Friday, April 11, 2014

To All I've Met and Left

Today, I've re-read the words of Paul in Phillipians Chapter 1. I was reminded of you. Our time together was short. At times you may have thought it was too long. Still in that short time we shared, you giving to me your insider perspective and I looking in from outside. You offered your insights and thoughts, and I offered mine. We shared meals and laughter and stories. We have shared pain and joy at news received from far away. The time was sweet but too short to share so much.

Today we are not together, and I find Pauls words reflect my own heart.

"How I long for you with the affection of Jesus Christ."
Strong words I know, yet true. I long to be re-united, to sit and listen to your stories, to share your favorite meal, to meet your neighbors, and again share life. I do not wish to go back, to return to the past. No, I long to be re-united after this time has passed to discover how you have grown and changed.

I've been back in the US for almost 6 weeks, as I write this, back in my "home." In that time I've reconnected to many people who like you, I've shared with and am now away from. "Home is where the heart is." But how can a home be spread all over the globe like my heart? How is being able to see these friends and family each time like a "homecoming?" That answer I think lies in Pauls words. He has left part of his heart with the Phillipian people and so he longs to come "home" to them. I too have left part of my heart with you. You, with your unique personality and life lessons, touched my heart and took some of it with you. 

And now, as I travel and re-connect with pieces of my heart again, I discover how those pieces have grown and changed. The pieces I've left across the globe do not sit idle while I am away. They are living so when I see them again they will not fit exactly as they did before. Even though they don't match as they once did, they will always be part of my heart. 

So it is with you. Even though it means my heart has become this almost Picasso like sculpture of mismatched and mis-proportionate pieces, I am glad pieces of my heart are with you. And I pray growing with you.

"And this is my Prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight."

Your Fellow Servant,

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Part of the Road - Repost

    I've done it more than I would like to and know that there is stilll more to come.  Saying Goodbye. With my travels and work, I meet people, work with them for a while and then have to leave. We say, "Goodbye. I hope to see you again... maybe... sometime." The truth is that I don't know if I'll ever see them again. I went through this same process with the JC team last week. For the next two months, I will be living in an Ivorian home and at the end of that time, I'll say goodbye to this family as well. Only to move on and repeat the process. More adventures and new places and people. More goodbyes.
     To leave here in Cote d'Ivoire is a long process. You go to everyone you know and spend time with them, share a meal, or just sit and talk. Eventually, you "ask for the road." You explain why you must leave and answer any questions. When will you return? What will you do? Will you get a wife? How will God use you? After everyones questions have been satisfied, they will "give you the road, but only part of the road." This subtle distinction carries a world of significance and import. The thought is that if they give you all of the road you will never return, but with only part you will certainly be able to find your way back to them.
      It can be hard to leave people, to say goodbye. Especially if those people have had an impact in your life, as most people worth saying goodbye to have.I have friends who refuse to say the words, "Good-bye." Ever.  I don't like goodbyes. They are hard and filled with awkward spaces where words should go but never seem to fit. But I think that maybe the Ivorians have something in their way of saying goodbye. Something that seems to making leaving not so permanent.
      As I travel the road, meeting different people and allowing them to speak into my life, if I only take part of the road, perhaps I'll find my way back to them again.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Past, Present, and Future - January Newsletter

The Past
January is always a month of reflection for me. With the business of holidays, parties, and what not during December, reflection is difficult. This year as I have looked back at 2013, one clear idea appears.

“It Works! Eurika! It Works!”

This project, which started just as an idea with many questions to be answered along the way, really works. I wasn't always sure that it would. At the begging, I didn't know if I could produce and travel at the same time. The amount of logistical details to work out on top of the creative and technical needs seemed almost impossible to me. But the past year has give me invaluable experience. I've learned little tricks to same me time and improve the quality of each production. All the these lesson have resulted in a score of videos.

In the past 12 months, I have traveled to 9 countries and produced 30 different videos about life in Africa, the people who live and work here, and about the change that is happening here. These films are just starting to be used and shared across social media. I've been encouraged by the positive feedback they have been receiving. If you haven't seen them all you can view them at

The Present
Some of these films have yet to be released, others are still on the editing table, while others are finished but will not be distributed across Social Media for security reasons. This past month I have spent nearly all of it editing, trying to finish these stories so you can see and share them. To help you do that for the next few months I will be posting a new video each Monday. So keep an eye out for each #MissionMonday video and share it with your whole network.

If you are interested in viewing the videos which will not be distributed publicly, I will be creating DVD's with all of the videos from this past year. Every video, from 9 different countries along with all of my Video Updates and bloopers. These DVD sets will be available starting in June for $15. If you would like a copy please send me an email with your mailing address and how many copies you would like.

