Return to Rwanda Benefit Show...This Friday!!

The time is here! As you know, I’ve been talking about Betsie and her work in Rwanda for quite some time now! Kate and I got to go to Kigali, Rwanda in March to photograph and film the work Betsie has been doing for over a year. She works alongside 15 women, teaches them to sew, teaches them about work, and runs a sewing cooperative ( Umucyo) so that they can have sustainable income!

Here’s where you come in. THIS Friday (October 17th) we’re having a fundraising event in order to raise the remaining funds Betsie needs to Return to Rwanda! This is an incredible opportunity to be a huge part of helping women half way across the world. There will be food, music, a silent auction, and Betsie herself there to talk about her work in Rwanda and answer any and all questions folks may have. We’ll also show the video that I made from our time with the women and the co-op back in March. This will be such a fun evening for such a great cause. Don’t miss it and let me know if you have questions!! Hope to see you there:).

Want a sneak peek of the video we made for Betsie’s fundraiser? Check it out at this link!

When?: Friday, October 17, 2014

What time?: 6:00 pm-10:00 pm.

Where?: The Pourciau Home: 7335 Sevenoaks Ave Baton Rouge, LA 70806

How much?: $10 cover which includes a jambalaya meal (Kids eat for free!!). Be sure to bring extra cash for the silent auction & giving to Return to Rwanda!

Why?: So that 15 women who once were refugees, once lost all they had, once lost their entire families, and otherwise would not have an income can continue the work they do to provide for their families. So that you can make a huge impact on one little corner of the world..Kigali, Rwanda!

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The women of Umucyo


Video telling more about Return to Rwanda:

Can’t make it? No worries! You can give to Return to Rwanda at this site:

Have questions? Email us ( text or call me (225.715.7229) any time!

Can’t wait to see you there:)

Thanks for stopping by,


Sofia, Bulgaria...A Different Kind of Trip.

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We had been walking for about an hour downtown when it hit me how much I don’t understand the depths and disguises of oppression. We met at Mcdonald's that evening to talk about the reality of what we were about to do…the goals, purpose, and how to be discreet so as not to bring attention to ourselves. I had never experienced praying to God in a way that made sure it didn’t look like that was in fact what we were doing. I come from a place, a city and a country where I can read my bible at a coffee shop and where it seems irreverent to not bow our heads when it’s time to pray. I was not in my city or my country though…I was in Sofia, Bulgaria. It was around 9:00 pm. And we were about to start walking the streets in order to pay attention to any activity that seemed like it could be a part of a dark, underground, high-grossing slave trade. We had set out, after praying with eyes open for our eyes to be opened, in order to notice women, men, and possibly children who are caught in the darkness of the Bulgarian sex slave trade.





     The purpose? To add to a map and database any locations of possible brothels, clubs, hotels, restaurants or any place really that could have women enslaved, sometimes literally chained behind its walls, waiting for the night to get dark enough in order to be “brought to work.” When we first set out I figured we’d be looking for dark, hidden, grungy places even somewhat on the outskirts of the downtown area. In America if something is unpleasant we just zone it away or move away from it. We see it as something to avoid. I figured surely these are the places we’re talking about mapping out. An hour or so into our walk we passed what I consider the most beautiful part of Sofia. The St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is set in the heart of the city and is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture I’ve ever seen in person. Right down the street is one of Sofia’s nicest hotels and I noticed as we walked by just how incredibly fancy the cars out front were. It was then that Beth, a missionary in Bulgaria, leaned over to me and pointed at one of these beautiful vehicles and said “see those cars?”…”they belong to politicians, leaders, those in power here.”…”see this hotel?...there are girls forced to be there even locked up in one of the hotel rooms. Users can walk up to the counter at this hotel and just ask for a girl and they’ll instantly get what they want.”

Claire Elyse PHotography, Baton Rouge Humanitarian Photographer

Claire Elyse Photography, New Orleans Photographer

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A baseball player in one of Sofia's only baseball leagues which is run by the MTW team.

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My time in Bulgaria was unlike the other trips I’ve had the honor of going on in the last year. Haiti has oppression screaming at you on every corner. After literally seeing a woman beat and spit on in the street, One can’t help but see oppression. Rwanda has a history of dark racism leading to a genocide that can’t be ignored and that permeates through each person’s story. In Bulgaria…the oppression became evident in the darkness of night outside a fancy hotel. Bulgaria’s oppression is subtle. You see it in the way a 20 year old girl is obsessed with the idea of coming to America because it is then that her life will be worth living. You see it in the way an entire country is speckled with the remains of communism on every corner, and you see it at 10:30 pm outside a 5 star hotel when it’s realized that all that separates you from the darkest of worlds...

is a wall.

Communist Sculpture in downtown Sofia, Bulgaria.

MTW Summer Inter, Jenny Ott, teaches Bulgarian students an English lesson.

Claire Elyse Photography, Baton Rouge PHotographer

Still…there is hope. There are those who walk the streets weekly to start relationships with these victims. There are those who have coffee with that 20 year old and invest in her weekly in order to bring good news. News that one day this disappointment and desire for escape will all be made right.

Claire Elyse PHotography, Baton Rouge Photographer

A student works on an English lesson taught by the MTW interns and team. They provide multiple English classes to adults in Sofia.

