The old adage regarding the value of a good image isn’t simply a cliche—a picture really is worth a thousand words. Maybe more. Sometimes an image is able to communicate a message that words never could.
Images Can Change Us
Grandparents don’t want to simply hear about their grandchildren’s first visit to a theme park; they want to see pictures. Photographs allow them to look at the faces of their grandchildren and feel as though they’ve experienced the thrill of the day with them. Friends don’t want to hear about another’s beach vacation. They want to live vicariously through a series of right swipes on a smartphone.
The same is true for almost any life experience. Powerful images communicate in ways that can inform and transform us. They can carry us to another time or place as though we’re a part of an exquisite adventure, or deepen our longing to actually be.
Images also are powerful catalysts for empathy. Think about the last time a natural disaster occurred. When you heard the number of lives lost and dollar amounts worth of devastation suffered, you likely grieved. But it’s when you saw the images of homes leveled, businesses destroyed, entire towns marred, and distraught victims who’d lost everything, that you were most deeply moved.
There is something soul-stirring about about imagining yourself in the shoes of those affected by something, whether it be positive or negative. You connect with their humanity, laughing when they laugh, hurting as they hurt. You respond with sincere love simply because you were able to look in the eyes of those swept up in joyous or traumatic circumstances.
Images in Missions
So it also goes in the world of missions. Researchers provide numbers on people groups and emphasize the multitudes who haven’t heard the gospel in order to inspire and provoke others to missions engagement. The numbers are startling and somewhat overwhelming, and many people are moved to action by their enormity.
But if you ask people who’ve uprooted their lives and moved families across the globe what it was that made them go, one of the most common answers you will hear is that they saw the people. They went on a trip, met the locals, looked in their eyes, and fell in love.
Many of those missionaries knew the facts beforehand, which is why they visited those specific people groups in the first place. But the experience of being among them had such a lasting effect that they felt compelled to stay among them for the sake of the gospel. Although a picture still falls short of the face-to-face physical experience, a good image is an incredible way to connect people with others around the world, others whom God loves and who’ve not heard the gospel.
More Than an Archive
That is our hope with the new photo gallery on this site: to connect you with people around the world, to move you with their humanity, and to depict their cultures and daily routines so you might be intrigued and compelled to search them out for the sake of making Christ known among them.
The International Mission Board has placed a high value on images throughout its history. As a result, we are stewards of a rich, continually growing, historical archive of photos that spans well more than a century. As a part of stewarding that archive, we’ve created a beautiful, curated database of images of peoples and places around the world. The gallery is organized into collections, is completely searchable, and is 100 percent free of charge and ready for you to use.
That’s right, you can download the free images for use at your churches. Let’s take a quick look around:
First off, the photo gallery can be found in the navigation at the top of any page. Follow the “What We Do” link to “Other,” then to the “Photo Gallery” link:
Once you click the link, you will be taken to the home page of the library, which offers several ways to explore the images. You can utilize the search function:
You can browse images using all sorts of filters and tags:
And you can peruse image collections:
Millions of Images at Your Fingertips
There are currently about 800 beautiful images in the photo library. There are, however, literally a couple of million or so images within the continually growing IMB archive. In the days ahead, the site’s digital photo library will grow as images and collections are added.
So go explore, enjoy, and experience moments with people from around the world. Fall in love with the people and places to which God is sending and from which he is calling people to himself.