Empower One is shaping the landscape of South Sudan by first redeeming the way in which its people see themselves.


On landing in Africa for the first time — Kenya, New Year’s Day 1999 — I was asked to put away my camera by the trip’s leader. I was incensed at the notion and, in my arrogance, ignored the request at almost every turn. 

It was a different world then and I was a very different man.

For context, it’s important to note that just a few months before we landed, in August of 1998, the US Embassy in Nairobi had been bombed, killing hundreds, wounding thousands more. In the aftermath of that attack, American’s first learned the name Osama bin Laden.

The leader of the trip was being wise & responsible with our well being; I was reckless. I know that now. But, his request put me into a sort of existential crisis; me without a camera just didn’t make sense.

During my three weeks in Kenya, and for years after, I wrestled with why I photographed the world around me, with why I was so undone by his request to simply be in Africa without a way to truly see. 

Fifteen years later, on my sixth trip to the African continent, and second to South Sudan, I realize how thankful I am for the questions I was forced to ask in the wake of that first trip. It was there that I learned what it means to whisper into the brokenness and call out beauty.

On the surface, South Sudan has been ravaged by decades of civil war, tribal conflict and extreme poverty. But, Empower has invited the people of South Sudan into a similar journey through education, discipleship and meeting physical needs. The new has come & Empower refuses to let an antiquated version of the story suffice.

Together, we created this series of images to show a redemption taking place below the surface.

The work of Empower is making the rough places smooth and the broken places beautiful. It’s taking hearts at war at offering peace not just to South Sudan, but the whole continent.

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