Here’s Our Chance to Really See The World

The earrings placed in my hand made me stop in my tracks. I looked down at the neon pink crocheted earrings and was completely speechless. I looked up at Klaw Meh, one of our longtime students and smiled at her. This wasn’t the first time she used different yarn. We usually buy whatever we think we can sell, but for Fair Trade Friday, we are a little more selective. I called over a translator and asked why they were pink. “Does she have any neutral ones to sell?” I wasn’t sure we could sell neon earrings. I wanted to find out why Klaw Meh didn’t use the thread we gave her.

I wasn’t prepared for her answer.

The translator explained that Klaw Meh got on a bus and rode to a Walmart to buy the different thread.

She made the journey, spending her own money to purchase the neon thread so she could join the rest of the class. She chose pink because it was all she could see.

I looked into her cloudy eyes masked with cataracts and suddenly I understood.

My heart pounded in my chest as I grasped how desperate she must have been to participate, to see.

Isn’t this why we are here? This is why we come Friday after Friday to the cramped cold room, so these women who have been battered and abused and disregarded by our world–can see. So they might see hope and opportunity and mostly God’s love they cannot explain or even comprehend.

It’s a melting pot of color and countries, this apartment complex in the middle of Houston, that houses thousands of refugees from all over the world. The United Nations rescues them from refugee camps in Burma and Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand and plops them down in what we Texans know as Chinatown. But they don’t speak Chinese or English and most of the women were born in a refugee tent with open sides, a hard packed floor and a thick layer of dirt covering everything.

Governments give them refuge from genocide and religious persecution and then they wait for years in those campe-many are still waiting-to come here. To this dank apartment complex in the middle of the seventh largest city in the USA for a chance at freedom and opportunity.

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But there’s isn’t sadness on Fridays. No one complains about living in a two bedroom apartment with 18 other people. No one mentions their husband’s factory job that he works 6 days a week for minimum wage, providing barely enough to cover rent and food for the month. No one complains about reusing disposable diapers for their newborn babies because welfare checks don’t cover paper products.

No, there’s only gratitude and a lot of hope.

Click over to Ann Voskamp’s to continue reading the story (and about our BIG announcement!)

Friends, we have so much and it’s too easy to see the world through the distorted lens of our western culture. Sometimes God gives us an opportunity to see the world more clearly. Opportunities like this: For just $11.99 a month, you can get a pair of high quality earrings with our new Fair Trade Friday option: Earring of the Month.

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Each month features a different style of earring from a different country. We’ve partnered with amazing faith-based organizations who are helping women in Haiti, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Ethiopia and many more.

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And every pair of earrings come in a reusable bag that creates sustainable jobs for women in Kenya and Ethiopia. It just doesn’t get better than that.

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Sure, we probably don’t need another pair of earrings, but when our cute accessories have the power to provide a job for an impoverished woman in another country and help her see that she is not forgotten, perhaps this small way to change the world isn’t so small after all.

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If you sign up for the new affordable Earring of the Month option and come back here and leave a comment on this post, saying you did so, I will choose 25 commenters and send them this beautiful $25 paper bead necklace (color may vary) made by residents at Rehema House in Kenya in celebration of this new launch!

Congrats to comments #3, #4, #5, #6, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #18, #19, #21, #23, #24, #25, #26, #28, #29, #30, #31, #32

The Lessons We Teach Our Kids When We Buy Fair Trade

We stood at the mirror and I brushed her blonde hair into a ponytail. She still lets me fix her hair most mornings. I told her to grab a headband from the cabinet. It’s her signature school hairdo since she’s been growing her bangs out.

I tucked her hair beneath the new blue corded band and tied it under her ponytail. “Do you know who made your headband?” I asked.
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“Who, mom?” Our eyes met in the mirror. It was one of those obvious questions we don’t always ask.

And so I told her about the woman in Haiti who became an amputee in the earthquake that devastated the country 5 years ago. “There’s an organization who helps women with prosthetics and they teach them how to sew,” I told her.

My answer opened up a meaningful conversation with my 8 year old. For the next 10 minutes, I answered questions about earthquakes and amputations, prosthetics and mostly, hope.

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I walked over to the drawer that holds our headbands and held up a bright turquoise one made by my refugee friends from Burma and Nepal. I smiled remembering the day we prayed we’d have enough yarn. I looked a little closer at the kitenge headband from Rwanda, thinking about the girls at No.41 who are given sewing jobs instead of the street once they age out of the orphanage they grew up in. I ended up choosing my chevron print hairband for my hair. It was made by women in India, women who are no longer subject to the horrors of trafficking. Every one of these Fair Trade Friday partners do much more than make cute things that provide jobs for poor women–they do it in the name of Jesus.

When we buy fair trade, we do so much more than add another headband to our accessory pile or another beautiful paper bead necklace to our jewelry box. We offer more than a fair wage to a woman in an oppressed country. We get the opportunity to tell a story that is begging to be told.

