A gallery of HOPE

Saturday, January 3, 2015

HOPE Outdoor Gallery

If you find yourself in Austin, TX try and make it a point to stop by HOPE Outdoor Gallery. You'll find a large lot of land with nothing but shrubs and tall concrete walls lined parallel to each other up the slope of a steep hill. Whatever this place use to be no longer exist and in its place stands an outdoor museum of painted artwork covering the concrete walls. A place were anyone can come and leave their mark as long as they bring a can of spray paint with them. Some might call it a graffiti junk yard, but the place is magic. A mixture of large and small painted murals, that once used to stand bold and tell a loud story, covered the walls. I couldn't help but notice that much of the beautiful artwork was disappearing under the marks left by newer visitors, fighting to be noticed under the "MATTHEW WAS HERE" or "CASEY HEARTS JOHN"spray painted  in amateur handwriting.

Some of the murals were harder to see underneath all of the names people layered on top. I questioned how anyone could ruin someone else's magnificent art work just to have their name on a wall; but it occurred to me how deeply we all want to be part the bigger picture in life, how most of us hope to leave something behind when we leave this earth.
Maybe so many of us are connected by this, we want to leave our name and make our mark, to tell the world "hey we were here!" we want people  to know that we exist and feel as much as they do.

I think the biggest marks we'll ever make are on the people we are surrounded by. We have the opportunity to love and encourage everyone we talk to; our words matter.  One of my favorite authors says that words not only have shelf life but they have the ability to shape life and I am so sure of this.

HELLO 2015
Saying goodbye to the absolute best year of my entire life so far, and welcoming in the new year.
Its scary leaving such an incredible year behind but I get to carry all the experiences and memories and friendships with me into 2015 and that alone is exciting.

Sweet Dreams

Saturday, October 4, 2014

       I saw this incredible map of the world painted on wood planks at a flea market this summer and figured I could do the exact same thing myself but at a much cheaper cost. I love DYI projects, so I jumped into it without thinking much of it. Many many many hours of painting later, it turned out not too bad. Would I do it again? Probably not; I underestimated the time it would take to paint every single cove and cape this world has to offer, and the paint kept sinking into the wood. Not to mention it wasn't until later that I realized Greenland's proportion are more than a bit off. However, while painting the map with all of it little islands, I gained a new perspective. It registered that there were places I had no idea even existed prior to this project, places I couldn't name, and places I may never get to visit. There were (and still are) people and cultures that I will never know about, they existed to me as much as aliens do. It made me feel small- I think the way God intended us to feel when compared to His creation. I realized that just because I have no knowledge of these place, people, and cultures they are still important, they exist as much as I do, and we share the same spectrum of emotions. There are 7 billion people in the world, each one of us with a dream.
       Lately, I've been thinking about togetherness and what it is that connects us as people. I think about my own life and the friends and strangers who led me to pursue a huge dream of mine- the dream of learning more about the water crisis and learning from the people involved in the field. I was reminded that we have the same opportunity everyday to push someone closer to their dream, to run along side of others and feed them words of encouragement or to open up doors that will launch them forward.

       A few days ago I was on the 10 Days website- 10 Days is a campaign through Living Water International, where college students across the country have an opportunity to shift our neighbor's circumstances by providing clear water in Ruhango, Rwanda. I've seen first hand how clean water facilitates better health and more education, which leads to improved opportunity throughout communities. While working closely with the staff of Living Water Rwanda in Ruhango last semester, I was in awe of the incredibly hard work and dedication each staff member put towards providing clean water to these communities; I wanted the world to know about them! After spending some time with different staff members, I wrote a small story on each of them in hopes to share with my friends and family- and who ever else was willing to read it- back home. Though we come from different backgrounds, cultures, and upbringings our individual story is one of the most powerful things that connect us as human beings. They allow us to bridge the chasm of unconventionality and break down ‘ethnic barriers.’ I've found a great love for gathering and sharing people's stories, allowing others to learn from or be impacted by a person they may never meet. 
   I had a dream of sharing these stories with as may people as possible; and that day I saw the staff stories had been posted on the 10Days website. I am in awe at how loving our God is. How He places people in our lives to push us and enable us to sprint after the dreams and desirers He's given us. Through my journey over the past year I've been so motivated to push others to follow their own dream.


Times Flys

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Abroad: Rwanda from Alexia Ellesse on Vimeo.

