It is spring break, 2005. I am standing centered on a dirt road in a tiny village, outside of Maracaibo, Venezuela. The road is lined with homes made of pieced together plywood and scrap metal. Each house is guarded with a rusty gate and barbed wire. There are clothes lines strung from tree to tree holding what I am assuming is clean clothes, despite their dingy, brown color. As I take a deep breath, the smell of fresh mango from a near by grove is mixed with the lingering scent of garbage from the city dump that is only a few miles away.
A dilapidated orange extension cord is brought to the street from behind one of the houses and an old, black box speaker is plugged in. Spanish music fills the air. The sun is high and hot. I feel stinging on the back of my neck, and think of my mom an ocean away "Don't forget to put on sunscreen."
Almost immediately curious, barefoot children begin to appear, and then their parents follow shortly after. I am overwhelmed with the realization that these are the conditions my brothers and sisters in Christ live--on daily basis. For a brief moment I am lost in a mix of emotions: sadness, guilt, anger.
I am brought back to the awareness of my current state when I feel someone grab my hand. I look down, and a little girl is standing there. She has short brown hair with lighter streaks from the sun mixed in. She is wearing a pink shirt with hearts on it, and she covered in dust from the street. Whether it was the language barrier or her age, I'm not sure -- but she doesn't say a word. She just looks up at me, and I see a calm in her eyes. It was like she knew I needed her, that I needed to be held.
Amber Lea Gray, Photographer & Light Chaser