When need to know the little bags that hold our fair trade items each month means food on the table for families in Kenya, Costa Rica and Zambia. And that’s why we include them- not just for reusable packaging, but for life.

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We all know we can’t always buy fair trade. And even when we want to, it’s sometimes a challenging, time-consuming option. But sometimes we can.  When we give a gift that empowers a woman, we are giving much more than something nice. We are giving something deeply important and receiving something even more.

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The other day Terrell and I looked at a small warehouse space down the street from us that we thought might be the answer to the Fair Trade Friday product that has taken over home and life. We have nearly 700 in our monthly club now and at just .33 cents a square foot, we had to consider this unexpected God-nod. When we told the property owner what we would do with the space, he asked, “What does fair trade mean?”

It means a child wasn’t chained to a chair to sew your clothes.

It means a woman can feed her family.

It means an amputee can work again.

It means hope for the hopeless.

Because it’s about the story behind the new blue headband.

The one our kids need to hear.

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Join the monthly Fair Trade Friday Club! February is full, but we are now taking names on our March Wait List.

But we do have One-Time Trial or Gift Fair Trade bags and today you can get $5 off. Check out our newest options for Home, Kids and Men’s  (with Limited Edition Mother’s Day boxes coming soon!) Or buy our Original One Time Trial or Gift Box with code: 4hope

Let’s Give Differently This Holiday Season | 3 Ways to Change Christmas

Last week I had lunch with two women from Azerbaijan, an oil-rich, but oppressive country situated at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia.

They have heartbreaking, but hopeful stories and use their testimonies to work with women who are escaping violence and oppression in the Middle East. We talked about partnering together.

It was humbling to sit with these former Muslim women who daily risk their lives to follow Jesus.

It made me want to live differently, so I can give differently. 

With the gift-giving season around the corner, I want to encourage you to think and shop differently this year. Dad doesn’t want another tie and mom has enough cardigans. For the same amount of money, you can give a unique gift and change someone’s world.

Here are three ways to give differently this season:

1. Give a gift in someone’s name:

Rehema House Gift Catalog-Mercy House supports impoverished moms and babies at Rehema House in Kenya. Not only can you impact lives in Kenya, you can also do so in someone’s name. For every gift you give, you can have an e-card sent to the person of your choice. [Gift options start at $10. For example, you can gift this for $10 in  your teen daughter’s name and this for $50 in your grandma’s name.]  It’s an easy way to change the world. Check out the Gift Catalog here.

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Compassion Gift Catalog-I love Compassion and I believe in what they do. I have seen their work behind the scenes in Kenya and elsewhere and they change lives.

2. Give a gift twice:

Fair Trade Friday-Fair Trade Friday is a fun monthly subscription club (with more than 500 members) that delivers 3-4 fair trade items to your door. The items are created by impoverished women all over the world who are supported by your purchase. Join the Club or give a Fair Trade Friday Gift Box to someone who’s been extra good on your list. Get $5 off a one-time Fair Trade Friday gift box with this code:  5off 

The Refugee Project-Gorgeous hand knitted and crochet items are always on everyone’s list! Every purchase benefits a refugee who has been relocated to the USA from a refugee camp, struggling to make ends meet in their new home. I spend my Friday’s with these beautiful ladies.

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No. 41-When you buy a lovely sewn burlap and kitenge bag from Rwanda, it not only supports the young lady who created it after she’s aged out of an orphanage, it also feeds one child, one meal, every day for one year.

Zambia Soap Company -THE PERFECT STOCKING STUFFER -Scented Organic Handmade Soaps and Lipbalms (Families harvest organically grown herbs. Workers distill the herbs to make essential oils for soap, while women widowed by the AIDS epidemic weave gift baskets and attach labels.all overseen by local Zambian churches)

3. Give a gift that provides for a future:

The Mercy Shop-A large percentage of every purchase from the Mercy Shop goes into an account for each of the Rehema House residents who created the items. After graduation, she will be able to use that money to provide school fees for her baby (while Mercy House continues to pay her school fees). So, every purchase helps provide for the future of the babies that Mercy House supports!

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Caring for Korah- We believe in child sponsorship. We just added our 11th child to the family (besides 3 of our own). Our dear friends are saving lives in Ethiopia and you can give a child a future this Christmas.

Let’s change Christmas this year.

Redemption on a Friday

It was a Friday last December when I met Jessica.

My first grader had been telling me about a new girl in her class. She moved to our small Texas town from Ethiopia.

My interest was peeked: What was she doing in Ethiopia? Why was she here? 

My little girl sighed at all my questions. “I’m only six, Mom. You should ask her mother.”

And that’s what I did at the class Christmas party the next week. On a Friday.

Jessica was crocheting a last-minute coffee cozy to go with her teacher’s gift. “I’ve always wanted to learn how to do that,” I said and I introduced myself.