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Downtown Sofia

Claire Elyse Photography, Daughters of Bulgaria,

If you would like to give to the Mission to the World Bulgaria team visit

We are now able to take donations for the work we do for Mission to the World. This will allow me to go wherever photography and video are needed for different teams around the world to photograph their ministries and the work they are doing. If you'd like to contribute to future projects like these please visit

this link!

Thanks for reading and for stopping by...More to come,



inRegister Magazine.."Glimpses of Hope" Feature Story

Many thanks to Kelli Bozeman at inRegister Magazine for telling this story and the stories of those we've been given the honor to serve.

Please take some time to read an article about the humanitarian efforts we've been a part of in the last year and how you can help. If you’re in the area, please pick up a copy of the magazine and support inRegister as well.

I am thankful to be a part of something much bigger than myself and I look forward to more ways of using what God has given wherever, in whatever way he has & for however long he has.

To him be the glory.

You can read the article here:

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Thanks for stopping by!


Azizi Life...Muhanga District, Rwanda


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For one day while in Rwanda, Kate and I got to go outside the city to the Muhanga District where we spent the day with 7 women who are artisans with another co-op, Ingobokarugo Cooperative, in Rwanda. They make baskets and jewelry that they then sell through Azizi Life who sells their items to folks in the UK and the states. Through purchases of these items, the women are able to earn an income for their families, provide a way for their children to go to school, and contribute in other ways to their household.


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These women opened up their home and time to us to show us what a day in their life looks like. We did everything from hoe in the field to carrying the cow’s lunch on our heads, to preparing their one meal of the day to learning how to make the jewelry they make ourselves!


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This was an extremely eye opening experience. I saw families and children who live completely on the land…and there’s a joy that I couldn’t explain. These people are living in what to us here in the states would be seen as some of the most impoverished situations. But they have everything they need…and then some. In these communities, the families and neighbors share everything. When it’s time to kill the pig or cow…it’s shared with the entire community. When someone needs a house..all the men in the community come together to make the mud bricks and build the home. This mentality and way of life is fundamentally different from so many other cultures in the world. This is also what made the genocide and the murder of neighbors by neighbors an all the more shocking reality.







I’ve already touched on the ways this community and village were affected by the genocide and what that did for us during our stay there. You can read about that at this link…











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Something happened that day that I will never forget...As we were leaving the families including all of their children sang and danced for us. While dancing their traditional tribal dance, they were thanking us for being a part of their lives for the day. They don’t know us…they definitely don’t understand us and yet they were so welcoming…they then asked us to sing and dance for them. We of course weren't prepared and even laughed at first. But then we decided to sing Amazing Grace. They had never heard the song and it was a very moving experience. We began to get emotional singing it and had a hard time getting through the song. It occurred to each of us while singing about grace and eternity to those who don't even speak the same language that one day we will all sing together. We will worship and sing praises to God with members of God's family literally from every tribe and every nation..

when we've been there ten thousand years..


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The kids in the villages all run to the street when they hear a car coming. They don’t see cars very often so when one pulls up they drop everything and run after it…waving and often yelling “mzungu!” which means “white person!” The photos of the kids and families doing this are some that I will treasure forever. The experience of that joy and welcome given to strangers was the gospel being played out. There is something in all of us...something that is not of us and it is God’s work to restore chaos in a broken world. Out of this chaos is a redemption that can be felt in the smiles, the dances, the hugs, the claps of even those who don’t even know the same language as us…and even in the car chases by children so excited to see someone different from them…there is a hint..a whisper of God’s grace, goodness, generosity, and joy that is real and that being in this world we have the privilege to share with others.


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You can support the women and families seen in these photographs and other Rwandan artisans by visiting the link below:

And if you're ever in or near Rwanda, go visit Azizi Life and spend a day in the life of these people. You'll be changed forever.

" After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7:9-10

Thanks for stopping by,


Hope Ministries.. Power of Hope Event {Baton Rouge Photographer}


I recently had the privelage of photographing an annual fundraiser for Hope Ministries here in Baton Rouge.

Hope Ministries's mission is to

"Prevent homelessness. Promote Self-Sufficiency and Dignity."

They are located in north Baton Rouge, a part of Baton Rouge that is known for poverty and crime. They are right in the heart of this part of the city and offer help for families struggling financially in this area through programs that promote self sufficiency and dignity and directly involve the families in their rise out of poverty.

Hope has a food pantry, but unlike many food pantries, this is a "client choice" food pantry which is "a collaborative project that creates an atmosphere of dignity for clients and allows them to select food that suits their preferences and nutritional needs."

They also provide classes for those wanting to learn more about poverty in order to better understand the hardships involved and what real help in those situations looks like. Their unique mentoring program matches a family at-risk for homelessness with a mentor to help guide the family on their path to self-sufficiency. They also provide help with budgeting, finding a job, and connecting to one another within the community.

Each year Hope Minisitries has a fundraiser to inform the community of what they're doing in Baton Rouge and how the community can help. This year they had Kyle Maynard speak.

Kyle is a motivational speaker, author, entrepreneur, and athlete. Despite being born with arms that end at the elbows and legs near the knees, Kyle wrestled for one of the best teams in the Southeast, set records in weightlifting, fought in mixed martial arts, and most recently became the first man to crawl on his own to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.

Kyle has traveled to five continents speaking about his experience as a Congenital Amputee and his goal each time he speaks is "helping each audience on their path towards reaching their highest human potential."

