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Available Light

As a photojournalist, I embraced available light as a job description. It was my role to report with pictures the suffering and struggles, triumphs and tragedies of neighbors across the street and across the globe. I believed my pictures would be a candle in a frequently dark world. In my youth, I assumed the pictures would promptly elicit empathy and initiate compassionate solutions. Over time my assumption collided with the reality of indifference, but my photojournalism altruism survived.

As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is exactly who he said he was, “The light of the world,” the very source of life and light itself. As a Christian I am also challenged by Jesus to be “light in the world.” (Quoting John 8:12 and Matthew 5:14)

For the first half of my photojournalism career I regarded those words of Jesus as distant Sunday School platitudes, hardly as relevant as my next photo assignment. At a mid-career pivot point, spiritually empty and desperate, I visited an Episcopal church in Miami and met Father Vic Bolle who introduced me to a living, loving Jesus, far beyond my skepticism and assumption of irrelevance. Since that midlife revelation and my repentance, I have tried--and often failed--to live out the challenge to be light as a Christian.

For the last two decades in Colorado Springs, my nascent faith strengthened as I photographed extraordinary story after story of brave Christians living their faith as available light in hard places. Those stories included: Ivan, a young pastor starting a home church in Moscow, still ravenously hungry a year after his release from a Soviet prison; Ashty and Jackie opening a preschool and welcoming all in Irbil, Iraq; Pastor Sami and his church opening their Sunday School classrooms to shelter Muslim refugees while Israel was bombing Beirut, Lebanon; and Karen, a nurse trying to save the life of a patient by shielding him with her body when our aid convoy was ambushed in Lui, Sudan.

While I am now stepping back from global travels as a photojournalist, I am blessed to begin a new vocation as a humble light for Christ. In 2016 I was received as a brother in the Anglican Franciscan Order of the Divine Compassion. As a Franciscan, I strive to live the St. Francis Prayer: “Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.”

...the boy sipping water from a soldier’s canteen was a victim of the infamous Christmas 1972 earthquake in Nicaragua.

© Steve Starr 2017