Living in Central Oregon really makes you appreciate the little things in life…like green grass, deciduous trees, and tiny daisies sprinkled all over a park. That was the backdrop of Billie Jo and Seth’s adorable park wedding in Philomath, OR. They are such a sweet couple! Here are a few favs from their wedding.
To be honest, I’ve been avoiding writing since I’ve been back. There’s still so much to be written and shown from Uganda and I don’t feel like I’ve completed that piece of the story…so I’ve held off on posting photos from my work here in Las Vegas. My head is back in Vegas, but my heart is still in Uganda.
Even though this was my fourth trip to the same country and to many of the same people, I’ve found myself a little shell shocked this past week. Usually a person will go through reverse culture shock after leaving a developing country and returning to their own country. Maybe it’s prideful, but I didn’t expect to have such a hard time adjusting back, I didn’t see anything I have not already seen…but this week has made me realize that there is no “getting used” to extreme poverty and human suffering. Thank God too! I don’t ever want to be so used to hunger, violence and injustice that it doesn’t tear me apart.
So here I confess that although “I’ve seen it all before” I really haven’t. I haven’t seen the individuals and heard their personal, unique stories. I have never before held the hands of Sara and Annette, little girls in the slums of Kampala, who live in vulnerability and fear, surrounded by drunkards who could easily come in and rape them while there mother is at work at night, it’s happened to their older sister. Before this, I had never met Adong Juliet, a 6 year old in the bush of Lira whose father died and whose mother is dying of AIDS. She sang a song about being thankful when I met her and I was so convicted by the irony of a 6 year old, alone in this world singing about thankfulness and me, so often annoyed or frustrated by the least important things. I’ve never held a feverish baby fighting malaria, whose mother died at childbirth and whose father has never visited her but is withering away from AIDS. I had never heard Brian’s story, a brilliant, funny sweet boy whose father and mother are both alive, but his father rejected him and doesn’t even acknowledge that Brian is his son. Brian just can’t make sense of it all. I almost lose it every time I think of Tonny, our 14 year old Otino Waa boy fighting cancer in Lacor Hospital.
These things are not supposed to be easy to experience. And I need to remember that as I process through what I know and what I’ve seen. The piece I always come back to is, what can I do? At this point I try to use my voice, to tell their stories and invite people to get involved, I try to work with Otino Waa as much as I can, and I pray for the people I know and love from so far away. I don’t feel it is enough and I want to do so much more. I want to give each day to helping these people…but that time hasn’t come yet.
This may be more then you expected or wanted, but it’s at the core of me. I love photography because it tells a story in its own unique way. I don’t take photographs in Africa because they make cool photographs, I do it to tell a story in an effort to create change, not just awareness.
So I ask for grace as I post a mix of work that I love as a portrait and wedding photographer in the US, and slowly start to pour out the stories and photos from a place in my heart that has been broken in the right way.
Thanks for walking this journey with me,
If you had asked me 4 years ago where I, a Wisconsin farm girl, would be today, I would never have said Las Vegas. I probably wouldn’t have imaged spending 4 years on Bend, Oregon either. I would have told you I had no idea where I’d be, but I hoped to be connected to Uganda.
Here I am, the last place I expected, and yet exactly where I want to be: packing for Uganda. I can only say how blessed and thankful I am – and excited! I am so grateful to my amazing husband, Andrew, who not only agreed to let me travel to Africa without him for 3 weeks, but was the voice that got this whole thing started…literally – he kept telling people I was going, before anything had been planned. He said if he started telling people I was going – I’d have to go. I love that man.
I always start thinking a lot before big trips. I keep thinking about the kids I’ve built relationships with over the past 3 years – Prisca, a quiet, smiley girl with the cutest dimples who loves to hold your hand and just be around you. Betty, my Betty. She was the youngest kid at Otino Waa during my first trip, she was so little and precious, I fell in love with little Betty and she’s now one of the kids Andrew and I get to call “ours.” Emmanuel, the tiniest 5 year old I’ve ever seen with large eyes filled with sadness, fear, hope and when I saw him last – questions of what this new place called Otino Waa was all about. He had just arrived then. I imagine now, a year and a half later, he’ll be one of the playful, confident kids with a joyful face and a sense of belonging. Then there are Harriet and Sharon, twins who love unconditionally. They love you as soon as you meet them and all they ask is to be loved in return. They glow when given a hug or a smile. I could go on and on, Edith, the singer and worship leader; Serina, her younger sister with bright, happy eyes; Patricia, so full of wisdom and grace despite the evil things that happened to her in the past; Winnie, quiet and gentle; Robina, a singer and dancer; Andrew, full of mischief as all little boys should be; – I just love these kids!
I’m excited to meet the new children that arrived at Otino Waa just a few weeks ago. Most of them are very young, don’t know English yet, and their eyes look so much older then their years. After some time at Otino Waa, something strange and amazing happens – kids get younger. Of course they get older and are growing – but the troubles, seriousness, tragedy and adult responsibilities they arrived with seem to fade away and they get to be kids again.
This isn’t the first time I feel like my heart will be in 2 places, divided by the Atlantic, missing my family, but so glad to be with my Otino Waa family. I also get to visit my Ugandan “parents” Immaculate and Godfrey. I love that every time I get a message or text from them they call me daughter. I get to see my little sister, Praise Amanda, and meet the new baby boy! Other friends in Jinja have gotten married since I was there last and are starting their own families. It’s amazing to see the growth that happens in just a year!
Most people would say the wedding day is all about the bride, and most of the time I’d say they’re probably right – just not today. Today it’s all (or mostly) about the groom.
I recently had the opportunity to work with Ron Dillon Photography (he’s super cool and really fun to work with – for real) And I got to spend a lot of the day hanging with the groom, Mark, and his buddies. They were an awesome group to work with – I highly recommend reading on, there’s a pretty amazing, non prompted I might add, shot of Mark really getting into the shoot. Mark and Maria’s wedding was held at the glamorous Mandarin Oriental in downtown Las Vegas. Guys, this post is dedicated to you – after all, there would be no wedding without you!