Recently a beloved tree in our backyard was hacked up, dismantled, and carted away. The loss of this one tree tugged at my heart and left me thinking about all the trees that have to die in order to print a magazine.

But trees are just one of the many nodes in a large network that brings an issue of CT into being. Our December issue was a unique example: To tell the stories of the church at work in the world, that network would ideally include a variety of commissioned photographers around the globe. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic made that a challenge.

That challenge was met with surprising grace and provision. Where photographers could not be sent, the people whose stories we were telling became the contributors. Missionaries and other expats emailed personal photos from their corners of the world—from Colorado to Taiwan to a ship off the coast of Africa. Our CEO and our director of CT Global shared hundreds of photos from their trip to Papua New Guinea.

Our Testimony author could not be reached by a professional photographer in her remote region of India. After being ill for a few days, she ventured out to see a doctor. On her way, she stopped and smiled through her sickness as a friend snapped her picture. She found out later she was positive for typhoid. Her response: “Thankfully, it wasn’t COVID.”

The artists we were able to commission went above and beyond to understand and embrace our vision. We assigned the cover art to two different illustrators, which resulted in two beautiful renditions.

Image: Dorothy Leung

Dorothy Leung captured exactly what I imagined, drawing her inspiration from Psalm 91. Keith Negley’s bright, cosmic interpretation we kept for our contents page. Together they told a story of darkness on the cover to light inside.

Image: Keith Negley

Photographer Brian Frank risked traveling to complete all three parts of our story on migrant farm workers. While on location in North Carolina, his one opportunity to shoot in the tobacco fields was thwarted by rain. He called to tell me, “I need it to stop raining so the workers and I can get out there.” All I could offer was prayer, thinking: “God, if you could just part the clouds—show him you are there.” A few hours later, Brian texted a selfie from the field and said, “Someone was listening … the clouds parted and even gave me beautiful light!”

Someone was listening. While this issue may look different than our initial vision, it became a capsule of this moment in time—proving our unity as a global body and the involvement of our Creator. The sweat on all the brows, the clicks of all the shutters, the leaves that drank sunlight, and the roots that gripped soil all came together to create the issue in your hands.

Sarah Gordon is art director for CT.

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