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Don't Take My Picture If You Can't Fix My Poverty

Ethiopian Woman

Standing on the streets of Addis Ababa with my new Canon digital camera, a woman walked by and I snapped a shot. After the shutter was released, the woman shouted at me in Arabic. I didn’t understand what she said. My guide interpreted. “Don’t take my picture if you can’t fix my poverty”. I wanted to apologize, but she was already gone.

In the previous 5 years I had spent the vast majority of my time fueling the hungry litigation machine with powerful graphics for the courtroom. Then in Dec of ’04, I knew that I needed to shift the investment of my talents toward the kingdom of God. I wanted to use photography and video production to show what God was doing around the world. As I had equipped attorneys to win legal arguments, I now wanted to equip thousands to reach millions for the kingdom. Ethiopia was my second overseas visit and my introduction to Africa.

The cry of this woman’s heart was unmistakable. I am not here for your entertainment! I am valuable. I am in trouble. You Americans have been here before and done nothing. “Don’t take my picture, if you can’t fix my poverty.” The western society had let her down…and she wanted me to know it.

Each year the U.S. and Europe spend 13 billion on Perfume…enough to cure world hunger. Jesus said, “The poor will always be with you.” What many people don’t know is that Jesus was quoting a scripture verse from Deuteronomy 15:11 – “For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land.’” There is a command that because the poor are always to be with you, children of God should be the ones reaching out to serve…regardless of anyone else.

Reflections on the Street


Walking the streets of Addis Ababa, I saw things that I wish I could forget. I saw people begging who had their hands cut off for stealing. I saw a plush hotel that cost $200 a night a quarter mile away from people who would not make $200 in that year.

I saw street kids wandering around dirty. I saw leapers sitting on the side of the road with their faces literally rotting off. I did not have the heart to take pictures. At the same time, I also saw joy. I saw families and children enjoying life and being satisfied with their circumstances. It’s impossible to put into words what you see when you visit a place like Addis Ababa. It’s like experiencing all of the things that you know are there deep down, but somehow get muted as they are not before your eyes.

Visiting an Orphanage


I was able to visit an orphanage while in Addis. Reflecting on the six pair of shoes that I had back home, I saw this kid who was happy to have any shoes at all. As the children were fed at the orphanage, I took a picture of two orphans sitting by a wall. I took their picture because I felt like their facial expressions asked me a question. The question I felt like they asked was “Is my condition my own fault, or someone elses? “ Jesus disciples asked Jesus the same question in John 9:2, “And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered,

“It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”

The only difference was that Jesus reached out his hand and healed the blind man and helped him out of his circumstance. I wonder if we are willing to do the same.