Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wrecking My Life, Part Three

(If you haven't read Part One or Part Two, go ahead and do that now...)

So, it was clear to me that God wanted me to love these women.  And it was abundantly clear that their crafts were not only for them, but for "me", too.  I've mentioned before that those of you who know me know how much I love pens.  Seriously, it's unhealthy.  In fact, when Dan was moving boxes of pens during our last move into this house he commented, "If you had saved every dollar you spent on these pens we could have paid for a house in full years ago."  The moment Fidele mentioned a "Pen Ministry" and asked if I wanted to be involved, I almost looked around for cameras to see if I was being Punk'd.

On that Wednesday, we ran by his church for something and he asked me to come look at the pens.  I completely lost it.  They reminded me, instantly, of this:

Mary, my stepmother, made these "prayer purses" for her family and friends.  Inside the purse, she had small pieces of paper you could write your prayers on and then wear them around your neck.  For many months she wore the prayer asking God to give us a baby.  That was the same time she made my purse for me.  While Mary's beading was more intricate, it immediately came to mind when I saw the beautiful pens of these women.

Beginning the night that Fidele spoke beautiful words over my life, I began praying for what exactly I was to do with this ministry.  That Sunday in church, it got taken out of my hands.  (A story for another day?  I'll tell you about when Laurie and I had our own personal translator for church... and got called out in front of the whole congregation.  Nothing like going to Africa to get called out in church with your best friend.)  At the end of the service, the man translating for me said, "Now we are to the point in the service where he is giving announcements.  (Pause.)  He is saying that there is a group of people meeting here Tuesday for prayer.  (Pause.)  Now he is asking for all of the women with AIDS to stand up.  (Pause... and this one was awkward because as I looked around I thought 'we would NEVER do this in America!')  Now he is saying something about... you?  Is this right?  He is asking for you to stand up?  And he is saying that you are now in charge of their ministry?  What?  Am I hearing right?  He wants them to meet with you after the service?"

Yes, Mr. Translator, it's confusing to me, too.

Two things I'd like to point out here:  1. If you are a Pastor, this is a surefire way to get people to volunteer for something.  Call them out from the pulpit and for sure they will serve.  Or hate you, depending on if God has confirmed this for them.  (I'm the "serve" kind, btw.)  2. At the end of the service, this church of Rwandan people prayed for the visitors.  They asked for us all to come on stage and they prayed- all at once- for each of us.  I have NO idea what they said.  But I felt it... and it felt good.

After church I sat over where a few of the women were already seated.  Slowly, several more (that had already been singled out) came to join us.  While we waited for a translator, I didn't know what to do (since none of us could communicate with each other!), so I did what felt natural... I asked if I could take some pictures of them.

Eventually, the head of their group, Zilpa, and our translator, John, both arrived.  Zilpa spoke (through John) beautiful words about these ladies to me:

We are all Mamas.  We are all Sisters.  Yet some of us have a terrible affliction...

She continued to tell me about their cause, their pens, and their lives.  They each went around and told me their names and told me how many kids they had.  The woman with nine kids giggled.  The woman who had 6, but 5 had died in the genocide, made me nearly choke on my own breath.  Some of the women looked healthy, some did not.  Yet they all were sick, whether or not their bodies showed it.

They began to get excited about my partnership with them.  Just as Fidele had mentioned earlier, Zilpa reiterated that they had prayed for someone to partner with them to help them sell their goods.  When I told them I would sell whatever they had, they talked excitedly about everything they could make: baskets, magazine bead necklaces... so many more items.

For now, I came home with 3 things (but 2 of them have already been sold or claimed).  I asked them how long it took to make each item, and how much they wanted for it.  They sent me with one drum- it took them ONE WEEK to make it... they are asking $15.  I had 2 crocheted purses- it took them three DAYS to make them... they are asking $10.  And the pens... the beautiful pens....

These pens take them one whole day to make.  One day.  And they are asking FIVE DOLLARS for them.  For an entire day's work, they want FIVE DOLLARS.  That money will pay for their supplies, put food on their tables, pay for their children's school fees, and give them the medication they need.  All for five dollars.

It was like a punch in my gut when I realized how far $5 could get them.

I don't bat an eye when my Starbucks order is that much... or my daughter's Happy Meal... or a magazine... or a movie ticket (I actually get excited when it's that cheap!)... I drop $5 here and there with barely a thought... and it's enough to pay for an entire day's work for women who need it far more than I.

I packed up all the things I would be bringing home and embraced these women.  Earlier as we spoke, John referred to them as "Hopeless."  (Again, something we wouldn't do in America...)  But seeing their smiles at the thought of people in America buying their pens (etc.), I felt like they had a little bit of hope.

I'm in the beginning stages of figuring out my partnership with these women... the women of Kwishima (Rejoice).  I'm working on setting up webpages, accounts, etc.  But for now, I have some cool pens for $5 if you are interested.  You can message me, or you can "like" the Kwishima page on Facebook.  As I get more items from them, I'll post about having them available.  Start planning now on doing all of your holiday shopping through me!  I promise not to give you guilt trips while we are together about "Are you sure you want that Frappacino?  Do you realize that could help a woman in Kigali?"... because that's not what this is about for you- or me.  But I do promise to remind you of these women occasionally... together, we are a force for good.

We can give them more than our money, we can give them hope.

 Zilpa, far left, with me and some of the 37 women who make up Kwishima

For though I am far from you, my heart is with you.
And I rejoice that you are living as you should and that your faith in Christ is strong.
Colossians 2:5


Lisa@Pickles and Cheese said...

I'll take three pens when you get up and running and I would love to put a link on the sidebar of my blog once you get set up. I think this is so meaningful!

becoming 7 said...

just took the time to read back through some of your blog... can't wait to see how god moves and keep in touch this way!