During the Spring of 2014 I had the incredible opportunity to travel to Rwanda for 5 months. I met some awesome people, ate interesting food, saw some crazy stars, and had my mind blown a handful of times. Abroad: Rwanda is a mess of a video, made just for fun to celebrate the best five months!
Song "Ends of the Earth"
Lord Huron
Quote inspired by Henry Rollins

No standing.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

No Standing from Alexia Ellesse on Vimeo.

There is life in losing the fear of looking silly.
I love to dance, it's true! The silly kind though, of course.
It's been my experience that dancing makes life a heck of a lot more fun, and I wasn't about to pass that up during my time in Rwanda. During  the last 5 months I've met some of the greatest people, had the opportunity to build some great relationship, and most importantly took every opportunity to dance!
The song might be a little out dated and the editing may be a little amature, but man was there joy in these times!  

Bats, man!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

During my last week in Rwanda, I spent a few days out in Kibuye with the six other girls from the study abroad program. I had never been to Kibuye, but it turned out to be a beautiful little town right on lake Kivu with a breathtaking view of the sunset.

We decided to take a boat out to an island that was known for being home to a ridiculous number of fruit-bats,  I heard somewhere around 3 million. The island looked like a huge hill just floating on the lake, covered with trees

After the boat docked on the island, our guide lead us up a steep trail towards the bats. five minutes into the hike, thousands of bats were flying over our heads. The guide continued up the trail, but I think we were so amazed by the party going on above our head that a few of us stopped for a bit to get some pictures. It was a sight! I really could have ended the journey right there, I saw the bats and they were awesome! But after realizing our guide had continued up the trail without half the group I decided to book it on up the hill. 
As I reached the top of the hill I found the tour guide just kind of standing there in silence.  I figured he was bumped because, by then, all of the bats had retreated back into the trees which were now below us.  I wasn't too upset because I had already seen them.

As soon  as the last person reached the top of the hill, our tour guide suddenly broke the silence by turning into a crazy man. Just like that he started clapping his hands and shouting and screeching. Within seconds, we were surrounded by hundreds of thousands of bats, above, below, and in between.   It completely put to shame the sight we had stopped for at the bottom of the trail. 

That day, while standing on top of that hill, I realized something: perspectives can teach us a ton. I think a lot of times we have these awesome experiences, we see what we came to see and we even took a couple of cool photos too. And although our tour guide continues up the path, we pack up and head back towards the boat, satisfied because for me, at times, I am far too easily pleased. 
But what we experience is sometimes just a small taste of what is up the rest of the hill; and as our Guide continues to lead us on our paths He whispers to Himself you think this is great, oh, you just wait! So the decision is ours, will we follow or head back to the boat?


Monday, April 28, 2014

Unlikely things start happening when we are not afraid to get skin in the game and we decide to go big.
Passion leads you to do crazy things. For me that looked like emailing a ton of strangers, flying half way across the world,and asking for an opportunity that didn't exist prior.  

A little bit before getting the opportunity to hangout with LWI I had an itching question,  "What is an advertising and public relations major doing trying to help people access clean water? I really don't have the knowledge or tools to actually do so.
But what God brought to light was very important. while yes, it is true that I do not have the skills to physically provide or improve water access, I do have the skills to help those who are the professionals in this area. Serving those who serve.
I think a lot of times we have this idea in our heads that we can just come over to a country for a week, or two and make these crazy impacts on the lives of a community. And while yes that is completely true and God has no limitations, more often than not it's just not that simple. I think I'm realizing how easily problems in developing countries can be over simplified, and while there are benefits to short term solutions, it is always better to think with the end in mind. Many times solutions to big problems take numerous years to play out. And what good is it to come into a country, quickly better a situation in a week, and then leave? It's not sustainable and eventually these issues can arise again. I'm learning the importance of working with country staff, those who live there long term, some permanently. Those who speak the language or have the time to really learn or know the culture; those who are professionals in the area in which they are working. This is the very reason why I absolutely love Living Water International, and it has been a crazy joy getting to know and learn from their Rwanda staff.
I've learned God can still uses us even when we don't feel equipped. He doesn't put crazy desires in our hearts so that he can laugh at us when we look foolish for perusing them. 
He allows us to use our skills to line up with our desire.

