Joy in Suffering

By Jay Walker
Portraits of Hope True Africa

…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3b-5

David and I were once in Austin, eating dinner before photographing a Beard Competition, and we were discussing mutual friends’ art and how each of them were doing their best work from the outflow of their own worldview and experience. David asked me what I thought of his work in those terms.

I told him he was a master of his craft and was always looking to improve himself. Looking back at his early work, I could see over the years how he had continually developed what he could do with lighting and a camera. He also had that thing you can’t teach; the ability to give a representation of his subject that had a transcendence of his medium (photography), which I can see in his later work, but it is also present in his early work.

For a lot of his career, David worked as an advertisement photographer, shooting a lot of products, lifestyle shoots, and portraits for corporations, which he did all over the world. Between those gigs, he sought to photograph what he considered to be fantastic sub-cultures: mimes, Coney Island sideshowfreaks, roller derby girls, competition beardsman, etc,. He loved people living outside of cultural norms, who weren’t being paid much for what they were doing, but had passion for their niche pastime.

So when David asked me about my thoughts on his work I had a large range of photographs to consider, but at his artistic core, there was nothing more crucial to his narrative than his work for True Africa.

David was a man that suffered. I don’t want to get into the details, but his death from cancer at the age of 44, was just the final straw of life marked by hardships. Through his suffering, David was a man of character, never allowing himself the luxury of modern laziness, but also a man of joy and celebration. He was one of the hardest working people I ever met and he drank deeply from the Joys of the Lord.

When I look at David’s photographs of people destitute, stricken with poverty and pestilence, who live a life of extreme societal brokenness, I don’t see bitterness, nor pain, nor cries of injustice, but of endurance, character, hope, and a freedom from shame. David, while living in another financial stratosphere by being a moderately successful American, was able to identify with those people’s present suffering. Instead of shooting from a place that exploits their situation or looks down upon them, he was able to communicate their heart, and his heart, that is being regularly filled with God’s Love by his Holy Spirit. In my opinion, as an artist, there is no higher achievement.

Why should you own True Africa? The same reason I do, because it is a great artifact of a Godly man, who identified with the Man of Constant Sorrow and his fellow hurting man, and wanted to give to people by sharing his God given talent. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


Editor's Note: Only two signed copies of True Afria left. Go to our store and choose the signed copy option.

Remembering David Sacks

By Doug Hayes
Ethiopia Portraits of Hope True Africa Uganda Zambia

David Sacks’ connection with Covenant Mercies began in January 2003, when he providentially visited my home church (and CM’s founding church, Covenant Fellowship) on the Sunday I was introducing our Orphan Sponsorship Program for the very first time.  David and I had been friends since we were schoolboys, but he was living in New York at the time and I was surprised to see him that Sunday morning.  He approached me after the service, signed up to sponsor a child, and told me he wanted to travel to Uganda with me (at his own expense) to give us the quality photos we needed to promote our cause.  David was already a world class photographer by then, and I’m no dummy.  Within three months we were on a plane bound for Uganda together. 

As we’d talk in the evenings on that April 2003 trip, I can vividly recall David’s excitement about the images he was capturing.  Though we couldn’t see them yet (this was still a year prior to his conversion to digital equipment), David believed he was capturing something unique.  Perhaps exhibit-worthy.  Perhaps of value beyond the brochure and web applications we’d originally had in mind.  As we talked and imagined what might lie ahead, the seed was planted for an event that would ultimately become a treasured fundraising tradition in Covenant Mercies, Portraits of Hope

In all, David’s five trips to Africa would lead to six Portraits of Hope exhibits and more than $300,000 raised toward our mission, ultimately culminating in the 2012 publication of True Africa, a photo book comprised exclusively of our Portraits of Hope images.  We were hoping to return to Africa together later this year, but it was not to be.  On Friday evening, April 12th, David went home to be with the Lord after a 1 ½ year battle with cancer.  He was two months shy of his 45th birthday. 

David is survived by his beloved wife Angie and their four young children, and I’d like to ask everyone who loves Covenant Mercies to pray for this dear family.  They are surrounded by an abundance of love and support, but no amount of support can take away the sorrow they feel right now.  Less than an hour before David took his last breath on this earth, I had the unspeakable privilege of telling him that in addition to his own children, his legacy includes the thousands of children whose lives he has touched through his generosity toward Covenant Mercies.  Whatever the Lord does through the lives of those children will accrue toward his reward.  Though he has left us too soon, how sweet it is to know that he’s receiving that reward now.

For several years David and I had a running joke about his desire to be given an African name.  I told him I couldn’t allow it because I’d worked hard for mine, performing numerous feats of African-ness like eating bugs, taking an authentic African bath, etc.  Though David was never averse to performing such feats himself, I insisted that it would take him more than a couple of trips to earn his name.  On our fifth trip in 2009, I finally relented and informed him that he had earned his name.  After polling our friends in Uganda, Ethiopia, and Zambia for their suggestions, I finally settled on the name that fit him best.  We decided to call him Mapalo, which means “blessing.” 

David Sacks was indeed a blessing.  And though he is no longer with us, the blessing of his life lives on and will never be forgotten.

Portraits of Hope 2012

By Doug Hayes
Portraits of Hope

Of all the Portraits of Hope exhibits Covenant Mercies has ever hosted, I am probably more excited about this year’s show (our sixth) than any one before.  Before I explain what makes this year’s event so special, here’s a bit of history for those who aren’t familiar…

Portraits of Hope is a photo art exhibit and silent auction benefiting the work of Covenant Mercies, and featuring the stunning African photography of David Sacks.  It’s a tradition that began in 2003, when my good friend David offered to travel to Uganda with me to provide Covenant Mercies (then a brand new nonprofit organization) with the photographs we needed to tell our story and raise funds toward our mission.  The images he captured led to our first Portraits of Hope event in 2004, and we haven’t looked back since. 

Subsequent exhibits have traced the growth of our ministry through the years, spotlighting Ethiopia when we began working there in 2008, and Zambia in our most recent 2010 show. Cumulatively, these events have raised more than a quarter of a million dollars toward the mission of Covenant Mercies and created a treasured tradition for our ever-expanding army of compassion.  

Now, what makes this year’s show so special? 


  1. It’s a best-of show.  Whether you’re new to Portraits of Hope or a veteran of all five prior events, there’s something special about a best-of compilation.  For the uninitiated, it’s an opportunity to see fifty of the most compelling prints from our past exhibits.  If you’ve attended before, it may be an opportunity to bid again on that piece that slipped away to a higher bidder last time.  And like the best greatest hits albums always do, we’ll throw in something new to keep things interesting for even the most ardent fan.
  2. We’re celebrating the release of True Africa, a coffee table book of nearly 200 pages produced by Schiffer Publishing, comprised exclusively of David’s Portraits of Hope images.  This book is the perfect complement to our best-of theme, and it’s priced to be affordable for those who want to participate but aren’t able to bid high on the most popular framed prints.  David will be available to sign books personally, and we hope to have many guests on hand to celebrate this tremendous commendation of his Portraits of Hope work.  And by the way… if you register in advance we will enter your name into a drawing to win a free, signed copy! 

If you have never before attended a Portraits of Hope event, this is the perfect year to come and find out what it’s all about!  If you have attended before, you already know it’s an event you don’t want to miss!  Fabulous artwork, amazing food, great live music… and all for a wonderful cause.

Hope to see you there on May 18th!

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