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Issue 7-10

BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag): 600 of Them!

Sitting at the table with members of the marketing and research departments of such organizations as Walt Disney World, Procter & Gamble, Duke University’s School of the Environment, Leo Burnett Company, and Unilever Research Department made me feel very much like a little pastor’s wife from the Midwest (although I hadn’t been a pastor’s wife in decades, and I’d traveled to more than 55 countries, developing an expanding worldview as I journeyed). A grant of $3500 had given me the opportunity to participate in a week’s worth of training in qualitative market research under the aegis of the RIVA Training Institute in Washington, D.C.

Over five intense days at RIVA, we were introduced to focus-group moderator theory and practices. Immediately after being introduced to a concept, we were put into a practical exercise with evaluators, with videotapes going, and with peer observers giving feedback. Without a doubt, it was daunting, but at the same time, some of the best learning I’ve ever experienced in my entire lifetime.

My last assignment was to work up a solo focus-group format, the purpose of which would be: To explore the qualities in pro athletes valued by women (so that managers will have consumer information to plan public relations campaigns for their clients and with advertisers). For my final grade, I sat in the focus-group room with a random bunch of strangers, the videotapes going, and my trainers and colleagues behind the one-sided glass, furiously taking notes for my group evaluation.

To my relief, I received high marks and commendations as well as my Master Moderator Certificate indicating that I had completed 30 hours of intensive training in the theory and practice of fundamental techniques of focus-group moderating. Needless, to say, I am sold on the power and importance of gathering other people’s opinions when I am about to venture forth on a new creative endeavor.

We are at the place in the Global Bag Ladies Project (still working on the “Guy” side of this—grocery bags that men will buy and carry) where I have conducted about 10 informal focus-groups, inviting consumers to give me their input on sample American-supplied, Made-in-China, large canvas shopping bags. I feel like I’ve been carrying my Global Bag Ladies Project bag in my car, leaving the bags on the living-room coffee table, and lying in wait to whip them out whenever an unsuspecting human innocently crosses my path.

I discovered that women would really like to purchase an African-made and African-looking shopping bag. I discovered that some men and women don’t shop for food for two weeks like I do and would like a medium-sized bag. I am discovering that men would really like a guy-friendly bag. I discovered, once again, that the focus-group process is essential before any major venture is launched or attempted.

Linda Renner, one of my Global Bag Lady colleagues, e-mailed today from Nairobi that some 56 grocery bags have been stitched together, and that she will be bringing them home with her when she returns to the States later this summer. Before she returns, however, what we need you to do is this:

I need you to buy the latest evolution of
the Global Bag Ladies Project shopping bag,
and then I need you to give me feedback on the Project.

Let me first explain the purposes of the Global Bag Ladies Project.

1. Our first goal is to encourage church people to stop using plastic and paper shopping bags and to start using sustainable shopping bags that are carried to and from shopping centers.
For the basic facts about the negative ecological footprint of paper and plastic bags, go to the Hungry Souls Web site,, and check out Soulish Food Issue 7-4, Bag Lady’s Crusade: Plastic Bags. This gives some basic data, which I will not repeat here.

Now, you can advertise Whole Foods bags, Jewel bags, Trader Joe’s bags by carrying their cheap, rather smallish bags—or you can purchase Global Bag Ladies Project bags and carry them to stores. (Actually, this is a donation; you will be receipted for your donation minus the raw cost of the bag.) The margins of these donations will help to underwrite the cost of setting up the first phase of our project, which I figure to be $12,000. This includes getting the GBLP Web site up, finding a designer to build a corporate identity logo, trademarking the logo, renting the adjacent office for $175 a month, and paying for the African-made shopping bags.

Good Report: We have been promised our first donation of $250 toward underwriting a graphic designer.

Think of this as the fee we do NOT charge to send
Soulish Food to you weekly (some years) biweekly (this year)

2. Our second goal is to work together with Kenyan women to begin the first development model for the Global Bag Ladies Project. We plan to assist in underwriting a Sewing Center at Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (NEGST). The first trainees will be women who are wives of grad students, theological students themselves, or wives of pastors. With basic business skills and the availability of small start-up loans, many of these women can form cottage industries to supplement ministry incomes.
3. Eventually, we hope to supply Fair Trade bags made worldwide over our GBLP Web site from existing bag-making enterprises or from start-ups we encourage through microcredit loans supported by the sale of grocery bags. (If you want more information about microcredit, check out Since more than 3,000 microcredit banks and institutions already exist, we plan to link with existing lending-to-the-poor organizations.

I strongly feel that the Global Bag Ladies Project fulfills one of the human hungers the ministry of Hungry Souls identifies in many souls: the hunger to contribute in meaningful ways to alleviate the suffering of the world. In addition, the GBLP provides a simple means of helping us all to function as good stewards of this beautiful earth God has created. We can’t as individuals do anything about monitoring multi-nationals, but we can BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag) for shopping.

So here’s the deal. Hopefully, we will be offering African-made shopping bags in quantities next year. I figure we need to sell 600 American-supplied bags (at an average of $20 margin each) to raise $12,000. So for any donation of $20-$50, we will send you a bag minus the raw cost ($10.00) and shipping and handling ($5 per bag; group orders are more).

So, I need you to buy a bag.  Click on this GLBP Purchase Order, print it off, fill it out and send it with a check made out to Hungry Souls/GBLP for $20-$50 to Box 30, Wheaton, IL 60187. The American-supplied sturdy canvas shopping bags are 21” x 15” with a 6” bottom with the Global Bag Ladies Project logo. We will keep you posted on the progress toward our 600-bag goal.

