“I found myself confronted by the famine in Somalia.” –– David R Banta
Nineteen-ninety-nine was a pivotal year for my life. The year before, my wife Melissa had been diagnosed with cancer and two months later was gone. I had been working on a book (See “Children Of The Light” on my site) and laid that to rest when Melissa died. I met and married Rhoda within the next six months and found that God had given me a life-long partner (at this wri- ting, 27 years). To this day, she has been my encourager.
In the fall of 1992, I found myself confronted by the famine in Somalia. I was pressed by God to connect with the organization International Aid in Springlake, Michigan, a non-profit used healthcare equipment provider. Initially, the group declined my still photography offer. But two weeks later, they called back to tell me their stills/video guy had dropped out. I was adept at video back then (tape) so I agreed to go to Somalia.
We flew into Nairobi, Kenya. This was my first visit to Africa, so I was all eyes. I found myself on a street in the city, all by myself…a white man surrounded by a sea of black Kenyans. As the journey continued, we flew over a desert and spotted an ostrich running full-tilt across the desert…running from us. This was an assessment trip so we traveled in Kenya to other missions as well. The one in the desert was far from “civilization”. Another was in the mountains near Mt. Kilaminjaro. I got up one morning there and went for a prayer walk. I did not take into account the fact that I was surrounded by jungle here. I heard what sounded like pig being slaughtered (or consumed!). Then I head rustling in the bushes. I had learned on my own that if you “chuff” like a large animal, other animals tend to take pause. I chuffed and a string of baboons entered my trail, led by a large male. They moved quickly across my trail and disappeared back into the jungle from whence they came.
We were never able to go to Somalia because of a threat of bandits along the roads. We settled on a Somali refugee camp in Kenya.
Unfortunately most of my work was on video tape. Stills were almost an afterthought…though precious to me. My heart was in stills and remains there to this day. There is something amazing in a photograph. You are allowed to study a moment, and if it is the right moment…it’s magic.
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