Kyle's talk was extremely inspiring. He talked about his motto "you're not dead don't quit" and that there is something in all of us that threatens us to think we can't do something. For him, it's the fact that he is a congenital amputee...for others of us it's our pride or someone once telling us we can't or our fears. He applied this to those in poverty and the hope that Hope Ministries encourages in their mission to bring people out of poverty with dignity..through the work of their own hands and in a way that connects them more fully to community while learning to be a faithful steward of what God has given.

You can view videos of Kyle's talk and footage from his climb up Mount Kilimanjaru at the following links.

Please consider giving financially to Hope Ministries or becoming a volunteer with them. You can help mentor a family, help stock their pantry, help families as they learn to budget, or help Hope in many other areas that connects these families to their community, hope and dignity in providing for their families, and changing the culture of their families to one of hope.

Visit Hope Minisitries's website at the following link.

You can give financially at this link:

Thanks for stopping by!




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Please consider giving financially to Hope Ministries or becoming a volunteer with them. You can help mentor a family, help stock their pantry, help families as they learn to budget, or help Hope in many other areas that connects these families to their community, hope and dignity in providing for their families, and changing the culture of their families to one of hope.

Visit Hope Minisitries's website at the following link.

You can give financially at this link:

Thanks for stopping by!


Umucyo...A sewing cooperative for women in Kigali, Rwanda



This week is about the "why" of our going to Africa.

When I was 14 years old, I met a girl who quickly became a dear friend of mine. One of the ways we bonded as teenagers and into college was the realization that we both had this desire and sense that we were called to do something in other nations with the talents we had been given. Betsie’s talent is an innate sense of design, specifically in clothing and accessories. We eventually both ended up at LSU majoring in our respective creative fields that, little did we know, were preparing us to begin to walk in those desires God had placed in our hearts years before.











While living in Austin her first year out of college, Betsie became acquainted with Noonday Collection based in Austin. The goal of Noonday is to provide jobs for artisans world-wide and sell the items made by those artisans here in the states. This was Betsie’s heart. Her dream had, throughout the years, begun to be more finely tuned into a desire to teach women how to sew and make designs in order to sell them and feed their families in the process. Soon after her beginning at Noonday Collection, Betsie was invited to go to Rwanda for two weeks and teach the women at the Umucyo cooperative (pronounced oo-moo-cho) there how to make some of her personal designs and others from Noonday. Umucyo had been around for a couple of years and was started by associates with Noonday. The name "umucyo" means "light" in Kinyarwandan, the language spoken by Rwandans.

Betsie found herself in a room with 12 women who now suddenly had a way to support their families, feed their kids, and worship God with their hands. After two weeks there, Rwanda stuck with Betsie. She was then asked to be the representative on the ground for Umucyo in Rwanda. She answered the call, raised $10,000 to live there, and flew out June 2013. She has been there almost a year now. When I first heard she was going, I knew I would do just about whatever it took to get over there to not only see first hand what she was doing there and how God was using her, but to attempt to tell the rest of the world what she was doing and what these women now had through photographing and videoing their story.

So that’s what led us to Rwanda.






































Half of these women were affected by the genocide of 1994. Many of them losing multiple loved ones. Grace lost her entire family except a brother. Others have experienced injustices literally by next door neighbors while still others have had to flee their home countries and leave family and tribes behind because of fights among tribes and races. These women are mothers, wives, sisters, grandmothers and some are seeking to support themselves without a husband or father in a culture where a woman supporting herself would not have been possible not too long ago. God has provided not only an income for these women, but a way to do what we were all called and made to do…and that is to work in some capacity and to glorify God with our hands and gifts. These women have been provided that dignity, that way to serve others, and that way to worship and glorify God! Praise God for that and for the means to do so.







Half of these women were affected by the genocide of 1994. Many of them losing multiple loved ones. Grace lost her entire family except a brother. Others have experienced injustices literally by next door neighbors while still others have had to flee their home countries and leave family and tribes behind because of fights among tribes and races. These women are mothers, wives, sisters, grandmothers and some are seeking to support themselves without a husband or father in a culture where a woman supporting herself would not have been possible not too long ago. God has provided not only an income for these women, but a way to do what we were all called and made to do…and that is to work in some capacity and to glorify God with our hands and gifts. These women have been provided that dignity, that way to serve others, and that way to worship and glorify God! Praise God for that and for the means to do so.




Betsie plans to return to the states this summer and through part of the fall in order to raise support for a second year in Kigali. The photographs, videos, and interviews we took while there will be used to show those back home what  God is doing through Betsie and Umucyo Cooperative. We will have art shows in multiple cities and will sell the products Betsie’s women have made as well as share these photos, videos, and stories of the women who the cooperative is daily providing for.

Please stay tuned for information on these shows. Dates and locations will be announced in the summer. At the shows, you'll have the opportunity to purchase the items the women made in order to support them and support another year for Betsie to go to Rwanda. You can start that process of sending her and helping her finish her first year by donating to Betsie at the following link or by emailing me at

Follow Umucyo and the work they do at this link:

You can also go ahead and purchase some of the items the women make each day at the following link. Some of these bags and aprons will make great wedding, birthday, and Mother’s day gifts!

Thanks for stopping by!


