A Midwestern couple who not only parent two gorgeous children, but run a successful wedding photography business; a beautifully faithful 18 year-old high school student from Missouri; a young, married, entrepreneurial Californian hipster (who, let it be known, is also quite close friends with a Disneyland princess); a newly graduated, effervescently Southern artist; a knowledgeable zoo educator from Brooklyn who moonlighted as a ballroom dancer back in the day; and me – a wandering, former passionate teacher and (now equally as passionate) stay-at-home momma.
What do these people have in common?
Turns out, on paper, not much.
Actually, in any facet of practical life, you wouldn’t presume to find these seven distinctive individuals within any reasonable geographical, or theoretical, distance of each other.
Yet…we were. In Africa.
It was exactly where we were supposed to be.
See, the thing is, our God is a God of the impossible. He’s a God of creativity and a God of hope, a God of peace and a God of surprises. He’s a God of service and a God of tenderness. And a God who plans. I love that. He intersects journeys for perfect moments, with impeccable timing, so that His work is done. So the gospel bears fruit by changing lives and hearts. So the stories of his people are told.
Enter, The Archibald Project.
The God Moments that brought us all to this excitingly green, yet feels like they’ve been comfortably doing it forever, ministry vary as far as our team does on a U.S. map.
Mindy saw a Ugandan Media Mission Invite from The Archibald Project (TAP) while perusing Instagram and brought the crazy idea to her husband, Cameron. She, being the dreamer, and he, the concrete one, you maybe would have expected that a fight ensued (I mean they have been married eight years people), but it didn’t. Cameron knew that now was not the time to be hesitant. He felt it in his heart; it was clear they needed to go. It was time to listen intently to Mindy’s passionate heart, they were meant to serve through photography. That’s God.
Baby Josie’s journey began, as many high school things do, with a class assignment. Even though the board of education denied her initial request to complete a mission for her senior project, and she had recently trekked through some intense personal difficulties, she pushed forward. She listened. She prayed desperately. Finally, God spoke. Through a trusted teacher and the powerful scratches she jotted during her youth pastor’s sermon one evening, she found Uganda. And, shortly after that, Josie found herself on a plane. With us.
Lauren’s heart was already fiercely taken by Africa, having traveled to Tanzania seven years earlier, but the steps that led her to the Media Mission were random. Fittingly. She craved a different experience from her first trip, something less bittersweet, less evangelical, more focused. Parallel that with her desire to write again, with artistic inspirations, and for purpose. She had been cautiously searching for an experience to fit that well-defined description when God presented TAP on social media. Her mom and husband recognized the perfection, and so did she. Two days later she applied. And you know the rest.
Brooke’s voyage was a little different because it began before TAP was even born. She had been forever searching for a way to use her art to serve. As a little girl she had those moments, moments that stuck out to her as motivation to find a way to use her artistic talent for good. When TAP showed up on her computer screen, through an Instagram photo, she couldn’t believe she finally found a ministry that existed as she had hoped for all along. Here was a group that would utilize her God-given skills and passions for the benefit of others. Ready to be creative, trusting, and passionate, Brooke was all in.
Veronica had been to Uganda just over 365 days prior, a repeat offender. What makes someone put their life on hold two years running to serve people she’s never met in a country far from home? Well, pure faith I suppose. Right before her Skype interview with Nick (co-founder of TAP) the God Moments started aligning. Veronica had originally been referred by a friend who adopted her son from the orphanage we would be spending time in, but when she found out that this mission team would also be partnering with Sole Hope, the very same organization her close friend had volunteered with while waiting to bring her precious baby home. Clarity supervened. She was ready to answer God’s call to serve again.
And then there’s me. The simple heart who had been begging to be wrecked, praying to find a way to serve with intention, humility, and grace. My God spoke to me through an article published in The Huffington Post during National Adoption Awareness month. I saw photos, I read captions, I noticed TAP but I didn’t know TAP. A trail of media ensued and I found my breath captured in my throat while assured peace spread over my trembling body. Despite the struggles of leaving comfort behind, despite anxious fear, this Media Mission was where I was asked to go. I knew with conviction God was calling me to this place, with this crew, to use my heart and my writing to open, absorb, and tell important stories. Leaving my people for His.
So, led by the crazy hearts of Whitney and Nick (fear not, their story to come), it worked. We worked. He worked in us.
How? Well, Cameron kept us laughing, while constantly grounding our time in truth (and useless car trivia). Mindy exuded a sincere combination of sweet motherhood and strong creativity. Josie rocked us with her maturity and sense of wisdom, inspiring our collective hope for the next generation. Lauren swept us into her cocoon of quiet strength and stirred us with her copious combination of offbeat talents. Brooke brought hilarity, vulnerability, and an effusive personality that could build effortless relationships with anyone we met. Veronica educated us on all of the animals we encountered by day, and opened her heart slowly by night. I, well I can’t say for sure, but I believe I was open to God’s word in the hearts of my companions, obedient to what He was saying, and fully present in each moment…potentially with a little (read: a lot) of sarcasm thrown in.
As I sit impatiently on the last plane ride of a very long journey home, I am saturated in gratefulness for these six people I get to call friends. We may be infinitely different, but the commonality we share is mighty. We followed God. Through our unique creative lenses we spent the past eight days learning, holding, hugging, crying, listening, washing, teaching, trusting, and loving. Boldly. So while the pilot chases the earth’s rotation towards my boys, I’m strengthened by what TAP allowed all of us to experience. Exactly where we were supposed to be. Together. For Him.
I can’t wait to see how everyone advocates for orphans through their art.
And you should be too.
(All photos by The Archibald Project)