Africa! A place on a map. A place I’ve never been–one of many. A place I always dreamed of going to, but never thought that I would. A continent a world away from the one in which I live–both literally and figuratively. I am going to Africa.
The opportunity first came up back in May. I ignored it, although the thought of going continued to pop into my head at random moments during almost every day this summer.
The decision to actually go came rather suddenly just a few weeks ago. When my dear friend asked the direct question of if I was going and that I had mere days to decide, I said yes. It felt right, somehow. I felt like it was the right thing to do. And when my dear husband–who has difficulty “allowing” me to travel on my own (with four almost grown sons) to another state within my own country–says he thinks I should go, then it is a foregone conclusion that I should go. So–I am going to Africa.
Back in May, I listened to a couple of incredibly beautiful and God-inspired ladies speak of something that has been a passion in my heart since my teenage years–the plight of the poor and maltreated throughout the world–and what their fledgling company is trying to do to make a real and sustainable difference. Their words tugged–not at my heart–although the stories they told of women in sex trade in India finding opportunity to save themselves and their children, did bring hot tears to my eyes.
Their words tugged on that rarely used part of my brain–rational thought. What they said just made sense. What they are trying to do, simply made good sense to my mind. Charity doesn’t work. Look at the track record. We have given charity for centuries–the poor still exist. The war lords and pimps still lord it over the weak and the small. Have you ever been given a gift that you wanted, but once you were given it, it didn’t seem to make the impact you expected?
I remember the first paycheck I received for freelance graphic design work. It was a very small check, but I had earned it, on my own, without any help at all. It was my thought, my creative talent that had earned me that paycheck. The talents that God has so richly given me had been used to earn that money. I spent it on something totally frivolous–a new camera. It wasn’t the best camera out there; probably not even the best one that my money could afford. But it was the camera I wanted and I bought it. I protected that camera, coddled that camera, made certain that it was always clean, safe and well-taken care of.
A year or two later, my wonderful hubby, in his knowledge of my love of good cameras and in his love for me, bought me the latest/greatest model of MY camera. It was “better.” It was “newer.” It had more bells and whistles–and for months, it stayed in the case while I continued to use MY camera. Even now, years later, while I now use the newer camera more often, if one of the kids needs to borrow a camera I hand them the newer one before I hand them MY camera. MY camera is special to me–I earned it.
I believe that every human being has this deep-rooted desire built into their system. Not only do we all want to be loved, to be needed, to be understood and appreciated, but I believe that all humans need to be self-reliant…to be industrious.
Trading Hope, is one of many these days offering the opportunity of micro-finance loans and business training to people in need in third-world countries. Trying to ease the struggle for millions of families throughout the world, by helping them help themselves work their way into a better and stronger life. This made sense, and tugged on my entire soul like nothing ever has before. So–I am going to Africa.
Trading Hope is taking this business model one step further–they are offering an expanded market for the women who run these businesses, creating a market for their goods in the richer, western world through direct sales. They offer these women a place to sell their goods in the global community through others who are also earning a living through selling their goods, giving both more opportunity for gaining self-reliance. Hopefully, it will be a win-win situation for all involved–except for the pimps and war lords who have reigned over the downtrodden for far too long.
Trading Hope has offered a select group of individuals the opportunity to meet some of their business associates in Kenya; to see firsthand who their company is doing business with, and why it is so incredibly important to do–not just for personal profit, not just for the profitability to these women, but because it is the right thing to do for the world, for the sake of humanity.
Yes, I know that many places in Africa are very unsafe–especially for Americans–right now. I believe that many places have always been unsafe, including many places in my own home country. It is not for me to determine how or when I will meet my Maker, it for me to do what I feel is best for my life and for others. This is the lesson that breast cancer taught me four years ago this week–a lesson I have no intention of forgetting. God is in charge of my life, and until the time He calls me home, I want to serve Him.
In the book, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” the author, Richard Stearns says, “…Christ calls us to be His partners in changing our world, just as He called the Twelve to change their world two thousand years ago.” I believe that is what we all are called to do–bring light to others’ darkness, to make this world a little better, a little brighter than it was the day before. I also believe that it is through companies like Trading Hope that this can be done on a scale, larger than each individual alone could accomplish.
This call to ease the suffering of all God’s children was placed in my heart many, many years ago, when I visited the country of Ecuador as a young and naive 19-year-old. I spent four incredible months getting to know a few of the people there and seeing some incredibly beautiful places. Those months in the equatorial sun left an indelible mark on my life–and now, 30 years later, I feel God tugging me back into the equatorial sun (on the other side of the world) to learn new lessons, meet new people, and hopefully, find my place in changing the world.