I learned they were missionaries, moved back home unexpectantly, temporarily living with family. They were in limbo, both feet in two worlds.

I knew exactly how that felt.

A few weeks later, on a Friday, I found myself in a room filled with displaced refugees. I was teaching loom knitting without much of a plan or skill–go ahead and laugh, it’s funny.

I started looking forward to Fridays–not because I knew what I was doing, but because it felt right. I had found a gaping need close to home, a place for me to get my hands dirty, an opportunity to obey. This little class would eventually become The Refugee Project, now led by a friend of mine.

I remembered Jessica crocheting in the corner of the classroom and I had a feeling she had some free time, so I asked her to help me help the refugees on Fridays.

On the long trips back and forth to serve these lovely refugees in our city, we became friends. Our families became friends.

I learned their story, although different than ours, it was still the same, filled with beauty and brokenness. I couldn’t believe how God allowed our paths to cross with this family who worked on the continent we loved to empower widows and single moms, the oppressed with employment in the name of Jesus.

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I don’t remember exactly where or when it happened, but I shared the nagging dream God had given me for a club for women to help women and after seeing the start of a community outreach in Kenya to young mothers, I knew it was time.

 

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And that’s when Fair Trade Friday was born.

In the past few weeks, I’ve talked to missionaries in Costa Rica who work with very poor women in the mountains who will now have a steady income. It leaves me speechless. We are partnering with women who sew in India, and soap makers in Zambia and apron makers in Rwanda to fill our Fair Trade Friday boxes with amazing product.

They have all said the same thing: this is an answer to their prayers.

And I can’t tell you how much this little idea has restored and renewed me. Rather than be constraining and confining, its felt like freedom.

On launch day, with a bulging Club Membership and hundreds on a waiting list, Jessica and I celebrated.

Sometimes you wonder if your yes matters. It always does–through success or failure–it’s not about the result, it’s about the obedience.

But then sometimes, it’s so obvious that God is in charge and you laugh at your doubts and worry and sleepless nights. “I’m amazed,” I told her.

“Yes, it’s crazy–all of it,” she agreed. I knew she was talking about much more than Fair Trade Friday. She was talking about our entwined lives, the common purpose, the opportunity to serve and help so many women.

“This is redemption. This is what God does with brokenness. He repurposes it,” The words caught in my throat.

God doesn’t waste a broken piece of our life. He uses every shattered dream, every hopeless moment for His glory.

And He does it when we least expect it.

Sometimes it gives us another reason to look forward to Friday.

 

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Want to help us change the world for hundreds of women?

Join The Club!  Everyone is doing it.

[We are moving 100 women a month off the waiting list–it’s worth the wait!]

Fair Trade Friday

When I was in Kenya with my family a few weeks ago, I gave a hint about something that was coming soon.

And it’s here. Now.

More than a year ago, God dropped an idea in my heart.

I had this crazy – overwhelming, overpowering desire to empower women all over the world with opportunity and employment in the name of Jesus.

And I had no idea what that meant.

I had more questions than answers.

But I wasn’t able to shake this truth: While it’s often easy to give people in poverty what they need; it’s empowering to help them meet their own needs.

They don’t need more charity. They need more opportunity.

The two homes in Kenya that Mercy House supports are full with mothers, mothers-to-be, babies and toddlers. It’s a wonderful kind of hard when we are at capacity. It means we are helping, but it also means there are others hurting.

There is a heartbreaking slum at the base of the mountain from our beautiful new home. And now every Friday, the Mercy House staff is taking mercy to 12 new young single moms who live less than a mile from our organization. They are being introduced to God, they are learning skills and they are finding hope.

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And on the other side of the world, at the same time, in a small, packed room, the same thing is happening with displaced refugee moms.

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And it’s happening in Ethiopia, India…

Have you ever felt so passionate about something that it scares you?

This is it for me.

It’s called Fair Trade Friday.

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What: An affordable subscription-based club that delivers a box of beautiful fair trade product created by women we support, delivered by  the first Friday of every month (starting in September)! Check out the options.

Why: Fair Trade Friday exists as an avenue for women to empower women.  We are tackling poverty through job opportunity and empowerment rather than enablement. 100% of the proceeds support the artisans, hundreds of women and children from all over the world. FTF is a ministry of Mercy House Kenya.

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When I think about what $30 or $60 a month means to these young mothers–how it will help them meet basic needs for their children–I can’t help but think this is a bit of Heaven on earth.

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Plus, it’s really cute stuff.

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And fun mail!

It’s like Stitchfix or Birchbox that changes the world.

The club has a limited membership (we will continue to expand in the near future), so join today!

(Sorry, this is limited to the USA only).

P.S. You can expect your box by the first Friday of September if you have a prepaid membership. If you sign up today to become a monthly member, you will get the introductory box around August 21 and your first club box in September!