Two weeks

Two weeks from today I will hop on the first of many flights that will take me trekking across Africa and Asia for the next 9 months to a year. It’s still a bit surreal, I’m not going to lie. Even with all the time spent in preparation, planning, prayer… it still hasn’t fully hit me yet. There are times when it does hit. When I stop and realize: that it’s not just a short trip… that I will be gone for a long time this go round… traveling by myself for some of it… to places I’ve never been before. Yet, it still doesn’t fully seem to sink in. But I suppose it probably never will fully hit till I’m back. And perhaps that’s a good thing. This way I’m persuaded to live in the moment and not become overwhelmed with the future and length of time I will be gone.

I will hopefully be able to blog some more about my story and how I came upon this trip more in the coming weeks before I leave, but I think this bit is relevant for today.

A year ago I found myself sitting on a plane bound for Ethiopia. I was headed there with some of my local church staff to document some of the amazing things our partner churches were doing. It had been 2 years since I had first picked up a camera or traveled overseas to Kenya, and I hadn’t been back. It was that first trip to Kenya that started this whole passion of photography and telling stories through an image and I just knew I was supposed to do more of it. But I didn’t know when, where, or how. There I was 2 years later on a plane for Ethiopia and then all of sudden anxiety set in. I began to question everything. “What have you got yourself into?” “Are you sure this is what God was calling you to?” “How do you know for sure? You haven’t been overseas since 2007.” “The culture in Ethiopia is completely different than the culture in Kenya… how do you know you will like it?” “You aren’t even that good of a photographer… who are you kidding?”

It was too late though. No turning back. We were already taking off.

Long story short, the Lord confirmed over and over again the desire He had given me in the bush of southern Kenya (I’ll blog more later)

Fast forward one year later. I discovered it was easy to let those anxieties step in again. Only this time in a seat of a conference room instead of an airplane. A few weekends ago I was blessed to go to a conference for photojournalists. It was an incredible experience. I was able to reconnect with other photographers and meet many more who shared the same passions and excitement of telling stories through images. However, some of these people had been doing this for years. I was meeting and hearing people talk of who’s work I’ve been in awe of since I first picked up a camera. I was being blown away by some of the work I was seeing from people I was just meeting. And then the questions came… “You’ve never taken a photo class. You don’t know the first thing about journalism. You have no idea what components are needed to make up a story… photo story or written. What have you gotten yourself into?”

It was easy to let those anxieties step in again.

The last speaker was Gary and Vivian Chapman, who I’ve mentioned in a previous post. Their talk covered a variety of topics but focused on our identity and where we found our identity as photographers. In the middle of the talk Gary pulled out a journal and read comparisons he had made between himself and all the other speakers at the conference and abilities and skills where he felt he didn’t measure up. Then he said… “Comparing yourself to others is a sure route to depression and paralyzation.” That was a huge kick in the teeth.

It’s easy to compare ourselves to others. To doubt the abilities we have. To second guess ourselves or the direction we feel the Lord has given us. To feel as though we are inadequate. The fact of the matter is, we are inadequate. It is only through Christ that we are anything. Has He not given us every ability we have? And it is in Christ that we find our identity as Christ followers. I had to go back to the points where I felt the Lord’s direction and call to do this (will blog on that later) and know that he hasn’t called me to be just like so-and-so photographer. He has called me to be obedient with what I have and nothing more. The rest is up to him.

So here we go. It’s going to be an incredible year. A year filled with capturing stories that shine light on the injustices in the world and stories that will tell of the Lord at work in and amongst those injustices. It’s my job to listen to these stories and then try and capture them. So partner with me. Pray with me. Pray that the Lord will grant me his eyes of compassion. Pray for the people who’s story I will work to tell.  Pray that I will tell their story well.  That it would be true and not my story but theirs. Pray that it would give them dignity and a voice. Pray that I not rest in my own ability to capture stories, but instead love well, serve humbly, listen intently and click the camera shutter last.

Two weeks till take off.

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Cooper Strange I think there are a lot of us right there with you. It is very telling that Gary Chapman, who has been doing this for a while, has the same feelings of inadequacy. You say it right: “The fact of the matter is, we are inadequate.” Too true, too true.

I am not shooting because I am good at it. I am not shooting because I am trying to impress others. I shoot because there is a story. I shoot because I love it. Sometimes, I just shoot because somebody asked me to. That may be your wife asking you to take some shots of the kids, the head of an organization asking you to help, or that may be God asking for some completely unknown reason to yourself!

Photography can be a skill of service. There is no shame in that. Go get ’em. Do your best. Stretch yourself. Hone your skills. Do it as unto the Lord.

Andrea “It’s easy to compare ourselves to others. To doubt the abilities we have. To second guess ourselves or the direction we feel the Lord has given us. To feel as though we are inadequate. The fact of the matter is, we are inadequate. It is only through Christ that we are anything.” Thanks for sharing that. I too feel that way often so it’s great to be reminded often. 🙂 I have full confidence that God is going to use you to capture amazing stories through out your travels. Can not wait to see!

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