Missionaries Angie Beute Sliedrecht ’99 and her husband, Tim, put together three facts from their two worlds to come up with one ingenious solution.
Fact one: Ugandans love to have their pictures taken. Unable to afford cameras, they are able and eager to hire an amateur photographer (of whom there are few) to take photos of special events.
Fact two: Pastors in Uganda are not paid by their churches; to provide for their families and support their ministries, they must find some other source of income.
Fact three: Americans are rapidly replacing their film cameras with digital cameras.
The solution: Find Americans willing to donate their single lens reflex (SLR) cameras, train Ugandan pastors in how to use them and watch their businesses unfold.
Francis Osire is a church planter and missionary of the Iteso tribe who helped the Sliedrechts conceive this business idea. Given two SLR cameras, he now earns enough money to send his five children to school, pay the rent on their two-room home and feed his family. The stability has allowed him, he said, “to focus on the passion and gifts God has given me to pastor a growing church.”
The project is called the Beyond Photography Initiative, echoing the name of the mission team the Sliedrechts lead—Team Beyond, sponsored by the organization International Teams in partnership with Christian Reformed World Missions—in the northern Ugandan city of Soroti and beyond. The name is also apt, Tim Sliedrecht said, “because the essence and purpose of the project is more than photography. It’s a means of ministry and missions that seeks to spread the biblical worldview.”
Not only do local pastors in the Beyond Photography Initiative gain a sustainable income base, empowering their ministry, they also learn biblical business principles.
“One person at a time, we seek to instill the biblical worldview of claiming all spheres for Christ,” Angie said. “That includes family life, education, businesses, social practices—everything.”
Establishing the biblical worldview in the local church and, through the local church, in the community, is the only way the desperate conditions in Uganda will change, say the Sliedrechts. “Most aid organizations,” Tim said, “treat only the symptoms of a much deeper issue, which is an animistic, fatalistic worldview rooted in Africa for thousands of years.”
Besides the photography project and other initiatives, the Sliedrechts and Team Beyond are mobilizing the local church to: provide spiritual counseling to children abducted and forced to be soldiers in the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army; to care for orphans and children made especially vulnerable by the HIV/AIDS epidemic; and to educate local pastors and ministry workers, all in an attempt to “penetrate as many avenues as possible with the biblical worldview.”
The early success of the Beyond Photography Initiative has the Sliedrechts envisioning its next phase.
“We need someone to come join our team and really develop this program,” Tim said, “offering in-depth training to camera recipients in photography, camera care and biblical business principles. That person could do photography clubs for kids, too, and make books that tell people’s testimonies and take pictures that raise awareness in the States of Team Beyond’s ministry work. It could grow beyond Soroti to other parts of Uganda and even other parts of Africa. The potential is huge!”