Rebecca | Wherever He Leads I’ll Go

My name is Rebecca.

 

I was raised in the suburbs of  St. Louis.  I lived with my parents and two sisters. My family went to church on Christmas & Easter. When my grandfather died when I was in middle school, it got me thinking a lot about what happens after you die. I went through a period of time where I called myself an agnostic. I had a lot of questions and wasn’t finding answers. How could God just always exist? How were those miracles Jesus performed even possible? So many things in the Bible completely defied human sense. But I remember having a strong friend who loved Jesus; I would occasionally ask her questions about God and the Bible during late-night sleepover chats. She was one of the smartest people in our school and I trusted her perspective and her friendship. I don’t think she ever knew how instrumental she was in building my own faith when I look back and remember the way she just simply believed wholeheartedly that God was who He said He was.

One Easter, we went to a new church and they played a video of a re-enactment of the Resurrection. I heard this very clear, strong voice in my head say, “Some things just ARE.” At that moment, all the walls I had built up & defenses I had ready to fight against any argument for God came crumbling down. I got it. I understood that I didn’t have to have all the answers yet….some of them I have found along the way, and there are some things I will never understand, but it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t exist. The details didn’t matter for the moment….I just had to believe that God was real.

Near the end of service, they asked if anyone wanted to step out and come up to the front to pray or accept Christ as their Savior. I was too embarrassed to step out because I was afraid of what people would assume about me (especially my family), but I prayed along with the pastor at my seat. As we drove home, I remember looking out the back window into the sunshine and feeling like a completely NEW person with a brand-new perspective on life. I felt at peace with life, something I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

 

When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to get involved with other friends who were in student prayer groups. I knew they weren’t perfect, but they pointed me to Jesus. I also started attending a nearby church once I was able to drive myself. I learned a lot of really good Bible basics there & received some one-on-one discipleship that was extremely helpful. I also decided to get baptized in water. I was a new person in Christ, and loved the symbolism of baptism, of my sins being washed away! Yet, I was still fearful of what others would think of me, so I never really told anyone outside of church that I was going to be baptized during that service. In college, I was surrounded by a great group of friends who helped me go further in my walk of faith. Between prayer groups, church, small groups, and journaling, I felt closer to God than I ever had before.  But during this early period in my walk with Christ between high school and early college, I became really judgmental of people who made decisions that I thought were really “stupid” or “dumb.” I assumed a LOT of things about a LOT of people and never even considered the ways God was working in their lives.

 

In 2005, I viewed a photojournalist’s images of a hurricane that had struck the country of Haiti. I felt God tugging at my heart through those images, and I knew I was supposed to go there someday. A few months later, I had the opportunity to travel with my boyfriend’s church to help out some missionaries that worked there. My boyfriend and I knew that we were going to get married eventually (which we did in 2007), and while we were on this trip, we knew that God wanted us to come back for a longer amount of time. We had a place in Haiti in the future and we trusted God with all the details of His calling on our lives.

 

After Matt & I were married and our son was born I became really interested in childbirth and sharing facts with my friends about pregnancy and birth. I was finding a lot of misinformation out there, along with common pregnancy, diet, and childbirth practices that did not have the best interest of the mother and baby in mind. I became passionate about changing that. After the birth of our son, I began to photograph the emotions and love surrounding the gentle births of my friends, with the initial intent to use some of the images to show certain groups of policy-makers in order to change the way things are done in our state and country. I’ve always been one of those people that shows my love by serving & helping people, and I remember one home birth in particular where I was making the mom snacks and running to the grocery store to get food from the salad bar for the birth team. In the midst of this work I realized God had created me to do more than just photograph these families’ births. I realized He created me to glorify this magnificent part of His creation through one-on-one relationships with pregnant mothers and their families. I wanted to become a doula (a birth attendant, who, simply put, supports & loves on the mom during prenatal, birth, and postpartum time).

 

During this time in my life, I became aware of the immense amount of judgmental thoughts and comments surrounding the world of pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting.  It seemed like everyone I knew or met had a passionate opinion about parenting, and anyone who believed otherwise was a bad parent …or at least that was my perception.  But I was no exception. I would see women make choices about birth or breastfeeding that I totally did not understand. I would assume her to be misinformed or didn’t care about her baby because of the choices she made. I would try to share facts with these women in as gentle a manner as possible because I wanted to change the world’s perceptions of birth, but the truth was that I was not speaking in love – I was speaking out of pride. One day, my husband said something that made me stop and think.

“Oftentimes, we are bothered most by the things we don’t like in ourselves.”

