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The little priceless photograph (And doing the things you’re good at as an offering)

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I saw her when I turned the corner; she nearly took my breath away. A more stunning woman I hadn’t seen in all the villages we visited that trip.

Savi was sitting on a log, washing her naked baby from a tin bucket, sun beating down on her bare shoulders, her smile telling me without words that I was welcome there.

I approached her to talk and gush over her sweet baby but she didn’t speak English and that was okay, in fact, expected. We chatted back and forth to each other anyway – sometimes words are just words and it’s the being together that is the real conversation. Her baby cried a little and squirmed, seemingly unsettled but robust for a five-month-old. Baby Henry was adorable and perfect. I melted with admiration for him while also feeling the pang of grief for the baby I had lost just four months before.

After a few minutes her husband approached, their small son tucked behind his legs, peeking out at the first white person he’d ever seen. They reminded me of our family not that long ago; their boys looked about the same age gap as mine. Immediately I felt that human connection that comes through shared life experiences, even though clearly our lives were vastly different.

Michael spoke excellent English and translated the conversation for a little while as we asked about each others’ families and work, standing under the shadow of their bamboo house balanced up on stilts above the mud.

They were the most beautiful family. I couldn’t wait to tell my own about them.

I asked if I could take some photos of all four of them – something I never do since I prefer to get more candid images and slices of life when I’m on the field with my story-telling gear. But this family reminded me so much of my own, I wanted to remember them. They were kindred somehow.

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I took some more photos of Savi and her family and then made my way back to the clinic. Meeting them had been a highlight not just of my day, but one of the highlights of my entire outreach to the Western Province, Papua New Guinea. It helped me to remember that although we were so different, we were so much the same, too.

Later that night we received an emergency radio on the ship – a baby was struggling to breathe and they needed our help. Our medical staff treated him, doing all that they could before his parents decided they needed to go home and be with their village.

It was Henry. It was Savi.

I sobbed when I realized this family that I spent time with earlier that day was now fighting for the life of their tiny son – a stark reminder at how very, very different our lives actually are.

They floated away from us on their small boat into the darkness of the Bamu River toward their village – one that wouldn’t even been written into most maps. We never saw them again and I don’t know what happened to that tiny baby boy. I like to think that perhaps God did a miracle and spared his life through divine intervention… but I feel sad every time I think of them, knowing the reality they contend with tucked away in a village off the map, away from the public eye and modern medicine and social media pleas for prayer and help.

As they left I sent them with family pictures from earlier that day that I had printed with a small, portable photo printer that I had brought along with me on our journey into the unknown lands. And suddenly it didn’t seem strange that I had spent the time with them or broken my norm to gather them all up for some posed, smiling family photos.

I don’t know if they still have their little boy with them, but I know they have photos of their entire family together on an innocent happy morning before it all came crashing down.

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For that, I am grateful.

___

Friends, when we are living our lives intentionally we stumble into opportunities to be a blessing just by being ourselves and doing what we do. I had no idea that spending time with this family was for anything other than me walking away from them with a greater appreciation of my own husband and children, and a greater understanding of how alike we all are – even with those who live so differently.

Truly, I felt richer for having been with them.

And yes, I was deliberate about how I made time for them, how I shared my life with them, and how I honored their little family, but I had no idea that within all of that I would do something almost unintentionally that could turn out to be so profound. Families like theirs would never have the opportunity to get a family photo taken of them, much less printed, and yet God placed me there in the last hours (most likely) of this little one’s life so they could have a photograph to remember what it was like to be a happy family of four.

I can only imagine what that photograph looks like now. Is it tear-stained? Is it wrinkled from the clutches of a heartbroken mother or a grieving father? Is it hung, pierced with a twig, on a bamboo wall above those muddy floors? Is it now priceless to them – a moment of happy and complete caught in time to help them always remember?

I’ll never claim brilliance or forethought in how it all unfolded—it was a few simple photos and laughter and shared experiences and appreciation for family—but I’m so glad I didn’t ignore the little tugging of my heart that day that drew me to a smiling mother and a bathing baby under the hot morning sun hung in the New Guinea sky.

What are you offering the world today? Perhaps we don’t know the big picture, or what exactly is going on behind the scenes, but our lives can be an offering if we’re intentional about doing the things we’re good at – a little at a time – to those already in our lives, and to those we “happen” to find crossing our paths.

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Remembering,
Adriel

P.S. Mother Day is coming up my friends… that means the Love A Mama Community’s Mother’s Day Drive is right around the corner, too. We’ve already rallied over 10,000 clean birth kits, close to 200 baby slings, a solar powered maternal health suitcase, and a whole slew of other maternal health resources for the women of PNG during the last three years. Amazing? I think yes. Are you following on facebook or twitter to keep up-to-date on how we’ll serve these sweet mamas in need this year? Some announcements coming up soon for the 2014 drive….

*names have been changed for this story.

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About Adriel

Adriel Booker is a writer, speaker, and difference-maker living Down Under with her Aussie love and littles where they serve in full-time ministry (and full-time parenting) together. She writes about celebrating motherhood, building families, strengthening faith, enjoying life, empowering women, changing the world, and telling the story.

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12 Responses to The little priceless photograph (And doing the things you’re good at as an offering)

  1. Gwen April 8, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    Oh, I have to remember not to read posts like this at work! I remember that picture but didn’t know the background story until now. Glad you were there, doing what you do. xo

    • Adriel April 8, 2014 at 2:52 pm #

      Well, for a long time I couldn’t tell that story without crying. It’s precious to me And although these aren’t the “best” images I’ve ever taken… they certainly are among my favorite.
      Adriel recently posted..Dreaming of burritos and changing the world (Fasting for Seven)My Profile

      • Anne McClary April 8, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

        These pictures are also my favorite of the ones that were given to the us after outreach. I have this family on my wall and think of them often and pray for a miracle.
        I’ll never forget that night. We’ll see them again! Praise God.

        • Adriel April 8, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

          I think we would each write a different story about that day – my perspective was obviously so different than yours – but the commonality is that we were rocked to the bone by what we experienced there. Hopefully, rocked in the best possible way. I’ve had their picture on my fridge and pray for them often too.
          Adriel recently posted..Love sees (Exposing the myth that “love is color blind”)My Profile

  2. Erin April 8, 2014 at 6:45 pm #

    Yep, crying. So beautiful. Thanks for sharing. God taught me that in college when I took photos of a football player who later took his life. It was the hardest thing to walk up to his grieving mother and hand her the last photos taken of her son, but I’m so glad I took them.

  3. Tsh Oxenreider April 9, 2014 at 12:54 am #

    Dude! Amazing, heartfelt story. Tears here. Thank you for sharing.
    Tsh Oxenreider recently posted..The long-lost art of thank-you cards {and a DIY idea}My Profile

  4. Geri B April 12, 2014 at 11:00 am #

    Adriel,

    Such a touching story! Thanks you for sharing your experience and how meaningful it is. Reminds me to always consciously take time for others, listening to them, respecting them, loving them.
    I enjoy writing and photography, too. Will have to keep my camera or phone with me at all time.

    I really am thankful for your blog and am thankful for you.
    Geri

  5. Grace April 14, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    Powerful, moving, story. I’m glad you shared it. So often we follow those little “nudges” without knowing why (or sometimes ignore them, without knowing the consequences). I’m reminded to follow through on them more regularly.

  6. JosephWood April 16, 2014 at 4:12 am #

    Great blog,Heart touching and meaningful story.Thanks for sharing blog.

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