Dignity in Pictures

Next week there’s a photography exhibition in Mkushi, Zambia hosted by Dignity. As part of this I’m also exhibiting some photographs that I have taken over the years. There not necessarily my best photographs but they are ones that I think convey something of my work. 

Those that are down and out, desperate, just poor or have fallen on hard times. They are the ones in this world that are valuable and precious. It may raise money to show people suffering, but there is no Dignity in that. These are normal everyday people living normal but amazing everyday lives.  These are the people that God uses to bring love, meaning and comfort to many communities and people across the world. They are His hands and feet, and so very important.

My hope is that you will learn to see “the poor in Africa”, “asylum seekers”, “refugees” with the God given Dignity that they deserve. Only then will we treat people correctly and be open to the fact they they are more capable, more gifted and more precious than this world deserves. 

With Jesus they can do anything. My aim is to help people like this in every community realise who they were created to be and what they were created to do. The potential is amazing!

“But God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” (1 Corinthians 1:27)

A lone rural zambian pastor studying his bible with one of the resources we use to help people to know God and their responsibility to each other.

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Some of the people I have connected with over the years who work with me and Dignity in many communities in Zambia and beyond. Competition, fun and laughter are all essential ingredients in helping these guys become everything they should.

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This is Augustine, one of our Impact Team members. He exudes dignity.

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Having fun around the fire. Sharing stories of how God is using each other in many communities.

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These are two village volunteers cooking for a training session being held in their village. They don’t get paid for this and they give their time freely. They give as part of the wider work in their community.

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This is Gervas explaining how to meet together in a Life! Group and how to work in a community. This is done most months of the year in multiple locations across Southern Africa.

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An unknown guitarist. And yes, it did sound great! I love the ingenuity!

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These are market traders in Livingstone Victoria falls curio market. These are the guys that harass you to buy their wares. What interested me was the camaraderie and friendship. Africans are fun and you can clearly see that in this picture.

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This is Hunter, someone we worked with many years ago. You won’t find a more honest, compassionate and lovely man anywhere in the world.

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These are some people worshipping at a training course we run to teach people how to meet the needs of their community. They learn how to help people to know Jesus and to practically serve those in need in the community.

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Some exuberant bush worship!

Freda Singing

This is the only non-African picture in my selection for the exhibition. It’s taken in Assam, India, I think in 2008. These are a group of Christian evangelists who worked in a very dangerous situation. Hindu extremists had beaten them, chased them and even killed some of their friends. Yet you would never guess this. You can see a joy and a quiet determination in them.

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Normal life in Angola. The flats are run down, it really did smell and yet people are just hanging about, chatting, doing the types of things that any of us would.

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This is my son Joshua being carried around a village by this lovely woman. There are some of us that believe different races are completely different, even better than one another. I don’t believe that we are that different at all.

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This is a lady called Mabel sitting opposite Jude outside our tent, which is our home in villages. I liked the way that their poses almost reflect one another like a mirror. Maybe we are not so different as we believe.

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Just a great shot of “poor” kids smiling and having fun.

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A scene that could be repeated around the world. A classroom with children learning. Do we think that those who are poor, somehow do not share experiences with us?

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I like the adult pose that this boy is taking. The reality is that many of those we would class as uneducated or poor, have faced situations that would cause many of us to disintegrate.

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A lovely view of an Angolan girl in a dark doorway.

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These Angolan women in Luena are praying that God would move outside the walls of their church and would reach the areas beyond. It’s through people like these, everyday people that God works and moves in power. God thinks small! Millions of people all playing their little part.

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Crossing the divide

My Colin Prior desk calendar sits on my desk in front of me. It pictures the Sound of Taransay on the Isle of Lewis. Probably a million miles from where I am currently sitting….or certainly feels like it. Outside my window, lies Miombo woodland and an outlook over our campsite that in a week or so will be full of Impact Team members gathering for their half yearly training.

Completely different worlds. Zambia is as different from the Highlands of Scotland as the Moon is from the Earth.

Why do it? Why change worlds regularly each year.

The other night I was sat in house group here in Mkushi with a bunch of commercial farmers. By definition all of us present were rich. Even if not monetarily, in terms of access to capital, we have few equals in the surrounding areas of rural villages. This mainly white world of farmers again is a different world, that hardly ever intersects apart from employment with Rural Africa. Again, we could ask why cross this divide?

Jesus was found as a man amongst us. From a world more different from our own as any of the above. He came to rescue us, to put things right, to put the whole of humanity on the correct course again. It’s good news and it started by what theologians call the Incarnation. In more simple words, changing worlds to come to our own and be found amongst us.

What Jesus did was to bring heaven to touch earth. He brought two worlds together.

