Friday // 24 April, 15
“If I’m honest with myself – I think this trip sort of wrecked me. It was difficult. It was hard. When I came on this trip I said ‘no’ and ‘yes’ to a lot of things. Even thinking about this at all – makes me want to cry & cry & cry. Because God knew what I needed. I needed to be away from everyone – in the remote mountains. I needed to see what God is doing through people who sacrifice all the time.”
My dear friends Andrew and Marianne Nicodem invited me to go with them to Bolivia in April 2015. Going to Bolivia was a chance to work alongside Food for the Hungry and take photos and videos to for their media needs. However, the timing of this trip couldn’t have been worse for me. I was a Junior at Moody Bible Institute, it was three weeks before final exams, and it was quite expensive too. But how could I not go?
I try to live in a way where being obedient to God and being radical coincide. Usually my desire for adventure makes taking risks easy. But for Bolivia I needed to know the Lord was asking me to be brave and go for it. Two weeks before all the money was due and my plane ticket needed to be purchased, I committed to going.
Looking back, I can see how specific moments in the week marked my life. I left Bolivia changed. I learned just how glamorous photojournalism is. Reality is seven flights, three days of traveling by bus to reach our destination, one and a half days of shooting, no electricity, cold showers in the dark, hiking on washed out roads, catching a sickness that lasted for three weeks.
Reality was meeting families who had lost their entire livelihood in a hail storm the night before and only having my camera and myself to offer. What do you do then? I questioned the value of my presence in Toro Toro. I questioned the legitimacy of photographers documenting stories in remote places. Do we ever do any good? I questioned the calling on my life as a photographer and a Christ-follower. Why did God allow me to go on this trip when there is so much devastation and all I can offer is myself and some photographs?
I think it's easy to have doubts because travel photography often involves suffering and loss. But I saw the other photographers I was with listen to the Holy Spirit and offer hope to those who had lost everything. We had brought small battery powered photo printers on the field with us and we were able to take photographs of their families and hand them the first printed photo they had ever had of themselves.
I left Bolivia changed. Awakened to a corner of the world I hadn't known anything about. And awakened to the power of photographs and the Holy Spirit working together. It takes courage for photojournalists to go out to the field every day. You have to be brave if you're going to capture the reality of the world and the state of humanity with your lens. Whether you're a photographer, businessman, student, or a stay-at-home mom, there's something you can be brave for today. So let's all be brave.