Wednesday, March 18, 2009

To you this looks like a man sewing...

To me this looks like hope.

If only you knew that this man owns his own sewing machine for the first time in his life. And that he has been given the money to rent a small workspace, and table and chair to go with it. If only you knew how many children this man has, the struggles they have been through, and the conditions they live in.

If only you knew how very good at sewing he is, and how much he can do with this small machine.

I recently added a donations page to our website. I posted it with some serious misgivings. SHONA is about what we can accomplish through the work of our own hands, not about asking for donations. But I had received several requests from generous souls who wanted to know how they could give to us, and I realized that we cannot do it all ourselves.

That is a hard realization for me. I am an only child, a bit hard-headed and accustomed to thinking that I could rule the world on my own. I will do something and fail fifty times before I will ask for help. I'm sure my husband will be happy to confirm that for you! I think he considers one of the most telling examples of my personality to be the way I played a video game with him when we were in college. It was a video game that I knew nothing about, not being a video-game fan myself and I can no longer even remember the name of it. But somehow he talked me into playing it. (Obviously this must have been before we were married!) The first step seemed to involve running and leaping at just the right time to avoid being run over by a boulder that is coming right toward you.
I made a sprint for it and got run over,
tried again, got run over,
tried again, got run over...
I think after about the fiftieth time of watching me run head-long into the boulder without once requesting any advice on how to get around it, my future husband concluded that I might be a difficult woman. Fortunately he married me anyway!

But the point is, I like to do it myself. Even if it means getting run over in the process.

Perhaps it is an American thing. I am all about the work of our own hands. Especially in a culture like Congo that has become heavily dependent on foreign aid, I feel it is important to "empower" people to create their own miracles. You know "teach them to fish".

But I have been thinking a lot lately about how nothing we do ever is truly the work of our own hands. It is the work of a thousand hands that have helped us on our way and shaped us into who we are.

Certainly that is true for myself. Sometimes people ask how I can do "this". I am not like my husband, who grew up out here. He is used to moving around and being a stranger in a foreign land. I grew up in a small town in Connecticut, in one house, and in one school. But it is precisely because my family is so rooted that I feel able to be here. It is because they are at home, that I can be away. Home is still there waiting for me, strengthening me. Without their hands, I couldn't do it.

So I posted the donations page, in recognition that we can't do it by ourselves. The Craftspeople of SHONA have done an incredible amount through their own hands, but they have also received your help, in a thousand ways. As soon as I put up our donations page, I was honored and humbled by a donor who gave Roy a sewing machine, a table, chair and workspace. But she didn't want me to tell Roy anything about her, only that this was a gift from God, not from herself or her family.

And so perhaps nothing is truly our own. Not the work we do, nor the gifts that we give. The clothing that Roy is sewing will bear labels with his name as the craftsperson. But if we were to be truthful, the label would need to be much larger, to carry the names of all those who have brought us this far.

Stay tuned for an update to our website soon with pictures of Roy and his family, and the story of their lives. Perhaps you read my earlier posts about Roy's little girl being molested.

At the time I recall being disgusted at what one person can do TO another.

Today I am amazed at what one person can do FOR another.

Perhaps in the end, this is why God chooses to work through human hands. It is a way of redeeming our hands. In a world where we are too often forced to confront the suffering that is caused by human hands, it is a way of reminding us of the good that is possible.

Thank you to all our loyal friends and customers who continue to inspire us.


Extranjera said...

Am practically crying. Moving stuff!

I understand your dilemma. But I also think that we who have so much, must share, but not in a way that makes the person who we share with depreciate the value of attempting to help themselves. Both donating and teaching/empowering have their value and place. I also have a hard time understanding people who justify not donating by saying that we should only help the people in need to help themselves. Sometimes hungry children just have to have food, before their mother can be microfinanced to start her own business.

I think you are doing an awesome thing!

P.s. Forgot to answer your question on Women's day, but that was also because here in SA it didn't amount to anything...

Stay Strong!

shona congo said...

Thanks for following my experiences and ramblings and thanks for the encouragement!

I totally agree that sometimes you have to meet the immediate needs first.

The other day someone said to me "Tumbu haina masikio." (the stomach doesn't have ears) meaning that when you are starving you can't really think about or hear much else. I think that is probably true...besides it is a great image.

And I have been meaning to answer your question on your blog, regarding the concept of "the real Africa". I totally know what you are saying and find it a fascinating question.

I'll try and head over your way for that discussion soon.

Peter said...

I have tried to contact you at hurleydawn at shonacongo dot com

but the email bounced.

Can you please drop me an email, as would like to include you on the blogroll.


peter at theroadtothehorizon dot org