This gives us an answer to the question why. It is nothing to do with what I can offer the rural places of Africa, it is everything to do with what God can offer. He wants me here at this present time and that settles it. There are some fringe benefits as well…… sunshine being one of them!

Seriously though, I do have maybe one attribute that allows me to enter the world of another. I can actually get there. I am rich enough in this world to be able to do at least something on behalf of others. I share that attribute with most commercial farmers, city people within Africa and even many of you reading this. We are able to bridge the gap and enter the world of another with the express mission of bringing them life.

So is that an answer, I feel God has told me to do it and secondly I am able to do it?

Given that positioning in life, why would we ever want to do anything different?

Let that not be an excuse to the poor to sit back and just receive. Everyone in this world has a God given calling whether rich or poor, with whatever resources we have. We can all do something. In travelling thousands of miles and diverse cultures, my aim is to help people find that ‘something’ no-matter who they are.

Maybe if we cross a bridge, cross a divide, it also helps others to do so. Conversely if we do not, others will maybe not.

Crossing the divide, changing world for the sake of others creates life and we aim for life in this world and the next.

Some questions: Where has God placed you? What divides can you cross? What will be the effect if you do?

Maybe just maybe, someone is depending on the fact that you do indeed cross the divide, whether it is sexual, racial, national or some other ‘al.

To Pioneer

The Matusadona Hills crown the view of Lake Kariba in the hazy distance. As I look out from one of the southernmost points of Zambia, I wonder how many seemingly unconnected events have collided to bring me to this place.

People sometimes ask me what pioneering is about. How do you begin something?

Now there isn’t a simple answer to that question, but for Christian ministry, some of it is simply following the Spirit, a hunch, intuition or whatever you want to call it. Following that hunch then takes a commitment to try it, to follow it and to be open to whatever it may bring.

So, I’m some 600km from my home. Bernard, one of our Impact Team leaders has come with me and we are simply here to meet some villagers. We are based at a camp in Butete Bay, which until recently was a simple fishermen’s camp. Now the area is slowly being developed through the involvement of my friend Rammy Singh amongst other people. 2 or 3 shore side chalets have sprung up, cooled by a pleasant but constant breeze off the lake.

Most of the workers from the camp come from 2 or 3 of the eight prominent settlements around this area. The settlements are very poor. Southern province and the Siavonga area are hardly well developed areas of Africa. As Bernard speaks Tonga, we spoke with some of the workers last night. We explained to them about trying to start a group in the community to teach about Christ and find ways of helping one another. These are the groups we call Life! Groups. They agreed and thought it was a good idea. This afternoon we now have a meeting with a lot more villagers some 10km from here where we will talk to them some more.

Funnily enough, an annual conference of one of the bush churches based in Zimbabwe happens to be in the same village this afternoon. As fortune would have it, Alfred the security guard is good friends with the bishop of the group of churches. We are going to greet them and explain to them later today. Is it fortune? Luck? Or the plan of a good, interested and involved God to move His work forward? You tell me!

Coming from Europe, people I know are more conversant with strategic plans, collections of goals and the like. We have them, but the implementation is more people based and well I guess, “fuzzy!”. Learning to live with following the Spirit, hunches and “fuzziness” is part of the missionaries and pioneers toolkit. Without it we would simply be very conservative and ineffective businessmen. You cannot pioneer with a business plan alone.

The reason is that true lasting change is actually achieved in the hearts of people. That way people personify what you are trying to achieve and are the “plan” rather than simply obeying the plan.

An awareness to be open, to listen, mental agility to connect the dots that you can see and some faith to connect those that you cannot. A commitment to follow through when you are not sure of where you are going and some bravado to convince others, inspiring faith that it is all OK. These are some of the ingredients of a pioneer. This is some of what it takes to begin with nothing and make something happen.

Maybe pioneers are some of the biggest blaggers in history but maybe just maybe sometimes they are right.

Bound

The young man was tied up, bound and left in a room on his own. The parents didn’t know what else to do. His madness was all pervading. He couldn’t talk, he refused to eat and appeared confused all of the time. For three years this had been the situation. Left in the dark dusty room of a typical high density residence, his condition worsened and worsened.

It’s 4’o clock in the morning. The residential areas of the remote town of Mwinilunga are quiet. Rhoda calls Loves to come and pray for her brother. No-one can cope anymore. He still lies bound.

Loves and the family pray for the young man. They take him to the hospital. His condition is improving.

A few hours after being prayed for the young man is able to talk, he can ask for food and wants to eat. He can recognise his family and relatives whom he has not seen or talked to for 3 years.

Loves bathes him and continues to pray for him for two days. By this time he is fully recovered.

He is not bound anymore. Jesus has set him free.

