I would like to say a big ole' THANK YOU to all who have supported me in this process, whether in prayer, finance, or both. I couldn't do this without you, and it means the world to me. I am so thankful to be sharing this with you and to have had the opportunity to do something like this. My prayer is that this would encourage you, wherever you may be or whatever you may be doing. If you would have asked me a year ago, I would have had no clue that I would be spending the month of August 16' in Africa. If you would have asked me a week before I left I would have asked you to pray for my passport to return with my visas inside, and a month prior I was wondering where the funds would come from. God provided, as always! Receiving my passport in the mail just a few days before I left was crazy, but it showed that God's hand was behind this whole thing.
My goal in this blog is to give basic information about the trip through words, and to communicate more of what I felt/experienced through photos. I learned a lot on this trip how much I can give through photography. An admired photographer named Eric Perry once said to "give photos instead of take photos." That statement was put to practice for me during this trip because I thought prior that I would be invading by photographing, but most of the people I met loved being in front of the lens. The more time I spent there, the more I fell in love with blessing people with my passion for photography. Now that I'm back in the States, I believe that posting this is something I can do to "give photos", strictly for the Glory of God.
I am including very minimal, descriptive writing in this post for basic information, so please contact me if you'd like to hear more! I would love to talk.
And we're off..
*Names from left to right*
Jolie, Kimara, Lisa (team leader, her husband Michael took this photo), Dr. Lazare, Miles, and I. Jolie and Kimara were both born and raised in the surrounding areas of Africa, but moved to Maine several years ago. This was an awesome way for them to come return to their pasts and serve all at the same time. It was great getting to know them and working along side them for the month!
This whole trip would not be possible if it weren't for the man in the middle, Dr. Lazare. There are no safe roads leading up to Minembwe, Congo, so the UN provides a helicopter service for anyone who has an invitation. Dr. Lazare was able to send an invitation for us because he is the founder of the school we worked with, Eben-Ezer University. You'll be hearing more about Dr. Lazare and his school as you continue reading.
Ariel view of Eben-Ezer University (four buildings in a row, bottom right of the frame) and the guest house (far left center of the frame, half of a roof in place) that Michael and Lisa will be moving into in a few years.
*Ground level view of the school*
We expected about 100 children coming to the english camp we hosted at Eben-Ezer, but we were shocked when 600 showed up on day 1. The following days averaged 1,000 kids!! The photo below doesn't do it justice because it doesn't show the number of rows of children, but trust me on this one, it was a LOT of children! Fitting 100+ in each classroom was not easy, but it sure was an experience. I can't imagine how Jesus and his disciples must have felt when they fed 5,000 men and their families.
These kids were so anxious to learn, they would race to their classrooms before they were finished with their national anthem. They loved learning.
Young Adults Camp
Below is a photo of the young adults class I taught every afternoon. These students are bright and aspire to learn, and I believe they are the future of a growing economy in Minembwe. They are some of the most driven people I have ever met. Some walked hours to get to the school every day, and I was amazed at how different their view on education was than many students in America. Education is a privilege, not a requirement, as most students view it in America. Although they were persistent on learning as much grammar as they could, I enjoyed discussing cultural differences with them. The topics of marriage, equality, economy, food/resources, etc. were discussed. The blessings and the curses of each one of our societies became relevant as we were able to compare such differences. I am amazed at how simplistic their lives are, which to some of us seems dreadful, but maybe we need to slow our lives down a little to save our sanity.
Group shot of the teachers of the english camp!
Graduation Day - 8/06/2016
Here are a few shots of the graduates from Eben-Ezer University and the general atmosphere of the day. The great and upcoming future of Minembwe was symbolized so heavily on that day. It was so beautiful and inspiring.
Dr. Lazare's Tear-Jerking Speech
In the photo above is Joseph, the reporter/journalist, recording Dr. Lazare speak about equal rights in Minembwe. This is a contraversial subject because their society tells them that women are not as entitled to education. This was an incredible opportunity for Dr. Lazare to speak a different message because there were three female graduates sitting there in white gowns that day.
A shot of Lazare, Jolie, and the three female graduates.
Jolie's grandpa and his brothers walked a TWO DAY journey to visit her when word got out that she was in Minembwe!
The next series of photos shows a quick glance at our time with the orphans. Mamma Chantel, with the light green head wrap, takes a huge role in taking care of these children. She was an orphan herself, and now a widow. Many of these children lost their parents to war tragedies. At such young ages, they've lived through incredible amounts of pain. They're some of the sweetest children I have ever met. I can only hope to have blessed them as much as they blessed me.
Miles, Kimara, and I visited the boys orphanage one morning while they were giving haircuts. I was blown away when I saw the tiny razorblades they were using. These are some tough kids.
Above is a photo of the garden that the orphans had started. I hope to see this flourishing when I return someday!
From sun-up to sun-down these women work. My mind was blown every time I witnessed one of them carrying some sort of heavy object on their head, or how meticulously they scrubbed their clothes clean with mud and stone. Not only are they hard workers, but they are servants. I went to Congo in order to serve, but had no idea how much I would be served. What makes an even bigger impact on me is knowing just a portion of their backgrounds. Many are widows from war tragedy, and it's unheard of for widows in Minembwe to remarry. They sacrifice everything for their families, and remain joyful through it all.
I was thrilled to find out that the team was invited to a Congolese wedding, so I very happily attended. The groom was the son of Eben-Ezer's night guard, Bodittery, a great friend of the Moore's, and now a great friend of mine. I'm so thankful that I was able to photograph the ceremony for them! To see the rest of the wedding, go to the "Gallery" tab on my site.
The Guest House/Construction Workers
There is a guest house being built in Minembwe that Michael and Lisa will someday be moving into. It was amazing to watch so much change over a few weeks time when it came to watching this house being built. When we arrived to Minembwe there was half of a roof and dirt floors, and by the end of the month the house was almost complete with a roof, solar panels, wiring through the whole house, concrete floors, and doors! Along with the house being built came relationships with the builders. Miles would hangout at their nightly bonfire, so I tagged along. My prayer is that we were a good reflection of the love that Jesus gives.
Miles and I were hanging out with the builders one day while they were playing music, so we HAD to have a dance party! I was reminded of some of my friends back home that love to dance and make a fool of themselves (including myself).
Our last night with the builders, we were so sad to say goodbye.
Below is a photo of the almost-completed house and the beautiful land that surrounds it.
Michael and Lisa as they had completed the laundry one day.
Michael and his friend enjoying the Minembwe beauty.
The next few photos are a little documentation of the Moore's soon-to-be neighbors. Just about every time we would go check out the house, they would come out and sing for us. They were the cutest!
Our last full day in Minembwe was spent hiking the tallest mountain around, Kitavi. It was a beautiful sight. At the top of the mountain was a prayer house, where we went in and prayed over Minembwe with some locals that had been there praying for several days.
The stars from rural Africa were the brightest I have ever seen them. Perks of simple living.
Our Minembwe friends walked us to where we would wait for the UN helicopter to arrive. It was odd saying goodbye and not knowing when I'd see them next. I felt the same amount of love from these people as I did the second I stepped off the helicopter a few weeks prior. I am SO thankful for this experience and to be able to share the love of Christ in Minembwe.
I once again would like to thank all of you who have supported me in prayer and/or financially. I can't express how much it means, and how much you have helped in this process. I have been amazed at how God has provided and how his hand has steadily guided this trip.