Tourism Disaster Photography

I'm pretty sure 99% of you who read this will have once upon a time, done this same thing.  Heck, I've done the same thing before too.  And most likely this post will offend some of you.  Apologies in advance.

It's quite often these days that I log onto the Interwebs, and see hundreds of pictures of poverty-stricken children all over FB pages and blogs.  It's to "show" our friends the poverty that we saw in Africa or India or South America, and maybe by seeing a picture it could possibly spur the viewer into making an emotional decision and making a difference in the world.  That's the dream, right?

Well, let's get down to reality.

In my opinion, we don't post pictures of sad, crying, dirty kids to help them -- it's to show our friends what we did.  It's to show our family, church, small group -- everyone we know, that "I've stared at poverty in the face," and sometimes, even, a follow up pompous question of "wait, you haven't gone to Africa??  What's wrong with you?  Has Angelina Jolie done nothing to influence you?"

But how often do we get parental permission to publish kids photos?  I know lots of parents in the US who wouldn't want strangers posting pictures of their own kids on the internet.  Why do we assume kids in other countries don't have the same rights as our own?

How often do we really think about that child, and how they would feel if they knew hundreds of people would be looking at their face thinking how pathetic they were?  Or a picture of a families' home, and how disgusted viewers at home think it is

A friend of mine went and visited Joplin right after the horrendous tornadoes last year.  When he got back, I asked him if he took photos.  He said no.  Because when he arrived there were cars driving around the broken town, the now-poverty-stricken town, taking photos.  And nothing else.  There was a sign on someones lawn that said, "Stop taking pictures, come pick up a shovel."  My viewpoint on "tourism disaster photography" has completely changed.  What would happen if we combined all the time we've taken with photographs: shooting, uploading, editing, publishing, and did something else with our time...like physically help someone.  I wonder where we'd be...

Please know that I'm not perfect.  I've posted kids photos before.  I have photo albums full of kids faces from trips I've taken.  But I'm starting to take a different viewpoint: visual raping a photo for my own viewing pleasure isn't right.  Not thinking about the actual person, but only how I feel about the photo.  It's incredibly selfish of me

What's the solution?  I'm not sure.  Maybe starting to look at pictures from a different standpoint.  Maybe asking parents permission not only to take pictures of their kids, but to post them for all our friends and family to see.  Maybe it's not taking pictures at all, and just sharing stories instead of headshots.

Maybe I'm way off base, maybe there's legit justification to why we feel entitled to share the sufferings of other people.  This is what I know: when I'm hurting, when I'm in pain, the last thing I want to happen is someone snapping a pic of me and posting it on Instagram.


40 Days: Social Media Free -- what I learned.

- I actually don't need to know every detail about everyone's life: nope, I don't need to know who's going to market to cook a delicious meal for their husband. Nope, I don't need to know what game you're going to. Nope, I don't need to know that your job totally sucked today. I didn't know any of these things about anyone for 40 days...and I'm still alive and still have great relationships with people.

- There's more ways to connect, than through social media channels: "I've missed you on Facebook, what's going on in your life?" -- text. "How are you?" -- phone call. "Let's grab lunch." -- face to face.

- I miss lots and lots of news, and I don't like it: earthquakes, tornadoes, engagements, birthdays, babies, new jobs, events, break ups, movies, elections, etc etc etc. So much happens...and I REALLY missed having information pushed to me, opposed to me going TO it. I definitely felt out of touch with people and the world, but I guess this is what it was like 20 years ago!

- There are 100 other things I could be doing with my time: social media is a bit addicting, it actually turned into a habit for me. I have an extra 30 seconds at a stop light? Oh, I'll check Instagram. I'm at dinner with friends and the conversation gets boring? Oh, I'll go on Facebook. There are so many other things I could be doing, other than seeing what everyone else is doing. However, what I realized is my phone is such a great source of entertainment, that I still wanted to be on my phone. So what did I do? Read my Bible app and check the weather. About 10 times a day. At least. Want to know the weather in Anchorage? Bemidji, MN? Pyongyang, NK? Denver, CO? I knew it all. For 40 days. I was like a walking weather channel.

