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Photographer begins ministry after giving up his camera

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–To serve God as a preacher of the gospel, professional photographer Ake Lundberg gave up his camera and went to seminary.

Then his wife became seriously ill.

“Last thing the doctor said to me was, ‘She can’t go back to that kind of schedule [and] she has to leave seminary,'” said Lundberg, who was a featured speaker at the 2001 Photojournalism Conference at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary March 30-April 1.

“Probably, it was one of the deepest valleys I’ve ever gone through, because we felt we were doing God’s will, yet for some reason he had shut the door,” Lundberg recounted.

Although one door was shut, God opened another by giving the camera back to Lundberg, providing him with a photography ministry that has had a global impact.

“I had never, never thought of the possibility of being able to serve God with my camera,” said Lundberg, who has served as lead photographer for evangelists Billy Graham and Luis Palau. “Frankly, it just never entered my mind.”

Lundberg told the 205 conference participants from around the world that he had “struggled with trying to figure out something very profound [to say]” but kept coming back to his testimony because conference organizers “are more concerned about you and your walk with the Lord than we are about your pictures.”

In the early 1960s, Lundberg and his wife felt God was leading them into the ministry, so he quit his job as an assistant photographer to Scott d’Arazien, one of the premier photographers at the time.

“I put my cameras on the shelf, and we entered the Salvation Army Seminary in New York,” said Lundberg, a native of Sweden.

He said he believed God was testing him because he loved photography, and God wanted to see if he was willing to give it up for him.

“I did [give it up], and I did it gladly,” even though he had “the smell of ink and paper in his nostrils” since birth and had invested so much time and effort to become an excellent photographer.

While at seminary, his wife had several surgeries for severe back problems, but her condition worsened when she caught spinal meningitis in a hospital and nearly died.

Leaving the seminary may have closed one door, but through photography a greater door of opportunity for ministry opened up, Lundberg said.

One day in the mid-1960s, Lundberg received a telephone call from the editor of Billy Graham’s “Decision” magazine who wanted to know if Lundberg could cover a Graham speaking engagement at Columbia University.

“I said sure,” and after Lundberg covered the event, the editor invited him to meet Graham, an invitation he readily accepted.

During the meeting with the evangelist, he was stunned when the editor said to Graham, “You know we’ve been praying to find a Christian photographer to come and work with us. Maybe Ake is the answer,” said Lundberg, who accepted the offer and moved to Minneapolis to work with Graham.

“I spent 13 absolutely glorious years traveling the world with the Billy Graham [Evangelistic] Association,” Lundberg said. “What an experience. I had the privilege to meet a lot of famous people, [and] I’ve been in the Oval Office under three presidents.”

Although “it was an amazing, amazing time,” his wife’s health was a constant concern. Despite more treatments and surgeries for his wife’s back problems, her health never returned, Lundberg said.

“My wife sometimes went in the hospital while I was out on the road and I was traveling,” Lundberg said. “But we were committed, because we felt that is what God wanted us to do at that time.”

The long, frequent trips did, however, make it harder for him to have time alone with God, Lundberg said.

“I want to give a warning to some of you that work for Christian organizations, ” he said. “I ran into a time in my life when I worked for Billy Graham and I got so busy that I forgot my own devotional life.”

After 13 years, Lundberg said the right time and situation came for him to move on when his editor retired from Graham’s magazine.

However, his days as a lead photographer for a worldwide evangelist were not over, when Lundberg received a call evangelist Luis Palau. After praying about Palau’s invitation to work for him, Lundberg moved to Portland, Ore., where Palau’s ministry is headquartered.

“[Working with Palau] was a great experience for me, [and] I enjoyed it,” Lundberg said. He worked with Palau for six years and then opened up his own business because of his wife’s health “and because I also was really missing my son growing up,” Lundberg said. The change also gave him more time to minister at his church.

For his varied career in photography, Lundberg said simply, “I am very grateful.”

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  • Don Yang