Make Your Mark

I’ve been thinking a lot about you. Yep, YOU.

I love that my clients, readers, and followers have a desire for a bigger world-view and a love for things outside themselves. I hear it in our interactions, and it’s gotten me to thinking- thinking about how to make things over here better represent all of you. There are going to be some big, wonderful changes coming this summer, and I can’t wait to share more! But in the meantime, thanks for reading and caring and taking action!

Today, I want to write about another of the five organizations we worked with on our Creatives Trip.

Make Your Mark Ministries is a group that has delved into the depths of the pain of boys living on the streets and has a rehabilitation program for them. We were able to interview two different boys- one who has been off the streets for 2 years and one who had just entered the program. We asked what life was like on the streets. They opened up honestly about their experiences- crying on holidays because they had no one; huffing glue to dull the pain; regularly being raped by rich men that would come specifically looking for the boys; being beaten by the local police; and fearing that they, like some of their friends, might be kidnapped to have their kidney removed and sold on the black market. Because, yes, this actually does happen.

During his interview, Sintau, the one who had been off the streets for two years talked of his new life and new-found faith in Christ. He told us that he now attends school and works as a welder. When discussing the transformation, he explained that when he came to Make Your Mark,­ it was the first time he was told that he had value. He specifically talked of the transforming change that happened when he was informed that he was made in the image of God. I asked him what he wanted people to know.

“I want them to see that other street boys can change,” he told me through a translator. “I was told that I could be somebody. They can be somebody, too.”

Below you can see Sintau’s before and after photos along with a photo of him at his new job.

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Begin With One

I stood there in middle of a government school in the remote village of Chapa in southern Ethiopia. In the middle of a set of buildings that would be about the size of a preschool facility here in the States, we learned that there were 3,000 students. This number left no alternative but to do half-day school twice a day with each teacher responsible for about 80 children during each of those time periods. Supplies were scarce and there was simply not the grounds nor resources for higher education.

Standing in a single classroom, I had my usual thought- where do I point my camera? There’s so much to show, so much to tell.

I turned to the interpreter, “What do they want me to photograph? What do they want people back in my country to know?”

The answers came back: “We want them to see what our schools look like.”

“We want them to see how crowded we are.”

A seventh grader stood up: “I want them to see [me]. To see that I want to learn more, but my school does not have enough money to run higher grades. So I cannot get more education.”

Those are their words. These are images they wanted me to take. So as I promised them on that warm afternoon a month ago, I’m telling and showing it all you.

Begin With One is organization that has partnered with Chapa to work together as two communities building each other up. They have taken this project under their wing; and what began as a $60,000 dollar project is now down to a little over $22,000. A group has offered to do a matching grant up to $12,000 so every dollar you give is doubled. Head over HERE if you want to get involved.

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THRIVE Creatives Retreat

With so much work surrounding the trip to Ethiopia, I haven’t even had time to blog about the beauty of our THRIVE Creatives Retreat in January- over weekend of the East Coast blizzard, no less! If you want to see and read more, you can head over to the blog post on the THRIVE website. I will let the photos do the talking here, but I also want to give a huge thank you to our sponsors:  Kinfolk Magazine, Day Designer Appointed Co , Heart Magazine Madcap coffee, Sydney Hale CoRed Barn MercantileLaura Hooper Calligraphy, United by Blue,  Seven SundaysPriya Means Love,  NorwexButtercream Bakeshop, and Miss Mustard Seed.

And a massive thank you to our photographer for the weekend Rachel Lyn for all of these gorgeous photos!

View More: http://rachellynphotography.pass.us/thivesponsors

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My Beautiful Team

I fell in love with all the wonderful people on my creatives team. Here’s some behind-the-scenes shots taken by myself and my friend Amy Melsa:

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One of the stops on our creatives trip was No Ordinary Love Ministries. I fell in love with this organization years back on my first trip to Ethiopia. They work closely with the local government who brings them children who have been rescued after being trafficked. NOLM provides a safe house, love, and therapy for these little ones, usually girls, who have seen and experienced more than we can imagine. This is intense stuff, y’all. Then as often as possible they locate the kid’s families out in the rural villages. These families often either thought that their children were being taken to be educated or have sometimes been looking for them, thinking they were lost. Two of our team members were able to attend a reunification while we were there. Amy Melsa captured stunning photos like the two right below, and I can’t wait to see the video that our videographer, Hasani Edmondson, took.

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Another aspect of this ministry is their program to support single mothers who are so impoverished that they are at risk of having to give up their children. We were able to be with them for a community gathering where these vulnerable families gather, with the children living at the safe house, to receive holistic support. It’s a sort of celebration and you can literally see the light and the fighting spirit of these women and children.

This organization is seriously underfunded and the value and quality of their work is more than I could explain here. To get involved in their incredible work, head over to their website HERE.

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Creatives Trip

Last week I returned from leading a creatives team to Ethiopia. My truly wonderful team included professional videographers and photographers, an author, and a professor of graphic design for social justice.

We landed in Ethiopia prepared to create material for databases of media for 5 incredible organizations. But how can you ever prepare to interact with trafficked children, special needs orphans, impoverished communities, kids who live on the streets, and so much more? While my team was incredible, making beautiful images and video, I was even more proud of them for being vulnerable and for letting themselves be affected by what they saw. We spent many a day holding it all together while we worked and then letting the tears flow the moment we were alone. But it wasn’t only the sad. Ethiopia and its people hold so much beauty and so much for us to learn from and bring home. We were also moved by the community, honesty, and beauty we saw (and the coffee…how can you not be moved by the coffee!)

One aspect that was extremely important for us was to document the people as dignified equals often reminding them that the photos were for them and for telling their stories and not for us. Pity puts people down, but joining together lifts people up.

I have much more to show and more specific experiences to blog. But I thought I’d start out by showing you the people and the beauty of Ethiopia.

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