Then let’s remind ourselves of what we are really doing: We are working together to halt the degradation of the earth and of the people in it. This, of course, will not be complete until Christ returns to establish His Kingdom and to restore the earth to its original design. But for now, as a people of God, it is our responsibility to do what we can as evidence of a Kingdom of Heaven that exists.

In Kenya, I interviewed six HIV/AIDS widows, part of a support group of 12 women in all. Through microcredit loans made available from a Canadian businesswoman, they had been able to start small businesses, the incomes of which enabled them to feed and clothe their children, pay their rents in the Kibera slums of Nairobi, send their children to school (some 35 in all due to the orphans of brothers and other relatives), and pay back their small loans. When the post-election violence occurred at the beginning of these years, riot and slaughter caused immense suffering. Some 1,000 people lost their lives, and some 350,000 became internally displaced refugees. The homes (and consequently, the small businesses of these women) were burnt. They lost everything.

These women are not lazy; they are resourceful and creative. With just a little help through small loans that have an average repayment rate of 98%, they can start their small businesses again. “Can you begin again?” we asked. “Oh yes,” they replied. “God will help us and we will help each other.” These HIV/AIDS widows, suffering through no fault of their own (women contract HIV/AIDS, for the most part, when their husbands are sexually promiscuous), are our sisters in the Lord. Some 600 bags can help them, and women like them, to begin again.

So when you go shopping, BYOB. My prayer is that you will proudly carry (and distribute) Global Bag Ladies Project bags from Hungry Souls.

Karen Mains

GOAL: 600 Global Bag Ladies Project
Shopping Bags to Be Sold

600 bags @ an average of $20 margin each = an estimated $12,000
   -2 bags already sold = $50 toward our goal.                                            
Goal to Go: 598 bags = $11,950 (!)
Click on this GBLP Purchase Order, print it off, fill it out and send it with a check made out to Hungry Souls/GBLP for $20-$50 to Box 30, Wheaton, IL 60187.

Here Is a GREAT “Yes!” Opportunity —
Soundtrack™ for Millennium

Last fall Melissa Timberlake and I attended Pathway Ministries’ unique interactive, meditative experience held in Millennium Park in Chicago. This was a fabulous morning! I am strongly recommending that all the men in my life avail themselves of this event designed for up to 10 participants.

Planners and designers John Crilly and Mark Nesbit will provide you with iPods that store pre-taped music and meditations, as well as a workbook to remind you of Scriptures and in which you can jot your thoughts as you take three hours to slowly visit six sites within the Park. The cost is $95, not including transportation or lunch, and is well worth every penny. This would make a perfect couple experience. Spend a night in the city, either before or after Soundtrack™ for Millennium. See sidebar for more specific information.

Microenterprise Trip Opportunity

If you are interested in studying the effects of microenterprise ventures in Kenya, we are putting together a small group (16 people) in conjunction with Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology to journey to Nairobi next year, March 25 to April 6, 2009. The itinerary and the pricing are still being negotiated. Contact Karen Mains ( ) or by phone at 630-293-4500 and we will get back to you when this information is finalized.


The Soulish Food e-mails are being posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to register on the Web site to receive the newsletter. You might want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to

Karen Mains

Karen Mains

"I strongly feel that the Global Bag Ladies Project fulfills one of the human hungers the ministry of Hungry Souls identifies in many souls: the hunger to contribute in meaningful ways to alleviate the suffering of the world."
A Billion Bootstraps

A Billion Bootstraps: Microcredit, Barefoot Banking, and the Business Solution for Ending Poverty

A bold manifesto by two business leaders, A Billion Bootstraps shows why microcredit is the world's most powerful poverty-fighting movement and an unbeatable investment for your charitable donations.

A Billion Bootstraps unearths the roots of the microcredit revolution, revealing how the pioneering work of people such as Dr. Muhammad Yunus-winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize-is giving hope to billions. Philanthropist and self-made millionaire Phil Smith and microcredit expert and consultant Eric Thurman provide a riveting narrative that explores how these small loans, arranged by “barefoot bankers,” enable impoverished people to start small businesses, support their families, and improve local economies. By paying back their loans instead of simply accepting handouts, men and women around the world are continually giving others the same opportunity to change their futures.

Smith and Thurman also examine why traditional charity programs, while providing short-term relief, often perpetuate the problems they are trying to alleviate, and how applying investment principles to philanthropy is the key to reversing poverty permanently.

A Billion Bootstraps explains how ordinary people can accelerate the microcredit movement by investing charitable donations in specific programs and then leveraging those contributions so the net cost to lift one person out of poverty is remarkably low. You'll discover how to get more for your money by donating with the mind-set of an investor and calculating measurable returns-returns that will change lives and societies forever.

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Millennium Park

What Music Is God Playing In The World? In Your Life?

Soundtrack™ for Millennium is a multifaceted one-day experience designed to help you encounter God and to open yourself to His movement in your heart and mind.

Pathway ( will provide you a selection of purposed words & music for use during the day of the retreat. We will act as guides on a crafted journey to encounter the heart of God through the experiential environment of Millennium Park, with its unique combination of architecture, monumental sculpture and landscape design.

You will experience art, solitude, music, natural beauty, social immersion, community and play. Please plan to join us for this unique event.

Experiences are available on the following dates. If you would like to bring a group, we can accommodate up to 10 participants per event.

Dates (all Saturdays):
JULY 12, 26
AUGUST 9, 16

The Retreat Fee is $95 per person (meals and transportation not included). To register, please respond to John Crilly at or call 630-641-4461.

Copyright 2006-2009 Mainstay Ministries. All rights reserved.

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