.With a background in journalism I was given the opportunity to work with the field staff of LWI, and together we worked on capturing stories and report writing. 
I have been so blessed to have the opportunity to hangout with the LWI-Rwanda's drilling team and other staff  members over the last few weeks; the work they do daily continues to blow my mind. I am getting to collect stories on the staff, community, individuals, and the difficulties encountered in the field. These stories serve as a way to connect people back home in America to Rwandans; to actually people, not just facts and statistics.

I've got to tell the world 
Earlier this week I was talking to a friend from back home, and during our conversation she said, "wow, what you're doing over there is so great!" And while my heart overflows with appreciation for all of the kind words I've received throughout this journey, I need you to know this: anything that I've done during my time in Rwanda should be considered as nothing in comparison to the hard work of the LWI-Rwanda staff. These people are world chargers! And what they are doing over here is truly great. I've got to tell the world!
It is hard to fully put into words the dedication of the drilling team. I've had the chance to spend the last two weeks out in Ruhango with this team, and I must say I've learned more about determination during this time than I have in my twenty years of life.
These are the guys who dig the deep, deep holes in the ground so that a community can have access to clean and safe water. They spend their weekdays in the villages, far from their families and homes. Their day starts around 6 am and doesn't end until the job is finished, rain or shine. Even when the sun goes down, they pitch their small green tents right where they're at and wake up the next morning to continue drilling. It is not an easy job and there are many challenges that arise during the week. The drilling rig truck is large and extremely heavy; it can easily get stuck on the small man-made dirt road, sometimes taking hours to pull the truck. 
These guys continuously make sacrifices in order to help communities have clean water, in order to share the word of God, in order to give people a better hope from their future.  The hard work of every staff member is truly amazing!

Risking Failure

Monday, March 10, 2014

If we want to continue to grow, especially in Christ, then we must continue to risk failure.

During the six hour drive from Kampala to Gulu there was a lot of reading and staring out the window. I absolutely love looking out the window while traveling; I am not trying to let Gods incredible creations pass me by while I'm too busy taking a nap. My attention bounced back and forth from Uganda's sweet landscape to a book from the New York Times Bestsellers list; the author just so happens to have started an organization in Uganda a few years back. Some time during the trip I decided that I was going to contact the author, or at least try to, and ask him for some direction. It was a bizarre idea, a little risky asking for something from a stranger, but I had nothing to lose. Only one of two outcomes could result; he would either respond or he could not respond. This little plan could fail completely or it could not. 
Last night, after finding the authors email address I began to type out my message to him. I'm a strong believer in catchy email subject titles, how else are you going to stand out in a list of numerous unread emails? I decided on titling it with a question joke, saving the punch line for email body. Risky move? Yeah probably. But that's me and if this guy had a sense of humor then there was a possibility of this email getting read. My email may have sounded a bit silly but I believed it was worth the risk.

I woke up with a unread reply from the author; I found his quick response time incredibly impressive. Turns out that he couldn't exactly point me in the direction I was looking for but he then proceeded to tell me that him and his team would be and Gulu next weekend and would be happy to meet with me. The dude seriously just one-upped me. I was simply asking for some advice, some thought, some help from a complete stranger and he pretty much said I'll do you one better. This author didn't just want to help me, he wanted to meet me.
It made me think a lot about how God works. I think there are times when we think we are taking a big risk, but in reality we're actually playing it safe. I could have told that author how I loved his book and had a lot of respect for him. I then could have emphasized how cool it would be to get the chance to meet him. But I didn't. I simply asked for some direction without really expecting a reply back. I've seen this play out specifically in my prayer life. If I'm being completely honestly with myself I can admit that in the past there were times when I sought out direction from God without really expecting a reply back, possibly thinking somewhere in the back of my mind  it's okay if God doesn't get back to me on this, He's a busy guy with a long list of emails. I was limiting a completely limitless God. Thankfully over the last few years I've learned that God is a one-upper kind of dude when we have faith, He wants us to risk the human logic of our request, decisions, and even reasoning for His sake; He wants us to ask the crazy, outrageous, unimaginable prayers instead of beating around the bush because God is so able to blow our stinking minds, if we allow Him! It can be seen over and over again through out the bible, Gods power. And like the author, God doesn't just want to help me He wants to meet me where I'm at; He says "I want to give you direction but first come, let's figure this out together." 

2 Kings 4:1-7