Beauregard Tornado Three Months Later

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Neighbor’s House Prior to Being RazedNeighbor’s House Prior to Being Razed

Neighbor’s House Prior to Being Razed

It’s been about three months now since the tornados hit our area in Lee County. Over the weekend I stopped and take a few images of the places I drive by every day. I could have taken thousands of images, so these are just a few on Lee Road 100 and 38. The cleanup has been truly amazing to watch. For us, outside of the city limits of Auburn or Opelika, the people in Lee County responsible cleanup did an incredible job under the worst circumstances. It was faster and better than I ever could have imagined. It is still ongoing along Highway 51 and LR 38, but it looks nothing like it did three months ago. Of course the results still look like what I perceive as a “war zone” in some spots on LR 38/39 and parts of LR 100 as you can see below. Those areas have been basically clear cut and after the mounds of debris were hauled away (in these big black barge-like-double-trailer trucks) what was left was bare ground in a place that’s normally covered in green.

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These Debris Cleanup Trucks Ran 24 Hours a Day at One PointThese Debris Cleanup Trucks Ran 24 Hours a Day at One Point

These Debris Cleanup Trucks Ran 24 Hours a Day at One Point

Some of what is really amazing to see on a day by day basis are the things that have always been there since I have known life in the county, that are now completely gone. My neighbors house above was in the process of being removed on the day I took this image, the church below, which has stood for a long time, is now just an empty spot of dirt.

One of our neighbors rebuilt a fence that was destroyed, and somehow someway, I find it very artistic and beautiful. I’m not really sure if the windows he used in the fence were from storm debris but it sorta seems that way, and it’s just a very fitting reminder of what happened on March 3rd. It isn’t anything anyone out our way will forget, I’m sure of that fact.

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Watoola Methodist Church at LR 100 and LR 38Watoola Methodist Church at LR 100 and LR 38

Watoola Methodist Church at LR 100 and LR 38

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The Property Where Watoola Methodist Church Once StoodThe Property Where Watoola Methodist Church Once Stood

The Property Where Watoola Methodist Church Once Stood

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Mobile Home Flipped on it’s Side Next Door to Our HouseMobile Home Flipped on it’s Side Next Door to Our House

Mobile Home Flipped on it’s Side Next Door to Our House

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Rebuilt Fence Along LR 100Rebuilt Fence Along LR 100

Rebuilt Fence Along LR 100

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Clearcut Property on LR 38Clearcut Property on LR 38

Clearcut Property on LR 38

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Clearcut Property on LR 38Clearcut Property on LR 38

Clearcut Property on LR 38

Apple’s Tribute to Steve Jobs

Pulling into the Gate after an Overnight Flight to AmsterdamPulling into the Gate after an Overnight Flight to Amsterdam

Pulling into the Gate after an Overnight Flight to Amsterdam

Of The Anniversary on Steve Jobs Passing

I vividly remember landing in Amsterdam on October 5, 2011 after being in the air for almost 10 hours. I turned on my iPhone and AP news alerts started pinging my phone as happens when a “world event” takes place (this was before you could get Internet access on planes). I read through the Fox News, CNN, Sky News alerts and articles, and read through my Twitter and Facebook feeds as we pulled into the gate. I had already received the text below from my wife (yes I have every text message ever sent or received). A text message, received in my hand sitting on a runway in the Netherlands, thousands of miles away from Auburn, Alabama.

Original Text Received Upon Arrival at Amsterdam on October 5, 2011.Original Text Received Upon Arrival at Amsterdam on October 5, 2011.

Original Text Received Upon Arrival at Amsterdam on October 5, 2011.

As we pulled up to the gate I took the photo above of the Delta flight parked next to our gate, pulled it into my Camera+ app, put a boarder around it and posted it to Instagram, all in less than 5 minutes while I was waiting to deplane. At this point I had already checked my email, responded to a few emails, and looked up our connecting flight information. All from a small piece of metal, glass, and plastic that didn’t even exist a few years earlier.