I think the danger of social media is the dependency on everyone else's opinion about your life. It can dictate your life, your decisions, how you dress, where you go...all for the sake of telling the world wide web how great your life is (or in some people's cases, how horrible their life is).

I'm still a fan of social media, but definitely not as much as I was. I challenge anyone to give up social media for a time period, and not a week -- but multiple weeks. There's a bit of a detox period, and a bit of antsy-ness as you're coming to the end -- but I think it's way worth it.


The Apathy Syndrome: Famine in East Africa

January 2010: Haiti Earthquake.
July 2010: Flooding in Pakistan.
January 2011: Flooding in Australia.
March 2011: Japan Earthquake, tsunami, nuclear craziness.
May 2011: Tornado season across the US.
July 2011: "Famine" officially declared in East Africa.

Wait..what was that last one? A famine? Yes, you read correctly. And you may not be the only one who's surprised to learn this is going on. I've noticed not much attention in our media world has been given to the drought and famine that has been declared on the horn of Africa (Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Eritrea, and Djibouti). It has been 20 years since the world officially used the word "famine", and as a nation we are pretending it's not happening.

Is our nation completely apathetic towards those who suffer, based on the length of time between disasters? What would be ideal?: if natural disasters could evenly space out their disaster times. That way, our nation would have some buffer time in between. In this "buffer time" we could re-develop compassion and empathy towards those who would suffer. In this "buffer time" we could get back into the routine of our own lives and focus on The Real Housewives of New Jersey, The Bachelorette, and why JLo and Marc Anthony are getting divorced. But let's be honest: the earth does not conform to our personal timelines.

News of natural disasters have been infiltrating our media, churches, workplaces, and lives for the past couple years with one question: "how much money can you donate?" I am a huge advocate for giving opposed to physically going. There are thousands of professional organizations that specialize in responding to disasters around the globe. Now, of course, if they need people to physically help -- I'm all in. However, NGO's know what they're doing. Most of them have been doing this for decades, my dollar goes further to an organization opposed to me spending $2000 on a trip for a week to help build a house. And in reality, what makes me think that one person could do more good than an entire organization that's been trained, has a strategic approach, and a long term plan for a disaster zone? I am foolish to think that's the case.

Here's what I know:
The intensity of the disaster doesn't take away someone's hurt.
The comparison to another disaster doesn't negate someone's pain.
The amount of people lost in comparison, doesn't bring back someone's family member, spouse, or child.

I know dozens and dozens of people who've been to different countries in Africa. I've heard this phrase so many times, very much a Christian African cliche: "Once you go to Africa, it's in your heart forever." But why are so many of us IGNORING the fact that millions are suffering on this continent, yet we "have a heart for Africa"? How can we, as Christ followers, ignore the plight and suffering? Matthew 25:35-46 boldly states that if we do not help the "least of these," you do not help the Lord. What more needs to happen for us to do something? How many more people need to die in order for us to get out and help? Why is it that when 10 people die it's sad, but when 10,000,000 are suffering we turn a blind eye?

This is what I know: the bigger the statistics, the bigger magnitude the problem evolves into, the more paralyzed we become. And honestly, the fact that 10 million people are suffering is absolutely overwhelming. I wouldn't know the first thing to do to solve this problem: but I know I can play a small part -- talking about it, giving to it, and praying for it.

Stop being apathetic. Start talking about this issue. Start thinking of ways that you, your friends and family, your co-workers, your church -- your sphere of influence, to help. Prevent this from becoming one of the worst tragedies of our century. Do you want to go down in the history books as the generation who ignored a famine? I sure as hell don't. So, do something.

One way to start: donate to World Vision. Give up Chipotle and Starbucks for a couple weeks, don't go see Harry Potter 7.2 for the 5th time, and refrain from spending all your cash at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.

