Tuesday, March 26, 2013

the New Zealand Experience | Part 2: Fiji | 3.26.13

Bula!  (Hello! in Fijian.)

Now that you've heard about the New Zealand portion of my November trip with IPS... I have so much more to tell!  After spending about three weeks traipsing up and down New Zealand, we started off on the last leg of our adventure... FIJI!  After a long flight, a four hour drive, and a flat tire, a tired team pulled up a long hill to our destination, Homes of Hope.  (Homes of Hope is located in Suva - on the Southeast part of the island of Viti Levu in Fiji.)

As usual, we hit the ground running.  We divided into groups, some staying at Homes of Hope to develop a promotional video, and others of us going out into various places around the city.  My team's assignment for Day 1 was photographing Suva Community Christian School.

Our first stop, the primary school - nestled up in a spot that looked like it should have been a scene from a movie...

We tiptoed around in our sock feet, observing and documenting a day at school.  (In many places in Fiji, it's polite to remove your shoes when entering homes and living spaces.)  Their school system allows students to learn, grow, and develop at their own pace - ensuring that they fully understand their lessons.  I enjoyed seeing the one-on-one time teachers spent with their students.

We were SO blessed to work with the Schultz family, missionaries to Fiji.  They truly have made a difference in the lives of many Fijian people, continuing to point them directly towards the Gospel of Jesus.  I was thrilled to meet their precious adopted daughter, Jemima!  (That's her joyful smile in the bottom right corner.)  She is greatly loved by her parents, all three brothers... and the 2012 NZ/Fiji team!  :)  

[Find out more about the mission and ministry of the Schultz family at www.operationfoundation.org.fj.]

In the afternoon, we drove down the road to the high school.  While they spend the morning at work desks, the afternoon is full of fun alternatives.  They can choose from art, weaving, music, storytelling, P.E. ... and more! 

Sarah, Sarah, and I.  ;)

On Day 2 of our assignments... we went to prison.  

Don't worry!  We were working - not thrown in.  :)   Ask anyone from my trip, we had a wonderful time inside the prisons!  While we visited several different facilities, I was most impacted and privileged to go into the only women's prison in the country of Fiji.

The environment of the prison system is based on the foundation of Christianity, and the power of the Gospel.  They are more open about God and the Bible in the Fijian prisons than in American public schools.  The leadership's hope and desire for the inmates is first - to enter into a personal relationship with Christ, but also, to help them complete their education and learn a trade that will support them upon their release.  To meet the educational goals, the prison offers the opportunity to take classes allowing inmates to graduate high school as well as to learn about character and integrity.

Onsite, the ladies have many opportunities to work.  They have several gardens and a tailor shop, and are preparing to open a brand new bakery and cafe!

While walking around the compound, you would find inmates, sitting one-on-one with a counselor who was praying with them and teaching them about the love of God.  The counselors want to open their eyes to the fact that God does love them, regardless of their past, and that forgiveness is available to everyone!

"This means that anyone who belongs to Christ
has become a new person. 
The old life is gone; a new life has begun!"
                                   [2 Thessalonians 3:1]

The Fijian prison system runs in 4 different phases.  During phase 3 & 4, inmates have the opportunity to work at jobs both in and outside of the prison.  Right now, they have 15 companies that actively offer job opportunities for the latter phases.  These are designed to give inmates a chance to earn wages, as well as begin integration back into society.

At one of the men's sites, they even have an art gallery! We got there at the perfect time to see this inmate working on a canvas painting.  The men and women are encouraged to develop and use the skills they have.

A few extra sights and colors of Suva...

On our last night at Homes of Hope, we had quite a treat!  The ladies who live there requested that we all join them in the outdoor gym for a sort of "going away party."  It was like no party I'd ever been to before!!!  :)  We stood and watched as they sang and danced several special songs they'd prepared for us.  Then, the giggling began as the women graced us all with fresh flower necklaces and... a squirt of baby powder to the head.  They then requested that we return the favor - and perform for them!  So the team banded together for a dynamic rendition of... the Cha Cha Slide.  :)  Before we knew it, more baby powder was flying through the air and we had a 2 hour dance party all together!

Needless to say, there was a looooooong line for showers that night! 

Piling back onto our bus the next morning, we set off for Nadi.  Our final assignment, after church on Sunday, was to go out into the surrounding villages and take pictures of Fijian families in their homes.  On March 29th, 2012, a flood came through the area, destroying what few possessions many families had.  So we had the privilege of going door to door, speaking with people and offering to take a few family photographs.  

That evening, all 15 of us turned in all our camera cards, and the photos were downloaded, edited, and printed - to be delivered the next day by members of the church in the community.  

Photographing families in their homes...

