It wasn’t so long ago I had that kind of carefree, entitled American attitude. Do you know the one I’m talking about? It felt a little like driving down the highway on a warm, summer evening with the top down. Life was good and I was pretty proud of it. We had quite the list going on. Adorable family, a successful self-owned business as well as my steady, great paying job. A beautiful home that we built ourselves. A great public school district, wonderful church family…and Jesus – to wrap it up nicely.
Yet something began to stir. It was really quiet and kind of annoying for the longest time. Convictions that felt a little like nausea. Recurring dreams I’d have at night that caused me to think about their meaning during the day. Questions I was asking myself that I’d never thought to ask before.
Questions like: “What is my true purpose?” “Why do I feel so entitled?” “How can I embrace this agape love and go out into the world to embrace others with it?”
I fought these questions with everything in me. I’ve always had an empathetic, compassionate soul but I lacked so much confidence in myself that I felt powerless. Ultimately I just wanted to be unnoticed. Unchanged. I didn’t want to be called outside my comfort zone or safe, American dream.
And then it all fell apart on a week-long vacation to Alabama and a blogging conference in Dallas shortly after.
And it has been one of the most painful processes I’ve ever had to go through.
Yet this quote rings true…
“Sometimes God gives you what you always wanted so that you can realize that it’s not what you really need.” –Shaun Groves
After working my way through the heart changes and allowing God to prune away the pieces of my life I honestly didn’t want to give up, I was ready to step forward in faith and ask Him how He could use me.
I wanted Him to send me.
While this is all part of a much bigger story, one change that God brought into my life shortly after this realization was that of Fair Trade Friday. If you’re acquainted with my online presence at all it’s doubtful that you’ve missed my love for this organization. As a ministry within Mercy House Kenya, born from the hands of Kristen Welch of We are THAT Family blog, “FTF exists as an avenue to empower women.” By providing sustainable income for women it serves to provide food, clothing, rent and educational funds for their families.
I’d heard of Fair Trade Friday at the Declare Conference just weeks prior to its launch. I remember Kristen’s words to the audience as she talked about this new opportunity to support women. While Kristen’s plate was abundantly full from running Mercy House she was willing to continue this walk of faith and take on a new project that He was asking of her.
That was then. Nearly one year ago I listened to those exact words spoken by Kristen. And in that time I’ve watched Fair Trade Friday – this God Sized Dream – blow up into one of the most awe-inspiring ministries yet.
I was in. Just a few months after its conception I signed up to receive a box. Then another. And finally I subscribed into the monthly program and haven’t regretted it once.
I love being privileged enough to spread the word about this ministry. Each time a friend or acquaintance tells me that they’ve signed up for a box I praise God in a way that I don’t think I fully understood before. I wasn’t praising Him for a great vacation. I wasn’t praising Him for good report cards from the kids. I wasn’t praising Him for the rain or the sun or being able to pay our bills. Not clothing or water or food for our family. I was praising Him for putting an income into the hands of women in poverty everywhere.
It was the start of something new. I’d already been a big supporter of Mercy House but this took it all to a whole new level. I wanted to learn more and more about the organizations who’s products would arrive in my monthly box so I spent time researching each and every one. A part of me has become attached to these ministries in a way that I never saw coming.
The women of Clothed in Hope, all vulnerable women who have completed or are currently walking through our skills-training program, are so very grateful for our partnership with Fair Trade Friday/Mercy House. The first time I told them about our big order for coin purses to reach the homes of over 500 women across America, over 60 women cheered, screamed, danced, rejoiced. Because to them it’s not just some extra money in their pockets to feed their kids or pay school fees. It’s empowerment, it’s someone who says “I believe in you. I am with you.” It gives the message to these ladies, overlooked and oppressed by society, that they are worthy. That they have something beautiful to offer the world, a skill and a story that can inspire women thousands of miles away.
Each product made for Fair Trade Friday boxes, from coin purses to earrings, is a way for women to rejoice in their story of hope and redemption that they’ve written as a part of our sewing and business training program in Lusaka, Zambia.
Maureen, the woman pictured with Regina on her back, is the brains behind much of our jewelry line, specifically a beautiful earring design headed out to women as part of the Earring of the Month Club. Maureen graduated our life-skills training program in September 2014 after completing a 12-month sewing and business curriculum with her daughter Regina on her back. Maureen is showing her children that work is good, and that no obstacle is big enough to keep her from pursuing her dreams for her family.
The story of Maureen is one of many that you can support by subscribing to Fair Trade Friday’s monthly box for $31.99. In it you will receive handmade (and fair trade) items from all over the world. Journals, scarves, bags, jewelry, tea, chocolate, soap, lip balm, key chains, t-shirts, picture frames, aprons, gloves, purses – these are just a few of the variety of items that you will squeal over each month.
They even remember to include darling little bags and cards so that you can gift items to that special someone God lays upon your heart.
Supporting ethical fashion. Sustainable living. Empowering women to a respectable living.
Fair Trade Friday now provides jobs to women in poverty in over 18 countries.
It’s my prayer that you will try Fair Trade Friday for yourself. Put your money to work in a manner that brings glory to the One who put it in your pocket in the first place.
Embrace what it is that the Lord requires of you.
Act Justly. Love Mercy. Walk Humbly.
God has not called us to be safe. He has called us to be obedient.
–Kristen Welch, Declare Conference 2014
Below, I’ve put together a slideshow of a sampling of what you can expect from your Fair Trade Friday purchase (as well as a few other Mercy House store purchases). I hope you will check it out and see for yourself what beauty comes from the hands of these empowered women. Feed a child. Clothe a child. Send a woman to school. Provide income to a woman rescued from human trafficking. Every story matters…