Archive | trade fairly

how to be the fairest of them all

I open the box the mailman just delivered and begin to grin. I pull out a beautiful bronze necklace and hold it up for my sisters to see. I think it’s charming, so I plan tomorrow’s outfit around it. I wear my new necklace to the office, post it on Instagram. necklace from FTFThe jewelry, along with the tote bag, are all handmade by women in developing countries. They create these accessories as a way to support themselves and their families. In 2007, The Ministry of Women and Child Development reported the presence of over three million female sex workers in India. 35.47 of these “workers” are thought to enter the trade before the age of eighteen. An estimated 1.2 million children are kept as sex slaves in India, though all prostitution is technically illegal there. Dignified work is hard to come by.

New jewelry complements my nice outfit, including the t-shirt I bought at Forever21 before I knew that Forever21 knowingly uses slave labor to manufacture their merchandise. Something new to wear can make you feel like “the fairest of them all,” but when I look at the dimly-lit image of my torso, toting those three pendants, my heart begins to beat a little harder. I think of the tawny hands, pressing those clasps together. The pendant reminds me of coins dropping into a worn palm, being carried to the market to buy food for her babies, her elderly mother, herself.

Sam Levenson Quote

Fair Trade Friday isn’t a gimmick, because 100% of the profits go straight to the hands of the artisans. If you believe in teaching a man to fish, do you also believe in teaching a woman to sew? Most of these women do not have a man in their life to support them in anyway, some of them were sold as slaves as children, all of them face extreme sexual discrimination, and those are the girls who survive the “gendercide.”

I’ve talked before about what fair trade means to me, and I still lie awake at night, shaking my metaphorical fist in the air, complaining that “life is not fair!” But what is fair? Paying for what we’re getting is fair. Being paid for your work is fair. Being able to use your wages to support yourself and your family is fair. There is a great shadow over our planet, but there are sunspots on the path, little spots of hope, little spots of justice, little spots of fairness.

FTF club tags

My fair-skinned hands hold the same cords that were crafted in the hands of my Indian sisters, Hem Lata, Yogesh and Karma, and didn’t Solomon say that a threefold cord is not quickly broken? So how about you become part of the cord? The three folds can be you, the Fair Trade Friday Club and a hardworking woman across the ocean like Hem Lata, Yogesh or Karma.

Does that sound fair? 

The Fair Trade Friday Club exists to empower the women at Mercy House Kenya, as well as women in Ethiopia, Zambia, Costa Rica, India, Uganda, Rwanda, Honduras, Bangladesh, Haiti, Swaziland and Nicaragua. 

When someone says, “where is that necklace from?” we answer with the name of a store, and maybe a quick mention of what a great deal we got on it. But that’s not where your necklace is from. We’ve long-been wearing slavery around our necks, donning oppression and adorning ourselves with exploitation. We have bought the poor for a pair of sandals, not stopping to ask how those sandals could cost us so little. The truth is, we aren’t paying full price.

The single mom in India is paying your share. The nine-year-old slave in Bangladesh is paying your share. The woman with AIDS, the woman who is pregnant again because her customers refuse to use condoms, the woman who just buried her fifth child—she is paying your share, and that isn’t becoming. It doesn’t wear well. It doesn’t flatter.

It’s time we paid for our products. Next time you see a great deal, think of Proverbs 22:16, “Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.” And when you see the true price of the product you want to buy, don’t balk. Think about Proverbs 14:31, “But whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors Him.”

A beautiful hand is one that reaches out and gives to the poor, a beautiful eye is one that sees the dignity in another, a beautiful body wears justice and the woman who doesn’t cheat and steal for the things she wears, she is the fairest of them all. 

Audrey Hepburn Quote

Would you consider partnering with us in this three-fold cord? The Fair Trade Friday Club is run by a handful of folks, so please forgive the fact that a waiting list is currently in use. Sign up now, and you’ll be notified when you can be accommodated. Also consider joining our Earring of the Month Club or donating to the empowering work being done at Mercy House Kenya

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7 Stories that Helped Me Relate to the Poor

EP 7 Stories

I am a very privileged person. Growing up, we may not have had everything we could’ve wanted, but we were never hungry or in need. Poverty was just something I read about in my many, many books. I recently had a conversation with my eleven-year-old sister about why certain people act the way they do. We talked about how much we have to be thankful for and how “hurting people hurt people.” We wound up referencing “The Hundred Dresses” by Eleanor Estes, a wonderful book about a little girl who wears the same dress to school every day, but claims quite brazenly that she has a hundred dresses at home. This gave me the idea for the post you’re reading. Which stories have helped me relate to and understand the poor? I’m sharing seven that come to mind.

1. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

This winner of the 1945 Newberry Honor is a timeless short chapter book for kids. It is one of those stories which perhaps couldn’t be written for adults, but is easily taken in by children. The story revolves around Polish immigrant, Wanda Petronski, who is ridiculed by her classmates for wearing the same faded blue dress to school every day. To avoid bullying, Wanda claims she has a hundred dresses at home. This story doesn’t not necessarily have a happy ending, but an important lesson is learned by the other girls in Wanda’s class and by generations of readers.

2. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

After falling in love with the 2005 BBC miniseries, I read this novel during a road trip. Several years later, I still think back on it often. I never expected to find such themes of generosity, fair trading practices and social justice in a book written in 1855. The book itself is fascinating, romantic and well written, but the plight of the factory workers during England’s industrial revolution will stick with me forever.

3. A Christmas Carol (or anything by Charles Dickens!)

While Austen was writing about ballrooms and bustles, Dickens was writing about the grim and grimy lives of those below the poverty line. You’ll see yourself reflecting in the amazing characters in his novels and your heart will go out to every orphan, widow, drifter and pickpocket he concocts.

4. The Rich Family in Church a true story by Eddie Ogan

This story has had a great impact on me personally, ever since I read Eddie’s real-life account online. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but this short tale will touch your heart. What happens when a widow and her teenage daughters try to raise money for a poor family in their church during The Great Depression? You’ll never forget it.

5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Well, the reason this book taught me about poverty is probably that this book taught me about everything. I consider this to be my favorite fictional book of all time. The March family is struggling to make ends meet while Mr. March is serving in the Civil War, and yet they are remarkably and realistically generous. I just love it. It will make you want to give your butter away on Christmas. (The movie is also excellent.)

6. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

Though I haven’t read the assumably wonderful book, I adore both the 1998 and 2012 film adaptations. In what I consider to be one of the most incredible stories ever written, you’ll follow the plights of the pure-hearted prostitute, the honest thief who has broken parole, the innocent daughter of swindlers, the once-rich rebel fighter who is willing to lose everything in the name of liberty and an orphan who, against all odds, becomes an heiress. Just. So. Good.

7. George Muller the true biography

A missionary to Bristol’s orphans, George Muller has taught me more about trusting God for financial provision than any other hero I’ve read about. I loved his biography by Janet and Geoff Benge, but I know his autobiography is said to be great as well. Don’t believe in miracles? Read this account.

What stories have impacted how you think about poverty?

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I say “feminism,” you hear…

roles of a woman

man-hater, anti-family, loud-mouth, bible-basher, pro-choice, bra-burning floozy. 

Fill in the blank. I know I did.

Some of you might know that in 2012 I pitched a book to three Christian publishing houses about feminism and legalism in the church. All three rejected it, but one agent stopped my pitch and told me about a conversation she had in the backseat of a car about her niece and college and how hard it was for her to hold her tongue so, “thank you for writing about this.” She almost gave me the deal, but I’m so glad she didn’t. God knew that there was much to teach me, there will always be much to teach me. I hold on to Madeliene L’Engle’s words:

“I do not think that I will ever reach a stage when I will say, “This is what I believe. Finished.”

What I believe is alive … and open to growth”

Oh to be open to growth all my life! That book had some good ideas and some poor applications. In general, it was too small for the topic. All of those words up there? They could apply to a feminist. But just because someone identifies as a feminist doesn’t mean any of those words apply to them. Feminism is one of those hard words that means something different to everyone who uses it. Sarah Bessey’s book, Jesus Feminist rubs people the wrong way with just the title alone. There are people who think, “How dare you put Jesus’ name next to that horrible word?” and people who think, ” I ran away from Jesus for the sole purpose of becoming a feminist. How could the two ever mingle?”

Can we take a deep breath and listen to each person’s definition as we get to know them? Bessey uses feminism to mean “the radical notion that women are people too.” It sounds silly at first, doesn’t it? Like it’s so simple, she’s certainly got the second part of her definition up her sleeve. And yet, with Bessey’s definition, I see Jesus and the word “feminist” going together perfectly. Jesus was completely radical in his treatment of women and those that The Spirit inspired to write the scriptures were extremely brave in how many times they mentioned women in honorable, humane instances. Jesus changed eternity, but he made huge changes to the current reality for women. He gave us dignity for the very first time since Eden.

If your definition of feminism is that women are better than men or that women don’t need men, then I have to disagree with you. If you think that men and women are generally the same or that their roles should be completely reversible, we’re in two different boats. But if you believe that women are highly valued by God and equal to men in their ability to know God and be used by God, I’m with ya. If you think that this world needs to stop objectifying, using, abusing and stifling women, you’re speaking my language.

