Life Through A Lens

Life Through A Lens

I was asked recently by Tearfund to write an article for their supporters magazine “Tear Times” about some of my experiences while working with them. Man, that was hard to do. Partly beause I often struggle to find the right words to adequately express what I’m trying to say, but mostly because it was hard to keep within their word limit. In the last 5 years, I’ve worked with Tearfund and Tearfund Scotland on 8 trips, covering 5 Countries and I can’t even remember how many different local partners. And that doesn’t include the various times we’ve worked together in the UK. Trying to decide on highlights or the most impactful moments of the combined experience of all that was not easy! As I get back into blogging, many of the stories of those I’ve had the privilege of meeting will be told through word, image and video. For now, here’s the article I wrote for Tearfund (with a few additions….).

Orbisa and 5 of her Children in Afar, Ethiopia

When you step into the calling God has put on your life, it’s the beginning of freedom. This has certainly been my experience. In 2005, at CLAN Gathering, these words were prohesied over me “You will serve God with your hands”. It didn’t make much sense to me until several years later when I picked up a camera properly for the first time. This unlocked a calling I never knew was there….

Photography is more than a passion and a career for me – it is a deep sense of knowing who I am. As I’ve travelled with Tearfund, capturing stories that enable others to have a sense of ‘being there’ has become my purpose. And, of course, God has taught me far more than I felt able to contribute. Here are two stories that have had whay I hope to be a lifelong impact on me…

Dried Up Lives

In February last year, I met Orbisa, a 35-year old mother living in Afar, North-East Ethiopia. Tearfund is working in her village with their partner Friendship Support Association (FSA). In recent Years, climate change has contributed to a massive decrease in rainfall and local sources of water have dried up.

Orbisa’s local River. Usually full of water at this time of year.
One of the many Dust storms we saw pass through Orbisa’s village in our short time there.

Orbisa and her community’s livelihood depends on selling livestock. Because of the extended drought, their animals are dying. This means less income, less food and poor health. When Orbisa was younger, there was more rain – the area was fertile and cattle could survive.

Today, Orbisa has no choice but to walk up to ten hours each day to collect water for her family – but it’s still not enough. They often have to get by with less than half of the water necessary to meet their basic needs. This means their children often go to bed thirsty. She doesn’t know why the rains don’t come any more – her only hope is in God.

Water Difference

Where there’s water, there’s life. Ethiopia really opened my eyes to the reality of this. I saw the vibrancy of a village where water was readily available from a borehole. This contrasted with the lethargy I could see in Orbisa’s village, as they struggled for hours to fetch water in the blazing heat.

Joy in the faces of those whom have readily available water.

In john 4, Jesus teaches us about the life he offers us. God’s eternal water of life exists alongside his life-giving water on earth. This passage was brought to life for me when I saw joy in the faces of children who have a local water source. Life was easier.

The Joy of children playing in water.

Called into God’s House

On another trip, this time to Rwanda, I met Venantia. She lost most of her family during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994. Only her two children survived. After the Genocide, she felt helpless and struggled to trust others. Venantia was supported in her grief by her local Church. Through this, she came to faith in Jesus.

“I am thankful that God called me into his house. After the Genocide, I found it very hard to trust anyone. When I heard God’s word, I learnt that we should not take revenge. Instead, I was encouraged to reconcile with others. The people that wronged me are the same people that are with me in the self-help group. I thank God that we have reconciled. We work together to farm foods and support each other. The self-help group helped to open my eyes.”

Venantia sharing her story with us, Bible in hand

Overflowing Kindness

When I met Venantia, she introduced me to Claude. He had been one of the Genocide perpetrators in her village. Through a process known as “Gacaca Courts”, along with the help of the local self-help and Bible study group, and prompting from the Holy Spirit, Venantia and Claude have reconciled. ‘I feel at ease because they have forgiven me,’ said Claude. ‘There is not distrust between us, we celebrate together.’

This encounter in Rwanda, this extraordinary forgiveness and reconciliation, really impacted me. God’s kindness is working in people’s lives and it’s overflowing. It has left me with a challenge: Can I live my life the same way? Can You?

Venantia and Claude, reconciled and standing side by side one another.

‘When you step into God’s Calling, it’s the beginning of Freedom’

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