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Advent images

Advent is a time of waiting–for the incarnation, for justice, for peace. Over the centuries the church has developed a series of measures to help us develop the practice of waiting, everything from different liturgical colors to candles and wreathes to calendars with little doors to special music (though it’s an unfair fight: for every O Come, O Come, Emmanuel there are a slug of Christmas carols). In this social media age, these disciplines take on new forms. Thus Sophia Agtarap, a woman with overdeveloped thumbs who has the creatively obscure title of Minister of Online Engagement at United Methodist Communications, came up with a open challenge to everyone within tweeting range to participate in sharing a different photo each day all the way through Advent to Christmas day. You could place the images on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest or whatever. She chose a different theme for each day, and each image–in theory–would reflect that concept. The series of images and themes would then inspire us, or so she thought, to reflect more deeply on Advent and thus be better prepared for truly celebrating Christmas.

I confess it sounded a bit gimmicky, but I was intrigued. I was at home the first few days so it was easy to pick out some images and post them on Facebook with the appropriate hashtags, #rethinkchurch and #rethinkchristmas. Then I headed off to Mexico for a couple of weeks and planned on forgetting the whole business, but by then it had stuck. Even while on assignment in Oaxaca and Chiapas, with little time for such foolishness, I found myself looking up the next day’s theme, then letting it bounce around inside my head. The discipline had taken on a power of its own. Perhaps that’s why we have disciplines. Thus waiting became a more intentional, conscious, and aware practice than it would otherwise have been. So here are my choices for this Advent. Twenty-five images from 17 countries, all places where people are in some way waiting. As we approach the end of our wait, I’m more ready for the incarnation. Come, Emmanuel.

 

Day One: Go. Refugees flee Somalia for Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee complex in Kenya.

Newly arrived refugees carry their belongings through the Dadaab camp in northeastern Kenya. Long the world's world's largest refugee settlement, Dadaab has swelled with tens of thousands of new arrivals fleeing drought in Somalia. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day Two: Bound. Two girls on their way to school in the Haitian mountain village of Foret des Pines.

Two girls walk to school in the Haitian village of Foret des Pins. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day Three: Peace. Jasmina Jahic, a landmine survivor in Bosnia, gets help with her prosthetic leg from her 5-year old son Eldar.

Jasmina Jahic gets help with her prosthetic leg from her 5-year old son Eldar. Jahic lost one arm and one leg to a landmine during the Bosnian War. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day Four: Time. The future of their tiny territory uncertain, an older couple sits on the sand of the beach in Gaza, staring out to a sea that is no longer theirs.

The future of their tiny territory uncertain, an older couple sits on the sand of the beach in Gaza, staring out to a sea that is no longer theirs. Under the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, the people of Gaza were allowed to fish out to 20 nautical miles from their coastline, yet since the Israeli military imposed a naval blockade in 2007 they have been limited to just three nautical miles. In practice, fishers who venture beyond two nautical miles are shot at by Israeli gunboats; several have been injured and some killed. Despite having 40 kilometers of coastline and a long tradition as fishers, many Gaza fishers are unemployed and the people of Gaza are forced to import fish from Israel. And what fishing they can do close to shore mostly involves the harvest of immature fish, which biologists warn has a negative impact on fish stocks in the region. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day Five: Flood. A boy uses a pole to push a boat along a flooded street in Biñan, Laguna, in the Philippines.

A boy uses a pole to push a boat along a flooded street in Biñan, Laguna, in the Philippines. Residents here have been subjected to increased flooding from the Laguna de Bay in recent years, and with the help of the ACT Alliance are organizing to look for alternatives. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day Six: Awake. Juanita Baptiste is a resident of the Mary Elizabeth Inn, which provides safe and permanent housing in San Francisco for women who were homeless or survivors of domestic violence. Many of the women, while homeless, stayed awake out of fear all night long.

Juanita Baptiste is a resident of the Mary Elizabeth Inn, which provides safe and permanent housing in San Francisco for women who were homeless or survivors of domestic violence. Many of the women, while homeless, stayed awake out of fear all night long on the streets of San Francisco. The Mary Elizabeth Inn is supported by the Women's Division of the United Methodist Church. (Paul Jeffrey/Response)

 

Day Seven: Ready. Dana Karim, a 7-year old refugee girl whose family came from the Darfur region of Sudan, puts on her shoes as she gets ready for school in the family’s crowded apartment in Cairo, Egypt.

Dana Karim, a 7-year old refugee girl whose family came from the Darfur region of Sudan, puts on her shoes as she gets ready for school in the family's crowded apartment in Cairo, Egypt. Her parents both take adult education classes provided by St. Andrew's Refugee Services, which is supported by Church World Service. her mother and two siblings look on. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day Eight: Wisdom. An old woman in Natham, a small town in the southern India state of Tamil Nadu.

