Behind the Lens: Nancy's Story

Nancy Zimmerman with Vicki Riggins | April 22, 2024  |  Return to Blog  


What draws me back to beautiful South Asia are the faces I meet at the end of my lens.

A connection is made the moment I snap a picture of a woman, man, or child, and then show them their reflection on the screen. With my lens down, the barrier now broken, I’m able to interact in a way that would have intimidated us both otherwise.

Villagers perform a traditional dance

Capturing the Moment

On my last trip, at my favorite well dedication, the men were dancing as we arrived. The whole village had come out to greet us and celebrate the gift of clean water brought to their doorsteps. I searched out a particular spot at the edge of the crowd (as I usually do), and began to look through my camera lens to see what special stories I could capture.

At the back of the crowd, a blanket was draped across a building to block the women who were hard at work making lunch. As I sat and captured the dedication, a young boy peeked his head out from behind the blanket to watch the action. After a few appearances, I pulled down my camera lens to connect my eyes with his. We playfully interacted while the dedication commenced. I learned his name, Balu.

Balu waits in line for his blanket

Nancy in her happy place (with camera in hand!)

Nancy shakes hands with her new friend, Balu

A New Friend

When the ceremony was over, I walked down to a mangrove to eat the meal the women had prepared for us. As always, it was delicious and filling. I continued to think of what little they had, yet how joyous and generous they lived. When we finished eating and came back to where the villagers were, two lines had formed: one with men, the other with women. I looked down the line and saw the little boy, Balu, standing with the other men and waiting patiently to receive his blanket. 

What a privilege it was to shake his hand and hand him a blanket to sleep on that night. Words came to my mind as I shook his hand, a prayer that I pray every day, “that Balu would become a mighty man of God.”

The Faces Behind the Needs

As we were leaving, a young man from a neighboring village came to the window of our car and asked us to please pray for a well for the neighboring village. This pin pricked my heart. A young boy with a smile, another village with no water. The wheels in my head were spinning. 

In all honesty, I don’t think that I would be as invested in the people of South Asia unless I had met them face to face, seen the need, and was present to the testimony of the impact my giving would have on the ground. It’s so much more than just sending money. I’ve connected the wells and sponsorships with a life. I’ve seen how villages are in desperate need of clean water, education, and nutritional food. I’ve made a connection, and now I can’t help but take action. 


Community Centers

Eternal gifts given may never be realized by the giver. South Asia gifted me joy. As I roamed the courtyard of GPPD Community Centers, shrieks of laughter, wide smiles, and light-filled eyes bounded from the children and workers. What a comparison to the children we would sometimes see in villages. Their eyes often carried heavy weights that I’d attempt to lighten a bit with my lens and smile. The life in the Community Centers was a testimony to me of the impact GPPD Partners had within their communities.

Last year, I sent hard copies of pictures I took on my first trip (four years ago) to be given out as gifts to the children. I received photos back of children’s eyes shining brightly while holding their pictures from years before. My, how they had all aged! I realized that most of them had never held a picture of themselves before. They’d never been able to compare their growth from year to year! As I prepared for this trip in 2024, I talked with GPPD Associates about the possibility of gifting every Community Center a book with the children’s pictures. Soon all the children will hold their photo and memories of how they have grown! It is a small gift in comparison to what they’ve offered me.

Each child was happy to see how they had grown and changed over the 4 years since Nancy's first trip

Villagers throwing petals to celebrate the gift of clean water

The final two villages I visited before coming home reminded me of the gift of a passing shower in spring. For our partner’s safety, we needed to be in and out quickly. I knew what this meant; they were most likely some of the most persecuted communities. I discovered upon arrival that they were also the most joy-filled villages. Petals were thrown in celebration of our arrival and the gift of clean water. A clean water well opens up a door to an opportune life for these families. I couldn’t believe God would allow me a window into this moment. 

Photography can open doors to make personal connections


What surprised me the most was what the people of South Asia gifted a white, privileged, American woman. I see it as I scroll through their faces on my screen. Photos they will never see, never know about. Photos that speak a testimony of the joy that comes from knowing that their Maker holds nothing against them. A peace amidst persecution because their home is not this world. A memory of the joy and peace that I’ve committed to keep on sharing.