Naomi Harward Takes Snapshot of Missions on Trip to Nicaragua

student_spotlightSince she was 4 years old, Naomi Harward loved to document her life through photography. She said her mother sparked her love for cameras, when she gave Harward her first disposable Kodak.

“I was constantly taking pictures,” Harward said. “So much so, that my mom actually told me that I need to stop taking pictures because she was sick of buying film for my camera.”

Yet, her mother continued to purchase film and developed every single photo her daughter took, Harward said. So, Harward continued to craft her technique, testing different angles and experimenting with lighting.

She said she grew to love the process of self-teaching. As she began graduating through the ranks of photography to bigger and better cameras, she continued to be intrigued with capturing life as it happened.

“I just love documenting things,” she said. “I love documenting my day or things that I thought were really important about my day. Like me and my brother built this really cool Lego house, so I had to take a picture of it, just because I wanted to have those memories.”

Harward continued to expand her skill set, taking photography classes and never leaving the house without her camera. She said she began to think seriously about photography as a career during a 4-H photography class.

It started with crime scene photography, she said. She would spend hours looking at crime scene photos which led her to stumble upon photojournalism.

She said she began looking to photography greats like Kevin Carter, a photojournalist who covered the atrocities taking place during the South African apartheid, for inspiration.

“The thing that inspired me most about [Carter’s] work was how raw and real it was,” she said. “It’s ugly stuff, but in some ways, I think it’s really important for us to see. You can read about the horrors going on around the world all day long, but actually seeing them — seeing the faces of real life people just like you in those situations — has a completely different and sometimes more powerful effect.”

By the time Harward arrived at Cedarville, she had the skills and major but she was still lacking direction. She said she was sitting in a photography class when she heard of an opportunity that piqued her interest.

That opportunity was a photojournalism internship that combined photography and video with Christian missions. Cedarville journalism professor Jeff Gilbert introduced Harward to ABWE’s Storytellers Abroad program.

Although she was a bit leery at first, Harward said she quickly saw God leading her to participate in the program.

She said she watched as God opened every door by providing all the funds and settling all the travel arrangements.

The Storytellers Abroad program strives to come alongside ABWE missionaries around the world to create multimedia materials that are used to share with the supporting churches the work being done.

Jeff Raymond is the founder and team leader for Storytellers Abroad.

“Missionaries have an incredible responsibility and need to communicate what God is doing,” he said. “This program allows for the body of Christ to work together by bringing those who are skilled in communicating to those tasked with teaching God’s Word to advance the work to the gospel.”

Harward and her teammates had the opportunity to work with missionaries in Nicaragua for nine days. While there, Harward partnered with ABWE missionary Alvaro Ramirez and his wife, Erica.

Harward was tasked with creating a multimedia presentation that documented the work the Ramirezs were doing in Nicaragua.

Harward said what struck her most about her trip was not only was she learning practical skills, but she also had the opportunity to share the Ramirezes’ story.

“Being able to tell a story like Alvaro’s story really drew me in,” she said. “I love meeting people and sharing their stories so other people can be changed.”

Raymond said his desire for students like Harward is that through Storytellers they are able to see how their passion for photography, video, or audio can be used for a greater purpose that can change lives. To put it simply, their passion for creative communications is a crucial tool needed to enhance modern missions.

“A heart for missions,” he said. “The number one thing we designed this program to do is to enable people and to commission them to have a ministry platform. A way that they can use the skills that God’s given them.”

Harward said that Storytellers has opened the door to considering multimedia missions as a full-time career.

“It came towards the end of the summer, she said. “After I had processed everything I had done and relating that to what I want to do. And then I was sitting in a broadcast class first day this semester and my professor asked me ‘Why do you want to take this class?’ It was like a light bulb clicked on in my head because we would be studying documentary film and I knew that was what I wanted to do.”

Emily Day is a senior journalism major and A&E editor for Cedars. She is an avid reader, runner and is a Disney enthusiast.

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