An old woman in Natham, a small town in the southern India state of Tamil Nadu. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day Nine: Delight. A child plays in the rain in the Doro refugee camp in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State.

A child plays in the rain in the Doro refugee camp in South Sudan's Upper Nile State. Refugee families have fled here to escape bombing of their homes in the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains regions by the Sudanese military. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day Ten: Holy. Tran Van Son (right) is a carpenter in Bo Trach, Vietnam, who lost his legs to a landmine from the U.S. war against Vietnam. Here he travels along a path near his home with Hoang Van Luu, who lost an arm to a landmine.

Tran Van Son (right) is a carpenter in Bo Trach, Vietnam, who lost his legs to a landmine from the U.S. war against Vietnam. Here he travels along a path near his home with Hoang Van Luu, who lost an arm to a landmine. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day 11: Steady. Children in a camp for internally displaced people outside Kubum, in the violence-wracked Darfur region of Sudan.

Children in a camp for internally displaced people outside Kubum. More than 2.2 million IDPs are living in camps like this in the Darfur region. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day 12: Hope. A girl in class at the “House of Hope,” a community-based educational training program in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for children performing domestic work (so-called ‘restaveks’), supported by Church World Service. Participants in the program also include former gang members and teenage mothers. Many rights activists consider the use of restaveks to be a modern form of slavery.

A girl in class at the "House of Hope," a community-based educational training program in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, for children performing domestic work (so-called 'restaveks'), sponsored by the Ecumenical Foundation for Peace and Justice (FOPJ).  Participants in the program also include former gang members and teenage mothers. Many rights activists consider the use of restaveks to be a modern form of slavery. They are usually children from extremely poor families who are sent away to work as domestic servants in wealthier homes. The children aren't paid for their work, but provided shelter and a sometimes meager meal supply. In the best case scenarios, families will send their restavek children to school. But restaveks often work long days performing a variety of household tasks for nothing more that a meal or two a day. Two-thirds of restaveks are girls, and they are extremely vulnerable to rape and sexual abuse from the families who house and control them. The life of a restavek child in Haiti often varies between bleak and hopeless, and many children never successfully leave their slave conditions. The "House of Hope," which is supported by Church World Service, a member of the ACT Alliance, has begun to change that cycle of oppression for some restavek children.. (Fondation Oecumenique Pour la Paix et la Justice.) (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day 13: Justice. A woman demonstrator pushes back at police as displaced residents of Boeung Lake in Phnom Penh, who were left homeless after the government allowed a private developer to move them out and fill in the lake, attempt to protest in the Cambodian capital.

A woman demonstrator pushes back at police as displaced residents of Boeung Lake in Phnom Penh, who were left homeless after the government allowed a private developer to move them out and fill in the lake, attempt to protest in the Cambodian capital on December 10, 2012. They planned to take their protest to the prime minister's office, but police stopped them far short of their goal. Their protest took place on International Human Rights Day. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day 14: Gather. Children gather to sing and dance in the South Sudan village of Yondoru.

Children gather to sing and dance in the Southern Sudan village of Yondoru. Families here are rebuilding their lives after returning from refuge in Uganda in 2006 following the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the north and south. Southern Sudan became South Sudan in 2011. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day 15: Rejoice. Oscar Oliva, a member of a Mexican search and rescue team, cries with joy on January 19, 2010, as he embraces a fellow rescuer after the group pulled 70-year old Ena Zizi from the rubble of Haiti’s devastating earthquake, exactly one week after much of the city was reduced to ruins.

Oscar Oliva, a member of a Mexican search and rescue team, cries with joy on January 19, 2010, as he embraces a fellow rescuer after the group pulled 70-year old Ena Zizi from the rubble of Haiti's devastating earthquake, exactly one week after the city was reduced to ruins in a matter of seconds. Zizi was rescued from the collapsed home of the parish priest at Port-au-Prince's Roman Cathedral Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. Oliva is a firefighter from the Mexican city of Quintana Roo. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day 16: Strong. Alefa Soloti carries a 50 kilogram bag of corn in Dickson, a village in southern Malawi that has been hard hit by drought in recent years, leading to chronic food insecurity, especially during the “hunger season” when farmers are waiting for the harvest.

Alefa Soloti carries a 50 kg bag of corn provided by the ACT Alliance in Dickson, a village in southern Malawi that has been hard hit by drought in recent years, leading to chronic food insecurity, especially during the "hunger season," when farmers are waiting for the harvest. In addition to providing emergency food, the ACT Alliance is working with farmers in this village to switch to alternative, drought-resistant crops, as well as installing an irrigation system and utilizing other improved techniques to increase agricultural yields. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day 17: Free. Holding her baby, a woman writes on the blackboard as she participates in an adult literacy class in the village of Magsaysay, in New Bataan in the Compostela Valley on Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines.

