I’m often asked how I handle documenting difficult subjects like child prostitution or poverty while immersed in our obsessive consumer culture. After seeing the pain (and cultivated joy) first hand, there are times where I want to leave everything and bring freedom daily to those experiencing the challenges of poverty.
My response may be well intended and bring some change. Yet I know my decisions cannot be based on an immediate emotional response.
As the term “justice” continues to be a trendy concept, I have to remind myself that it’s neither an act of charity nor an expression of self-sacrifice. Justice is a restoration of the broken. Not an end goal but a response to choose love.
There is no simple solution to poverty or injustice. It’s messy. It’s complex. It’s multifaceted. I don’t have the answers, yet I know the greatest act of justice I can bring is being faithful with what I’ve been given and loving well.
And that’s what I did with this little guy. Meet Joshua (name changed and face concealed for protection).
His mother became mentally ill and unable to speak. His stepfather was an alcoholic and physically abusive. When he first came to Destiny’s Promise, Joshua lost his hair due to malnutrition and wasn’t able to walk because he hadn’t eaten in so long. After 3 years at Destiny’s Promise, he is healthy, happy and restored.
I was immediately drawn to Joshua and he became my little shadow during our photo shoots.
While crammed in the back seat of a hot van with several children, I experienced something magical…
Two girls rested their heads on my lap as I closed my eyes to get relief from the heat of a long day.
I hear someone singing. I open my eyes and find Joshua strumming an imaginary guitar with his eyes closed. I hold back my tears as he whispers part of his soul…
“When the music plays, close your eyes.
Feel your mother. Feel your father.
When there is no food, when there is no home,
Feel your mother and your father…”
The next 2 days, he became my smiling sidekick whenever we were together. My heart ached to bring him home, yet I knew that wasn’t the justice I was supposed to offer. The greatest way I could help Joshua and the several other children at the home was to encourage, love and bring life through my images and words. As the Unseen crew captured the children, a joy and newfound freedom was given to their lives.
It may seem a bit ironic that I’m writing this while sitting next to a pool in California but I will never forget the many things I’ve learned from Joshua and hope I left a similar impact. I rest knowing I’ve fulfilled my purpose in this season and will always pray for my little photo sidekick.
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