In March 2003, our stringer in Nairobi e-mailed me a story concept about refugees in Africa on behalf of a colleague. "This chick can write and is an awesome photographer," she said. More than a year later, we showcase the outcome: an eight-page photo essay, "Saving Strangers," by Denise McGill.

Sometimes we should look at the trees instead of the forest. There are 13 million refugees and asylum seekers worldwide. We take you into the lives of four of them: Muridi Mukomwa, his wife, Halima Husseini, and their two children.

Many refugee camps around the globe provide a bare minimum of support. Each calorie of food and each swallow of clean water may mark the difference between survival and eventual starvation. Many refugees have been in border camps for 10 years or more. Agencies may provide them with about 1,700 calories per day and other basic care. But disease and starvation are never far way.

Last fall Denise traveled with an armed convoy to Kenya's barren Kakuma camp, where she spent 17 days interviewing and taking photographs among the camp's 60,000 refugees. Many of them are Muslims. She says, "There are known al Qaeda sympathizers in Kakuma. So just for me to go there and be a Christian was a fairly significant risk. I felt a special guiding of the Holy Spirit."

Denise will never forget one Kakuma experience—meeting Noel, a Christian refugee from Burundi. Inside the camp, about 100 Christian refugees formed their own congregation. They commissioned Noel to be their missionary to the Somali Bantu in another part of the camp. One day, Noel rode his bike, with Denise teetering on the back, to his mission church, where Somali Bantu Christians shared with Denise how they came to know Jesus. Some were new to Christ. Others were evangelized years earlier in Somalia. The mission-mindedness of those Christian refugees was a stunning example to Denise. They planted four daughter churches in Kakuma alone.

Days later, Denise traveled with Somali Bantu to the United States. When the refugee family got off the plane in Chicago, Christians welcomed them with a banner and balloons, a Christian family put them up in a spare bedroom for two weeks, and now Christians are befriending them as neighbors.

We chose to tell the story of the Somali Bantu through Denise's writing and photojournalism. The famous photojournalist Eddie Adams still marvels at the continued power of the still photograph. In a recent interview he said, "A photograph is more powerful than an atomic bomb. It can start war. It can stop war. It can also make the world a better place to live." In 1977, Adams released a photo essay, "The Boat of No Smiles," about Vietnam war refugees. The American heart was opened, and 200,000 people found new homes here. For further reflection on the power of photography, enhanced by Internet technology, see Ted Olsen's "Weblog in Print" (p. 60).

Publication awards: At the annual Evangelical Press Association meeting, CT, its website, and eight of its sister print publications walked away with a slew of honors. For a full list of award-winning articles and authors, see

Coming next month: The controversial author of Wild at Heart, John Eldridge; how evangelical men treat their wives; and a Christian businessman speaks candidly about his same-sex attraction.

Related Elsewhere:

Also posted today is Saving Strangers a photo essay from Somalia.

Other Christianity Today articles from Somalia and refugees include:

Split Families in Limbo | Relief agencies push Bush to reverse sharp decline in refugee resettlement program. (Dec. 13, 2002)
Yemen Court Sentences Somali Convert To Death | Former Muslim given one week to recant Christianity or face execution. (July 7, 2000)
Somali Convert in Yemen Transferred to Immigration Jail | U.N. agency proposing emergency resettlement for Christian convert from Islam. (July 21, 2000)
Somali Convert Released From Jail in Yemen | Reunited family en route to New Zealand. (Aug. 29, 2000)
Freed Somali Christian Arrives in New Zealand | 'It was God who saved me,' Haji declares. (Sept. 6, 2000)

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