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Issue 10-8

Five Iron Sheets: An African Bag Story


“Whatever happened to Salome?” I inquired of Carla Boelkens, the Director of the Global Bag Project.

The last I heard was of a woman who showed up at the sewing room rented by the GBPK (Global Bag Project Kenya) office on the campus of Africa International University. She had given birth to a baby just a few days before but was desperate for the offered sewing training so she could support her five children (without a husband’s help). She was so concerned not to miss classes that she had walked 3 km (from her shanty in the Dagoretti slums), leaving her infant in the care of an older child. Salome had been working to support her family as a laundress washing clothes—if she could find the work—but often the pay was as little as 150 Kenyan shillings a day (about $1.61), not nearly enough to live on.

Mary Ogalo, our GBP Kenya Manager, told her that she was a mother also and understood the hardship of childbirth and of the need for an infant and mother to recuperate and grow strong together. I knew Salome had been transported home from the sewing center, but because of the distance of several thousand miles, that was all I heard.

This week the rest of Salome’s story came across Carla’s desk.

Before Salome was transported home, Mary Ogalo gathered food and other incidentals from friends on campus. She assured the new mother that she would be given a leave from classes to be with her baby and that she could continue her training in making African bags later. On that morning after arriving back home—a one-room shanty where she had given birth to her infant daughter, Eunice, a few days earlier—Salome gave her life to the Lord. She felt the love of Christian community at the most fragile point of her life. She wanted to have Christ also! Mary writes, “It was such a joy for us to experience a birth of this new relationship between Salome and Jesus in such unusual circumstances.”

Mary reports on Salome’s progress, “Since Salome’s return from medical leave, she has demonstrated exceptional gifts in learning basic sewing skills and taking part in designing new bag items. She has mentored new seamstresses like Nelly and Awino in how to make the African bags. Her confidence has also grown. She now comes to work with her baby, Eunice, strapped on her back in a kanga-cloth sling (Salome’s other children are daughters, age 19, 16, 9 and the 16-month-old child. She has one son, age 13).”

Salome says, “My life has changed. I have income to buy food and pay fees for my children. I am now planning to build a house and try to save some money I earn through GBP. I have been able to save and buy 5 iron sheets. I used to do washing clothes and was not able to buy enough food and save money. I came to know the Lord and have a church fellowship. I hope to grow in my salvation and also raise my children in godly ways. We pray and read the Bible with my children. I would want to tell more people to buy bags—so I can sew more, earn more and build a house where I can live with my children.”

How hard is it to discern the hopes of the human heart? Worldwide they are the same. We all long for shelter that will protect us from the sun and the wind and the rain. We all need healthy food to eat and enough of it, clean water to drink and to clean with. Work that is meaningful and productive. Freedom to make our own choices and freedom from oppression.

We all hold to our heart the lives of the children that play at our feet, whether they be our own, our neighbors’, or our grandchildren. We hope for safety as they mature and for security against harm. Happiness in play and exercise that helps them grow and become strong. Friends for the way; a community to enfold them. Education for their minds and for opportunity in the future.

No matter where we dwell, we humans share some implanted longing for and a common knowledge of that future day when God rules, when justice rolls down, when there is plenty for all, when the earth yields up its fruit and the rains fall in their season, when God is honored as Creator and ruler of all the world and we live our lives under the blessing of His favor.

I can’t imagine what I would have done if circumstances had forced me to raise my daughter in Dagoretti slum, where there is no running water, where the electricity is haphazard, where a few toilets service hundreds, where there is no garbage pickup and where a mother is grateful that she has saved enough money to build a new house, beginning with five iron sheets. Children play along open running sewers. The streets (dare we call them that) are filled with garbage; thousands of discarded plastic bags (some filled with feces) litter the earth. And yet their eyes, if they are not sick and malnourished, are bright. The darkness has not yet descended.

Salome is grateful that she can buy food and pay school fees. She is planning to build a house and has saved enough money to buy five iron sheets.

I have granddaughters, each beautiful, one 18, another 14 and the littlest, a charmer at 3. How would I have felt if there was no food for this day or the next? What would I have done if I had worked hard and earned as little as $1.60 per day? How would I, Karen Mains, have dealt with the suspicion that I had gifts to give to the world, but had been abandoned to forage for food, keep a shanty habitable and would never have energy after this sucking survival mode to discover my own potential?

I too would have walked to the sewing room where I was being taught a trade that might make life sustainable.

I too would have begged for someone to help us survive.

I too would have been deeply grateful for food other women, women who were concerned and compassionate enough to care about me, gave freely out of mercy.

I too would have looked to the Lord of life who gave His life to create harmony again in all human lives.

Salome is grateful that she can buy food and pay school fees. She is planning to build a house and has saved enough money to buy five iron sheets.

The Global Bag Project exists to give women a chance to lift themselves out of poverty. Through the sale of reusable shopping bags (and now padded and zippered computer-bags), we hope to provide sustainable incomes for women like Salome.

Even more important, we want to introduce them to Jesus. There is no real physical development without spiritual development. Health in life and in environments, in family and community, are interwoven with spiritual regeneration.

Salome is grateful that she can buy food and pay school fees. She is planning to build a house and has saved enough money to buy five iron sheets. “I hope to grow in my salvation and also raise my children in godly ways.”

Who can measure the hopes of the human heart? Salome has begun to step into Christ’s Kingdom, a mirror on Earth of the one in Heaven, where justice rolls down, when there is plenty for all, when the earth yields up its fruit and the rains fall in their season, when God is honored as Creator and ruler of all the world and we live our lives under the blessing of His favor.

