Jackie Grondahl isn’t really sure that she knows what art is, but she is sure that it is her deepest passion, and she would like to spend the rest of her life creating it.
“How do you define art, you know?” Grondahl said. “I’d never really thought about it before, but for me, the reason why I make art, per se, is that it’s all about capturing a specific moment. Time is always fleeting, and time is never something that we can hold tangibly. So capturing it is really cool, and something about that moment, that’s what I’m about.”
Grondahl, who is a junior visual communication design major, has found that she is most passionate about photography. She started off by taking pictures of nature, but over time, she shifted into portraits. She found that she loves sharing the stories of those she captures.
“In my photographs, story is a huge emphasis, especially when it comes to traveling and going to different cultures that I’m unfamiliar with,” she said. “I always try to combine a photo with words. It’s more than just a picture. It’s like, this is a picture of Wilma, and this is her story. Yes, the picture is pretty, and it matters, but the story behinds the picture matters more. So with photography, my goal is to make others feel more human by sharing the different stories that I come across.”
In December 2016, Grondahl—who comes from a military family and has travelled to many places in her lifetime—went on a mission trip to Lima, Peru. There, her team hosted a Vacation Bible School, assisted with a medical unit, and painted a school. While in Lima, she was able to use her love for photography to tell the story of the woman who built the schoolat which they volunteered. That woman was Wilma.
The trip leader approached Grondahl about the project to tell Wilma’s story, which was to be distributed to church bodies that support the school. He asked if she’d be willing to write Wilma’s stories so that they could be shared alongside the photos she took.
“We sat down with Wilma for an hour, and she just rattled off stories about kids that had come to the school and had their lives totally turned around,” Grondahl said. “[There were] incredible stories of God’s faithfulness in providing the school for Wilma and having a chance for the kids to come and be educated.”
The journey that Wilma took to build the school stuck with Grondahl.
“She legitimately built this school for kids,” she said. “It’s three stories tall—concrete—and she carved out a place with a pickax. It was the only plot of land that the government was able to give her, and they were just like ‘good luck.’ It was a dump. She was able to carve out a place [for the school] in the mountain. Hearing her story and her testimony was so powerful and impactful, and I just think that stories like that need to be shared.”
After Grondahl sat down with Wilma and an interpreter, she began to compose the stories. She shared them on her social media, and hundreds of people were able to learn about Wilma’s life and the lives of the children that she has impacted.
“She’s known in that region for being a Mother Theresa,” Grondahl said. “All of Lima respects her and honors her and knows what she’s about. I got to meet her and sit down with her.”
This summer, Grondahl will be able once more to share stories from other parts of the world. She will be a communications intern for Josiah Venture, an organization that focuses on discipleship in Central and Eastern Europe. Part of Josiah Venture’s program is to host summer camps that equip young people with the tools to carry out Christ’s call.
Her summer will begin in the Czech Republic, and from there she will travel to a number of other European countries to document the busy summer of Josiah Venture.
“I’ll be storytelling about what happens at these camps and also sharing the Gospel through photo and video,” she said. “I just have to keep in mind that, yes, this is an internship for a hands-on experience in photography, but ultimately, this summer is not about me. If I make it about me, then I’m going to miss out completely on what God has to offer for the summer.”
As Grondahl has sought after God through her art, she has found a clear mission—to end the apathy that she has seen consuming the world.
“If I were to tell a story, I would want people to know that they are allowed to feel,” she said. “I just want people to wake up. I want people to become aware that they are alive and embrace that in whatever way that they embrace it. I hate apathy, and I want to get rid of it.”