The Future
This next year is shaping up to be another exciting year of productions, travel, and adventures. In between editing sessions, I've been able to have pre-production conversations setting up the next couple of trips. This February, I will be heading back to the US of A for a few week for a little R&R catching up with friends and family. After that I will be heading to Mozambique, South Africa, and Rwanda for production shooting. As I've been going through the pre-production process researching the stories and getting to know the people I will be working with, I've started to get excited for these new stories. I'm looking forward to bringing all the skills, techniques, and lessons I've learned over the past year to these stories in the hope that they will be effective stories, creating change in the audiences that view these powerful stories.

Your continued partnership in this project is part of that. I cannot express how important it is to me, to know that you are behind me, supporting me and this project. Thank you. I hope that you are as excited for this next year as I am.

Your Fellow Servant,

A Wedding Story

When my grandfather was first teaching me about photography, he told me about working at weddings every weekend as part of his photography business. Sometimes even two or three in one weekend. He told me how with a simple 35mm lens and an Olympus OMG he would run all over capturing the moments that people would collect in albums and show for years to come. He told me that doing that Photography work had taken something he “loved” and made it a “job.” After years in the industry, he didn't want to pick up the camera at family gatherings because he was tired of holding the camera. He said, “If you really love photography then don't become a photographer because it will ruin your love.”

I believed him. It is part of the reason why I decided to study Video production and film making. It was a way of working with visual media and cameras with out being a photographer. I have avoided doing weddings at almost all costs. Even when I could have easily gotten into filming and photographing weddings, I avoided it because I wanted to keep my love for photography intact, separate from work, to keep it sacred.

In the past year, I've shot 35 films in a dozen different countries. Picking up the camera to make a video is work. On average, it takes me between 60 and 100 hours of work for each video I do. But there is no doubt that I love it. Not because it isn't exhausting or because the weight of the equipment is so much lighter today. Not because the locations are exotic or the images and scenery captivating. No. I love it because it isn't about the camera, the images, or the photography. The technical stuff is all used to tell a great story. I wonder if Grandpa G knew when he told me about keeping work and love separate that it would lead me to this work? I doubt it.

I doubt that he knew 15 years later, I would be shooting a traditional Ivorian wedding. As I shot this joyous and unique celebration, the memories of Grandpa G were very close. Nor do I think that he thought back then that his photography lessons would get me here. I am certain that this wedding was like none he had ever photographed.
But the stories he told me of the energy needed to direct and position people in each photo took on a new meaning as I tried to do that same thing in a foreign language. His advice on how to position people all while making them comfortable, moving their hands to avoid “sausage fingers,” and adjusting the tilt of their head ever so slightly to catch the light in just the right way was used a thousand times if I used it once. The lesson that “Film is cheap. Keep pushing the trigger until you get it right,” kept me shooting all day long. At every moment, I was on my toes looking for the right shot because he had said, “Each image should tell a story. Scenery is beautiful but put people in the shot to give it character.”

Now as I look at the finished and edited photos, seeing the smiles and thinking of how these images will be shared, and the stories that will be told along with those images, I can't thank Grandpa G. enough for what he gave me. He didn't teach me how to make photographs.

He taught me how to tell stories. 

Monday, December 2, 2013


The holidays are a time for being with family. As with most aspects of my life this looks different than most would think. This past week, Thanksgiving, I was alone. Because of scheduling conflicts with travel and filming, I was unable to attend a Thanksgiving meal with the other American missionaries here in Uganda. Instead, I went out to sushi with a new friend.

The rest of the day, I enjoyed the quiet of a day by myself. This solitude allowed me to think over the things I was most thankful for and the blessings that God has brought into my life this past year. The answer was loud and clear. Family.

For many this is a cliché and typical answer. For me though it seemed a little odd seeing as I was alone on this family holiday. Even more odd considering that it has been over 6 months since I saw my family, and in the past 2 years I've been with them a total of less than 2 weeks. Add to that oddity the fact that I am in living in a cultural context that place great importance on family. Your family name always comes first. When greeting people after hello you ask, “How is your family?” even if they are complete strangers. Here for many family is their retirement plan. When you grow old it is assumed that your children will provide for and take care of you. Family are expected to be involved in all areas of your life from what you do each day, to major decisions like where to go to school or who you marry.

In the past year, I've visited a lot of people. I've been welcomed into home after home filled with loving families. And then I leave. After a few days, I say goodbye and move on to the next place. I am constantly meeting strangers, working with them for a while and then parting ways. Not exactly the typical picture of family for an American or African. So how can I thank God for family when to all appearances family is not part of my life? Who are the people integral to my life? Who is this family I am thankful for?