(from a report collected by Bernard of Dignity’s Central Impact Team, from Loves Kwangu in Mwinilunga)

Maslow’s Hierarchy

Whatever part of me thought that it might be a good idea to build, whilst not having a permanent house and growing our work, needs to be taken out and shot! In the last few days I’ve rapidly formed the opinion that I cannot be superman and must go with the shape of life that we have here at the moment. Namely we have to get a house built!

The psychologist Maslow defined what he called a Hierarchy if Need. At the bottom are things like food and shelter, and the top, ah! I can’t remember but less important stuff. I’m telling you, I have been up and down that hierarchy quite a few times. At one point last week I had somewhere to live for 2 days, now it’s 3 weeks!! Although the person who was meant to be moving in to our house is in fact now not coming, so you never know…

Tack onto that thought the fact that Gods plans will happen anyway and that at least gives me a way forward. What do I mean by that? God has a plan that supersedes and takes our plans and situations into account. I really don’t know how he does it, but I’ve seen it time and time again. I sometimes wonder if God does his work despite me 🙂 this should mean I can focus on my current needs and leave Him to arrange the expansion of the work. After all, God can do it an awful lot better than I can.

That doesn’t mean I do nothing, just follow the leads and do what I can, when I can. Let me give you an example. Within 24 hours of being in the country Rammy had suggested that we look in Siavonga, which is on the border with Zambia and Lake Kariba. Unbeknown to him we had been thinking about a place to investigate in Southern Province. Then, because of my slightly mad life at the moment I figured that to send Bernard, not myself was a good idea. Unknown to me was that Bernard was about to talk to me about going to Siavonga anyway. Do you think we may be being pointed there? That’s what I mean when I say that the Lord has a way of making His plans happen.

So at the moment I’m slightly up in the air, grasping for support even more than a little overwhelmed but I do believe this is all somehow in Gods will. The bible says that the Lord orders the steps of a righteous man. At the moment I really should hold onto that for dear life.

Its going to take me quite a few weeks to climb Maslow’s Hierarchy again!

Off we go…

Well a quick note just to say that my family and I are at Heathrow Airport on our way back to Zambia. How time flies…….

There are a few exciting things we need to do this year, pushing into some new areas and also building a house. You will be able to follow it all here and of course at KerygmaMagazine.com.

Also look out for our new building category, I’m hoping to chart our building project in zambia from the first steps through to a fully fledged house.

Anyway, must go and get on the plane. Write more soon.

Glencoe

Scotland really is the most beautiful country. Mountains, lochs, idyllic villages and sea, it really has it all. There is a road in Glencoe, it runs parallel to the main A82, from Glencoe village to the Clachaig Inn, the unofficial home of Scottish mountaineering. The road runs mainly through dense woodland and is set deep in the glen, surrounded by some of the finest mountains in Scotland.

I found myself driving down this road today. 3 children in the car, one of whom is 10 yrs old. Whilst driving I reminisced a little, as my life has some relationship with this narrow, single track ribbon of tarmac.

The first time I ever saw Glencoe was when I was 20, 16 years ago. It was tipping it down with rain. The kind of day you were very glad to be inside a National Express coach. It was on this trip that I proposed to Jude. Quite a significant event in my life. Stood by the shores of Loch Leven, Jude decided to walk with me and things have never quite been he same again.

I remember walking down our Glencoe road the night after I proposed. The weather had been terrible. Our tent had been blown down, the pub was 3 miles away. In the search of hot food we walked there and back with a random man from Jordan named Zed. When we returned from the pub, the “fixed” tent was in half and we slept in the campsite laundrette.

I remember visiting this road with Emma and Phil, after climbing the mountain Bidean Nam Bian. It was a misty wet day, and we spent 8 hours in the unearthly cloud then meeting the girls later. We probably didn’t smell to well……

A few years later, with Ethan our baby in tow, we travelled this road once again. This time hunting for a lost walking boot that had fallen out of our car a week before. A friend had seen a boot on a wall that they thought at the time was mine, but thought it couldn’t possibly be. It was and it was still there.

We’ve used the road a few times. Once we visited Glencoe lochan with Ethan, Joshua and Jacob. They loved running about and playing in the trees and mud. By this time my life was very different.

Today when driving down, my thoughts were drawn to 16 years of my own history. 16 years ago I was no way near as confident as I am now, I’ve always struggled a bit with that. My life was in some ways completely different when I first travelled the road. I wasn’t married, didn’t have any kids, lived mainly in the UK and carried the optimism and light thought that accompany youth.

These touch points, physical places in my life have always given me a sense of perspective and also a sense of Gods involvement. He has bought me this far. I know he will take me on.

Who knows what will happen before the next time I am travelling that road again.