Being a Godly women doesn’t have any checklists, despite what our Bible study books might tell us. You don’t have to be a wife or a mom to be a Godly woman and you don’t even have to want to be. Biblical womanhood has nothing to do with marriage or motherhood unless that’s what a particular Christian happens to be called to. Bessey writes:

“If the title can’t be enjoyed by a woman in Haiti, or even by the women hailed in scripture, the same way it can by a middle-class woman in Canada, then biblical womanhood must be more than this.”

She also reminds us that if biblical womanhood means being a helpmeet to a man, this excludes 60% of females in the U.S. alone. It can’t be interchangeable with “stay-at-home mom” when the grand majority of women in this world do not have the luxury of choosing whether or not they want to work outside the home.

If you believe there is a certain job description for a biblical woman, you have a lot of Biblical characters to correct. Scripture doesn’t solely glorify motherhood as a role for a woman, but also prophesy, teaching, entrepreneurship and more. These women were merchants, patrons, land-owners, businesswomen, tent-makers, messengers, writers (just taking examples from the New Testament alone!) Women were present during all of Christ’s pinnacle moments, even when the men had fallen away. Jesus used women as a vital part of his ministry and gave them honorable roles. Timothy was taught by his mother and grandmother. Priscilla even corrected Paul in some of his theology! In Philippians chapter four, Paul writes that the women “have labored side-by-side” with him. Is this what feminism means to you?

You see, even though I’m not sure I agree with Sarah Bessey on every point, I loved her book because it encouraged me to live out what Jesus taught us about…us! I am a stay-at-home daughter who aspires to be a stay-at-home mom, but I don’t do these things because I think they’re biblical; I do them because I think they’re good. Just like going to college is good for my friend Megan and overseas mission work is good for my friend Brianna and running a ministry to strippers is good for my friend Kellie.

Are you single? God wants to use you. Are you married? God wants to use you. Do you have kids? God wants to use you. Do you want to travel? God wants to use you. Do you want to study? God wants to use you. Are you a leader? God wants to use you. Are you a teacher? God wants to use you. Do you have business skills? God wants to use you. Do you see the pattern?

The world doesn’t need another loud-mouth, another hater, another burning bra. The world doesn’t need anymore abortion or pride or competition. But the world is in need. Women and girls make up 98% of trafficked people worldwide. Over 50,000 women are trafficked in the US alone each year. 78% of trafficking is for  prostitution or another form of sexual exploitation.

statistic 1

Annually, more than 350,000 women die of pregnancy or birth-related complications. Studies show that 53% of the children denied an education worldwide are girls. Violence against women causes more deaths among women worldwide than war, malaria or traffic accidents. If “feminism” means putting an end to this, then count me in.

Whether or not you believe women should be in places of high authority in our churches and government, can’t we agree that we need to be better represented there? I firmly believe that when we stand before God, He will be silent on the subject of feminism or anti-feminism, complementarianism or egalitarianism or our roles in the church and family. I don’t think we’ll be worried about old blog posts or Facebook arguments. I think, as I stand in line and wait to walk through the throne room doors, I’ll ask myself, “Did I humbly depend on the Lord for my salvation and love like Jesus loved?”

(read my review of Jesus Feminist here.)

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on earth as it is in heaven

This is the final post in the Gather Up the Fragments series on ending waste. 

I doubt there is such a thing as recycling or “upcycling” in the kingdom of heaven, but I am sure there is no waste. As a final part of this series, now that Christmas has come and gone and epiphany is here and your Christmas tree is either being disassembled or sitting by the curb, I want to reflect a bit on what we’ve learned together and encourage you and I to spend the new year spending less, wasting less and being much more grateful.

Jesus taught us to pray that God’s will would be done here on earth as it is done in heaven. You may not immediately think “go green!” when you hear that prayer, but I think that a healthy respect for God’s creation goes right along with it. God himself wastes nothing and in an attempt to reflect Him a little better, we should waste less…less than last year. Even though the green peas on your plate probably cannot be shipped to starving children in Africa, you eat them or share them because to throw them away would be to dishonor the hungry. Waste does hurt people. How to end it? Side with it’s archenemy: gratitude.

You’ve probably heard of the three R’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. I’ve gathered some inspiration for us as we keep these three R’s in mind for 2014.

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  • The lovely Bethany  of Letters from Home writes often of “living with less” and mending and making do. I particularly love her post Where Nothing is Wasted (Or Why my Mother is Awesome) but anything under her tags of “living more with less” or “waste” is excellent. You’ll find lots of inspiration therein and probably a kindred spirit. “Banishing waste not only gives my parents the freedom to do the work to which they have been called, but also enables generosity. At its best, a home should teach its children about God, and I learned a lot about God’s providence from my mother’s watchful gathering and saving.”