Holding her baby, a woman writes on the blackboard as she participates in an adult literacy class in the village of Magsaysay, in New Bataan in the Compostela Valley on Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day 18: Mercy. A feeding tube helps a malnourished child hang on to life in the stabilization ward of the Ifo Camp Hospital in the Dadaab refugee complex in northeastern Kenya.

A feeding tube helps a malnourished child hang on to life in the stabilization ward of the Ifo Camp Hospital in the Dadaab refugee complex in northeastern Kenya. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day 19: Patience. United Methodist missionary Cindy Moon waits with 9-year old Play Nata to see a dentist in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The girl is an HIV positive orphan, one of eight such girls that lives in an orphanage directed by Moon and her husband Gary.

United Methodist missionary Cindy Moon waits with 9-year old Play Nata to see a dentist in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The girl is an HIV positive orphan, one of eight such girls that lives in an orphanage directed by Moon and her husband Gary. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day 20: Good News. Santos del Socorro Rojas kisses her son Jorge Alberto Reyes Dávila, with whom she was reunited on December 16, 2013, in Tapachula, Mexico, after nine years of separation.

Santos del Socorro Rojas kisses her son Jorge Alberto Reyes Dávila, with whom she was reunited on December 16, 2013, in Tapachula, Mexico, after nine years of separation. Rojas, from Chinandega, Nicaragua, was one of several dozen Central American mothers who traveled as a group to Mexico to look for their loved ones who had disappeared along the migrant trail north. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day 21: Prophet. A creatively-dressed girl among hundreds of Seattle residents who demonstrated in favor of stricter regulations of firearms.

This girl was among hundreds of Seattle residents who marched from Westlake Center Park to the Seattle Center on January 13, 2013, calling for stricter regulations of firearms. Sponsored by a network of churches and other groups called "Stand-up Washington," the demonstrators called for a state ban on semi-automatic weapons as well as stricter gun laws. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day 22: Sign. A double exposure of American Sign Language interpreter Michelle Menefee.

Michelle Menefee provides American Sign Language interpretation at the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Florida. Menefee is a member of First United Methodist Church in Houston, Texas.This image is a double exposure. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day 23: Neighbors. Family and friends dress the body of Carlos Martinez, a 23-year old farmworker who was shot to death on October 2, 2011 on the La Lempira Cooperative outside Tocoa, Honduras. Martinez and other members of the cooperative are among thousands of Honduran activists who have seized plantations they claim were stolen from them by wealthy Honduras businessmen.

Family and friends dress the body of Carlos Martinez, a 23-year old farmworker who was shot to death on October 2, 2011 on the La Lempira Cooperative outside Tocoa, Honduras. Martinez and other members of the cooperative are among thousands of Honduran activists who have seized plantations they claim were stolen from them by wealthy Honduras businessmen. The Honduran security forces have militarized the area, and killings of peasant leaders have become common. Many of the cooperatives were started with assistance from Catholic priests and lay pastors in the region, and some Catholic leaders remain close supporters of the peasant movement. A sister of Martinez claimed he was killed by a security guard from a nearby plantation belonging to Miguel Facusse, the wealthiest of Honduran landowners. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day 24: Joy. Refugee boys celebrate winning an in-class competition in a school operated by St. Andrew’s Refugee Services in Cairo, Egypt.

Refugee boys celebrate winning an in class competition in a school operated by St. Andrew's Refugee Services in Cairo, Egypt. Located at St. Andrews United Church of Cairo, the program is supported by Church World Service. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

Day 25: Light. A boy lights candles in Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, inside the occupied Palestinian West Bank.

A boy lights candles in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, inside the occupied Palestinian West Bank. (Paul Jeffrey)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Responses to Advent images

  1. Andy says:

    So moving. Some images brought tears to my eyes. Others made me snicker. Thank you and Merry Christmas.

  2. carolyn belshe says:

    Paul, I simply hope heaven allows me to be neighbors with you and Lyda, What gifts you bring to us across the miles and kilometers — gifts of reality, of peace, tears, provoking thought and prayer and HOPE. humbly.c/

  3. Sandy Sypherd says:

    Thank you for these amazing photos!

  4. Lucinda says:

    Although Christmas has gone past looking thru these pictures made me realize the world exists; not just my comfortable little home where everything is a struggle yet the Lord provides and we are blessed. I am so glad I took the time to look at these Advent pictures; its an eye opener. Made me realize that suffering is real it happens somewhere around the world at every moment. Thanks for those most realistic pictures of God’s children.

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