“May I take your picture?” I try to ask permission when photographing someone’s face. They smile and nod, sometimes answering in English, “Yes!” A photograph says “I see you. You exist” Sometimes I show them the photo on my camera and I say, “Beautiful!” They smile and often return the compliment. The people in Myanmar are beautiful. I love their faces, their clothing style, and easy smiles. There is beauty in their gentle spirits and hospitality. Each of these photos is an affirmation that this person is important.
Many faces have markings. Ron, one of my colleagues that grew up in Myanmar tells me that it is makeup made of ground wood called Thanaka. It is worn to be beautiful. At the Ywarma Baptist Church’s street children’s mission the children offer to paint our faces. They laugh and sing as they paint. They keep saying, “Beautiful!’ Later we go into the city. I forget my face is marked. Women pat their own faces, smile, and point to our faces. They say “Beautiful!”
I grieve the faces that I haven’t photographed; the dirty preschooler carrying the infant, the women with desperate eyes, the laughing Indian faces that fill the back of a truck. They dance while music blares from large speakers. There are many reasons for missing a photo. There are times when I don’t have my camera. It is difficult to get good shots when riding in the bus, so I miss the Bollywood truck photo. Some faces aren’t photographed because it feels too invasive. I sense that it is wrong. Some faces are to hard to see, much less carry home. I feel their image is all they have and I can’t take it.
As our two cohorts gathered one evening, Dr Marshall asked where did we see God smiling and where did we see God grieving. For me it is the faces which bear God’s image. As I walk away from the preschooler carrying the infant, God grieves. When did I see you Lord? I saw you Lord, but I didn’t know what to do. As we dance and sing with street children at the mission God dances and sings with us. As I share these photographs of faces with friends, I am sharing the face of God. When I return home, my best souvenir will be the beautiful faces of God.
Central DMin Student
I started with Central Baptist Theological Seminary in 2010 as a student in the MDiv program. I wasn’t sure then and I am still not sure now what God has planned for me. I have been transitioning from a career in science to a calling in ministry and the experiences, classes and personal relationships I have been a part of with CBTS have helped me in my Camping Ministry with ABC of WI as well as my work in my church as CE Director. I also commute an hour and a half one way to classes each weekend and I have been the recipient of some wonderful hospitality from fellow students. We truly are a community. I am excited to see what is in store and I know I have a great support team!