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…
Jennifer Dukes Lee for #TellHisStory
Holley Gerth and Coffee For Your Heart
Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday
Holly S. Barrett for Testimony Tuesday
You, my friend, are one fantastic woman. God bless you for your desire to help and support the vulnerable!
Awe, Marie – you are so sweet. This didn’t come easily for me. Not the loving and compassion part, but being so open about it. I’m so private. But I guess when God calls you to something you just do it. And this is the most alive I’ve been in a very long time!
I love this! We have been long time supporters of MercyHouse and I am loving the Fair Trade Friday items… I ordered a one time only box ($34.99 plus shipping) and am looking forward to hopefully soon signing up for the monthly boxes! I also love the earring club option – for those of us who haven’t managed to find that extra $32 per month yet! 😉 I am working on my post about the MercyHouse home party I just hosted… I will definitely be doing that again soon! It was so fun to share about MercyHouse and FTFclub with more locals and watch them come alive at the thought of how wearing a necklace can help empower and bring change! (Plus – my favorite – is the tags that include the names of the women who made the products! For instance, today I am wearing pieces made by Violete, Rose, and Pauline – which means I will be praying for them throughout the day!) xoxo
This is so exciting! I would love to be able to host a party soon, once life calms down a bit. We’ve had a crazy busy summer with more life changes coming down the pike (not to mention this Kenya trip and lemme tell ya…there’s a lot involved in planning a trip to Africa. Who knew?!) So I’ve been missing keeping up with everyone on Voxer, but I’m hoping to carve out some time later this week to catch up. It’s so good hearing from you and to know how much you loved hosting this party. And you are such prayer warrior. I’m grateful to know that those beautiful ladies will be covered in prayer. Love you, friend!
I have never heard about Fair Trade Friday, and I’m so glad to know about this. Thanks for spreading the word!
Oh, this just makes me smile from ear to ear. I love it when someone who hasn’t heard of the ministry hears about it for the first time. Please check it out – you will be so thrilled that you did! <3
I love everything about this today. I love Kristen Welch and her heart not only for Mercy House but the women who need that push and the skills into making lives better for themselves. Thank you for being bold for God and for sharing your heart for this ministry too. Visiting you from #TellHisStory
Thank you, Mary, for visiting here and for those words of encouragement.
Love your heart to serve and glorify His name – in your life and the lives of others. So happy that my friend (you) was my neighbor at #tellhisstory. xoxo
Thank you for visiting, friend! Your encouragement means a lot!
What a great ministry and I love how you followed God’s nudge…I also love how there are different groups each making a difference in however God calls them…Thank you for sharing your joy 🙂
Thank you for visiting, Dolly!
I’ve heard of this and I think it is so cool. I might look into it. Maybe a friend and I can spilt a box?
Debbie, you typically receive (on average) 4 items. You could certainly split it. Another thing – if you decided to subscribe they make GREAT gifts for friends, teachers, etc… I love giving these items to others. You’re free to purchase a one time trial or you can sign up for the waiting list. Rumor has it subscriptions will open up again in early/mid August.
I love how you describe how you landed here!!
Thank you Hope!
Hi Jennifer, I got to your blog from Mercy House’s Facebook page and I just have to say that this post could so easily describe me as well. I’ve felt a stirring in me since about last November and I am still trying to find the answers, but God is changing me. I’ve been a follower on Kristen’s blog for about a year, so I was all on board when FTF started, but I didn’t get in before the memberships sold out. i still haven’t signed up, but I just made my first order from the Mercy shop and LOVE the items. All of this has made me want to support fair trade items as much as possible. Can’t wait to purchase more in the future! Thank you for your post!
Oh, I just love this comment! I’m so glad that you’ve been following that stirring to trust where He’s leading you. So much has happened to our family in a short amount of time and I know that this ministry has a lot to do with the changes. I am forever grateful!
Jennifer thank you for this – yes all stirred up and thinking now. My heart too is “Big or little I just want my life to make a difference in someone else’s life”. A little can go so much further than we think. Thank you for the push.
Thank you for visiting today and for those encouraging words!
I love how God uses everything to work in our lives. A blogging conference, fair trade products … whatever it is, he’ll use it. And then to see how his story is intertwined in it all is so exciting. Thanks for sharing this post. I’m glad you linked up at #ThreeWordWednesday. xoxo