are the e-mails we
hate to receive from overseas: Linet Okia Sunguti died last Thursday,
March 4, 2010 at 1 p.m. at Mbagathi District Hospital.
The copy from
our Kenyan co-laborers, Caleb and Eunice Otieno, reads:
are thankful to God that she has gone to rest, she was in deep pain day
and night and at the same time we are very sad because she was a very
hard-working woman and very keen on her work. She was not just a member
of St. Martha’s Ministry (Caleb and Eunice’s outreach in Kibera slums),
but she was also a very close and dear friend of Eunice who led her to
accepting Jesus Christ as her personal saviour. She was also very
active on the Ministry activities. Linet, at the time of her death, was
leading our group in Kibera on Global Bag Project sewing. The burial
date has not been set since we are still waiting for communication from
her relatives. Linet left a son aged 13 (the last of her four children)
and it was her last prayer that we would take care of her orphaned son.”
am writing this in Washington, D.C., where I have been attending a
conference sponsored by World Vision for its women auxiliary chapters.
The theme of this year’s conference is: “Every Woman Has a Story.
Change Her Story … Change History.” Valerie Bell, my sister, who is on
the speaker’s bureau for Women of Vision, recognized this theme was
synergistic with the Global Bag Project tagline on the DVD’s. We
slip one into the outside pockets of every kanga-cloth reusable
bag made by our Kenyan bag-makers: “Every bag has a story.”
the invitation of Cindy Breihl, the World Vision Director of Women of
Vision, Carla Boelkens, Director of GBP, mailed a box of
kanga-cloth bags out to Washington, D.C. The conveners were expecting
500 women; the bookseller thought we might be able to sell at most 50
bags, so Carla shipped what would fit into one box: 73 bags. All but
have sold so far—and this without a presentation from the platform (and
with a lower attendance than expected—just 250 women). The bookseller
gave us wonderful “real estate” on the display tables, the first corner
the women saw as they entered Ballroom B. (And we did roll the bags
in all their African glory down the halls on a hotel coat-rack into
Valerie’s workshop: “Changing My Story: Becoming an Activist,” where
she gave us a great plug.) For the most part, the bags appear to sell
Here in this conference, I am made aware again of the
than 12 million children are orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Africa. This is a
staggering statistic! Nearly 9 out of 10 children who are HIV-positive
today are from African countries. • Every
15 seconds five children die—most from preventable disease or
malnutrition. • Since
it was discovered, AIDS or complications from this disease has killed
28.2 million people—more than three times the population of Sweden.
realities and Linet’s death press with urgency on our desire to help.
The need is extreme. Tragically, it takes so little to assist those who
can barely afford to live.
In March of 2009, David and
I, Carla Boelkens and our son-in-law, Doug Timberlake, a video and TV
producer, traveled to Kenya, where we began to film the stories of
those who were becoming our first bag-producers in this pilot phase of
the Global Bag Project.
a morning of slipping over the unpaved footpaths in Kibera slums (there
been a recent rain) in order to film one of the HIV/AIDS widows sewing
in her small room (and believe me, every single footstep was
dangerous), David and I decided it was the better part of wisdom to sit
out the scheduled walk to Linet’s place. Consequently, I can’t really
focus my mind on a memory of her face. But Doug, with Caleb Otieno as
guide, did make the second Kibera jaunt along the back paths, and
returned again in September to get more footage with better sound and
videotaping equipment. He asked with authentic sadness in his voice,
“Did you get the e-mail that Linet had died?”
numbers turn to faces, when statistics become flesh and blood, we feel
differently about the overwhelming information world-monitoring
organizations compile for us. Linet’s 13-year-old son is a child now
without a mother or a father, and Caleb and Eunice Otieno have promised
that he will be raised in accordance to the prayers and last wishes of
his dying mother.
My husband’s response was more
practical: “Check and see if they have money for a coffin.” In
September 2009, Margaret, a member of this same group, also died. There
was no money to give her a proper burial. Obviously, if there is barely
enough for the bare necessities of living, there will not be enough for
the elemental proprieties of dying. So the GBP team (David again back
in Africa) scrapped together the monies that would provide a coffin for
this sister who had suffered so. We have done the same for Linet,
wiring the funds to Nairobi.
Scripture says that God is “a
father to the fatherless, a defender of widows” (Psalm
68:7). In Isaiah 1:17, the prophet speaks this for God, “Uphold the rights of the
orphan; defend the cause of the widow.”
with thoughts of Linet and of Margaret and of all those suffering and
dying from AIDS, I announce that the Global Bag Project,
www.globalbagproject.org, is designed and
online. The e-economy is functioning (with a few glitches). PayPal is
working and we should have merchant accounts soon so that people can
use credit cards to make purchases. I believe we have a viable model
forming in Nairobi. My prayer is that we will be able to soon place
orders for bags with the many sewing groups that already exist who
desperately need work.
