a man and his camera

stormI remember a very dark time not so long ago when my husband lost something. And it nearly crushed us.

It wasn’t his job (although he did lose that). It wasn’t our house (we lost that too). It wasn’t all our money (yeah, gone).

It was his passion.

The anxiety and depression he experienced after surviving a massive heart attack left him without passion, without desire, without anything he cared about or wanted to do, without a will to live, without a reason to get up in the morning.

sunsetkohrongsamloemI can’t count how many times I’d try to coax him to try to get it back. “Remember how much you love to take photos? Don’t you want to go out in the woods with your camera? Don’t you want to go somewhere and see what you can capture? Don’t you…?”

No. Nothing. Dead silence. Mindless phone games.

The camera sat lonely in its bag in the corner collecting dust.

colorfulcloudsIt hurt to watch. It hurt to see him not care. It hurt to see the light in his eyes go out, stay out for a really long time.

And then…

I wish I had documented it carefully as it slowly unfolded. I wish I knew the exact day and time (maybe I do–I need to check my journals) he picked up his camera, held it in his hands, felt the smallest spark of longing to sling his bag across his back and set off to see what he could see.

I do remember the day we took a reeeeally long walk in the woods and said some reeeeeally hard things and I finally asked him in exasperation, “But what do you want to DO with your life?! You have to want to do SOMETHING!! Do you have any little dream at all?? ANYTHING?!?!”

And he was really quiet. And then he said:

“I’d like to travel the world and take pictures, tell people’s stories.”

I wanted to fall on the ground and weep.

gabeyFriends. I could write for DAYS about how this year has been so healing and redeeming and miraculous for Gabe. The same man who would lie in bed for days on end, sure that his life was nearly over, and glare at me if I said the word “Cambodia” or “let’s just try to leave the house today…”

THAT SAME MAN now spends as many of his days as he can riding a moto through the Cambodian countryside, meeting people, making friends, capturing the beauty in God’s creation and his people, soaking up sunsets, admiring flowers and rice fields, teaching boys and young men how to see the world around them through the lens of a camera.

thelittlecattleherderEvery single day I shake my head in awe and thank Jesus.

(Gotta interject here that our lives and marriage still aren’t in some utopian state. We’re still reeeeally good at arguing and bickering and cold-shouldering, but we’re flat-out committed to working on it, getting it right. That wasn’t always the case.)


floatingthroughtakhmaoAnd now? We’re less than a month out from moving to Siem Reap, Cambodia, to a house in a village just five minutes from Angkor Wat, surrounded by nature where we’ll be starting/overseeing a center where we will love beautiful children who need hope & education & a future & Jesus. We will teach them to read, to sing, to make art, to speak English, and yes, photography.

We will pray and dream and help them plan for their futures. We will invest in them and believe in them and stand beside them as they learn skills to support themselves and their families.

Sun setting on KepAnd, eventually, in a few years, the hope is to entrust the center into the capable hands of Khmer (Cambodian) staff. We don’t want anyone dependent on us, the foreigners. We want it to be self-sustaining. Locally-operated. Cambodians serving/helping/loving Cambodians for a long long time.

And then what will we do?

Well, God will show us. But we have some ideas. For one, we’ll absolutely stay in Cambodia (God would have to write in the sky for us to leave). Our girls are growing up and will decide what they want to do (as of now, they’re all 100% invested in this country and its people too). I want to write & keep learning & advocate & tell stories. & offer hands-on help to those in need. For always.

And Gabe has his camera.

barbergetsabreakHe dreams of starting his own ministry centered around photography. And Jesus. Teaching others. Opening a gallery. Helping kids. Funding other ministries through photography sales. Seeing doors and hearts opened. We don’t really know what all it will look like.

We just know that God has used Gabe’s camera to bring healing and redemption and restoration to his life, and he feels a very strong burden to help it to do the same for others. In whatever ways God shows him.

The sky’s the limit, because we’re giving it to God.

Perfect spot for a smokeFive years down the road? Ten? We don’t know. For now, this new center in Siem Reap is our main focus. We are beyond excited about it, and working as a family-team of 5 + our 2 already-beloved Khmer staff is a dream come true.

We are so excited to see it all unfold, to see how God uses each of us and our special gifts for the kingdom.

It’s over our heads, for sure. Like WAY OVER OUR HEADS. But we’ll just have to spend lots more time on our knees.

And now I have a favor to ask.

Star searchGabe has had his camera for quite awhile. And while he doesn’t technically have to have a new one right this minute, I know it would make a huge difference in the quality of photos he’s able to take.

But, when your family’s monthly salary is $1500, saving up for a camera isn’t exactly feasible.

He’s been saving other money little bits at a time though–from a recent photo shoot he did, birthday $ from his parents, Christmas $ coming up.

All that adds up to about $250.

His friend at a local photo store is giving him a deal on an older model of a great camera, because a newer model just came out.

The camera body is $1200. The lens is $500. $1700 total.

So, $1450 is what we need.

ricefieldHe’s talked about trading in his old camera to see what he could get for it, but I want him to keep it to use as a back-up and a teaching camera. Right now, when he teaches photography on Tuesdays/Thursdays, he lets the boys/guys use his own camera. It would be so great if he had a second one just for that.

I’ve been asking for a lot of money lately, but it’s easy to ask for Christmas towels or a Day o’ Fun for at-risk kiddos or for toys/books for the new center.

It’s harder to ask for help with a new camera, even if we believe it’s for a really great purpose.

gabe guysI know this won’t be everybody’s thing, but if it strikes a chord in your heart in any way, I ask that you consider helping us make this happen. Or share it with someone who might be interested.

You can send a tax-deductible donation through our missions organization here. Just write “camera” in the memo so we can keep track of how much has been given. (or you can send $ directly to our Paypal–email me for instructions)

Another easy way to help support our family is to buy Gabe’s photos online. You can also buy digital downloads of any print and get them printed anywhere you’d like (so much cheaper!).

And you can buy my new ebook (about life with Gabe’s anxiety/depression) here for just $2.99.

If you have any questions, leave a comment or shoot me an email.

THANKS, FRIENDS! You are so much a part of everything God is allowing us to do here in Cambodia. We appreciate you more than you’ll ever know.

EDIT (Christmas Eve): After I wrote this post, Gabe did some additional research and decided he wanted to try out a less expensive camera that several of his photographer friends recommended. We got $455 in donations + $250 Gabe already had for a total of $705. He bought the Sony Alpha A6000 for $599. He’s saving the rest of the $ to buy another lens for it in the future. He took it out today for the first time and loves it! THANK YOU to the friends who helped him buy this camera!!!

2 thoughts on “a man and his camera

  1. Rosanne

    This post made me cry. I’m so happy for Gabe, that he found his way back from that dark place. I can’t tell you how glad I am for that. I bought the 8th photo down for my office which I redid. I want to share this with you – you are always so real and honest with everyone, and I want you to know what that picture meant to me personally. This summer, my brother killed himself. Interestingly, redoing my office was a very healing thing for me while I was in the midst of my own grief. The picture I bought from Gabe was the inspiration for it. I can see it from my desk while I write, and it makes me smile every time I see it. Anyway, I just thought I’d share.

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