From the start...Kigali, Rwanda


When thinking through where to start with telling the stories of my time in Rwanda, I can only think it appropriate to begin where we did. We arrived Saturday and by Sunday afternoon we were walking around the Kigali Genocide Memorial. I hesitate to start here because Rwandan’s have worked so hard to move past what happened during the genocide and leading up to it. It seems to be the first thing that anyone who has heard of Rwanda thinks of. At first, I wanted to go against the grain and only write about the great things about Rwanda & the people there. The truth is, God uses tragedy to bring us into a greater understanding of who he is and our need of him and it is my hope that Rwandans have experienced such light on God’s character in the aftermath of it. In addition, one cannot go to Rwanda without realizing that many they have come into contact with there...almost any native, man, woman, child that you see and work with have experienced this genocide in one way or another. Many have lost those they love, some of them their entire families. I was only there a week and so I can’t pretend to fully understand what happened in 1994 or the aftermath of it all. But I came in contact with some who were willing to talk about it in order to humbly allow others to step inside and get a glimpse of what happened. I learned from the memorial that many Rwandans are willing to do this in order to prevent such a thing from happening again or anywhere else. And so for that goal and in order to understand and see what God has done in the lives of some Rwandans, particularly those we met, I’d like to start this journey from that standpoint.


The genocide of 1994 began April 7th and lasted for roughly 100 days through mid-July. During this time between 800,000 to 100,000,000 Rwandans were killed. An estimated 6 men women and children were murdered every minute of every hour for 100 days straight. The genocide was described as a civil war to the majority of the world in that time, but was a planned and organized attempt from the Hutu tribe to eliminate the Tutsi tribe race. This conflict arose out of issues of racism on both sides since the colonial era. In a back and forth struggle for governmental power, perceived agreements that further angered some Hutus, and a Tutsi army of refugees that Hutus used as an argument to justify termination of the Tutsi race, a plan was made and was implemented after Rwanda’s president’s plane was shot down on April 7th 1994 . For months members of the Hutu-led government had used radio stations and other propaganda to communicate to Hutus throughout the country that the Tutsi refugee army, the RPF, would enslave and kill the Hutus and the only way to stop them was to eliminate all Tutsis.


For 3 months machetes were used to seek to eliminate an entire race from all corners of the country. Neighbors turned against neighbors. In some cases siblings killed siblings and children killed their own parents while others were forced to kill their loved ones before they themselves were murdered. Roads were blocked off in order to prevent any route of escape. Those who helped Tutsis received the same ultimate fate as the Tutsis themselves. To learn more about the actual events of the genocide and what exactly occurred before, during, and after be sure to check out this site.










We spent one day of our time in Rwanda in a village a couple of hours outside of Kigali. I’ll explain more from that day later on, but we spent it with a group of women who create baskets and jewelry for a co-op in the city close to their village. They humbly welcomed us into their lives for the day and at one point volunteered information about their experience with the genocide. As we took an afternoon walk with the women I noticed a home that seemed to  have been burned with a few graves in the front. I had resolved to not ask about the scene, but as we walked closer to the house one of the women turned to the translator and began to speak and point to the graves. She was telling us that the home was that of some of their neighbors and close friends who were murdered in the genocide. It was an all Tutsi family, including children, who were slaughtered with machetes in the night. The house had been burned in the process. I later learned that the burning of Tutsis' homes had been occurring for decades. The Hutus first encouraged one another to burn the homes and then when the families fled, they would find them and kill them.






 As we went forward down the hill the woman stopped and pointed to another home and began to speak to our translator. She explained to us that the man who once lived there had killed the members of the previous household. These houses were right next to each other with just a small garden in between. These families had lived next to each other for generations. They had built houses together, shared pigs on special occasions, and had taken care of one another. Their kids had attended school together. This house too was burned. She explained that the man had fled with his family after he had killed the neighbors. Other members of the family he had killed had returned to the village to burn his house for what he had done.






Later in the day we walked to cut the leaves of a plant used to make the jewelry and baskets these women sell. As we walked I suddenly noticed something I hadn’t...even after being there the entire day.

I saw another house that had been burned down to its base. All the translator could say as I had my eyes fixed on it was “same story as the house before.” He pointed to another “same story”…”same story.” I looked around and saw still another…and then another….and another. Soon I noticed that the same land I had been looking at all day that seemed so beautiful and rich with banana trees and rolling hills…that same land was sprinkled with burned down houses. What before had seemed like empty plots of land or just a pile of bricks I hadn’t thought twice about…suddenly every place I saw the base of a house, broken bricks, and overgrown grass…I knew. This was a place that someone, a family, a child had seen and experienced the unthinkable. This is where suffering occurred and now an entire hill, an entire village, an entire country is sprinkled with the remnant and memories of it. As we drove back to Kigali that day, the areas of the country I had seen on the way now looked quite different as I noticed piles of bricks & overgrown areas. I now knew what it meant each time I saw it.




Throughout our week in Kigali we experienced many reactions to the pain and memory of what had happened. Some steered clear of the topic, others mentioned in passing that all they had left of their family was a brother or a sister, while still others talked about what they could openly. We saw how the women of this village were able to talk about it in a way that was fundamentally different from our translator who mentioned the ignorance of the people who had committed the acts, that it's talked about every day in university where he studies, and who quickly changed the subject. It seemed he would have loved to have discussed just about anything else with us. He was 4 years old when the genocide occurred.



We can come up with all kinds of thoughts, questions, & answers based on our own experiences, education, upbringing, religion, or our own government and culture;  and I feel it’s natural and even good to think about those things as sometimes they are used to help prevent and act in these situations.

