As a photographer, it helps to know when to use the right lens filter on your camera. A UV filter is used by some photographers to protect their lenses. A polarizing filter is used to darken skies, suppress glare and control reflections. A neutral density filter is often used to capture the motion of fast moving objects like waterfalls.
I want to explain to you, a reader of this book, some of my filters—but I’m not going to bore you with camera filters; instead I want to talk about my personal filters.
When I listen to a speaker for the first time, or when I read the work of a new author, I am often left wondering what filters brought them to their present worldview. By explaining some of my personal filters, I hope you will be able to understand where I’m coming from as you read this book.
When a westerner defines quality of life, there’s usually a strong hint of things involved in the definition. Often we like to tie these things to the word, “blessed.” “God has blessed me with this house… God has blessed me with this car… God has blessed me with this money… Thank you God for blessing me!” The Bible clearly teaches that if we’re taking our joy in material things, we’ve already received our treasure here on earth, and not to expect more reward in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21, Luke 6:24).
On the contrary, when you visit the poor (either domestically or internationally), you quickly realize that much of what we call blessings are actually superficial fences that unequivocally pull us away from God, rather than drawing us closer to Him. Christ clearly teaches that if you want to visit Him, then go feed the poor, provide (physical and living) water to those who are thirsty, and visit the sick and needy (Matthew 25:35-36).
Often, when people take short-term trips to impoverished places, they like to think of themselves as heroes for Christ, somehow doing what God couldn’t. The fact of the matter is, God is already there. My hope and prayer is always that Christ would draw the people I interact with to Himself (John 6:44). It is by no works of my own that God intervenes in people’s lives. He is completely sovereign.
Furthermore, 999 times out of 1,000, there’s already a local church established in the area where I’m going. My goal is to assist the local church, not hinder it by playing the role of a hero who rides off into the sunset, never to be seen again. Anyone who has gone on a short-term trip, if they’re honest with themselves, knows that short-term trips have the ability to do more harm than good if we’re not careful.
I am a member of the body of Christ, one that requires many parts. I don’t consider myself to be of more value than anyone else. If I am an optic nerve in the bulb of an eye that can help the body of Christ see the world more clearly, then glory be to God.
In my mind, there’s nothing worse than going into a foreign country full of beautiful people and being a nature photographer. What I mean by that is—if someone came into my neighborhood with a 400mm zoom lens and noticeably started taking pictures of me from far off, I would not be happy. Treating people as if they were animals in a zoo is a terrible way to show the love of Christ and shows little respect for the dignity of others.
When I’m doing portrait work, I will ask a person if I can take their picture. By seeking their permission, they recognize that I value them as a human being and, more times than not, are honored that I would ask them for their picture. You might wonder, “How do you get their permission if you don’t speak their language?” Very simply actually—motioning with my hands, or by having a translator ask for me.
(Side note: If I’m trying to capture a scene or a moment in which more than one person is involved, and I’m clearly not aiming my lens at one central stranger as if I were a spy, then my spirit is at peace with capturing that moment. Furthermore, if someone sees that I am taking photos and forms a visual bond with me—this often happens with children—then I usually follow it up with
Many times after I’m done taking a portrait, I show them the photo on the camera display screen to get their approval, again preserving human dignity and valuing the worth of the person that I just had the honor to photograph. In some cases, I’m even able to print a picture and give it to a translator (who is usually a part of a local church), so that they can follow up with them and build relationship.
I want God’s name to shine brightly, not mine. My desire is that God would use me for His glory; He is the potter and I am the clay (Isaiah 64:8). I don’t want to come across as arrogant or doing something so that I can be seen by others (Matthew 6:1-4). I simply want to show you what He has shown me, obey His commands, and reflect His light as best I can.
Therefore, if you’re going to use only one filter for this website, let it be this one. If you read anything on here that comes across like I’m being arrogant or seeking the praise of men, please know that is not my intention and give me the benefit of the doubt. These are images of His creation, not mine. I am a sinner, unworthy of His grace, but through Christ, He has called me to Himself that I might serve Him for the rest of my life.