I was going to take a day off today. I didn't have anything planned and I hadn't actively sought out contacting anyone who had expressed interest in being in this project. After sleeping in a little later than usual (7 AM is late for me), I lay around the house, getting chores done, without the same sense of stir-crazy that usually envelopes me by 9 am. I didn't even leave the house until around noon, running to get my cancer suppressing medication, before heading back home. My day was largely built around serving at church tonight, for our 2nd "Red October" event.
As the auditorium filled, the energy began to swell. If you've never been to my church, first of all, you are welcome to join. My pastor is a former weed smoking, drug dealing, cheater (he says this at church, I'm not throwing him under the bus). I'm a former coke snorting, womanizing, cheater. My friends at church have been released from the grips of drug dealing, gangs, and sex slavery. WE are the broken. Secondly, if you are to ever attend, you'll notice that there is an energy and passion inside and outside of that building, because not only are these people passionate when they attend, they're passionate in their daily lives. As I photographed the evening, some of the most powerful and awe inducing moments that I've ever seen happened. My finger kept pressing the shutter button. Tears fell. I felt the presence of God in these moments and I just happened to be up front snapping away. Our campus pastor in West Valley prayed us out after these incredibly intense moments passed. By that time, I'd positioned myself behind the stage, looking into the audience and at the back of pastor Darren.
My head was bowed. I was invested in prayer and then I felt a hand on my shoulder. Startled, I looked up and it was our speaker for the evening, Pastor Benny Perez from The Church in Las Vegas. He asked my name and within a moment, he began praying over me. I'd never met this man before. He knew not one iota about me, other than that I took photos. As he prayed, there were words that came out of his mouth that were impossible to come from only him. I began to sob. He walked away and I stumbled into the adjacent hallway and my head came to rest against the wall. The brim of my hat crunched into the concrete and my eyes couldn't even open. I've never in my life felt that before.
I was going to take the day off, but then I was spoken to, by God himself, through a man who has dedicated his life to serving. It was like I'd been asleep all day and then God said "I need you to wake up. I didn't tell you to just start this project. I told you to carry it through. I told you to finish it." In all the things I've prayed about this week, one of the things I had was specifically answered tonight in that prayer that Benny gave over me.
Yes, this might all sound crazy. Yes, even to me, in this moment, it's hard to even fathom it. The one thing I know, is that my reality for so long, has been to serve myself. Through sex, through drugs, through anything that would gratify ME. I began to relinquish that and some of it has begrudgingly hung on. I'm here to say that what was left, has been banished. My life, my desire and devotion is to telling the story of redemption and I'm going to do it through my photographs, because just like God spoke through Pastor Benny tonight, my prayer has been that God speak through my photographs and if JUST ONE person is changed, then this is a success.
#UntilWeMeetAgainProject Day 33. A holy number.
Thanks to Marcus for being willing to shoot this after I'd been "woken up". If God was going to talk directly to me tonight, I wasn't going to take the day off. I can do that another day.