A Mission in Focus: Alumnus Serves Through Photography

By Jackson Boren on May 21, 2008

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Michael Murtaugh

Before graduating from Pacific Union College in 2007 with a double major in photography and graphic design, Michael Murtaugh had a passion for service and a desire for mission work but no idea how those components would fit into his career path. While a student, Michael made a name for himself on campus as both a talented photographer and an active fighter for world issues with his involvement in Amnesty International. Although these were significant aspects of Murtaugh’s life, he didn’t know how they would carry over after he received his diploma.

Then in June he made a connection with Maranatha and was asked to be a part of small media team stationed in India.  “I had always dreamed of going outside the country when I graduated,” said Murtaugh. “I had originally thought of going to Latin America but when I found out about the job with Maranatha I knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”  The opportunity proved to be worth waiting for as Michael’s duties took him from the congested streets of New Delhi to Mother Teresa’s  home for the destitute and dying.

Located in the town of Gurgaon, right outside of New Delhi, Michael was assigned to coordinate and take all of the photography for Maranatha’s mission work in the area.  His work was used for Volunteer magazine, online newsletters, 3ABN television and Maranatha mission stories.  

Once Michael started his work in India the cultural contrasts to the U.S. became rapidly apparent. “Religion, food, customs — everything is different. You can’t even really compare the two. There are billions of people confined to a much smaller place than America. When you walk through the streets there is an air of madness and an absence of order. Everyone is rubbing shoulders.”  

The intense conditions of life affected both Murtaugh’s character and his craft. Michael details his photographic endeavors in Calcutta as “intense.” He adds, “There were people taking baths in the streets. Many were deformed or dying. Seeing that on a daily basis weighs on your heart because it’s no longer a far-off place; it’s right in front of your eyes.”

So Michael began his photography career documenting life in a country where the average person makes less than $2 a day — an experience that has been life-changing to say the least.  “ This is where I belong. If I walked away from the kind of ethos I’ve applied to my life through these jobs it wouldn’t feel right. We have the power to change people’s lives.”

And that’s just what Murtaugh plans on doing. Since leaving India he has stayed in touch with a man he met there who was living under extremely poor conditions. Michael is trying to save up money for the man so that he can build a roof for his home.

Now back in the states, Murtaugh works in his hometown of Philadelphia and says, “My global perspective has changed a lot since my work in India. It was a blessing.”