Sunday, June 6, 2010

Psalm 68:5

For about 10 years, I have wanted to buy a “decent” camera. With a trip to Africa, I finally had a good reason to make the investment. So I did. During our trip, I kind of became the unofficial photographer for the team. This worked great for me as I could use my camera to mitigate uncomfortable situations – you know, “hide behind the camera”. I shot approximately 3100 photos while in Uganda.

The day we visited the slum village of Kawuku, I packed my camera and had it in the van where it would be safeguarded by Jackson, our driver. I knew the slum was going to be an opportunity for some of the most impactful shots of the entire trip. I had been tempering my picture shooting in many situations so as not to make the local people feel like I was taking pictures of them because they are so poor and their lives are so terrible – gawking at them. I had a zoom lens and would sometimes shoot from the van to be discreet. Many times I just asked people if I could take their picture and then showed them the result on the digital display. They liked that and it worked well.

As we got ready to go into the slum at Kawuku, I hurried to the van to grab my camera. I flipped the camera on and the screen displayed “no memory card”. Ugh! I checked the SD card slot and sure enough, I had left the memory card in Lashae and Charlie’s laptop back at the guesthouse. We had been downloading the photos each night to the laptop to make sure they were backed up and not lost. I had forgotten to put the card back in the camera. I said, “Ok Lord, I’m not sure if you want me to shoot pictures today. That door was closed so I’m gonna try another door.” I ran over to Ron and asked if I could use the memory card out of his camera. He said “sure”. I opened his camera and found a completely different style of card. I felt the Lord lay upon my heart that I was to lay down the camera for some reason that day. It would soon become obvious why.

The purpose of touring the village was because many of the Redeemer House kids came from Kawuku. We were going to get an opportunity to see firsthand the conditions from which these children were rescued. As we walked toward the village, my hands were grabbed by kids like always happens in Uganda. Today, it was Gloria and Deo. These kids are absolutely wonderful as are all the Redeemer House kids. Gloria is a happy, smiley and energetic 12 year old. Deo is one of the most kind and caring boys I have ever met.

We walked into the village and I was stunned. The conditions were deplorable. The smell was indescribable. It was like the World Vision commercials you see on TV but this time I was smelling it, feeling it – a part of it. You could taste the despair. Tears welled up in my eyes as they did so many times in Uganda. I wanted to drop to my knees and sob. The feelings are indescribable – anger, shame, deep gut wrenching compassion among others.

As we approached the hut where Gloria and Api had lived with their uncle before coming to Redeemer House, Gloria’s happy spirit faded away. Her shoulders dropped. She grabbed my hand tighter and put her other hand around my arm. Fear? No. Anger? No. Extreme sadness and sorrow – yes. I met Gloria’s uncle and shook his hand. Kathy had told me that Gloria and Api's uncle was a good man and had treated them very well. He was just too poor to feed and support them. One of Gloria’s cousins was there with the uncle – a little girl maybe 7 years old. Did Gloria see her and remember what it was like? Was it “survivor’s guilt” she felt in seeing this little girl still there with no hope?

Whatever it was, it was overwhelming for Gloria. Tears streamed down her face. She hung her head in deep sadness. I wanted to make it better. I would have given anything at the moment to have been able to take the weight of what she was feeling upon myself. But I couldn’t. A very similar story when we went to Deo’s hut and saw his grandmother – tears, sadness, burying his face so as not to see and remember. Unbelievable.

That day I held those kids. Hugged them. Rubbed their backs. Patted the black hair on their heads. Loved them.

God spoke to me in those moments and the verse in Psalm 68:5 ran through my head – “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” You see, we are to be his hands and feet. God can comfort orphans and widows if He wants to. But that day He wanted me and the team to be comforters.

That day was another day I realized why, for me, sending money isn’t good enough. I needed to Go, See and Serve. It was possibly the greatest privilege of my life.


  1. Dear Kevin. One thing I appreciate about you is your willingness to be vulnerable. Maybe the trip has fostered that in you, but it's there. Even before the trip, I wished that I have been a part of your team, but I knew this time it wasn't my time. I still think about the experiences y'all have shared, and the way God has bonded you together. It is a privilege to share in them with you in a small way. I think & pray for the poor and oppressed more often, but I know there is more to do.

    I have also wondered how you get back to a new kind of normal after an intense experience like that. I pray God will continue to cause you to bear fruit. God is doing a good work...still. He is stil moving on hearts here and in Uganda. I pray that He will move mountains to meet the needs of the people you left behind, and the millions more around the world. Some days I wonder why I was born with materials riches, while others were born into the most desperate of circumstances. Some despair in that so much that they lose their faith in God being good. The answers are complicated, but I know that God can't be blamed for the wickedness of man that leads to the structural evils that allow people to languish in poverty. I do give thanks for what God has given me, but the older I get, the more I realize that stewardship goes beyond not being in debt, but giving generously and remembering my treasures here on earth are to sustain us, not have a stranglehold on us to the point we have little compassion for others. I give thanks for the privilege you have been given...a unique window to see through. Now for what follows that new vision. Blessings...

  2. Uncle Kevin--BEAUTIFULLY said. This day was hard. I was blown away with the conditions that these kids came from and that people still live in. And my heart was broken for Gloria and the others as their joy turned to unimaginable sadness. :( It was awesome to be able to watch you be a father to the fatherless and love those kids as if they were your own. That alone was a huge lesson for me. thanks for being such an awesome example of how Christ wants us to be and his love for orphans.

  3. This is such a beautiful post!! I love your gift of the pictures that you took. We literally look at them EVERY day. I love that the Lord orchestrated one day that you couldn't take pictures, so we also got the picture of your heart on that day. Thank you for sharing both of your amazing gifts.

  4. Way to make me cry. I told you you could blog! For me, this one was more powerful then the pictures you put up. (but not the video of course)

  5. It's hard to post this through tears, Kevin. Every time these kids go to Kauku, it's the same story of that intense sadness they feel, but I think there is more, too. I think there is a deep gratefulness to God combined with some sense of guilt that they were the ones God rescued, and an intense desire to help those who are left behind. That's why they often say, "We remember where we came from." That's why, when they were enjoying pizza and sodas the first time they ever ate at a restaurant, Deo leaned over and told me about what it was like in Kauku when you couldn't sleep because of the pain in your stomach that keeps you awake when you're hungry, and he didn't want to eat any more pizza. That's why, when I asked the girls if I could send a blouse they didn't wear to the desparately poor kids in Busoga where Noah ministers, out of nowhere 14 kids appeared with their arms loaded with clothes and shoes to donate - even some of the new ones they had picked out with Auntie Renee and Antie Elicia - and I had to stop then when the suitcase was bulging. They remember, and they do what they can do to help those left behind. Oh, that we all had such hearts.

  6. Mr. Hervieux, I so appreciate reading your comments. This one made me think of a story that has really spoken to my heart:

    A man looked at all the suffering around him, and doubting the goodness of God, said to Him, "How can you do nothing when there are so many people suffering so greatly?" And God answered, "I was just going to ask you the same question."