Recently, Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti did a photo study on children around the world posed with their favorite toys. His series, Toy Stories, spans several continents and children from a variety of cultures.
Three thoughts came to mind while I was looking through his collection.
1. This is brilliant.
What a great idea for a photo study. The toys were hand-picked by the kids and in a way, they represent their society, their hopes and their dreams. I have a passion for photojournalism and telling stories. I wish I came up with this idea first. Seeing how these kids meticulously arranged and presented their toys, like this one from Noel in Texas.
2. What would my selections have been?
First, I’d probably pick my M.U.S.C.L.E. Man collection.
I had (have) over 250 of these guys. I’d love to come across some more. They are all in a Tupperware in my storage unit. I used to spend hours playing with them as wrestling figures. I can still remember their signature moves, rivalries and which ones held championship belts.
I’d also include my basketball. I seemed to wear out one every few months. I had plenty of these old indoor/outdoor leather ones chipping and fading away in my garage.
3. These kids matter.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I think I’m getting soft in my old age. I was looking at these kids and their toys and definitely got emotional. Some kids had tons of toys. These kids didn’t have enough hours in the day to play with all the stuff in their rooms. But, then there were kids like Chiwa from Malawi.
Chiwa is living in a block house, held together with mud and brick. Chiwa sleeps under mosquito nets to prevent malaria and other diseases. Chiwa’s clothes, bedsheets and legs are filthy. But, look at the toys. The little white dog is pristine. It looks like it just came out of the shopping bag. Chiwa took great pride in keeping the toys clean and desirable to play with.
This little girl is Kalesi from the Fiji Islands.
Look at the joy on her face! She loooooves her backpacks and her dolls. She even looks like a baby doll. There’s not a lot in the photo so I’m only assuming that the rest of her home is relatively bare. I can see Kalesi sitting on the hard floor taking care of her dolls. She feeds them with the pink bowl and blue cup. She carries them around in her Transformers backpack.
Viewing these photos made me want to go and just hug these kids and tell them that God loves them. The same emotion and care they had for their toys is the same love and caring that God has for them. I wanted these kids to know that they matter.
To this kid I photographed in a park in Asia where Christ is not allowed – you matter.
To these kids enamored with boats and ducks in a lake in Spain – You matter.
To this little kid in North Africa, whose family may never tell him about Jesus – You. Matter.
To these kids who had their portrait taken at a church in the barrio of Caracas, Venezuela – You Matter. God has a great plan for your life.
To these students who heard the Gospel during English club at their university and can make a difference in a socialist community – You Matter. Place your faith in Christ and worship him instead of saints. Show your city God’s love.
To anyone who thinks they are too dirty, too broken, too messed up, too beyond repair, too unworthy, too old, too young, too confused to get on your knees and respond to a living God who is calling you to him – you matter. You do. You are God’s favorite possession. He wants to shine you up and show you off like the kids showed off their toys. He wants you to love him. He wants to hear your praise. He wants you to matter, because when you matter to the world, you matter to him. It’s time to respond.
During my last trip to East Asia, I had the opportunity to visit a new city, one that was far removed from the bustle of the mega-city I was used to. As I was walking around, I came upon a couple of temples, one Buddhist and one Hindu. The experience was bittersweet. I loved being around the architecture and the history of the temples. The carvings were ornate. The colors were vivid.
The feeling was ominous.
As a believer in a living God, I was left speechless as I watched person after person bow down before inanimate objects and shiny statues. Visitors would bring apples to place at the statue’s feet. What’s a Buddha statue going to do with your fruit? Christ was the final sacrifice. No more sacrificial offerings are needed.
My heart broke for the elderly woman who could hardly walk. She spent all the energy she had spinning prayer wheels as she labored around the temple. Her hope was that she would build up favor by spinning these around and around. Buddhists believe that spinning the prayer wheels can have just as much effect as reciting the actual prayers.
Christ is alive! God wants us to talk to him. I couldn’t have a relationship with a God who would accept me spinning my Bible round and round in the same as actually having a prayer-filled conversation with him.
I was teared up and humbled as I looked down at the prayer mats. They were worn, stained and molded to the knees of thousands of people. I have nothing in my home that is so worn because I was on my knees in front of God. What a convicting moment.
I hope you enjoy the following photo essay. They capture beautiful buildings and some emotion, but that is all. They do not capture hope. That can only be found in Christ alone.
Photography is precious to me.
Creating something beautiful results in an amazing feeling. It makes you feel alive. It makes you feel proud to have actually made something.
Photography is also an incredible form of worship. What better way of honoring God than by capturing moments in time that He created? Photography is not possible without light. After all, photography is fundamentally the studying and capturing of light. Even at night, in what would typically be called ‘pitch black’, with a long enough shutter, you can still capture some light. Eventually, light prevails.
Our culture is filled with darkness. Finding those moments, those emotions, those fleeting sunsets is a way to preserve beauty, hope and light.
On a trip several years ago, I was on traveling underground on a tunnel car in a foreign city. The tunnel was filled with lights and there were a couple of those inflatable-wavy-arm things that sit outside cell phone stores and car lots.
I braced my camera against my body while resting it on a handrail because of the low light and shot periodically as we moved along. As I walked back above ground, I noticed this image:
Now, do I actually believe that God said, “I declare the image of my son to appear in this camera!” No, of course not. But, I do think that it’s awesome to have captured something that reminds me Jesus is the King to those people and is a light in a dark, dark place.
Greater things are yet to come in that city.