As a humanitarian photographer I travel the world using images and words to tell the stories of people that are making a difference in the 147,000,000 person global orphan crisis. People who are the hands and feet of Jesus to the least of these.
On August 18th, 2013, my family experienced the heartbreaking loss of our oldest daughter Christina at the young age of 27. It was the defining moment of my life. The principles that I now call Trust, Faith and Change inspired me to continue living in such a way as to allow the relationship with my daughter to continue and her story to live on. Christina always had a heart for helping those who could not help themselves and I feel her close as I engage with the orphaned, the impoverished and marginalized, those whose stories I tell.
Trust, Faith & Change
These three principles that God laid on my heart, allowed me to continue living and breathing during a time where I thought I never would.
The principle of trust helped me come to the conclusion that I will never understand with my human mind why Christina’s time was cut short, but I know that for whatever the reason, God has given me time and I want to use it to honor and glorify him. Trusting God in something that we will never understand allows us to live a life of gratefulness instead of bitterness. It allows us to see each day as a gift from God, to see our lives, Christina’s life and the lives of everyone that we meet as a miracle and to realize that we are all here for a divine purpose. It allows us to be grateful that God gifted our family with a Christina for 27 years rather than be angry and bitter over her time being cut short. Trusting God in things that we simply cannot understand changes our lives and how we live them.
Faith allows us to realize that You cannot leave someone behind who has gone on ahead. That Christina is not back there in the hospital where our family sat beside her for two months and ultimately witnessed her passing. Christina is in heaven and in a very brief time, we will see her again. As a Christian, Christina is a victor, not a victim. The principle of faith allows the relationship with our lost loved ones to continue and their story to live on.
Change – Focusing on change instead of pain causes me to ask myself daily “how have I changed” rather than “how do I feel”. How have I allowed the pain of this unbearable loss to mold me into more of the person that God wants me to be.
Within just over a year from my daughters passing, I have traveled over 20,000 miles telling the stories of those who are making a difference in the lives of those who feel the pain of poverty, disease and injustice. What started me on this course was learning of the difference that my daughter had made in the life of a little boy in India whom she sponsored through Compassion International from the time he was 8 and she was 18 until her passing, nine years later. Over the nine years that Christina sponsored Satish her impact on his life was not just through her financial sponsorship but through the personal relationship she had with him through their exchange of letters over the years. When we took over sponsorship of Satish after Christina’s passing, he communicated to us that Christina was much more than a sponsor, she was more like a mom, encouraging him through very difficult times of his life and always pointing him to Christ. I shared this story with Compassion which led to their asking me to go to India and meet Satish for a story they wanted to publish in their magazine that reaches almost 1 million in circulation. The story of how one girl in America changed the life of a little boy half way around the world in India by listening to her heart and sacrificially giving to someone whom she had never met.
As I travel I have learned that stories are important, hearing the stories of others puts our own lives into perspective. Stories tell us who someone is and they tell others who we are. In the process of sharing stories we find out that we are not alone in our pain, in our grief and in our loneliness. Stories encourage, they inspire and in the end, they can give us hope.