When twelve women say YES to something sacred and reclaimed, the stories of women artisans for Fair Trade Friday, right in my living room on a Friday, I think my heart will explode. These women get it. They know why this matters.
At 7:00 on a dark and stormy night, twelve of my dearest friends and their daughters drive (most of them 50 minutes) through a flash thunderstorm. They scramble into my garage, some sliding, their colored umbrellas flying. Everyone shakes themselves off. They fly into my kitchen with young daughters in tow. The little ones look up at me wide-eyed, anticipating warmth and munchies.
We fill up the room, grab plates, and talk a mile a minute, as only we women can do. They pepper me with questions about the Fair Trade Friday gifts I spread out across tables. Hand stamped note cards, scrolly shabby-chic photo frames, brilliant cotton bags, beaded necklaces that clinked, white flowy scarves, and clutches with big square wooden buttons—each a STORY, a creation of the woman who made it.
I tell them about the Fair Trade Friday Club subscription boxes come to your doorstep and how this means freedom and sustenance for forgotten women. I tell them about the Earring of the Month Club and explain how buying fair trade just makes sense to me. I explain how the women at Mercy House offer more individual items beyond what they see here. Every hand-crafted item holds the essence of the person who made it, a woman who has been marginalized and is seeking to sustain her family with her handiwork. This matters because these women matter to God.
I invited these dear women, all a deep groove in my own storied life, to hear the story of Mercy House and the Fair Trade Friday Club subscription boxes. I tell them how I came across all of it: meeting the founder, Kristen Welch through her blog, then her book. She said YES to God so she could help girls in Africa, one small step at a time.
These women and girls amaze me as they sit with open hearts. They hear my plea to empower women and teen mothers in small ways. Because one small yes leads to a lifetime of BIG YESES.
Their small yeses will women like Pauline in Kenya and the women she teaches.
Pauline is from Rehema House in Kenya. At 15 she found herself pregnant against her will, so she came to Rehema despairing and resourceless. There she learned about the Good News of Jesus Christ, which helped her find hope and a new start for her son Melvin. Then she graduated from Rehema’s residence program and returned home. Currently, she goes to cosmetology school full time while Melvin attends school on sponsorship.
She teaches 20 other mothers in her slum how to make gorgeous products imported to the US where they are lovingly placed into Fair Trade Friday boxes. The women in her community earn $50 monthly from the product; it helps them afford rent, food and school fees for their families. Pauline is transforming her community as a mother and a teacher. Her story is one of rebuilding a life from hopeless teen to a life giving mother and catalyst in her community.
My living room overflows with life giving women. Most of us live in suburbia and park our cars in nice garages, but we desire meaningful, open-handed lives for ourselves, our children and our families. Heads nod and eyes and grins smile back at me. I know many of their stories because we have walked years and months together. All of them, a beautiful, broken story redeemed, just like the women from 15 countries who crafted each item my friends now eagerly placed in their bags.
They gather tight around the table as Sue asksme to tie a Love Mercy Prayer bracelet on her wrist. “I will remember you every time I pray.” Remember me? Please don’t remember me. Remember them. She understands my confusion. “I will remember the women and you and your yeses.”
This is the unexpected blessing of Christ’s love poured out on all of us: yeses and prayers and thankful hearts and this unplanned hallowed moment. The questions and anticipation excitement circulating in my living room, it is almost too much as I tied the twine to her wrist, and then another, and then another.
“I have a bag problem,” Abby said, her arms overflowing with handbags and a clutch. We laugh loudly and sort out the damage.
“Let’s face it: we live in a culture that is going to shop. We are going to buy stylish things we want and cute gifts for others. So why not make our purchases more meaningful through items made by impoverished and vulnerable women?” —Kristen Welch, founder of Mercy House and Fair Trade Friday
I think about how I had prayed for my friends before the party. God, may our small urges to give have profound effects on the lives of the women who create for Fair Trade Friday. May it move us to love better, to follow You better.
As I hug these ladies goodbye, I contemplate the bold, world-changing stories they live as mothers, wives, leaders, disciples and teachers.
Our YES matters more than we can imagine. It matters to her. It helps us all to love like we were meant to.
Want to try out a Fair Trade Friday box?. You can sign up for a one-time box or join the club. Make sure to get on the waitlist if the club is currently full.