"... a cheerful look brings joy to the heart."  
                                                             [Proverbs 15:30]

Cory and I were able to try a special Fijian drink while in one of the homes.  As you can tell, he was quite excited.  I only wish you could have seen his face when his tongue went numb!  Don't worry, it's a normal, yet strange side affect of the drink.  :)

We spent our final few days as "tourists" - seeing more of Fiji, and enjoying the time together as friends...

... basking in the sunshine...

... drinking more iced chocolates, eating great food, and solving some technical problems!  ;) 

Before leaving, so many people teasingly said that I would really be suffering in the two countries I was visiting.  They were, of course, speaking of the beauty of the countries.  Especially Fiji's famous beaches!  Without a doubt, I know that if I had visited Fiji, and not taken the time to be with the people who live there - I would have missed out on the full experience of this wonderful place.

But on our very last day, we chartered a boat and packed a picnic and set out to sea...  

Oh ya know, we just spent the day on a tiny island in Fiji...  ;)  

When we were still a little way out from shore, our team abandoned ship - armed with goggles and snorkels.  I had never done anything like that before, and it was incredible!  We saw tons of bright fish in all different colors and patterns.  But my favorite things were the blue starfish which lined the rocks along the ocean floor.  It was then and there that I decided I want to do underwater photography someday.  (Though I don't imagine Jill will want to help.)  :)

On the boat ride back from the island we took our last group photos.  I love my team! 

"Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ's body.  We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.
                                                            [Romans 12:4-5]

I would be remiss if I didn't end by telling you about three very special friends.  First, Rowan & Jocelyn, (above left) the fearless leaders of IPS.  Ever since meeting these two back in the fall of 2011, I knew they were a duo that I wanted to know for years to come.  Getting to spend a month learning from them and traveling with them was most definitely a blessing!  Together, the Lord has given them a strong ability to love, encourage, and challenge people.  IPS truly is a family - and I fully believe it's because of the heart of its leaders. 

And last but not least, there is Mark Jackson (above right), a.k.a. - our New Zealand dad!  It was an extreme honor to have the privilege of spending a month with him.  He can be intimidating and will always tell you "what's what," but I'll let you in on a secret - he is one of the most encouraging individuals I have ever met.  The Lord has given him a great gift of words.  He pushes you (HARD!), but only because he wants to see you reach the potential he sees in you, both as a media professional and as a follower of Christ.  Even though we are 7,537 miles apart, it is amazing that he still spends hours on Skype calls, investing in myself and my fellow students. 

I am extremely blessed to have these people in my life.  And I am extremely blessed to have experienced life in New Zealand and Fiji.  The Lord is good.

"The heavens are Yours, and the earth is Yours;
    everything in the world is Yours—You created it all."
                           [Psalm 89:11]


Friday, March 15, 2013

the puppy 3.15.13

Meet our new 3 & 1/2 month old friend.  Her name is "Britches," and she is a literal whirlwind of energy.  Mrs. Alice wanted a few pictures to document this roly-poly puppy stage, and we had absolutely no problem spending a morning doing just that.  (And it took the whole morning just to get her to spend enough energy to calm down a bit - so she wouldn't be just a little blur in the pictures.)  :)

The shutter would click and Britches would charge the camera.  At one point, the fuzzy fluff-ball of a puppy somehow wound up jumping over the camera, landing squarely on top of Kay Lynn's head.

Come on.  You have to admit this curious little gal is a cutie.  :)

We are thankful for the way that the Lord made animals to be part of our lives.  They can be so much fun!  :)

Jill & Kay

Thursday, March 7, 2013

cameron | 3.7.13

Let me start off by telling you that we shot this session, outside, in February.  To those of you who have lived in Texas for a long time, this is nothing new.  But to those of us who've spent most of our February's for the past decade huddled together in long johns and sweatshirts, when everyday was a good day for chili... this weather is still a WONDER to us!

We thoroughly enjoyed spending a warm afternoon with Cameron and his mom! 

When I was 8, I longed for people to ask me who my favorite author was.  I don't remember anyone actually asking, but I do remember volunteering the information.  :)  Eric Carle was my answer.  Too bad they don't make these "hungry caterpillars" for adults.

Makes us laugh... every time!

Talk about a sharp dresser...  :)

I hope you're beginning to see that the true theme of this photoshoot turned out to be "movin' & a groovin'."  As soon as Cameron sat down on the ground and we stepped back, he was off and crawling at warp speed.

Cameron quite enjoyed this bridge!  He went went to one side and back again...about 50 times!  :)

Thanks, Cameron, for such a fun afternoon for Kay and I! 

"You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!”
                 - Dr. Seuss

Jill & Kay