Family Blessings, Part II

29 November, 2009

Boy on a fence, Mbabane, Swaziland, 2005.

Boy on a fence. Mbabane, Swaziland. 2005.

With this photo it would be all too easy to focus on the obvious, the common thread of the oft used mission-oriented challenge of how much need there is in the world. Of course all of that would be true, a legitimate call to action. However, that too easily lets us off the hook. This is one of those opportunities to self-assess, some healthy reflexive critiquing.

Look at this image, not in terms of the lack or the need shown concerning this family, but as a counterpoint to the abundance in our own lives. What is the minimum we need to be happy? In these past months many people have suffered loss of possessions, homes, cars, an alteration/disruption of a lifestyle. I don’t mean to belittle the pain associated with such loss, that pain is real. Then I look at this family. Their possessions can quite literally be seen in the photo. There were no toys in the home, no cherished dinner set passed down through the family, no iPods or Wii games strewn about the living room. What they have can be seen in this photo.

The song lyric keeps popping in my head, “when you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.” Yet, the truth is that they do have something; they share common possessions with the richest of the world, the love of family, and times of joy with friends and family. This photo contorts the truth because of the despondent demeanor of a boy in dirty clothing turning from the camera. In truth that is merely showing his shyness, not his lack of happiness. Moments later he was running and laughing with the other children around this home in sheer enjoyment of a toy one of them had made. With scraps of material they had found a game materialized that was an obvious enjoyment for the children who joined in.

Maybe we, in these richest nations of the world, should mourn the children who become bored because they need a new game for their electronic game console, the old games have become tiresome. Or, those who never experienced the joy of making up a game from nothing that could entertain for hours. What about the families who bemoan the lack of new carpeting or a new BBQ with which they could better enjoy their patio and pool. Or, woe to the photographer whose digital camera is lacking in the latest features (I had to include myself in here somewhere.)

A friend recently challenged me to think honestly about what it is that I needed. Or better, what do I need to forsake to better serve the Lord? Possessions do indeed anchor our feet more securely to the ground, and when they are stripped from our hands we mourn. Yet, do we mourn so deeply at this loss of things that we don’t feel the freedom of our feet?

© 2009 A Mission Proclaimed

A Mission Proclaimed is a federally recognized 501(c)(3). Your support is greatly appreciated.


Family Blessings, Part I

27 November, 2009

Woman with portrait, Patacas, Brasil, 2008.

Dona Beneca with portrait. Patacas, Brasil. 2008.

For the next few weeks I want to focus my photos on the subject of family. During the holiday season, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, our thoughts turn to those we love. We are blessed (whether we care to admit it or not) with the company of relatives and loved ones as we celebrate this special time of the year. I wanted to explore this family theme through images I have taken on the mission field. This was one of the first photos that came to mind.

During my time in Brasil last October, I followed the ministry of Pastor Kosmo as he went about his small rural community of Patacas, Brasil. This ministry involved many visits to members of the community, this could be a time of Bible study, prayer, or merely an occasion to connect socially.

As with all members of the community we visited, who were all incredibly hospitable, always welcoming us in with an offer of fresh juice or coffee, Dona Beneca welcomed us into her home. As they spoke I was caught by the expressive way she animated every story, her arms gyrating and her face contorting with every sentence she spoke. I don’t think I have but a couple photos where her hands aren’t blurred by movement.

Since I know very little Portuguese, I couldn’t follow the entire epic score she was conducting with her hands, but what I did comprehend was the story of the portrait she held in her hands.

She was extremely proud of the image and was blessed by the modern technology that brought it to her. Being from this poor, rural, farming community, personal photographs are rare, especially rare for a person of her generation. She had no photos of herself and her late husband together. Yet, with the help of digital photo manipulation she was able to have the one image of her husband and the one image of herself scanned and brought digitally together into one frame. Even though they are now separated in death, they have been brought together into this one frame she now lovingly cherishes.

There were three of us; Pastor Kosmo, Elizeu, and myself, who spent that hour or so together with Dona Beneca in her humble home, captivated by her energy and animation, enjoying the coffee and friendship. Although I did not speak the language well, we shared a moment of being family. Such is the blessing of the Body of Christ. That brief time in that home blessed me, and I came from that encounter a richer person. Those encounters are available for all of us wherever we find ourselves.

© 2009 A Mission Proclaimed

A Mission Proclaimed is a federally recognized 501(c)(3). Your support is greatly appreciated.


Happy Black Friday?

27 November, 2009

Homeless family, Patacas, Brasil, 2008.

Homeless family. Patacas, Brasil. 2008.

It is the day after Thanksgiving and malls are being overrun by “Black Friday” shoppers. I assume this is in order to procure more possessions for which to be thankful?

The photo for today is intended to reveal how the majority of the world celebrates the day after Thanksgiving (if they had such a holiday in their country). The family in the photo are homeless living in a lean-to constructed of scraps and throw-away pieces of building materials and trash. It is an intact family of seven, the father, mother, and five young boys.

They found themselves in this condition due to a myriad of factors including the general poverty of the area in which they live, but most importantly the abuse of alcohol. Around them are boxes containing all of their possessions. In the center, under the lean-to lies their one mattress, a ripped and matted slab of foam rubber.

Their Friday today is black not because of some hoped-for profit, rather due to their uncertain future. For them every Friday is black Friday. Black from concern for their boys, of whom the older boy is already slipping into the spiral of poverty and substance abuse. Their black Friday is better described as a black hole. For many, the pull into this cycle of poverty and abuse is something they cannot escape on their own. Who will tell them about the Light that will negate the blackness of their situation? Fortunately, this family has the Christians of the Patacas church who are there to assist them.

What about the multitude of others who do not have such a witness, a rescuer? Proclaim your mission.

© 2009 A Mission Proclaimed

A Mission Proclaimed is a federally recognized 501(c)(3). Your support is greatly appreciated.


Happy Thanksgiving

26 November, 2009

Unloading patatoes, Lamur, Belgium, 2009.

Unloading potatoes. Lamur, Belgium. 2009.

To me, Eric Zander epitomizes the 21st century missionary; hands-on, innovative, always thinking outside the box, and involved. The above image is my choice for an appropriate Thanksgiving image for these times. It almost seems insensitive to show images of the Thanksgiving table overflowing with abundance in a sort of Rockwellian manifestation, one more appropriate for another century, not our present day when so many families feel their financial foundations cracking under the pressure.

Eric’s family has felt the financial pressure of these times like others as his support contracts with the economy. He faces the added burden as support from American churches declines not only in giving, but in the falling value of the dollar to the Euro. Yet, his ministry grows in giving. He gives weekly back to his community as he works at thrift store as a driver picking up donations to this community support center. In the photo above he isn’t picking up food for a once yearly event, but rather this is his weekly task of picking up food for the center that will help feed those in need.

His involvement in his local community reflects an understanding of his responsibility to go out into the world and be the light of Christ, not to set up a program or an event, but to go out and bring Christ to the people. The community center is not a Christian endeavor set up by a local church, but a civic program. To this secular program he brings Christ in a real and effective way. This is an economy of mission.

To us it is a challenge, go out and take Christ to our communities. Not in a safe and sanitized church program, but into the world around us, that messy, unsafe, risky world that God can use in amazing, glorifying, and redemptive ways. Proclaim your mission.

© 2009 A Mission Proclaimed

A Mission Proclaimed is a federally recognized 501(c)(3). Your support is greatly appreciated.