I have just returned home from a 10 day trip to Burkina Faso, Africa. I saw hunger, disease, hope, joy, generosity. I felt hot, dusty, thirsty, loved, appreciated, encouraged, hospitality, inspired. I was filled with heart-breaking experiences that consumed my heart with compassion. I wish I could put it into one simple post and tell you what what all this means. But I cannot.
We spent hours and hours on this trip taking pictures. And hours and hours entertaining the children by showing them their pictures! They would strike a serious face for the camera and then burst out laughing when seeing it!
You could snap their picture a dozen times and they would still laugh heartily!! It was something that no matter where we went, the children loved seeing themselves in the little screen on the backs of our cameras.
At one village, we even had the women start to come up to us and ask for their pictures to be taken. They were not shy about it. They liked their pictures taken by themselves or they’d gather up a few friends. And they would smile!
By the look of our primitive surroundings, I don’t think mirrors were readily available. We wondered out loud if some of these people had ever seen themselves.
The women eventually brought over one woman who looked to be one of the oldest in the village. Her hair was grey and cropped close to her head. She had no top on but wore some long fabric wrapped around waist like a skirt. She had a rather large lump on her belly, just covered by her skirting fabric, that the others wanted her to show in a picture, which she gladly did. They all laughed and giggled and pointed. She laughed and giggled right along with them. She had the most beautiful smile. And her eyes twinkled when she did.
I’m not posting that picture, out of respect for her, but also because if it were me, I’d be mortified.
I can spend way too much time thinking about what to wear and if it looks okay on me. Checking and rechecking to see if it still fits, does it hide my pudge, etc., etc. Is it time to highlight my hair or maybe it’s time to whiten my teeth. Geesh. I have really said out loud (and really just to myself), “Really Pastor Herb, you showed that picture of me? And who took it anyway?! Shame on them for not telling me to stand up straight and suck it in!”
And here I am, looking back on these pictures of some of the most beautiful women, who may have never even seen themselves. And when they did, I did not see one pat their hair in place, adjust their clothing, frown and walk away. (The only pictures retaken were because the sun caused them to shut their eyes…my request, not theirs.)
They don’t need to adjust themselves. They don’t have a mirror to tell them too. They don’t have the television shows and magazine ads and movie stars and well, any kind of media shouting it at them either. They are beautiful. Just as they are. And know it, inside and out. Their smiles show it.
They have no idea they were teaching me something that day.