There is one thing that genocide and the reality of mass murders reveals that I feel cannot be denied…and that is that there is something out there in the world that is dark and unnatural and not the way it’s supposed to be or how it was intended to be.

Was it all just random? It seems the obvious answer is no….so if it wasn’t…doesn’t that mean that just as evil and darkness are so real and evident in this world there can be a real, evident, and tangible hope as well?

Is there not something we can look forward to? Isn’t that desire for hope, justice, and peace written on each of our hearts?…we want someone, something to trust in…we want a haven, a home...we feel in the deepest parts of us that it's just not supposed to be this way. And there has to be some kind of hope.

I propose that there is and that the one we can trust for hope and justice has also told us these things are real and yet never how it was supposed to be. The same one who told us these things will happen…but not forever. .

“See that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name, saying ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains...

And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved." Mark 13: 5-8; 12-13



 I believe there is someone who has given that hope as he himself was sent to death by those he walked with, lived life with, trusted and loved..his friends and his neighbors. This same one created this earth we walk on, walked on it himself and understands far more than I ever will hope to know about the complexities of evil. That same one has already defeated it and is equipping us to endure it to the end because of grace. The fact that there is a hope given from a God who himself knows what we suffer here to the point that he can even relate to and comfort those who were murdered or betrayed by loved ones…because he himself experienced it....

What kind of love is that? Can we even put it into words?

There is evil here. It’s a very real thing. We walked amongst it in that small village in Rwanda. We lost in that moment any idea that we know how the world works or how to make it right. The only way I can process it and have that hope is in trusting the words of one who experienced the exact same thing. This same man claimed to know the answers and to be the only hope there is. And that man was either crazy…

or he was telling the truth.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away'... And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.” Revelation 21:1-5



Rwanda has worked for 20 years to not only move past the reality of what happened in 1994, but to provide assistance, counseling, and encouragement for survivors. One initiative of that movement has been to provide group counseling and workshops for victims with their attackers or their family

members' killers in order to seek reconciliation.

There have been countless stories of public confessions and apologies to victims as well as public displays of forgiveness by the victims. You can read more about the work of the As We Forgive Rwanda Initiative at the link below.

Be sure to check out the work of Jeremy Cowart who did a project with a documentary film maker on stories of forgiveness from victims of the genocide. In these photographs, victims are pictured smiling with their attackers or the attackers of their families in the exact spot where the murders took

place. In many cases these people now work together and share in community together. Jeremy Cowart's project, "Voices of Reconciliation" is one of the projects that inspired me to take my photography to other nations and to document what God is doing around the world.

We can learn a lot from Rwandans about forgiveness and restoration. Praise God such hope exists.

Thanks for reading and for stopping by,


A week in Kigali, Rwanda...{Baton Rouge Photographer}

Back again from photographing in Kigali.

I have to be honest, the hardest part of doing this kind of work is coming back to the states. This is not because I don’t miss people or am not ready for my own bed….because believe me….I miss both equally! This is partly because I never feel like it's quite long enough and partly due to what I can only describe as culture shock. This is something I can remember experiencing for the first time when I came back from a trip to Mexico my first year of college. I was only there a week. I spent time in huts with people who had diseases that would likely never be healed. My job was to assist the doctors there by taking vitals. The doctors did what they could to make these folks “comfortable” and occasionally provided the necessary medicine or procedure that would take them out of the state they were living in each day. After a week of working with these doctors, sleeping on the floor, and showering outside, I remember riding back to LSU trying to process what I had seen and realizing I didn't have many answers to the questions I was asking. I had only seen or heard of mud huts on t.v. with images of malnourished kids. I had only imagined such living conditions as I had seen that one week and didn’t like to think that life like that existed out there. I remember our van pulling up to LSU’s campus and through exhausted eyes, I turned and looked at something I had seen day in and day out but this time it looked very different. All of a sudden, the clock tower on campus seemed so huge to me. I remember thinking “that tower is so big!” and then I remember having a legitimately confusing thought…”Is it necessary to have such big buildings? Everything is so tall here!”

 Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking large buildings and anyone who knows me knows I wouldn’t knock just about anything on LSU’s campus as it quickly became a second home to me during my time there. (Not to mention it’s the most wonderful campus and school there is but I digress).

The point is….when I go to other countries... developing, third world countries….when I see how, honestly, the majority of the world outside of America lives...when I experience the immediate slowing of time, priorities, values, and status... when I see hurting or see the effective way that other cultures live…I have a hard time coming back to the states. The states and western culture are fast-paced in a way I can’t really describe. The emphasis on success, money, fame and finding oneself is so overwhelmingly preached in every aspect of our culture that I have to be honest and say that it takes quite a few days to jump back in..and to fight a confusing cynicism.

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Last week I spent a few days in Africa. I spent time with a group of 12 women at a little co-op in its own corner of Kigali, Rwanda. I saw a work ethic much like, yet so different from ours in the states in order to provide for families that had been ripped apart by war-torn nearby countries and by Rwanda’s own experience with genocide 20 years ago. I experienced confusion in trying to not only communicate with those in the culture, but understand the differences in them and in our life experiences. I spent the day with women in mud huts who live off the land, have no idea what time it is throughout the day, and who I could bet have never seen a building as tall as LSU’s Memorial Tower.

