An Old Camera and a Clear Vision

Adapted from Alliance Life, September 7, 1994


The C&MA national church in Gabon is self-governing and has the goal of planting 250 new churches by 2010. In France, Alliance workers and national church leaders are finding relevant ways to reach postmodern people, who are showing an amazing new openness to the gospel . . .

Paris, France, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Any month of the year you can see tourists with their cameras taking pictures around the Eiffel Tower, the Arc De Triomphe, Notre Dame and the Champs Elysees. Yet not long ago I found myself in the unusual position of not feeling any excitement about the chance to go and live in Paris.

An encounter with a special camera began to change that.


Congo villageDuring our furlough a year ago, my husband, John, and I were traveling back from Florida to our residence in New York after visiting family for the holidays. We stopped at the home of an aunt and uncle in Hilton Head, South Carolina. As we walked into their lovely home, we saw, set in a prominent place, an antique camera situated on long stilt legs. This teakwood and brass box had a lens and shutter on which was inscribed “1891—Rochester.”

We learned that this 6” x 6” x 4” treasure had belonged to my husband’s grandfather. He had purchased it in London exactly 80 years previously, in 1913. It was bought complete with water buffalo hide bellows to guard against rot in the tropics. This was a prized item in the outfit of Alliance missionary David Mason as he headed for his first term in the Belgian Congo [now Democratic Republic of the Congo]. This camera was used for years in Africa and in North America until it was given by “Grandpa Mason” to John’s aunt and uncle in 1948.

The relic was still in great condition, except for one thing. The lens had become clouded so that John’s uncle could never focus effectively on a subject and take pictures. It was nice to have this beautiful camera as a showpiece, a souvenir of a time past in African jungles, but of what practical value was the camera today?

Then one day the thought came to Uncle Ray’s mind that hidden away somewhere was an old folding box camera of his father’s—a Kodak dating back to 1910. Connecting “Kodak” with “Rochester,” he decided to take the lens and shutter out of the old Kodak box camera and try to fit it into Grandpa Mason’s camera. It fit! Uncle Ray, seeing clearly through its lens now, has been able to take pictures with this 80-year-old camera.

Something in Common

Congo familyOn the long ride back from Carolina to New York, I reflected on my brief encounter with this piece of family history. In the Holy Spirit’s unique way, He revealed to me that not only did I have something in common with the people who used the camera; I had something in common with the camera as well.

I had married into the Mason/Corby family and had spent 15 years as a missionary to Gabon, Africa, where John was born to missionary parents. Gabon had become home to me in many ways. We had many good friends and spiritual children among the Gabonese, and our missionary colleagues had become our family.

Now our lives were in a state of transition. Just prior to our furlough, we had been asked to relocate to Paris, France. We were to replace palm trees with man-made structures. We were to leave a very open people to go live among a very closed and private people. No longer would our main ministry problem be how to effectively follow up and disciple all those who had decided to follow Christ each week. We were to embrace a oneon- one ministry style, or friendship evangelism. Christian workers in France rub shoulders each day with atheists and agnostics and can go months without seeing even one person come to realize personally who Jesus Christ is and what He did for the world.

But what did I possibly have in common with the camera? I discovered that my “lens,” too, had become clouded. Why? Because for months I had been focusing on what had become a jumble of feelings and thoughts. Several questions floated through my mind: Were we abandoning Gabon? No, God had released us to this new ministry. If it was right, then why was I hurting so?

God is sovereign. I could not depend on my emotions through this period of separation. I was drowning in my confusion and frustration. I was not letting God’s Spirit comfort and lead me, nor was I letting His infinite wisdom become my revelation and realization as to why He had willed this change in our lives.

But God used an old camera and His “antique” yet ever-new Word to clear my vision. I have been equipped with a new lens, and I now can see things more as God sees them. I do not see just Gabonese or French. I see people who need to know there is a Supreme God who loves them and longs to draw them to Himself. . . .

The Mason Family

Mr. David Mason, who has spent the last five years in the Congo, spoke of two things which need to be done in that land. “The sheep must be fed. How it rejoices our hearts to know that hundreds are being baptized, and they are not only baptized in water, but they are washed in the blood before they get into the water. But, friends, did you ever pray for them after they are baptized? They need to be fed. And we cannot wait for some of you men to go out, but ‘Prayer changes things.’

“The second need is that we must advance into the French Congo [part of which is now the nation of Gabon]. That is what the Alliance stands for—to evangelize those who have not had the gospel.”

—The Alliance Weekly, May 25, 1918

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