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We have to warn you that there is a good chance of a bomb going off.  Actually, it is not possible but probable that it will happen.” 

These are words that Joni Byker heard this summer, as she was getting ready to head to the northern border of South Sudan to capture in photographs the work of Samaritan’s Purse (SP).  Joni works for SP in Liberia as both the Women’s Literacy Program Manager and Communications Manager, and also travels over Africa as a SP photographer.

My husband, Jon, was the first to meet Joni in Liberia when he was doing volunteer work for SP.  Our paths crossed when I started working at ABCU. We call Joni our Liberian daughter.

THE FARM GIRL

Perhaps one of the reasons that I connect to Joni is because she grew up in a Midwestern farming community just like I did.   She still goes home for vacation to help on her family’s Iowa farm.   I believe that it is Joni’s upbringing that has helped to prepare her be such a strong young woman.

Often as we look around this fallen world, we wonder what is happening to younger people (hasn’t every generation asked that question).  But when you meet young women like Joni, it is as if a precious gift has been given to you and your faith in the future generation is soon restored.  She is smart, caring, and capable. Most importantly, she is a true servant leader reaching out to those who are downtrodden.

THE PHOTOGRAPHER

Joni keeps a written and visual blog, my journey, God’s story, about her experiences. The title of the blog is indicative of who she is ~ a young woman who has a heart for God and compassion for others.  Joni’s blog draws you into the stories of Africa through the lens of her camera.

Joni with village children

I have shameless stolen a few pictures from her website to entice you to start following her blog (she did give me permission).  Please forgive the poor picture quality in my blog, I minimized them.  On the right side of this page, I have included Joni’s blog address in my blog roll so you can go to her site to truly appreciate the quality of her photography.

Village children

Joni has a passion for children and uses her camera to connect with them and bring smiles to their faces.  If you have ever been to Africa, you know that a camera is enticing to children, especially when they can see their own faces smiling back at them from a digital camera.

In this photo, Joni captures the optimism of children juxtaposed against the harsh reality of their environment.

Joni’s face lights up when she talks about the women’s literacy program that she manages in Liberia.  By helping to touch the lives of women through a reading program, Joni and SP also are touching the lives of the women’s families.  If you educate a woman, then there is a greater chance that her family will be educated.

Young and old come to learn

THE RISK TAKER

This last summer Joni traveled to the Horn of Africa (at the border between Kenya and Somalia) and South Sudan to document the work of SP.  These are troubled and volatile places. I give credit to Joni for her willingness to put herself at risk so that we can see what is happening through the lens of her camera.

Famine - Horn of Africa

SP’s staff works with refugees in the Nuba Mountains in South Sudan, where  Joni took pictures.  The local tribes have been under attack from North Sudan. To see more pictures click on “A Safe Haven” and then click on the photo icon in the middle of the screen.

A doctor serving refugees

UPDATE ON SUDAN

The refugee camp operated by SP in South Sudan was bombed last week.  It is reported that four bombs were dropped.  Everyone is thankful that no SP staff was hurt and all are safe.  There are conflicting reports if any Sudanese were hurt.

TWO REQUEST

1. Please keep Joni in your prayers.  Pray for her health and safety as she works in Liberia and travels through out Africa.  Pray that she will serve the people well and glorify God’s name.  And, don’t forget to visit her blog – you will be blessed.

2.  Thanks for visiting my blog, but I don’t want others to just read what I have to say, I want to hear from you.  So visit today’s Think Through and share your thoughts.

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