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I experienced all these things and how do I feel now?...more confused than when I left! I feel more closely now the frustrations that there are millions out there who suffer every day. More than ever I am angry that poverty exists, uncertain why God put me where I am with what I have, and more joyful than I could have expected that he truly does comfort and care for his people.  I could sit here and write about all the things that I learned…and I will :)….or act like I understand why cultures are the way they are and what goes into them…or even pretend to define one as better than the other. The truth is…it’s times like this that the only definition or label I can put on any of it is that I only know a tiny fraction of how God is at work in this world, what he’s doing to “make all things new,” and the way that sin has complicated all of it. I don’t have all or even many of the answers and I so easily feel the effects of that when I try to jump back into our culture or as I attempt to answer others’ questions about my trip and time in these places. I don’t know how to answer many questions…but I am going to attempt to tell whatever stories God has for me to tell through my time there and anywhere else he takes me. Hopefully throughout the process whoever reads this will learn a few things about what God is doing in their own lives, understand the world a little better, and maybe even purchase some items made by folks on the other side of the world who because of reasons we can't know will never know life like we experience here.


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For the next couple of weeks I will post once a week on our time in Africa, the people we met, the stories we heard, the joys and struggles that I or those I love experience there, and how you can help. This is not to pretend I have answers or to condemn our own culture or where God has each of us. It’s in order to answer the call to speak about the only one who has the answers and what he’s, for whatever reason, sent me in the world to do for such a time as this. So if you think to, please stay tuned and return to see photos and stories. This as always is a process full of uncertainty and more questions asked with every perceived answer.

What a joy to have been given the freedom and invitation to ask.

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BatonRougePhotographer_HumanitarianPhotography_ClaireElysePhotography-8183More to come.
Be sure to check out Noonday Collection and Azizi Life
Thanks for reading and thanks for stopping by,

Faces of Zanfan...Portraits in Haiti


The Zanfan Lakay house has grown from Jimmy, the house dad, caring for a few kids on the street to a home of 68 children. When the founders of Grangou first met Jimmy and heard about the ways he was helping the street boys, they asked what he needed and he said one thing:

"a camera."

He wanted a way to keep up with all the boys that were his and remember who all he had taken in at Zakat. Through donations given to Grangou, they provided a camera and eventually a house for these children to live in. One thing I got to do while there was take portraits of the boys so that all the families that are now supporting Grangou, Zanfan Lakay, and the work in Haiti can also now keep up with these same children and many more.

It's amazing how culture to culture there are numerous stories that can be told through a simple portrait . These portraits of faces were a privilege to take as they will inevitably serve a much higher purpose than I could ever devise or establish on my own; and they reminded me that sunlight, a wall, and some beautiful children made in the image of God sometimes speak much louder than we ever could with more stuff in between.

There are 68 faces here.

68 children who now have a home, brothers and sisters, and everything else I so easily take for granted. 68 stories of redemption and hope.

These are the 68 faces of Zanfan Lakay

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Check out the story of why we went to Haiti, what we did there, and some things we learned here, here, here, and here.

Have a great week..

and thanks for stopping by!


Zakat & Zanfan Lakay...Port au Prince

The editing for all the Haiti photos is coming to a close. I still have more photos and stories to share, but was reminded this morning of a moment I've told folks about but didn't realize I got a photo of.

One of our final days in Port au Prince we took food to some people who live in the street next to the iconic Cathedral that was all but destroyed in the earthquake that hit Port au Prince in January 2010. I was able to look inside one of the "homes" people have made and saw a tarp for shelter, broken down boxes for beds, and two jugs for water.

This is all they had.

I'm thankful to have a photo of it..I didn't even realize I had taken one from afar. I'm thankful to have a reminder that God's grace has been given in ways I don't even think about from day to day but not because of anything I've done. I need this grace just as much as those living in tents and just as this grace was undeservedly given to me, it's possible for them as well. It's good on this Friday to remember that the boys and girls we came to love in Port au Prince at Zanfan Lakay, the home for children of the street, no longer live with just a tent, cot, and the clothes on their back. They now, by the grace of God and the gifts of people in the states, have a home, new family, shoes, clothes, some of them even education, and all of them the chance to hear of this grace on a regular basis.

I’ve mentioned a few times already the boys home we worked with which was our main connection to working in Port au Prince.  The home is named “Zanfan Lakay” which means “children at home” or “home for children.” Before I show you images of these boys, and girls, I’d like to tell you and show you a little from where some of them came.

You've already heard Naika's story and the ways God is using Zanfan to provide for her in tangible ways. Each of these children have a different story…but all are orphans. How they came to Zanfan Lakay or were taken there is an array of backgrounds and stories. The first members of Zanfan Lakay lived on the street. Some of them for 3 years in a place called Zakat. This area is close to a sewer where many folks live.

(the sewers flow through the streets of Port au Prince along with endless trash)

We had the privilege of visiting Zakat and seeing where these boys lived for months and years before God provided a home, food, shelter, shoes, and clothing for them. The following images are of Zakat & the room the boys lived in, some of the boys who lived there the longest, and our team feeding some of the people who are still living in the area & on the street.










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The boys came from living  at Zakat, to being  taken in by Jimmy, who they refer to as Papa. With the help and support of local folks, teams that regularly come into Port au Prince, and families in the states, these children have food, clothing, shelter, and more than half of them are able to go to school. The older boys help teach and care for the younger boys & we even got to see them encourage each other with the bible and share the verses that encourage them the most. This is Zanfan Lakay:


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How you can be praying for Zanfan Lakay:

Jimmy's wife, and Zanfan Lakay's house mother died unexpectedly this year. They are currently in a major transition and grieving a huge loss of their loved one and for the home.

