so many people to shine light to, but want to be in His perfect will.

Well Watered Gardens



Our return to Redhill was a much-anticipated reunion. Three years ago marked a very pivotal time in our young, American, newly married lives: deciding to move into a little shack in a South African township to work amongst the Xhosa people. Life changing, really. Probably more for us than them. We had little inklings of what it’d be like, but had no idea it’d shape our lives and decisions from then on in such a large way. Not to mention the real love and bond with the people of Redhill, specifically with our neighbors David and Daisy.

So, you can imagine, the emotions that come into play, when you drive up the road, in anticipation to seeing them again, revisiting the little shack that kept us cold at night and warm in the day. (and no, that was not a mistake)

My heart felt heavy from the start of the day, wondering if they’d still be there, fearing they wouldn’t share in our excitement of returning, but mostly just out-of-my-skin thrilled for the opportunity to see everyone again. Liana, our roommate in this shack three years ago, and I both admitted feeling a little nervous just as we parked.

So we head up to our old stomping grounds, reminiscing and noticing changes in the once burnt grounds of a fire stricken land, now with flourishing gardens and natural landscape.  We see David and Daisy. Tears start flowing and Daisy immediately embraces us and reminds me that I am crying the same as the day I left. David came around the corner and got his same old toothless grin on his face. One that looks like he’s trying to hold back his real emotions. “We often talked of you guys, wondering when you’d come back. Took you long enough” he said, in his almost cowboy-like abruptness. Soon came the little kids that once knew us so well, playing in our yard, and sitting on our laps. I saw Artule, a little boy whose photographs graced the pages of magazine stories of Redhill and my gallery in Portland. I had a photo of him hanging on my office wall at home, and would recognize his eyes from a mile away. He was happy to accompany us for the remaining tour of Redhill that day. Hand in hand, we went.

I was reminded of the scripture the Lord gave us while working in Redhill. Isaiah 58, a well quoted chapter of God’s heart for justice, and yet, for us, almost a prophetic inscription of what to expect from the Lord in our sun-scorched land.

“and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in the sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called the Repairer of Broken walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” Isaiah 58: 10-12

Redhill Township South Africa Photography

All Nations Africa Documentary Photographer

Africa Documentary Photographer South Africa

Missions All Nations Africa Redhill

Queen



documentary photographer zambia africa widow

african photography poverty widow village

Queen, a recent widow and newfound friend of mine: at first impression, she is seemingly shy and reserved. Take another look and you’ll find she is spunky and a fighter. She wears the scarf of one who has lost her husband. She is grieving. He was the sole provider of their family; now leaving her the sole provider of her eight grandchildren. She is burdened. Zambian law gives rights to her husband’s family, not including his widow. She is being told that their land is no longer hers, because it belongs to his family. She is alone.

I would like to say we have easy answers and a quick fix for Queen. We don’t. The issues that Queen is up against are complicated, cultural, and multi-dimensional, and if we want to help create an atmosphere of empowerment for Queen, more and more, we are finding that being encouragers and a support is where our role should be. It’s hard. It’s messy.

I am reminded of a song that Dan wrote… (Abridged version)

Take my love to the Nations…
Show them I care…
Show them I’m there

Take my light to the dark places of this world
Show them I care…
Show them I’m there

Watch their faces turn bright when they turn on that light
And they see that I care
and they know that I’m there

Take my healing to the broken hearted orphan child
Show him I’m there
Show her I care

In her darkest night
I will work for her with all my might
Show her I’m there
Show him I care

Cause if you don’t go
How then will they know?
That I still care
That I’m really

You’re my hands and my feet
You’re my message to this world
To show them I’m there
To show them I care

We ask for prayer and wisdom in finding ways to partner with Queen and her family… for provision and long-term solutions to take care of her and her grandchildren.

zambia photographer rural village documentary

Poverty



“Poverty is the result of relationships that do not work, that are not just, that are not for life, that are not harmonious or enjoyable. Poverty is the absence of shalom in all its meaning.” When Helping Hurts

Zambian documentary photographer

I have told many people about this book that I’m reading, When Helping Hurts. It’s a book serving to identify what true poverty looks like, from all aspects, in order to be able to discern the best way to help alleviate it. Poverty is not just lack of material possessions. It’s not just about lacking food or shelter or shoes to walk to school. There’s definitely a lot of that kind of poverty here in Zambia and it’s an easy thing to recognize, that’s for sure. But what this book is distinguishing between is the material poverty and the kind of poverty that goes deeper. It goes into the very fiber of who we are and who we were created to be. It’s poverty that keeps us from being able to have compassion on others, or that keeps us broken inside, or that keeps us distant from our Maker.

