Journal

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.

At The Broken Places

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.
— Ernest Hemingway

Two and a half years ago, I made my first trip to Havana, Cuba and on returning, was rendered speechless. The truth of Hemingway's quote was ringing in my ears - these were people who were incredibly strong at the broken places.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of returning. In the last few years, I've traveled extensively for my clients, working on every continent with the exception of Antarctica, and yet, I've never had the opportunity to return to a place I've been before. So, in many ways, this trip was incredibly unique. And in every way, I couldn't wait to return and bathe in the beauty of their strength.

For the sake of the people with whom I worked, some of whom I count among my dearest of friends, I'm not at liberty to say much in a public forum, however, I believe that you can catch a glimpse of the Truth present in their stories in these images. I hope they speak for themselves.

"Vivan los C.D.R.", Havana, Cuba, Jan. 2013

"Vivan los C.D.R.", Havana, Cuba, Jan. 2013

Both of these women are the epitome of 'strength at the broken places'.

Both of these women are the epitome of 'strength at the broken places'.

The sunrises over Iglesia de Jesus de Miramar, Havana, Cuba, 2013

The sunrises over Iglesia de Jesus de Miramar, Havana, Cuba, 2013

If you have an interest in Cuba, you might find some of the work I've published from there of intriguing:

  • You can find my story, Hope Amidst the Ruins, in my 2010 Photo Annual here.
  • And here is a link to a personal photo essay I shot during my previous trip: Havana Vieja: At Night.