The photo had a strong pull on me. I stared at it far longer than I normally do. I make it my business to look at good photography so I can become a better photographer. Some images just beg to tell their story, and this was one of those. I found I could not stop thinking about it and I remembered the face of the man named Jared.
Jared sat down with me and immediately leaned in. I don’t mean to use a buzz phrase - I mean he literally did. Right away he leaned in so close it was like he had these wonderful secrets, too good to be missed. A slight smile played around the corners of his mouth as he spoke and I smiled too because of joy on his face. He spoke with an urgency in his voice and I listened with more intensity than I normally do.
I’ve gone into my last few trips with a bit of fear or hesitancy. Too many times I’ve traveled across an ocean after a story we thought was there, something too good to miss. And then it is not what we thought. Or someone is not there to talk to me. I go on, find some other story to justify my existence on the team, something else God wants noticed and shared.
And this is fine. God never lets me down and always shows up with something else great. I don’t need to justify my presence there. But disappointment has a way of hiding out in my mind, and the need to earn my way with my good works is always threatening to derail Grace. the disappointment begets bitter shrugs that gain a root and grow into complacency and ennui. So when I am honest, I have to say I get on the plane with my guard up because I don’t like disappointment, and complacency is not a photojournalist’s friend.
Is this moment with Jared the thing that God will use to show me the Africa He wants me to know and love? Another way I learn to respond to grace?
As Jared speaks he becomes more and more animated. He gets a bit lost in his story as he talks of his new life in God and how he loves to serve and teach others. In America we talk of someone being “on fire for the Lord” but how often do you get to really see it? I am seeing it now.
When we are finished I thank Jared for taking time away from work to talk with me. He uses the usual Ugandan sincerity, “You are most welcome!” and I expect him to stand and head back to work. But he leans back to me and says, “May we pray?” I’m not turning that down.
He begins in a light cadence that builds quickly to rapid fire words. He thanks God for our time to talk together and for my being here in Uganda, but then he turns prophetic. How did he know I was feeling insecure about this job? How did he know I desperately need God’s ears and eyes this week? His words are not vague enough to call this coincidence. Clearly God has spoken to him.
Of course I am blinking back tears as he finishes.
For the rest of the day I cannot stop thinking about this conversation and this prayer. I’m glad to finally have the story that goes with the photo. It’s not a disappointment. And I’m left wondering what other great stories will emerge in the coming days.
We are missionaries with Engineering Ministries International, based in Colorado Springs, and traveling around the globe to serve.
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