Here’s what you
can do to help.
the Web site. Place an order for a reusable kanga-cloth
made by artisan bag-producers in Kenya. Think about giving bags when
you need to purchase gifts. Remember that Earth Day is April 22.
Mother’s Day is May 2. When you buy a reusable bag, you feed a family
and help preserve the planet.
a “Bag Party in a Box.” We can ship a party in a box
anywhere in the
country. Instructions are included, and the DVD introduces your guests
to the Global Bag Project concept. Each DVD includes the story of one
of our bag-producers. We are in the trial phase and will welcome your
ideas and feedback.
a one-time financial gift to help defray the startup costs our Mainstay
office has incurred. With the high fees for overseas
addition to U.S. Customs charges, our margins can be threatened if we
don’t raise operational costs from other giving sources. Ideally, we
want all the monies from bag sales to go into fair wages for the
bag-producers and into development projects on the field. For any gift
over $35, we will gladly provide the latest DVD in the “Every Bag Has a
Story” series. It is Caleb and Eunice Otieno’s story. I guarantee there
will be few dry eyes among viewers.
The morning I left for Washington, D. C., this e-mail came from our
colleague, Linda Renner.
wanted you to know what happened yesterday with regards to our GBP
sewing women here on the NEGST (Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of
Theology) campus. I have been sewing with them for the past week. We
are making curtains for the guest house here, just to give the women
work while waiting for further bag orders. Salome, one of the young
women sewing with us, gave birth on Saturday to a baby girl. She was at
the sewing room yesterday (Monday), after walking from Dagoretti. I did
not even know she was pregnant. I asked her where the baby was. She had
left her at home in the care of a “young girl.” Not sure how old that
young girl was, I listened as Salome told me the baby would be given
water to eat until Salome returned home from work. Mary Ogalo (our GBP
Project Manager in Nairobi) told Salome she had to go home for two
weeks so she could recover from the birth and to be available to feed
the baby. Salome has four other children and no husband living at home.
Salome really needs the income to buy food for her children and
herself. She is a very hard worker and seems very nice. I have only
known her for this one week. Please pray with us as we try to figure
out how to help Salome.”
Global Bag Project Web Site Is Up
Make sure to check us out at
www.globalbagproject.org. Do us a favor, please, and send this Web site
link to a friend.
Wannabe (Better) Writers
this e-mail notice from Marlene
Molewyk, who was part of our first cycle of Wannabe (Better) Writers:
“Just wanted to let you know that I recently sold the socialization
article I wrote for your writer's group! I sold it to a national
homeschooling magazine. It ended up being huge (7,000 words), so
they're splitting it up into several articles and publishing it in four
consecutive issues. Thanks for giving me the jump start I needed to get
The Spring 2010 Cycle is full, but we have three on the waiting list.
As soon as there are eight on the waiting list, we will begin another
Cycle. Let us know if you are interested or have a friend who is
interested. Contact us at
"Recovering Your Inner Child" Group and
"Listen to My Life" Listening Groups
Three groups have launched in
the last month and the early reports are of deep journeys with God in a
safe group of God’s people. Hungry Souls is pleased to be able to offer
this kind of intimate growth experience.
Play for the Play-Deprived
Some of us, sorry to say, just
don’t play very well. We either never learned to play, or we’ve
forgotten how! And yet, scientists are discovering that play is an
essential part of well-being, reaping huge benefits spiritually,
physically and relationally when we practice it.
Sue Higgins, spiritual director, and Karen Mains invite you to join us
in the initial brainstorming and planning required to create a pilot
design with the hopes of offering “Play Dates” for the year ahead. If
you are interested, please register with Hungry Souls via e-mail at
and we will put you on the
list. We are hoping to have our initial brainstorming teleconference
call after Easter. You have enough time to pick up the book Play: How It Shapes the Brain,
Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart
Brown, M.D. Read the book, mark passages for discussion, take the “play
history” provided, and determine your play type. This gives us a good
beginning point for discussion.
The Soulish Food e-mails are
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 biweekly newsletter. You might
want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to www.HungrySouls.org.
realities and Linet’s death press with urgency on our desire to help.
The need is extreme. Tragically, it takes so little to assist those
who can barely
afford to live."
IN MEMORY OF
LINET OKIA SUNGUTI
Global Bag Project
God, we will try to bring gifts of life to the ones you love.