Monday, January 28, 2013

Where I Am At

Where I Am At - 2012 from Drew Hayes on Vimeo.

I take pictures of my feet. Yes, I know that is a little weird and most people ask the question, "Why?"
    As a way of remembering where I've been and the things I've seen, it's silly. I've always got a camera with me and take amazing pictures that capture these locations and events better.  Why would I want to ruin beautiful scenery by putting my stinking feet in the middle of the frame. Thankfully scratch and sniff photos haven't caught on. No, reminiscence isn't the purpose of these photos.
   Some might suggest a more spiritual sense. "Where I Am" spiritually, marking the events and places of spiritual transformation. All you have to do is look at some of the photos to know that this explanation doesn't quite hit the mark.
   The answer is far simpler that all that. The pictures are exactly, "Where I Am At." Not what I'm seeing, not where I am going or have been, but at any given moment I can look down at my feet and see exactly where I am. If I lift my head and look forward, I see where I am going. To turn around is to see where I have come from. But to see what is happening now, right here, that is the purpose of these images.  Not to remember but to be present, to be set on my feet in this moment. Each picture reveals that this immediate place where God has placed me is fascinating, intriguing, and worth seeing.
    That's Where I Am At. Where are you?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Bigger Than Me - December Newsletter

The Holiday Season is always busy for everyone, and while mine wasn't filled with the usual Yuletide it's getting me excited for what is coming.  Every year around Thanksgiving all of the World Venture missionaries in Cote d'Ivoire get together to connect, make decisions, and plan for the next year. During this week of meetings I was able to talk about why I am here and the stories that I hope to tell.  A lot of exciting stories have appeared about of these conversations and we now have 10 videos in pre-production.

After these meetings, I was invited to travel to Mali for the W.A.F.L. (West AFrica Field Leaders) meetings the first week of December.  There I met WV staff from all over West Africa.  During these meetings, I got to hear stories of what is happening in Mali, Guinea, and Senegal.  We've started to make plans for trips to each of these countries.  While the schedule is still not set it's going to be a very busy next couple of months.

Here's what we have planned so far:

Mid- January to Mid February: Cote d'Ivoire
Mid-February - March: Mali
March - Early April: Guinea
April - Mid May: Senegal

Glenn Kendall, International Ministries Director, has been a major key in getting this project off the ground. We first met and proposed the idea in 2009. Over the next 4 years, he encouraged me and helped getting all the planning and logistics in place. I recently shared a draft version of a video with him and he asked if he could share it with other WV missionaries.  Several weeks later, we met again at W.A.F.L. and he shared this story.

While visiting a missionary that was discouraged and tired from seeing little results, Glenn showed the video I had given him.  This video ends with the line, "I know what God has called me to do and that's just to be faithful, so that is what I'm going to do."  The missionary watching the video turned to Glenn and said, "You know, if he can do it, so can I. I'll just keep being faithful."

I can't escape the thought that this project is bigger than me.  The work is piling high and is too much for me to accomplish. The stories are too varied and complex to tell. The time is too limited. It is arrogant of me to think that I could create change by making videos. At times, I must admit that it scares me. And yet... the stories are being told and change is happening. The videos even though I've only produced a handful are having an impact. I feel privileged to be part of something this BIG and I hope you do too. I remember stories like Glenn's and know that I am only part of this bigger project. Thank you for doing your part in this project. I'm excited to see what will be accomplished.

Your Servant,
Drew Hayes

Joy To The World

     What is joy? During this season of Joyeax Noel, I've been looking at this question. My first thought of joy was a smiling child holding a present, the torn wrapping scattered on the floor. A nice picture, but I think it falls short. After all, this scene can be changed simply by taking the toy away from the child. Instantly that child's face shows not joy but grief and loss. Is joy this easily lost?
     In looking at my own life, sometimes it has seemed this fleeting. In moments of fear, joy escaped me. When I was depressed or alone it vanished. Most poignantly, when I am sinning or pursuing my own goals and plans, joy is replaced with worry and stress.
     And yet... for the last few months, when all of the above has been true, I have had joy. It started in September with the stress and rush of getting everything done to be ready to leave and doing lots of my two least favorite things, shopping and saying goodbye. It continued in October, as I saw myself going smoothly through the transitions of culture shock. In November, it supported me as I moved into my host home in Brobo. Alone and barely able to communicated, going through the depths of culture shock I had joy. Even now as I have a rising load of work, a load that is daunting to even the most optimistic of people, it is there. As I'm saying goodbye to these dear people in Brobo, who have taught me, cared for me, and patiently helped me understand their culture, I have joy.
    This joy is entirely separate from the emotional waves of my life. It is a constant, steady, and unyeilding presence. Sadness is reminded that it will last only a moment. Excitement and happiness are seen as wind blowing in the trees. It pushes me to keep trying to learn more French and make myself understood though I've failed at the same expression a hundred times before. It forgives me when I stumble on cultural etiquette. it comforts me when I miss my family and all the conveniences and familiarities of my life up to this point. When I am alone, it gently reminds me to breath and take in the peace and solitude. In a way, this joy is a corrective lens for my nearsighted emotions.
    And so comes Christmas, Joyeaux Noel. I sing "Joy to the World," and wonder, if the world knew this joy how would it be different? Or rather, How wouldn't it change?

Accidents Will Happen

For the sake of those who will inevitably jup to the end before even finishing the beginning, it's probably best to start this story at the end. So...

    When Uncle Yeo go there, he looked everything over and with a smile said, "It's not serious. You're okay, Aunt Awa is okay. You're getting lots of experience here in Africa,eh? Let's go." With that, we got on the motorcycles and rode back into town. The End.

Now for the beggining...

    One day, Uncle Yeo asked me to take Aunt Awa out to a nearby village so that she could buy more Baobab grain. She uses the meal to make the delicious Baobab juice she sells in the market and at the high-school.
    He gave me some directions and the usual encouragement, "The road isn't good, so be careful." I smilled and nodded. As we headed down the road, really more of a dirt path, I realized just what he meant. Where the path wasn't washed out or too overgrown for a moto to cross, it was covered in differing depths of sand. If you've ever tried riding a bicycle in sand, you know how difficult it is to get traction and stay upright on sand. The same is true of motorcycles.
    Following the lines left by the motos and bikes that had gone before me, I tried to stay out of the deeper sand. I say try because, well... yeah... you guessed it, I crashed. Coming over a small bump, the rear tire hit the sand and instantly slid to the left, while the front tried to go straight. Faster that I could react and catch the moto, we were on our side lying in the dirt and sand.
    I got up instantly to see if Aunt Awa was hurt, but she was already checking me over to see if I was hurt. Then she started to laugh, the kind of laugh that just makes you sigh and chuckle at your self. With the help of a mechanic that happened to pass by, we checked the moto and bent back the few pieces that had been damaged. Everything was fine except for the left turn signal, which we would have to go to Bouake to get a new one.
    I kept apologizing and couldn't have felt worse about damaging the moto. But everything I apologized Aunt Awa would just laugh and say it wasn't serious. We still needed to get the Baobab from the village, but the road was still just as bad. We walked out to the village pushing the moto through the sand. Later we called Uncle Yeo and he came out with a friend to drive us back into town.