I decided to revisit my photos of Ethiopia. I wasn't too crazy about them because I took them with my old Canon Powershot, but last night I processed a few of them and the black and whites really moved me. I can't adequately describe these photos, but they seem to speak for themselves pretty well. Each one is a story.
If you'd like to know more about what is going on in Ethiopia check out International Crisis Aid's website.
First of all, let me preface this post by saying that I've been holding off on writing this for a while. This is kind of a hard post for me to write because it's so personal. Anyway, here it goes...
Looking back I don't know why I thought this road was going to be smooth and the way easily defined. It has certainly been nothing of the sort. I expected a challenge, but I did not expect the inner struggle. Back in September I knew the Lord was giving me this photography business. As clear as day I heard Him say, "Use it for Me. This isn't yours. I give it to You now and I can take it away." With excitement I bought a camera and started out on this new journey. I quite literally had nothing else. For the first month or two I felt so elated. This was one of my dreams and now it was finally coming to fruition. After a while this question started to plague me, growing stronger with each passing day: How do I use this for Him? The details and necessities for running a business became abundant and I wondered if this is what He wanted. With no clear answer I continued moving forward.
Thankfully, the new year brought with it fresh vision. I was at a conference called Passion when the revelation hit me. I was sitting in my seat listening to the stories of those who are enslaved in our world today. I heard lots of statistics, but the stories...they pierced my heart. This particular story was about a young girl from Europe who was set up on a blind date by her friends. Innocent enough, right? Minutes into the date, the guy drugged her drink. He pretended that she suddenly wasn't feeling well and took her outside. No one suspected. He threw her into the back of his car, bribed the man at the country's border and was gone. No one even knew where to look or what had happened to her. It hit me that this could happen to anyone. It became personal. That girl could have been my sister. She could have been my friend. Suddenly she was no longer a number in a statistic. I heard her voice, I saw her face and I felt her pain.
(Side note: They didn't allow high end cameras in The Dome...sad day. Thus, I only have these iphone pics.)
Can you imagine 45,000 people all in one room worshiping Christ all at once? Think about what might happen if that many followers of Christ came together for one purpose? Well, I don't have to imagine it anymore. I lived it.
To say that the past few days of my life have been life changing would be the understatement of the year. On Monday a group of 18-25 year olds at our church headed up to Atlanta for the Passion Conference. (If you've never heard of it you need to check out http://www.268generation.com.) This year there were 45,000 people that gathered in the Georgia Dome to hear the word, worship and join together for the purpose of making Jesus famous. Speakers like Louie Giglio, Francis Chan, John Piper, Beth Moore and others brought the Word with power like I've never seen. The worship was phenomenal as well. Worship giants such as Hillsong United, Matt Redman, Charlie Hall, Chris Tomlin, Lecrae, David Crowder and Kristian Stanfil led us in song. Even though I was incredibly excited about who would be there, it wasn't about the them. They didn't want to put their name in lights. In fact, that is the last thing they wanted. The name of Jesus was lifted high above all else.
I learned so much in such a short amount of time. You could say that my mind is on overload right now! I really could go on forever about what I took away, but I'll try to keep it fairly concise.
1. Don't count this generation out.
Who says that college kids can't make a difference in the world? Not Passion! I love that they truly believe in our generation. Together we raised over 3 million dollars in 4 days to help free the 27 million slaves all over the world. We are coming together for the cause of FREEDOM and we want to see modern-day slavery abolished in our lifetime. I truly believe a great movement is coming. This generation is not content to sit in silence in our comfortable pews. We want to stand for those who are trapped in injustice. We believe that worship is wed with justice. We are doing something now.
2. You don't have to wait until "the system" says you're ready to make a difference.
The will of God is now. We are here to make much of Jesus. We don't have to wonder, "what is God's will for me" because His will is to make Jesus known in whatever we do. Burry the the question of "I don't know what to do in life." If you are passionate about art, music, teaching, etc, go for it and spread the news of Christ as you do it. Sure it can be scary to be bold in everyday life, but we minimize that fear by maximizing one fear - living and insignificant life. I don't know about you guys, but I have always feared a wasted life. I dont' want to jump on board the movements of God late in the game. I want to be fully immersed from the get-go. From now this will be first on my prayer list - that the words will be given to me when I open my mouth to proclaim with boldness the mysteries of the gospel...wherever I am. (Eph. 6:19)
3. Be saturated with the Word and take it literally.
This year they really emphasized the Word. For the first 30 minutes of Passion we read different passages together and for one whole session we stood and read the entire book of Ephesians, pausing to ask the Lord to speak to us through His Word. Man, was it powerful! I was challenged to truly study the Word of God and not to depend on teachers. How do I know if they are speaking truth? I need to saturate my mind in the Word of God. What God says is true and I can take it literally. God definitely spoke to my heart about specific things I need to take literally and hopefully I will be sharing about it at some point.
4. Trust His voice.
This is one thing I've been struggling with for the past year. God has asked me to do some things that seemed pretty crazy at the time. In comparison to a lot of things in scripture they weren't that out there, but for me it was a huge step to leap blindly into the unknown. I want to be at the place where the Spirit prompts me and I obey immediately...without questioning if it was Him. I want to know. At one point the voice of the Lord hit me so strongly that it pierced to my very core. It was clear. I was sure. I pray He continues to grow my faith as I follow His leading.
5. The purpose of life is not to make it to death safely.
The second day of Passion a woman named Christine Cain spoke about her work with girls in sex trafficking. After she rescued one particular girl and told her about Jesus she said, "If this is true about your God, why didn't you come sooner?" That really resonated with me. Sure, helping people trapped in slavery can be dangerous, but the point of life isn't to stay safe! I may have to go into the darkness to share the light! Isn't that the point? Light is most effective in darkness. A lot of times I am afraid of the evil in the world. Still, Christ said that not to fear for He has overcome the world. The power of God dwells within me. I have nothing to fear. I can go into the darkness in Jesus' name with boldness.
6. Indifference to modern day slavery is not an option. We have to rise up and do something.
I will definitely be posting about this in the near future. God gave me a specific vision on a way for me to take action against this. He started to work in my heart about this last year, and my resolve to be a part of the solution has only grown. Hopefully I will be sharing soon. Slavery is an ugly thing. Sex trafficking is even uglier and there's no way to soften the details about what goes on. It's just plain uncomfortable to talk about. I realized that I can't be ashamed to speak up. Jesus wasn't ashamed to stop and heal the leaper - an outcast of society. He did a lot of things that were uncomfortable. If I need to take on some of the ugliness of this issue in order to see justice, so be it.
I am so thankful I was able to be a part of Passion 2012. I am so excited to see what God does through this generation. My heart is bursting with the knowledge that God is going to some great things in the coming months and years. I want to be right in the middle of all of it. For now I'll leave you with 2 videos of what it was like to be a part of worship at Passion. They really don't do it justice. The night Hillsong United led worship we were all shouting "with everything" at the top of our voices. Amazing.