Living in Africa, it’s very tempting to want to help in visibly large ways! I want to be able to say, “I fed 1,000 people today!” I want those 1,000 people to have food. It’s not a bad thing to want, I believe. But what happens when tomorrow, those same 1,000 people don’t have food again? Do they come together as a community to figure out creative ways to get food, or do they come to us, the “makuah” for the handout? (makuah is white person). My heart would be the former, and not the latter. They are wonderfully intelligent, hard working, and compassionate people. But if we only see the immediate need of giving the handouts as the answer, we are stunting their ability to be whole people, to have the dignity of working and to be creative beings to solve problems and see it through. I am challenged and encouraged by the concepts in this book, and it’s helping me form relationships with the people in the village that is not on a “giver and receiver” basis. Instead, it gives us the ability to have relationships with mutual encouragement, helping each other reach our full potential as loved human beings, created for great things, restored for His glory!

Monde.



It’s so easy to think on the life changes we have seen by coming here to Zambia. I often times recall all the things we left behind or the people we miss. That’s not a bad thing. I would like to think it’s actually quite normal and healthy. I’ll be the first one to tell you that I miss my mommy. I’m a momma’s girl for sure. We used to talk on the phone everyday. About everything. I miss that.

Our life has changed dramatically. Too true. We went from a comfortable life in the Pacific Northwest, where we had friends and family, great jobs, and community with our church; we went on dates to our local pub, we ran on the river trail by our house, we volunteered at the local community center, we knew our postman.

These days, we still have community. We have a group of people that all love serving the poor, who serve Jesus first and foremost, and who are passionate about seeing people’s lives improved, both by seeing life in Jesus, but also by tangible things like clean water, orphan care and empowerment. We are a multi-cultural group, which I love. We are friends. We have partnered with some of the most salt-of-the-earth kind of people, who we share life with. We watch movies here, we talk about life and dream together.

Life is much simpler here– simpler than the fast-paced-United-States, sense of the word. We walk a lot. We hang our laundry on a line, we make most of our meals… yes, even I cook. And yet, we are faced with more challenging scenarios and situations than I have ever been faced with before. A woman’s son beats her, a woman’s husband beats her, a woman has just been diagnosed with AIDS,  a father must pass down his demon spirits to his son because it’s tradition… the list goes on. Alcoholism, rape, abuse, AIDS, oppression, fear, poverty… How do we handle it? How does one Jesus-loving group tackle these things?

Here’s my hope… Monde. A little girl, once vulnerable, once abandoned, once left without food or care. Now, living in a safe, loving environment. Once unable to walk because of neglect, now walking. Once only knowing tears and crying, now laughs.

Monde, Vulnerable Children, Children's Home, Zambia, Africa, Love's Door, All-Nations

 

For all the things we don’t know, or for all the things we don’t feel equipped to handle, we have been commanded as Christians to care for the poor and the widow, to show justice and mercy, and to be love, as Jesus loved us. So we press on. We ask for wisdom and grace. We ask for support from you, family and friends. And we ask for prayer to continue to seek what’s right and advocate on behalf of those who can’t.

World Change is How We Roll



World Change is How I Roll….

I received this slogan on a sticker from a company called Sevenly after purchasing a t-shirt that donates funds to people in need of clean water.

I loved the sticker almost as much as the shirt.

How cool would this world be if everyone lived by that little catchy phrase? World Change.

What does it even mean? How can we even do this?

For some people, maybe they can’t go to far off distant lands and work with the poor and broken. Maybe some don’t even want to. Maybe others don’t have any extra money to give or resources to spare.

We know a man here in Zambia in one of the villages we serve in who is constantly telling us about all the needs we should help with. This woman’s thatch roof is falling down, or this family has no food.

He desperately wants to help, but doesn’t feel like he has anything to give.

So he tells the “white man”, who of course, has all the keys to save the world and all the money in the world to do it. Or maybe that’s what they’ve been told or maybe that’s what they’ve learned. (a different subject entirely)

But instead, I want to challenge our friend in the village to give what he does have.

Compassion, time, a worker’s strong hand, prayer, love.

If we think on these things, we all have SO much to give. Some things are intangible, but equally, if not more, moving to another human.

I offer my hand to help, but also, I offer my heart.

Jesus taught me this. He showed us first what it’s like to lay down our lives for others. I have been moved by this and in turn, want to show this love to others. It’s a start. It’s a goal.

And thus, I offer my two cents and challenge you to go ahead… change the world.