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  • My dear old friend Tonia (our friendship is old, not you!) writes more and more these days about simplifying more and wasting less along with caring for the animal kingdom and being grateful. (Very applicable, yes?) I loved this post about new grocery shopping habits and plastic packaging alternatives. I also love any post with a picture of a little red-headed girl. She’s a pretty awesome friend of mine. :-)

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  • Have you heard of Sole Hope? I’m pretty excited about them ever since I heard their founder speak last October. I have attended a shoe-cutting party and hosted a shoe-cutting party and I am planning on hosting another at the end of this month or beginning of next. This is a wonderful way to recycle old jeans or other durable fabric, plastic bottles or folders. They explain it better than I do, but Sole Hope allows us to recycle instead of waste while creating jobs in both the U.S. and Uganda, giving relief and follow-up to people suffering from parasites and preventing them from being reinfected by giving them a pair of shoes.

What your ideas and suggestions for wasting less in 2014? How do you care for nature in your every day life? 

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how to truly end waste

spanish moss

This post is part of a series. Part One, Part Two.

I am hesitant to sign up to host an angel, because I’m not always a perfect hostess. What if I’m in a bad mood and fail to make conversation or I burn the casserole and forget to buy butter? And yet, when scripture says some of us will “entertain angels unawares” we are being warned not to neglect showing hospitality to strangers. Do we not think that human strangers also report to God? That He is not watching them just as closely as He watches His angels? We are to be hospitable to everyone (never knowing if they are an angel or “merely” a child of God.)

I think we tend to keep our planet and it’s animals, eco-system and human life very separate from the spiritual realm. Stories of miracles and angels interacting with mortality are like quick visions of meteors streaming across our view of the milky way. If you believe in them at all, you think they happen once in a blue moon and never guess that you yourself might be looking up when such a thing occurs.

That is probably why it has taken me so long to write this series. I had a lot of thoughts on waste, but they all seemed disconnected. There was the truth that kept sinking deeper into my mind that God wastes nothing in our lives, not even pain or loss. And then there was the ordinary type of waste. Actual trash we put in our dumpsters and time we spend worrying about our crooked mouth and un-plucked (or as I like to call them, “free range”) eyebrows.

I do believe in meteors and I believe that sometimes they crash into planets or other things in space before they burn out, like a miraculous meeting of two kindred spirits (only a little more explosive.) That’s the way this series was born. Suddenly I realized that my thoughts were connected. All waste is the same. Everything comes from God. God wastes nothing. We waste everything.

Material waste is a huge, huge issue in our world. Not only is it greatly hurting the planet itself, it is hurting people directly. I recently read that 1.3 billion tons of food produced world wide is wasted or lost each year. (That’s 1/3 of the annual production.) While some of this food is lost or wasted in production, most of it is wasted by consumers, particularly in the United States. In 2010, an estimated 33 million tons of food waste went into U.S. landfills and incinerators.

How is this hurting people? A billion people are malnourished today.

While I was whining about what was on my plate and wishing I could throw my stir-fry to the dog, my baby brother was being born in Port-Au-Prince and growing a huge, bloated belly. Waste hurts people because they need what we are throwing away.

Do you know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah? Do you know why God had to burn the whole county down with fire from heaven?

“Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49, emphasis mine.)

And that’s when I realized how to truly end waste. Waste has a natural enemy, and it’s not recycling. The natural enemy of waste is gratitude.

compost

You never, ever throw away something you are truly grateful for. I was not grateful for the ice left in my cup after drinking a glass of water, but the children at the orphanage would clobber for the sink to grab it from the drain, grateful (if not also a little greedy.) We throw away food and clothing and time and relationships because we simply don’t appreciate them. We do not bow our faces to the floor and thank God for the things we scrape off of our plates.

When you cultivate a heart of gratitude, you cease to waste. And when you see the gift and the beauty and grace in everything that comes your way, you never think of throwing it out. You keep it, you use it, you share it, but you don’t waste it.

If the people of Sodom had taken their excess of food and used it to aid the poor and needy, we would’ve know they were not proud. They would’ve been a grateful, humble people, probably honored in scripture rather than held up as an example of despicableness. That’s the irony of the holiday season. We want more, grab more, covet more and waste more during this season than any other. Why can’t we see that we have more to be grateful for than we have to complain about? Why don’t we see that we are filthy, filthy, filthy rich?

In her wonderful book, Discipline: The Glad SurrenderElisabeth Elliot writes:

“The goodness and love of God choose the gifts, and we say thank you, acknowledging the Thought Behind as well as the thing itself. Covetousness involves suspicion about the goodness and love of God, and even His justice. He has not given me what He gave somebody else. He doesn’t notice my need. He doesn’t love me as much as He loves him. He isn’t fair.

Faith looks up with open hands. “You are giving me this, Lord? Thank you. It is good and acceptable and perfect.” Pg. 108

So back up a bit, look at the big picture. The sky is full of meteors and you’ve been given eyes to see.

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