Paul Childers is a man with boundless energy. I first met the Kiwi at a leadership conference in Kona, Hawaii where he and his wife Susanne now live. They were launching a new initiative: A Voice for the Voiceless which comes under their exciting photogenX ministry.
Paul has visited over 50 nations and is a sought after lecturer and communicator on issues ranging from Biblical studies to leadership to justice issues. Paul is a man of great optimism, vision, and faith. He and Susanne, a professional photographer and spokeswoman for the suffering, are a dynamic tag-team. When I saw Susanne’s photographs and heard the couple speak against gross injustices in the world, I wanted to collaborate with them in some way.
That dream came true over the last few years on a project that became the booklet 30 Days of Prayer for the Voiceless, a booklet that dares to address issues so many people would rather ignore or not hear about because they are too terrible to imagine, let alone confront.
Paul is a globe-trotter, and therefore difficult to track down. I wanted to learn more about how he was introduced to issues of gender-based injustice, how the prayer booklet came about, how realistic he thinks changing the injustice is, and how Christianity can be a positive agent of change in the world, rather than a form of cultural capitulation.
I connected with Paul online while he sat in Japan’s Narita airport waiting for a flight to Manila.
Andrew Kooman: What is photogenX, how did it come about?
Paul Childers: photogenX is an dynamic community of photographers that seeks to create a bridge between the massive need that is in the world and the resources that will be able to do address the need. In addition photogenX seeks to be a catalyst to see new initiatives start around the world in the most challenging nations, to the most difficult issues and to the most desperate situations.
photogenX has three functions. photogenX create is our education wing with seminars, workshops; the new photogenX “round the world” is a community of photographers who travel to each continent studying photography, the Bible, and Christian Worldview; and photogenX publish has published four photographic works: “Eyes of Afghanistan”, “A Voice for the Voiceless Calendar and postcards, “Unique: Faces of the Nations” and finally has printed 100,000 copies of 30 Days of Prayer for the Voiceless.
photogenX was developed out of the basic calling and gifting of my wife Susanne and I. At the start of our marriage we travelled the world to places like Afghanistan, the Amazon, the Sahara dessert. As we began to publish our work and then distribute it around the world, we saw the great potential of photography and how it could be used to change the world! photogneX is an attempt to develop this basic approach and to see waves of photographers do similar things around the world.
AK: Tell me about your new prayer booklets. How did they come about and why they are important?
PC: Around Christmas 2003, Saara Kurtilla e-mailed us from Finland and said that she wanted to come and work with Susi and I for a period of about 2-3 months. When she came we wondered what we should do and why it seemed that God had sent her to us. So we prayed. While we were in prayer we felt that she was with us to initiate a 30 day prayer booklet addressing the issues of gender-based injustice. She worked tirelessly and did the basic research that has been the foundation of the project. Then I contacted the writers who would end up doing the majority of the creative writing in the booklet – you and Grace Farag.
Although the project was about 60% completed, it was not brought together until Joey Paynter arrived and worked day and night for about 3 months to pull it together. It has been a project that has taken many people and multiple hours to pull together and it took close to 3 years to bring it to fruition.
AK: So much of the world is unaware of the suffering in it. Many people in North American don’t turn a blind eye to suffering because they don’t even know that many of the injustices against women and children worldwide occur. How did your eyes open to injustice?
PC: Two basic things opened our eyes to the injustices that are occurring around the world. The most important has been travel. Actually going to places and helping ordinary people out showed us the desperate situation in which many people live in the world, particularly women. One example was in Afghanistan during the war against the Taliban. We were on a humanitarian mission to help those Afghans made refugees by the conflict. Women were brought to our clinic stuffed into wheel barrows almost unconscious from exhaustion. We could even see their ribs through the back of their shirts. The most important thing has been our experiences as we have travelled.
The second thing is our further education. Through our travel we came in contact with many of these issues: trafficking, sexual slavery, female genital mutilation, basic gender discrimination, female suicide bombers and more. Then we wanted to learn more about them so we read books and attended conferences that gave us more information on what was happening around the world.
AK: How realistic is change to gender based injustice? What has to happen and what, practically, can people do to change this ugly scar on the world?
PC: Well its not realistic at all. This issue is the largest challenge that the world faces today. It is the largest in terms of numbers, the most private and the most hidden. It practically touches the lives of hundreds of millions if not billions of people on the planet, is intertwined in culture, is unpopular and embarrassing to talk about.
However the good news is that this year, 2007, we are celebrating the 200th anniversary of an event that happened in England that was also an unrealistic goal. That was to see slavery abolished in the British Empire. When William Wilberforce started to speak out against it in the British Parliament, people laughed at him. The whole economy of the British Empire rested on slavery! There was no way THAT was going to change! However he kept plugging away despite opposition and the seeming unrealistic vision that he had. Slavery was abolished and the world was changed! We are in the same position today.
It is completely unrealistic to think that in the next 100 years this kind of gender-based injustice will be history, but it is our goal nonetheless. I believe that if people of all ages and genders rise up and just start to take a small step and there is a general upsurge of positive action. The first thing that they can do is get a copy of the 30 Days of Prayer for the Voiceless and walk the journey. They will get, firstly, an education, but also they will get an understanding of how they in the normal flow of life can actually start working against these issues in their lives.I remember seeing some graffiti on the Berlin wall which said, “Many small people who in many small places do many small things, can change the fate of the world.” That is our goal. If we see a people movement of millions of people knowledgeable about these issues and also doing their thing around the world we will begin to see gender based injustice a thing of history
Purchase the work of Susanne Childers:
A Voice for the Voiceless. A beautiful calendar featuring the stunning photographs of Susanne Childers, and the faces of women, children and refugees from around the world. Proceeds from the calendar are given to the work of a new publication focused on raising awareness about the plight of abused migrant workers in South East Asia.
Calendar Stats –
Language: English and German; Multi-year; Size: 9×12.5 inches (folded); 9×25 inches (unfolded); :: $21.00
– It is a full color print
30 Days of Prayer for the Voiceless. With more than 100,000 copies in print and translated into 5 languages, these booklets are opening peoples’ eyes and hearts to the issues of injutsice so many women and children face around the world. Examining 30 issues of injustice, including Female Genital Mutilation, Human Trafficking, and Slavery, the booklets are filled with facts, stories, photographs, prayer and action points.
A must read book! $5.00 :: Buy the booklet HERE