After having to find a new house because of a spike in rent, the children have recently moved to a new area of town which means new schools and new adjustments. The hope is that Grangou will be able to eventually purchase the home the boys just moved into.

There are still children in the home who aren't able to go to school. Pray they would receive sponsorship and the funds to be able to attend and the possibility of your own family sponsoring a child to go to school. For more information on how to sponsor children please visit Grangou's site here or comment/email me (

Please pray God's work through Grangou and Zanfan Lakay as well as the teams that regularly visit would expand to other needs in Port au Prince and continually bring good news to each of them.

Check out a photo of Zanfan Lakay's new house here!!

Thanks for reading and stopping by,


The Darres...Port au Prince, Haiti

The story of why and how we went to Haiti can be found on these previous posts here and here.

I had the privilege of getting to serve in Haiti alongside Kate, my dear friend and roommate, and thought it only appropriate that you should hear her perspective and see some of the things we experienced through her eyes.  This is what she had to say about our time at the Darres':

On our first full day in Port au Prince, we had the opportunity to visit a local pastor and his family who had recently decided to take in and care for 6 special needs children.

This family, the Darres, lived in the heart of the city, and had very few resources to care for their own family, let alone for 6 new children who required extra attention. Yet, they had a heart for serving these children, and the faith to trust that God would provide what they needed.

My aunt, Kandis- the physical therapist from Texas, had held a clinic for 40 special needs children at the home of this family before and had warned us that when we got to their home, we might see some things that made us feel uncomfortable, so I tried to be prepared for what we were about to experience.

(or as prepared as it is possible to be when in Haiti… )

When we arrived at the Darres' home, my first sight, ironically, was a blind man sitting outside the door where the special needs children were. He was tenderly holding a baby, and he very much seemed to be a kind of gate keeper for these children. Even though he couldn’t see them, you could tell from the way he held them and talked to them that

he loved them very much.

After speaking to the man, we peered into the dark, window-less room where the children were liying on the concrete floor on tattered mats. Kandis told us our only job was to go inside and love on them, hold them, laugh with them, play with them. And we were happy to do whatever we could.

The temperature in the concrete room was well over 100 degrees and several children had very high fevers. As I sat down on the floor and began to fan flies off the face of a two year old boy with cerebral palsy, I was overwhelmed with anger and frustration. He was crying out and obviously in severe pain and discomfort, but there was very little I could do to make him feel better. In that moment, I was so mad at the brokenness and fragility of this tent of a body that we carry around with us, disgusted with the lack of medical care available to people in these circumstances, angry at the ugly mark that sin has left on this earth.

At the same time, I thought about every time I obsessed about my body or appearance, every time I griped about a “first world pain”, every time I neglected to show patience and mercy in a situation where someone was desperately crying out for help. As I continued to hold this sweet boy, doing anything I could to communicate that someone was right there with him, God hit me over the head with a complete feeling of helplessness. As someone who (most days) feels like “if I just work harder, maybe tomorrow I’ll have it all together” or “I-can-take-care-of-myself-thank-you-very-much” , I have a hard time grasping the extent of God’s provision for me. But through this experience at the Darres' home, I envisioned myself and my circumstances through the eyes of this child- unable to do anything for himself, completely dependent on the mercy of someone else to provide for his every need.  Without someone-his nanny, his caretakers, a volunteer-coming in to stoop down, pick him up, and take him outside to experience the sunshine, he would always lie on the floor alone.

But God always provides exactly what we need. And for this boy, and every other child at the Darres home that day, God provided wheelchairs. These wheelchairs, which are worth close to $10,000, were donated by people in the United States who knew that my aunt takes them to people in Haiti. She doesn’t bring the wheelchairs with any specific person in mind, but inevitably, they always fit someone who needs them. That day at the Darres, my new friend was picked up off the floor and put in his very own wheelchair. This provided almost immediate relief from a lot of the pain he was experiencing, opening up his lungs and allowing him to breathe more easily than he could on the floor. Even though he will never run or walk, he also will never spend every moment of his life lying on the floor. God lavished His grace on these children through the gift of a new, better way of living and experiencing the world.

Praise God that He graciously gives that same gift to all His children.

(The following images are of the 6 children who received medication and wheelchairs from donors in the states and the men, women, and  children who care for them.)


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If I'm honest, this was one of the hardest things to photograph while we were there. Sorrow and joy were both very real at the same time. I would say these photos accurately portray the many ups and downs of the week and encouragement that came in the midst of grieving. It's hard for me even to post these photographs as we saw these children living in what I can only describe as the worst of circumstances I had seen at that point...but oddly enough...they're better off at this home on this hot floor than in the tent cities where they came from...more on that soon.

If you or someone you know has access to wheelchairs or medication to be taken to Haiti on future trips please email me ( or comment below.

Check out our connection to Haiti and the group of boys we went to serve here.

Thanks for stopping by,


Naika Walks...Port au Prince, Haiti

While in Haiti we did several different things throughout the week and got to servein multiple ways. Today, I’d like to talk about one of the many things we got to be a part of and our  original connection to the opportunity to go.

