Journal

Not on the Skies

 
And once this had brought a pang to me,
a sense of pain in my heart to see
The leafless trees and the stubble sear,
and the darkening faces of a dying year.

It is not so now. My heart is glad,
tho’ every sight and sound is sad,
For I have come to realize
that joy depends not on the skies.
— from Clear Skies by Maltbie Davenport Babcock
 

This past August, after a five year absence, I was able to return to South Sudan with my friends from Seed Effect. It was a special experience because when I first arrived in November of 2009, Seed Effect had yet to distribute a loan & in the years since a massive forest of hope had sprung up throughout Kajo Keji.

On the surface, not much had changed... but press in just a little & you could see the tangible difference Seed Effect had made on the area. 

I was blown away, actually.

Anniversaries are cool & this month marks the 5th anniversary of the first Seed Effect loan. Wow.

To help celebrate, I've worked on a few new films while I was with Seed Effect this summer & those will premier on Thursday, November 13th at their #SETurns5 Event. Also, I'll be joining fellow photographer Andrew Slaton in a two-man photography show that opens that evening. 

A storm gathers over the South Sudanese boma of Kajo Keji.

A storm gathers over the South Sudanese boma of Kajo Keji.

On two different evenings, Andrew & I stood together marveling at the power of the storms that swept across the South Sudanese skies (one of those is pictured above). Those two storms really informed the way I framed curating my contributions to this show. I'm incredibly excited about this new body of work & I hope you'll come out to see the show in person.

Here are the details:

Thursday, November 13th, 6 — 9 PM at The Laundry (1818 Chestnut St. Dallas, TX)

Register for the event ($19, which goes directly to the work Seed Effect is doing in South Sudan) by clicking here

I genuinely hope to see you there.


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Samuel Abate

We were driving north after several days in the Walayta District, when our driver slammed on his brakes. I swung my head around, trying to understand why we were stopping, trying to get my bearings. Out the rear window of the truck, I saw a police officer running up the road toward us.

These kinds of things happen when you're abroad. And to be honest, you swallow your heart every time it happens because it's rarely a good thing.

the road to Soddo, Ethiopia

the road to Soddo, Ethiopia

I was on assignment for SIM USA, an interdenominational mission organization dedicated to reaching the un-reached. Ernie Frey, an American missionary from Tenessee, and I had been working alongside Esayas Ersabo, the Ethiopian visionary behind a project we were covering. We'd gone, literally, to the end of the road, to see the fruit of a leadership program Esayas had developed.

Discipling Emerging Leaders (DEL) trains thousands of lay leaders in Ethiopia every year

Discipling Emerging Leaders (DEL) trains thousands of lay leaders in Ethiopia every year

Kale Hewyet elders

Kale Hewyet elders

One evening, a couple of children invited me to see where they collected water.

One evening, a couple of children invited me to see where they collected water.

Everywhere we went, people warmly welcomed Esayas. And we always returned with more people in the truck than we came with. Every time, Esayas would introduce us to the new passengers who always seemed to be family - a nephew or cousin. It became a running joke that Esayas was related to the whole of Walayta.

As the police officer neared the truck, I recognized the man. His name was Samuel Abate and he'd been one of our passengers the day before on a journey to the village of Areka, where Esayas was born. It was an unexpected but welcome detour. An uncle had passed away and we sat with them as they mourned the loss of a beloved man.

This kind of thing happens when you do what I do. By virtue of the story you're supposed to tell, you are invited into peoples lives. To share their food and their hospitality - and occasionally their grief.

Samuel Abate outside of Soddo, Ethiopia

Samuel Abate outside of Soddo, Ethiopia

I will never forget what Samuel said to us as he leaned into the truck to wish us well on our journey back to Addis:

"You came into our homes; you ate what we ate. This is the gospel in practice."

And to be honest, your heart surges into your throat when you hear things like that, because it's always good to be reminded that what you do is more than a job. These are stories of a real King and His kingdom; the simple act of telling a story like this one is as much an act of worship as you hope the audience can experience in its hearing.