This might sound like a lot of poetic musings for a phone, but for some reason my mind wasn’t ready for this particular piece of news on this morning, and it confused me. I was on my way to Africa. Amsterdam was just a stopover, and the only reason I was going to have any personal connection with my wife halfway around the world was because Steve Jobs had decided he and his company were going to invent and create something that had never been done before. Something that I was now holding in my hand.

Here was a man who shared no convictions with my faith, no connection to me whatsoever. In all accounts, a brilliant man who had no understanding beyond a pluralistic view of my faith mixed with his version of Buddhism and other things, and yet thousands of miles from home he had an impact on my life just the same.

“The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it,” he told me. “I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t.” ~Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Yet I still felt some personal connection with Jobs, even if it was just a minor one, sitting on a runway in Europe. As if the plane full of people melted away leaving me and my connection with Jobs sitting in my hand. He shared none of my understandings of the world, or my way of life, or me his, yet he changed the world, my world, and still does on a daily basis.

After I got home from Africa I read, back to back, the biography on Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson and the biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. What an amazing contrast of times and cultures, beliefs and worldview, and yet both had the ability to change the world for the better. Ultimately in death, as we all will do some day, we will either look to what lies ahead and beyond, one perhaps cling to life here on earth, just as these two great men did, but what impact will we leave on those around us?

I boarded the plane to Africa, still thinking about Jobs’ fate and wrote this as we took off in one of my journals.

The biggest surprise to me so far [on this trip], was upon landing, finding out that Steve Jobs died. I was truly saddened to hear this. I know we are all temporary in this world, but this man, who for all accounts wasn’t a believer, and yet still changed the world. He forever changed the way the world communicates, how we are connected with each other, and he is the reason I can talk to Deborah from this plane in Europe while she is in Auburn.

He affected so many people through his innovations. How are we to greave his death? I’m saddened over his death as if he was someone I knew personally, and at the same time I really don’t know why either. Death seems so imminent for all of us, especially when you hear about Jobs dying at 59. I didn’t even know Jobs, but I will miss him. The new iPhone announcement yesterday had people wanting to see Jobs at the event, people he never knew, what a life. I pray for his soul this day.

I’m not even really sure why I wrote this today other than to acknowledge the gravity this one person had on our world. A person I have vast differences with in life, on almost every aspect of life, yet he was someone who had a positive impact on so many people, on me.

Jobs once said “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” which really became his whole life philosophy, and was carried on today by Tim Cook and Apple with the video on their front page and the letter below. What other for-profit company would take down their entire front page just to show a 2 minute tribute video. Simplicity and sophistication.

The Front Page of on the Anniversary of Steve Jobs DeathThe Front Page of on the Anniversary of Steve Jobs Death

The Front Page of on the Anniversary of Steve Jobs Death

As I gain more experience and wisdom (in age) I can see many things that Jobs contributed to our world well beyond his reach. It has been said that almost any pop music today has strands of Michael Jackson weaved throughout the notes, such was Jobs’ influence over our world. I see evidence of these threads Jobs left, throughout the world, that have changed our society forever. I have learned a great deal from Jobs and today often see myself weaving in these threads of simplicity, a drive to be concise and compelling in the communications work I accomplish each day. His reach is amazing. There’s really no wonder why Apple pays tribute.

It doesn’t matter who you are, what life you live, what background you come from, if you live in Africa, the United States, or Europe, we can all have a positive impact on each other, so don’t give up on what you care about, often you may never know who’s life you have changed in the process.

(This article was originally published on my blog on October 15th, 2015.)

To Go To Nicaragua

Kids Playing in NicaraguaKids Playing in Nicaragua

Kids Playing in Nicaragua

God, please send someone else. This is what Moses said to God in Exodus 4:13 when he was asked to lead the people out of Egypt into another land. When I was first approached about Nicaragua back in January 2016 my reaction was similar, and I quickly came up with more excuses in my mind than I knew I could think of at the time. I’d been to Uganda a few times, and that’s where my heart was, I reasoned. But God has a way of being patient with us, and I was asked again in June to join a trip in July. There was less time to think about it, less time to find a way out, so I relented and joined the team going in July.