So, Kate, my dearest friend and roommate, who is now a continuous help on wedding days and practically partner in this business, has a lot of family that have loved me as well as she has over the years. One part of this family that feels like my own is her aunt in Texas. Kandis is a physical therapist who works with special needs children in a school district right outside of Houston. She originally found out about Grangou’s work in Haiti through her own church.(more on  Grangou and what they specifically do through the boys’ home we partnered with in Haiti is coming). For the past few years, Kandis has been taking wheelchairs to Port au Prince and providing assistance for special needs kids.

I’m going to pause my story here in order to give a shout out to American Airlines. A couple of days before we left, Kandis’s husband, Steve, went to talk to American Airlines about our flight. At this point Kandis had collected 7 wheelchairs and a gait trainer from current clients who didn’t use these particular chairs anymore as donations for her to take to those who need them in Haiti. We also wanted to take 6 checked bags full of clothes and medical supplies which was a priority since shipping these items is pretty much impossible (they will likely be stolen before getting to the right folks). So Steve went to talk to American Airlines about all these bags and wheel chairs. The guys at the counter remembered Kandis and her many trips with wheelchairs and Steve showed them pictures of some of the kids she goes to visit. American Airlines decided to let us check all the wheelchairs, gait trainer, and 6 bags..for free!!! Since starting a business, I tend to get super excited when I see people run their businesses well. I know many people have issues with just about every airline out there as traveling has sometimes become a nightmare for folks so really I couldn’t believe they let us do this. That’s kind of a big deal these days. It was a very redeeming and hopeful report in my mind and so I think American Airlines could use a shout out.

So…Monday morning we trekked to the airport, trailer in tow, with 7 wheelchairs, a gait trainer, and 6 huge bags full of belongings of our church members and medical supplies our friends had donated to people they didn’t know. It was a pretty awesome sight and the first of many humbling moments on our trip. When we arrived in Port au Prince after a very long day of travel, getting initiated right off the bat into the very different culture of Haiti simply by arriving at the airport, waiting…and waiting…and waiting some more…we met our team and had dinner at the hotel. While visiting with team members we were told in passing about Naika, a little girl who had recently been taken in at  Zanfan Lakay, the street boys’ home we would be working with. Naika couldn’t walk. She had to be carried to get anywhere and held sometimes by multiple people in order to do any basic tasks you and I take for granted every day. With Naika’s condition, most children in the US would have the resources and therapy to be walking by her age. Naika is originally from the cemetery where many men and women live within the walls and amongst the graves.

I had heard of people living in the cemetery all throughout the trip but it wasn’t until we got back that I found out what these women live in. There is a cemetery in Port au Prince that has 24/7 guard service within its gates. There are women within the gates of the cemetery who have been allowed to live there and given “protection” by the guards in exchange for prostitution and “servicing” the guards on a regular basis. These women live in the cemetery, are abused and used by the guards, and often become pregnant without a way to care for their child. Naika became a part of Zanfan Lakay, the boys' home, because, Jimmy, the house dad at the home regularly takes food and clothing to the women within the gates. Naika was likely born with cerebral palsy and there was no one to accurately care for her within the gates, so Jimmy took her in.

I mentioned a gait trainer was donated to Kandis before we left. The thing about these wheelchairs and supplies Kandis gets is she takes whatever folks can give and doesn’t really know who in Haiti will need them, what size these folks are or what size their chair would need to be. She just takes what people give and sees how she can use them when she arrives. This trip was the first time she was given a gait trainer to take to Haiti. A gait trainer is basically a walker which is used for children who have cerebral palsy or other issues walking or using their legs.  In the U.S., if  a child with cerebral palsy is given the care they need from a physical therapist, the child can learn to walk with a trainer and even get to the point where they are able to walk on their own. Again, Kandis hadn’t heard of anyone in Haiti that she knew would need a gait trainer, but brought it anyway knowing we would likely find a use for it. God provided the trainer for Naika long before Kandis or our team knew about Naika’s need for it.

The following photographs are of the first time Naika walked. This happened our first day in Haiti. With all of the boys and girls from the home and our entire teamwatching, Kandis stretched Naika’s legs, stood her up, and then put her in the gait trainer. At first Kandis helped her get acquainted with the device and helped hertake her first few steps…and then the smile that came was full of more joy than I think I’ve ever seen in a smile as Naika began to do it on her own. Her face had suchan expression of redemption and hope. It was the first of many reminders that God is at work amongst these people, that he saves the lost, that he came for the poor and broken, and that he literally causes the lame to walk.



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The next day, Naika walked the length of the front patio area by herself. She even got to watch a video of herself walking on her own.






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With the gait trainer and the help of the older boys at Zanfan Lakay walking Naika each day, she will now have the opportunity to be stimulated each day with activity, go outside on a regular basis, play with other children, and we pray eventually be allowed to go to school and get an education

(something she can’t do now as the schools in Haiti do not take special needs children and much of the culture views those with special needs as unwanted and cursed.)

Throughout the remainder of the trip, Kandis was able to give all 7 wheelchairs to those who needed them and purchase an additional chair for a man who lives in a tent city where we delivered food throughout the week. More on those who received the other chairs and how God used our time there will be in later posts and stories.

If you know of a way to donate wheelchairs or funds to purchase supplies and medication needed to treat children like Naika or if you want to learn more about how you can sponsor one of the boys or girls at Zanfan Lakay, please comment or email me ( or visit Grangou’s website here.


"And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised

up, the poor have good news preached to them." Luke 7:22

Thanks for stopping by friends,