As an army wife in the early '60's one learned quickly to be flexible; moves were every 18 months to 3 years and destinations were around the world. In those days, family members did not have priority when it came to jobs within the community.
It was not until 1975, our four children were all in school full-time and we were living in a civilian environment, that I was offered a job as a photographer for the Cove Press, our local paper. In those days, working for a small paper meant you had to do it all, including winding your own film canisters and doing your own dark room work.
We set up a darkroom in the children's bathtub. I loved being a photographer and my reputation grew, soon, I was a stringer for the Austin American Statesman, had a front page photo in Army Times and was published in two soccer magazines.
I started a small business and did weddings, sport photos and, of course, my favorite was candids of children. I was the official photographer for the local kennel club, though children are more fun than dogs.
After we left Texas, I continued doing some photography. It was not until after Dal retired from the military and we moved back to Chicagoland that I began to invest in digital camera equipment and renew my love for photography.
In the fall of 2005, I was driving home from Michigan, where I had spent the weekend training a group of teenaged Christian clowns, in the art of making balloon animals. Earlier I had heard that Hurricane Katrina had hit, but all was well. The news this day was tragic. The levees had broken and part of New Orleans was under water.
When I got home, our small church had already began to pray in earnest, they felt that we needed to do something, but what could we - a church of under 25 members do? They never stopped praying and when I got home, they had started talking about sending me to Louisiana.
A quick review of what I could offer was limited, I did not have medical skills, I am not much of a carpenter. It was somehow decided that I would go. I would take a Bible; always ready to share the word of God, and a big bag of balloons. I also never travel without a camera. The church bought me an HP photo printer, lots of paper, and ink.
The thinking was that if people lost everything, a photo of something happy might be just the thing. The rest of the Hurricane Katrina story can be told another time, but Salt Creek Bible church learned that:
1. We must listen to "God's directions"
2. A tangible take-away is very important and that a photo can be a reminder of God's love.
3. The song is wrong; it is not Trust and Obey - it is Obey then Trust God will provide.
In the following years, I became active in missions, always taking my Bible, my camera, my balloons and my trusted little HP printer.
I spent time in the hills of Kentucky, as well as New Mexico and Arizona. Sharing the Bible through balloon routines and leaving people with a picture, in hopes that they would see the picture and remember the message.
I became involved with Gordon and Sheila Thayer of Overcomers Ministries (American Indian Outreach Inner City & Native Communities) and started working in the Ojibwa nation in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Northern Canada.
The photo ministry took on a life of its own. We began to hear stories of how children would take comfort in their pictures remembering the good times and hearing the word of God.
Many of our friends in Northern Canada had never had a family photo. We bought a portable backdrop and began to provide lasting memories. Each photo was given back in a frame often with a scripture on the front.
To answer the question on many of your minds "How is this funded?" We have never solicited funds for our mission work; we work on the premise that if we are to do it, God will provide.
We are grateful for all support especially when it comes to things like warm coats for our children in Canada.
Last year alone we did 86 family photos.
- written by Jane Harris / edited by Lisa Cuffe