When popular photojournalist Paul Jeffrey came to speak in Chelan recently at the Lake Chelan United Methodist Church, he showed a startling video of people in distress around the world. Jeffrey revealed how missionary outreach and aid also has dramatically changed.
A skillful journalist, Jeffrey has filed news stories from more than 75 countries. His articles have appeared in the National Catholic Reporter, National Geographic Explorer and Time magazines. His photos have appeared in the Washington Post, Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal, and been used by the World Bank and the World Health Organization.
Interestingly, the subjects of his photographs appear happy and healthy as they go about their work harvesting crops, carrying water and firewood toward their huts, tending to their children and the elderly. Political refugees want the world to know what they are facing, and he himself wants to show the world that what benevolent organizations are doing is working.
Jeffrey believes we live in a world where poverty is manufactured. Immigrants from Thailand to the United States who work in the garment industry are a form of modern day slavery, he said.
The Roma — once called Gypsys — who traveled Eastern Europe in their caravans, are now largely headquartered in Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria. No health care is available to those without ID cards issued only to those with birth certificates, something many Roma do not have.
Jeffrey stumbled over his words as he rapidly told many other stories. In the south Philippine Islands women work in dangerous, hand-dug mine shafts. The Congo is one of the most dangerous places on earth today. In Sudan it is illegal to take pictures. In South Sudan, villages are still being looted and burned.
Even with the aid of church agencies after the earthquake, people in Haiti are still struggling. On recent trip to Pakistan, Jeffrey was escorted around the clock by two Army guards who checked his hotel room for bombs and so on. His details about covering the unrest in Egypt, which is trying to carve out a democracy, were hair-raising.
Jeffrey said, “Mission work is not easy. It’s a complicated and dirty issue in our globalized world where our communities are more linked than ever before ... and then there’s the ‘resource curse’ for regions in Africa and northeast Asia with lots of natural resources. That’s where the rich and powerful gain more and more control over the poor who are treated badly and unjustly.
The ACT Alliance headquarted in Geneva sends Jeffrey to gather information and document what is happening. Made up of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Lutheran World Federation and Church World Service, the alliance focuses on crises around the world.
Jeffrey concluded his talk with success stories. On the continent of Africa, HIV is no longer a death threat. Education has reduced the stigma and discrimination, which once were worse than the actual disease. Testing done by faith groups and antiretroviral drugs have helped turn this around.
“We have to understand that there is a link between what we do here and how it affects what’s going on over there,” Jeffrey concluded. “It’s not enough to support orphans. We have to be undoing what creates orphans in the first place. ... Vulnerability leads to injustice. Evangelism done well is not done by giving people stuff. NGOs are leading the way. With their technological resources, they are helping people to organize themselves so they can solve their own problems.” Mission work is changing.
The stories behind the stories can be found on Paul Jeffrey’s blog: kairosphotos.com.
Vicki Olson Carr lives in Chelan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org