My purpose on this particular trip was to capture the photography and video needed to explain the ministry partnership in Nicaragua to our congregation, and to show a little of what it would be like to leave the comfort zone of home and actually “go” to Nicaragua. This was not a “light-switch” moment in my mind; it was just the first step of saying “ok, I’ll go” even though my mind and body were telling me otherwise. My reluctance to go didn’t abate until I woke up on the first full day in Nicaragua. Then God reminded me once again about the diversity and beauty of His hand, which reaches to every nation and race on the planet.

I could list reason after reason why everyone who can physically go, should go. In reality though, God may not reveal to you the why until after you say, “ok, I’ll go.” We live in a hyper-instantaneous world today. There is virtually nothing we have to wait for anymore. But God’s time is not our time, and investing in something or someone takes time, sometimes a long time, and the “why” isn’t always crystal-clear up front. Someone has to plant the seeds, and someone else has to water them. But ultimately God makes them grow. In Nicaragua, they have been planting a lot of seeds. In fact, it took more than 10 years of people planting seeds before the time was right for me to show up in July and attempt to tell the story. So when the myriad of “why” questions come to your mind about what difference can I make, how can God use me, remember that even Moses asked the same questions.

Our church is currently in a teaching series called “Ordinary People,” which takes a look at a host of ordinary people God used throughout scripture to do amazing work; work God had prepared for them before the foundation of the world. And God is still doing that today. Our culture would have us endlessly comparing ourselves to others, which only serves to deflate and diminish our effectiveness. God isn’t comparing us to each other, He is comparing us to Himself. We were each made in His own image, to do the unique work God has prepared for us in advance to do. He consistently chooses those ordinary people who take that first step and say, “ok, I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’ll go.”

One Boy’s Plea for Eternity Etched in Concrete

Outside the Cell Inside the Walls

Outside the Cell Inside the Walls

Never Forget God's Children

Never Forget God’s Children

This second photo above with the writing on the wall might not seem like much at first, especially without bringing out the contrast in the image, the writing on the wall is almost unseen. The boy in the first image at the top is sitting right in front of the window where I took this second shot (farthest window to the left). Etched and scratched into a concrete wall, in an almost morbid sense of humanity for a child, are written these words:

Never forget Masaba Derick from Mbale Town good boy from Kampiringisa

This boy’s home town, Mbale, is a tiny little village hours and hours away from where I photographed this image in the Kampiringisa Rehabilitation Centre, so there is no telling how he ended up in this Children’s facility, or if or when he left. These facilities exist all over Uganda, and some, like this one, were not staffed with adults, but yet it housed hundreds of kids who had to just fend for themselves. No electricity, no water, and in many ways, no hope. This image, taken in October 2011, just stuck with me over the last several months.

By the point I took this image above, this particular building was no longer being used to actively house anyone, but obviously it did at some point. One thing I do know, God has not forgotten these children, whether they know it yet or not. To see more images from this particular day, see They are Hidden but Not Forgotten or go to my Stories section to see others.

Written on the Walls Behind Bars, Part 3

Written on the Walls Behind Bars

This is Part 3 of 3 in the “Written on the Walls Behind Bars” posts (see Part 1 and Part 2 to see the progression). The transition to the bars and then with “Love” written on the face of the father is pretty incredible to me. These shots were part of a larger shoot that day from these facilities in Uganda. To see more images from those days click here to see They are Hidden but Not Forgotten and The Challenge of Being Salt and Light in the Darkness.

Written on the Walls Behind Bars, Part 2

In Front of the Bars at a Children's Prison in Africa

A continuation shot of Part 1, this shot is Part 2 of 3 and was taken just on the other side of the window bars and shows the extent of the mural on the wall. The wall depicts a family, possibly their witch-doctor, and the love they have for their missing child.

Written on the Walls Behind Bars, Part 1

Behind Bars at a Children's Prison in Africa

An abandon building that holds children in prison for various delinquencies, many of whom are spending and have spent years there. While this building wasn’t being used, the overall facility was still quite active with over 150 children housed on the property. The photo of the father has L-O-V-E written across his face, which will be shown in subsequent photos.

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us

We used this modern day hymn in our service this past Sunday and the lyrics were just incredible to me… the line “I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers” really puts an emphasis on God’s love for us. I know the song is about 10 years old at this point but still well worth reading the words below.

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom