Photos by Kadi Tiede
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Images have the ability to communicate things that words would not be adequate to express. A well thought composition can express feelings of joy, hope, sadness, or despair. That is the goal of this the Sakina Mission, to use visual arts to express humanity in images of people we would never encounter.
However, the thousand words of a photo can also lie. While a picture may speak a thousand words, most of the time there are a hundred-thousand other words that the image is unable to speak. Our ability to accurately reflect reality in images is insufficient.
Many will look at these images and see a beautiful girl with a bright new future. They see brave new parents who gave so much to love a girl who lost her security. They see a metaphor for God’s love bringing new life from death, and hope out from despair. But when I look at these pictures I weep because I see what the pictures cannot speak.
I look at those big brown eyes and see so much fear. Here is a girl who, for years, became comfortable with a life of very little. An orphanage was her security. Her house mom and house mates were her family. Porridge and posho and beans were her daily bread. And now she is told she must leave it all behind for something better, a concept which makes no sense to a four-year-old whose only security is her routine.
I look at these photos and see what happened earlier that day to drive such an emotional wedge between this girl and her new mommy and daddy. She is a girl who spent much of her day wailing for the painful death of her former life. The only reason she clings to us here is because, though we are unfamiliar, we are slightly more familiar than everything else surrounding her in the moment.
I look at this family and hold my breath for the night that is to follow in which this girl will cry all night long for anyone to take her back to what is comfortable. It was a warmer than average night, in a not-so-quiet resort, with beds too hard for sleep, and water too cold for cleansing; this is no home.
I look at myself and my bride in these photos and weep as I recognize that same look of fear in my own eyes that is in my new daughter’s. I am no hero. I am not strong enough for this. I feel like a fraud as a minister and a failure as a husband and a father. In my fear I recognize that I am every bit of an orphan as this girl, dreading every unveiling moment and its imminent threat of despair. What hope do I ever have of my life ever revealing to this girl the hope of glory that is offered to her?
Adoption is a beautiful way to display God’s love for us. Adoption is beautiful, but it is not romantic. It is not all rejoicing that some lost child was rescued into a happily-ever-after family. We are all in desperate need of God’s grace. Daisy is no more lost or broken than my own heart is before God. Adoption is beautiful in the same way that salvation is: God takes people out of a life of comfortable misery and places us on a path of hopeful, joyful suffering. As time goes on, slowly he replaces those despairing memories with a new, sanctified perspective. It is a long, painful process that removes our inability for the images of our lives to properly reflect Him, in order that one day our imaging will no longer tell lies about Him.
In his goodness, God chose to reveal himself to us in words. He created people to relate to him through words because right now it is too easy for our broken hearts to revere the image instead of the One it represents. But these words tell us of an Image that perfectly revealed to us who God is. He is the “exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3) and “the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). Not one word of this Image leaves us with an incomplete picture. This perfect image of God, Jesus Christ, now makes it possible for our image bearing to one day speak only true words of the one God who made us. And it is through the trials of service to those in need that he begins to develop our image so that one day it will perfectly reflect his goodness.
Yes, these photos do not tell the entire story. When I look at these beautiful images I see three fragile souls desperate for a Father to show himself trustworthy to provide their daily bread. And I see ever-developing images of that Father making his face known in their brokenness.
Adam and Molly are high school sweethearts of 16 years whom God has since begun to teach what real love is. They are ordinary people, who live in an ordinary home, who struggle with ordinary challenges, but are loved by an extraordinary Father. They are currently in seminary learning more than what is written in a book; through their experiences of seminary, community life, marriage, and adoption they are learning about the Savior being written on their hearts.