Click HERE to read more about what's going on.
Click HERE to donate (any donation you give will be multiplied 5 times...cool, huh?)
Click HERE to stay informed through WV Twitter updates.
Oh -- and click HERE to donate.Link


It's decided.

One day I will be moving to Denver, CO. May not be in the immediate future, but one day...


It is Well.

It's funny how certain things happen at specific times in our life, especially when you need it the most. Whether it be a phone call from a friend, a card, or even a song on the radio being played -- God's timing is so cool when it comes to giving us encouragement through different means.

I can specifically remember 3 instances in my life where I was in the middle of huge life transition, and a song kept being infiltrated into my life: It is Well with My Soul. Whether it was played at church, heard it on the radio, or even someone humming it in the market; I love how God does these sort of things.

This happened again a few weeks ago for me. And within a period of 24 hrs I heard this song 4 times. I decided to do a little research on the background of this song:

"When the great Chicago fire consumed the Windy City in 1871, Horatio G. Spafford, an attorney heavily invested in real estate, lost a fortune. About that time, his only son, age 4, succumbed to scarlet fever. Horatio drowned his grief in work, pouring himself into rebuilding the city and assisting the 100,000 who had been left homeless.
In November 1863, he decided to take his wife and daughters to Europe. When an urgent matter detained Horatio in NY, he decided to send his wide, Anna, and their 4 daughters on ahead. As he saw them settled into a cabin aboard the luxurious French liner, Ville du Havre, he said good-bye, promising to join them soon.

During the small hours of November 22, 1873, as the Ville du Havre glided over smooth seas, the passengers were jolted from their bunks. The ship had collided with another sailing vessel, and water poured in like Niagara. The Ville du Havre tilted dangerously. Passengers clung to posts, tumbled through darkness, and were swept away by powerful currents of icy ocean. Within 2 hours, the mighty ship vanished beneath the waters. The 226 fatalities included Horatio’s 4 daughters. Mrs. Spafford was found nearly unconscious, clinging to a piece of wreckage. When the 47 survivors landed in Cardiff, Wales, she cabled her husband: “Saved Alone.”

Horatio immediately booked passage to join his wife. As Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, and as the ship passed over the water where his daughters had died, he said: “It is well; the will of God be done.”

He later wrote his famous hymn based on those words."

-Then Sings my Soul, Robert J. Morgan

After reading something like this I can't help but cry at the sad story of this man, yet feel triumph over his ability have faith and love in the Lord (and even move on & founded a missionary organization dedicated to helping the poor.) Once again, this song/story encouraged me, and I don't think I'll ever sing this song again without remembering the story of Horatio Spafford. I also think perspective is highly underrated.

It is well, with my soul.


10 Reasons I Adore My Mother.

Let's be honest...if you know my mom, you know there are WAY more than 10 reasons to love her. However, 10 is a nice number for a blogpost so here we go!

1. She is super cool. Loves to go to parties, have fun, be spontaneous, travel, and has a fantastic wardrobe.
2. She is the very best role model of how to selflessly serve in ministry.
3. She taught me how to attack a problem and solve it, not avoid it like the plague.
3. Animals: cats, dogs, birds, goats, turtles, and so much more!
4. She sends all the kids in my family (plus a few special almost-kids) "Good Night Children!" texts every night.
5. She always sees the bright side in every situation. Puts things in perspective.
6, She is so excitable -- whenever I tell her something new, I can always count on her being excited for me.
7. TV: we love the same shows! 30 Rock, LOST, Glee...
8. Talent: my mother is so incredibly talented. She's super smart, musical, creative, hard working, and FUN!!
9. Learning: my mom will probably have the desire to learn until the day she dies. In fact, she started taking violin lessons about a year ago. Amazing.
10. Reading: we love the same books! Twilight, Hunger Wars, you name it -- we read the same type of books, it's fantastic.

Happy Mothers Day, I love you, mom!


Books I've Read Lately (and you should too)

And currently reading...

And what's next...