Monday, July 30, 2012

Last Reunion: two steps forward in poverty alleviation

I had my last meeting with the ladies of The Haitan Bead Project in Pignon on Friday. My friend Dana Johnson joined me and we put together a little party for the ladies. One of our artisans owns a little store front and we bought cold drinks from her. We raided our team snack bag and found cheesy goldfish crackers, ritz crackers and almonds and put them in little bowls. We brought them up to the little "boutique" -  the converted school classroom where our artisans work - and meet three days a week to turn trash into treasures.

The ladies were pleased. I know this because I saw the corners of their lips turn up into half-smiles as they entered the room and caught sight of the treats. They are still reserved about expressing themselves in the group setting. Dana and I urged them to come to the table and get a drink and snack. We giggled as some ladies filed through and took one goldfish cracker and one almond. Some were just being polite. Others were tentative to try these new treats.

Since people were coming in slowly I decided to save the devotion and sharing time until the end so as many as possible could be included. For a good hour we all sat around and snacked and crafted together. A small group of ladies cut paper and rolled beads. Dana helped some ladies continue to learn our new cross ornaments. I taught our leaders, Nadia and Moise, a more advanced kind of dangly earring. They were just soaking it all in.

I paused, marking the progress of our group. Eight weeks ago when I started with this group you would walk in the room and it felt like a pressure cooker getting ready to release. Today I saw women working together. They had mastered new skills. We ate together. We even joked with each other across language barriers and cultural lines.

And then I heard their words of encouragement.

I shared a little devotion talking about the life of Joseph - a lesson from the "Patriachs" Bible study by Beth Moore. We looked to Joseph for his example of integrity and the way his faith brought Him to a place of position. Afterwards I asked the women to share some highlights of the summer - our first training camp, you might call it.

Nadia, our Group Leader, started. She expressed how much she loved learning the new products. She thanked me for coming and inviting so many friends from the U.S. to come and work with the group.

But the real gift was when Genise spoke up. She is the sister-in-law of our friend Walquis, our translator and new Logistics Supervisor for the Haitian Bead Project. She has such a sweet spirit and the most gorgeous smile. She said she was so grateful for the summer and all the ladies had learned. She apologized for some of the trouble the group had caused early on and said she was blessed that I had continued on despite the challenges.

In that moment I realized we had just taken a few steps forward on this journey of poverty alleviation. There was reconciliation in relationships. The women were gaining dignity as they learned new skills. I knew this was just the little bit of encouragement I needed to take home with me. I knew God was working in their hearts. I knew He was molding me.

Photo by Anjie England
We heard claps of thunder. We started to pack up our things. The rain streamed down. Grace falling on us. A few of them handed me more bags of jewelry to sell in U.S. We promised to pray for each other's families. We said our goodbyes. A few ladies even sang a Bon Voyage song. My heart spilled over.

1 comment:

Cindy said...

This was a beautiful, sweet post... perhaps because it seems to capture the simple goodness that can flow from rocky places.
And the simple blessings of food and community, in the most basic ways.
Thank you for all of the windows you have taken the time to give us all in this journey. And for being a blessing.