Jesus asked and answered this question for Himself in Mark 3:31-35. Surrounded by a crowd as he taught, Jesus' family arrives to take assert their responsibility of caring for Jesus. The things Jesus has been saying have shamed and dishonored the community leaders and teachers. So His family arrives on the scene to set Him straight and resolve the conflict. When they are announced, Jesus' response is surprising.

“'Who are my Mother and brothers?' He asked.
“Then He looked those seated around him and said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother.'”

In these words, Jesus has redefined family. He has expanded the word. The title of mother and brother, His blood and kin, the ones he is united to socially and economically, the ones most dear to each other, is extended to include any all who follow the command of God. He has expanded 'family' from those we have spent decades building a unique bond with and invited in complete strangers to this sacred assembly.

I'm so glad He did. It is because of that extension that when I thank God for my family I think of people who don't share the same DNA, don't have the same skin color, don't speak the same language, don't sing the same songs, don't have the same traditions, play games as varied as the types of homes they live in, live around the entire globe, and most of whom have never met. I think of
Pierre – A pastoral student in Senegal, who writes his own blog to help other grow in their faith.
Yeo & Awa Yeneyalla – the family I lived with in Cote d'Ivoire.

Ravenswood Covenant Church – This family has supported and encouraged me in ways that words fail to capture.
Bruno and Chris – Ugandan brothers who I just saw again for the first time in 5 years.
The Kendal family – Missionaries in Guinea, who invited me to come out and start this video project.

Journey Corps – A group of the craziest people ever all committed to learning, stumbling, and growing in the love Jesus together.

JIM Club – I haven't been to JIM club in 3 years, but I still consider these boys and men my brothers and fathers. 

There are hundreds of others who I've met over the course of my travels. I've only spent a little time with each of them but they have been added to the weird, quirky, different, and wonderful people that I call 'family'.

My family really is the best and I can't wait to meet all the rest of them. When I do that will be a real Thanksgiving!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

I Asked the Lord...

I love Hymns. One that has recently caught my attention is "I Asked the Lord." The lyrics of this song beautifully relate one of the greatest truths and themes I have discovered in this adventure of travel, production, and missions. 

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith and love and every grace,
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.

‘Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer,
But it has been in such a way
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He’d answer my request
And, by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in ev’ry part.

Yea, more with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe,
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Humbled my heart and laid me low.

“Lord, why is this,” I trembling cried;
“Wilt Thou pursue Thy worm to death?”
“’Tis in this way,” the Lord replied,
“I answer prayer for grace and faith.”

“These inward trials I employ
From self and pride to set thee free
And break thy schemes of earthly joy
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.” 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sweet Chaos

      I was told before beginning this journey that it would be chaos. Not chaos in the sense of the world falling apart and the sky crashing down on my head. This chaos comes from a lack of normality. There is no normal in my life, one day looks different than the last, each week brings something new, and to try and figure out what I'll be doing a month from now ... well solving quantum physics is easier.
    I've been traveling since February, and in that time the longest, I've slept in the same bed is 2 weeks in a row. There is always a new trip, an un - scheduled shift in housing, or a need to get a different shot for a video. When I'm not working on productions, I spend what is left of my energy, just trying to figure out how to do "normal" life things. Where is the bathroom, how do I work this toilet, what can I eat, where will I sleep, where is the light switch, is there even a light switch, does up mean on or down. That is the chaos I was warned of. The constant tension of always answering those same questions and the answers always being different. It's the chaos of a million simple little questions constantly being asked.

    I was warned about this chaos and cautioned to guard myself against the fatigue it would bring. But no one told me about the other side of this chaos. Perhaps they didn't know or perhaps they had never seen it themselves. 
    In chaos there is peace.
    When I find myself overwhelmed by all those little annoying life questions and the tension building, the only thing I can do is simply say, "I don't know." In those words something changes, my grasp on control and understanding is released and the things I held onto to trying to balance and orient myself are let go. Empty handed I enter into each new situation.
     And in that emptiness, peace is found. I have to ask other people constantly for help, and in my dependence I discover the joy of finding people more concerned for me than I am. Empty handed, I can be delighted by the simple realization that the light bulb has to be screwed in for the light to work, or that by simply flipping the switch up, I can get hot water for my shower. More often than not in letting go of knowing the answers, I discover that the question wasn't really important any way.
     Chaos produces uncertainty. Uncertainty produces loss of expectations. Loss of expectation produces simplicity. Simplicity produces peace. 
     My life is chaos and it is sweet.