Will you step beside women like Salome? There are very simple ways you can walk together with our African sisters. “I would like to tell people to buy bags—so I can sew more, earn more and build a house where I can live with my children.”

Nairobi - Kids Crossing Sewer Ditch.jpg



Will You Hold a House Party?
Last year a house party with about 24 guests sold an average of $1200 of bags. In the Chicago area, one of our team will conduct the party, which takes about 1.5 hours from the short presentation through the purchase of cotton, kanga-cloth reusable shopping bags made by artisan seamstresses in Kenya. If you live elsewhere, we will ship a “Party in a Box” with instructions for hosting, with a DVD that tells the story of one of the bag-makers (every bag has a story) and that, with a television screen and a remote, will guide your guests through the event. As a way of thanks, a beautiful kanga-cloth apron will be given to you for making the effort. Contact Carla Boelkens in the Global Bag Project office at carla@globalbagproject.org.

Will You Help Us Capitalize Our Financial Cycle?
Every time we order bags from Kenya, we need to pay up-front for the costs of the fabric. Sometimes we do not have financial resources to draw on. Will you make a donation of $300, $200 or $100 so we can order bags and keep the women working? If you have a business that makes charitable donations, this would be a great way of helping to underwrite this venture. We are at that point in our growth where we need to be monetized. If you can help, a check can be made out to Global Bag Project and mailed to Box 30, Wheaton, IL, 60187.

Can You Help Us With Web Site Repair?
Financial gifts were given last year to hasten our search-engine optimization. Thanks to your help and a generous loan from Alive & Well Foundation, we now:
•    Have launched the Global Bag Project e-Newsletter
•    Are beginning the Search Engine Mobilization process. We’re on the first page of Google under “African Bags” (hence our using this term in much of our copy). We’re on the first page of Yahoo and Bing.
•    Are determining where to place our bags on the best online marketing sites.
•    Placing the Global Bag Project on the top 100 Local Listing Directory.

All this is good progress (although a little slow, since we have limited funds—however we have generous SEM crew—Gladys our project manager lives in the Phillipines!).

We need about $600 to iron out some glitches in the present Web site, so a tax-receiptable gift of this would be greatly appreciated. Contact Carla with information as to how you might help us with this.

I am praying and fasting that God will move us beyond this stage of the life of the Global Bag Project to more profitability and benefit for our sisters in Africa.

But let justice roll on like a river,
   righteousness like a never-failing stream!  (Amos 5:24)
 

Karen Mains

NOTICES

Charity Plant Sale

Karen Mains will be holding a charity plant sale at her home in West Chicago on September 9-10, Friday and Saturday. ANY VOLUNTEER HELP the proceeding week or that weekend will be greatly appreciated. If you garden, you know this is work, but Karen’s garden has become prolific and she has plenty to share. Proceeds will go toward defraying some of the above costs to underwrite the Global Bag Project. Contact Karen at info@hungrysouls.org. Or leave a message on the office phone: 630-293-4500.

If you would like to buy plants at bargain prices, this is the small window in time where you can still transplant them and give them a couple months to root before winter and freezing temperatures arrive.

Annual Advent Retreat of Silence

This notice comes from Tiffany Stamen, the Director of Breathing Spaces, who will be leading the Annual Advent Retreat of Silence.

As summer winds to a close and fall is upon us, the Advent Season will be here before we know it. We are already thinking and praying and working on the ADVENT RETREAT OF SILENCE and want to invite you to pray about participating once again this year. Sibyl Towner (author, Listen to Your Life) and I will be facilitating, and we look forward to entering into this time of corporate silence as a powerful way to begin the Advent Season. There are only 50 spaces available, and this retreat does fill up, so please let me know (by e-mail or phone is lovely) if you would like to attend. I have also included a link to a simple registration form. Here are the details:

Date/Time:  December 1, 4:00 p.m. – December 2, 3:00 p.m.
Location:  Bishop Lane Retreat House, Rockford, IL

Theme:  Flesh and Blood: The Incarnation

Regular Fee:  $130 (after October 15)
Early Registration:  $110 (by October 15)
Newbies/Friends:  $100 (for both the newbie and the friend)
Shared Room:  $90

The fee includes your room, three meals and all retreat materials. Registration forms (download link below) and checks may be made out to Bridge Ministries (now the parent organization to Breathing Space) and mailed to:

Tiffany Staman / 10810 Keokuk Trail / Roscoe, IL 61073

If you are on Facebook, you can also view this event at:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=239882179384105

We look forward to seeing many of you again this year! Blessings on each of you this day—

The link to the registration form is:

http://www.breathingspaceorg.com/tiffany/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Advent-Retreat-Registration.pdf


Reminder!

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 biweekly newsletter. You might want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to www.HungrySouls.org.


Karen Mains

Karen Mains

“No matter where we dwell, we humans share some implanted longing for and a common knowledge of that future day when God rules, when justice rolls down, when there is plenty for all, when the earth yields up its fruit and the rains fall in their season, when God is honored as Creator and ruler of all the world and we live our lives under the blessing of His favor.”
PRAY FOR SALOME

salome.jpg

Salome

This notice from Mary Ogalo just came in this morning, notated: "Please pray with us for Salome."

Good morning,

It is so cold in Nairobi now, winter of sorts! Please pray for Salome. She is down with Malaria but on medication. I have sent Njambi, one of the trainee sewers to check how she is doing this morning. May the Lord pour his healing balm on Salome.

Mary


(Malaria is a disease that is caused by sporozoan parasites in the red blood cells. Is transmitted by the bite of certain mosquitoes, and it is characterized by periodic attacks of chills and fever.) 



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