WHOA. I realized that I hated all those comments from other people so much because was just like them. God showed me that I had a lot of pride in my heart when it came to what I thought was the best thing for childbearing women, yet so many of the details, so many of the choices about birth – they didn’t actually matter as long as God was being glorified through the process. And it was ok to share information about these topics with people, but it needed to be done in the same way that Jesus told people about Scriptures – with love. Ephesians 5:1-2 describes how we should act in this way, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…”

A couple of years later, I was blessed to receive a scholarship for some formal doula training, and began to work with families expecting babies. Unmarried pregnant woman are often plagued with guilt from their own convictions or due to the real or imagined criticism of others.  But I’ve learned that “hidden” sins like anger and pride build a taller stronger wall between us and our Savior.  We may be able to mask sin, but God sees it just as plainly as we can see a pregnant woman without a wedding band.  But, unlike us,  He knows the ENTIRE situation and loves us anyway.  As I’ve worked and talked with women facing the reality of bringing a child into the world without an earthly father, God speaks the same words over each one, “I LOVE HER.  She is my beautiful bride no matter what her life is like.  Remind her.”

 

I love this ministry, and I know without a doubt that this is God’s calling in my life. He is reconciling this broken world through Christ, and that includes the realm of birth. My photography of births, maternity, and babies has become an artistic reflection of His creation and the passion I have for the care of pregnant mothers. I think it is so interesting how God took someone like me who used to be so judgmental and put me right in the middle of working in not only one, but TWO fields that are so divided with opinions.  Childbirth and Art!  He has certainly molded me and cleansed me to be a new person who is no longer concerned about what others think. As long as I am doing this work in love and am glorifying Him, I need not be worried about what the world thinks of me, because Christ sees me without those ugly spots and wrinkles of my past. My confidence is in HIM and Him alone!

 

With my studies in the childbirth world, I also began to study things about Haiti in the new light of maternal-child health. I realized THIS was what God wanted me to do in Haiti. (I had wondered for a long time what we would do there someday, but I finally knew more of the details!) He laid thoughts on my mind about birth centers, teaching childbirth and health classes, and simply being friends with and loving on Haitian moms. I met a Haitian-American nurse who lives near my town and had some similar thoughts about going to minister to the people in her hometown in Haiti. We eventually went on a trip together just a few short months ago.  When we landed, I could hardly hold back the tears of happiness to finally be back, seven years later. I always felt like I left my heart there (along with my lens cap that I dropped off a four-story building last time). As we drove away from the airport in the capital city of Haiti on towards our rural destination, I remember being shocked the first time I saw the streets. This time I felt….comfortable. I knew this was the right place for me. Later that week, I had a few opportunities to encourage and minister with some women at the clinics we were holding. One was a teen girl who was 6 months pregnant and had possibly experienced some abuse from her family. She had no support and the father was not around. I felt like she was the whole reason I was there, and I had to step outside after speaking with her because I was so overwhelmed with her situation and everything I knew God had in store for me in this country in the future. I wanted to cry and cry for her. I also desperately wanted to speak her language better, I wanted to check in on her during her pregnancy, and I wanted to support her in her labor and birth because she had no one around to love her. My heart was breaking.  But I realized that what I was feeling was only a minute fraction of what God was feeling for her and the many pregnant women in the world like her. He revealed His heart for His daughters to me (as much as my human heart could comprehend), and showed me that childbirth, in many areas, is not reflecting His glory. During a time in their lives when they have the honor of participating in a magnificent part of His design, many of His daughters are being physically and verbally abused by the very people who should be supporting them in love when they need it most.  It’s overwhelming to think this is happening all across our world at any given moment.

 

 God asked me later during that trip as we drove down a dirt road, “You would give up all you have for THIS??” I thought about it honestly for a moment, and the answer was a resounding, “Yes!” I can live without electricity and running water. I can live without Every. Single. Thing. in my house, including my treasured camera and photographs on the walls. If my house burned down and I lost everything, I honestly would not be that disappointed. I could never honestly say that before in my life. And I look forward to the day when He tells us it’s time to get rid of all those things and move to Haiti to lead a life of simplicity in much the same way as the group of fishermen in Luke 5. They stepped out in faith and cast out their nets when Jesus told them to, even though they hadn’t caught anything all night. They were astonished to see all the fish – the results of their faith! Verses 10-11 says, “And Jesus said to Simon, ‘Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.’ So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.” They didn’t care about what they had – they were just following Jesus wherever He went.

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I’m still growing.  Jesus is still working on me.  He’s still preparing me for the work He has for me but as HE works in me I am determined to FOR Him whether I’m behind the camera, helping a woman breathe through contractions, or giving everything up to live in Haiti one day.  This is faith.  It’s focusing on truth.  It’s being generous.  It’s speaking for those who have no voice.  It’s living an authentic life.  It’s pointing to everything lovely.  It’s proclaiming the Good News of Jesus!  Faith is stepping into our calling every day with our eyes fixed on Jesus.  Wherever HE leads, I WILL GO!

Phillippians 4:8 – “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.”

 

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