Monday, December 4, 2017

Happy Ending

I don't believe in happy endings. 

But we are a culture in love with happy endings.  And this story begs for one. 

This is the story of Argentine and Mapendo, two young women from rural villages in Eastern Congo.  They started with nothing.  Survived war and poverty.  Worked hard. And now they are about to board an airplane and arrive in Canada.

You see how it is a Cinderella story, right?

So let me say up front...I never wanted Argentine and Mapendo to leave Congo and move to Canada.  And I don't believe it is a happy ending.

I believe it is a tragedy, that these young women couldn't build safe lives in the country they are from. What does it feel like to have to travel halfway across the world, and leave everything you know, just to find a safe place to call home?

 May we never stop asking that question, and fighting for a world where 50 million people don't have to live in that reality. 

This last week, Argentine and Mapendo's family's scrounged any money they could find to buy bus tickets and visit Argentine and Mapendo one last time.  They gave Argentine and Mapendo their blessings, on this next step in their journey. 

And that it is what it is.  A next step, not an ending.  With more joys and more sorrows to come.

In 2 days I will board a plane and go to Canada.  I will meet Argentine and Mapendo in the airport and I will celebrate with them. This is a moment worth celebrating.

But I will also remember that just a few days ago Argentine's mother hugged her goodbye.


Then we will stand there in the airport in Canada and look at each other, imagining what is to come.  We will bundle up 9 refugees in more clothing than they could ever imagine.  And we will open the door and walk out into the frigid Canadian air, and see how their crutches work on ice.

Join the Journey.

Countdown: Arriving in 4 Days. Here is Jonathan, and his younger brother, Joachim after they fled Congo for the second time. They were in a refugee camp. No matter where you go, children will play. What's next for these little guys? Join The Journey.

20% off all SHONA bags for the next 48 hours. Give the gift of SHONA this holiday season and tell someone about the beautiful, handcrafted work of Jonathan and Joachim's mama. Your support has carried us so far. discount code: siku4 at the end of checkout.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Countdown: Arriving in 5 days! This photo is of Mapendo, Joseph, their baby and their niece, just before Christmas 5 years ago when they first became refugees. They were at a transit camp in Burundi, having fled Congo with nothing and they had no idea what lay ahead. Jonathan was a baby in Mapendo's arms in this photo and now he will be entering Kindergarten when he arrives in Canada! Mapendo's niece will be entering high school. Imagine where the next 5 years will take this family! Join the Journey. 

Argentine, Mapendo and their families will be resettled as refugees in Canada on December 7th, 2017.  Riziki and Solange remain in Congo.  We are incredibly grateful to all of you for supporting each step of this journey.  Your purchases continue to matter infinitely to these beautiful families.

Give the gift of SHONA Bags this holiday season and invite your friends to join this journey with us!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Why we should buy Argentine a Mic this holiday season

"Wait, what?" you say. "Has SHONA made it so big that we no longer have to worry about putting food on the table?" 

I wish. That's not it at all. We still face all those daily struggles.

But a Microphone is powerful. And in this world, we in the "West", have been holding the mic for a long time.

Look at Argentine's face when she is holding that mic.

One of the things that the SHONA Congo women talk about the most is what it feels like to be walking in the street and be mistaken for "beggers". Because of their crutches... people just assume. That is where the word "handicapped" comes from "Cap in Hand"...begging.

So how about flipping the script? How about "mic in hand"? You see why it matters right?

That is why we need your help to start "Congo Voices", a video channel where the SHONA Congo women will share their lives with you, from their own perspectives. You can donate to our start-up costs at and help us literally buy that mic. Or for just a few dollars you can become a monthly sponsor of our channel at

I just got off the phone with Solange, in Goma, where every night she continues to hear shooting and violence in their poor neighborhood on the edge of town.

She was so excited and ran off to start shooting a video with her phone. Because a microphone matters. The chance to share your experiences with the world matters. And it doesn't matter less just because you are poor, and struggling to put food on the table. Maybe it matters more.
I don't know what this channel will end up looking like. Will it be a place where Argentine teaches you how to sing a song in Swahili? Or where Solange shows you what it is like to live in her neighborhood. I don't know what it will look like, because it depends on the women...And it depends on you.

Join us this holiday season, as Argentine and Mapendo get ready for the biggest journey of their lives. And Riziki and Solange fight for their own lives in a place full of more beauty and more chaos than any other place I have ever been.

Join us, and let's make sure these amazing women have a MIC IN HAND. Because I know they've got something to say.

Monday, October 9, 2017

And then it came...

When Argentine and Mapendo and their families went in for interviews with the Canadian government a few weeks ago, they were hoping to come out with medical forms. They knew that was a sign you were really going to be resettled, when you got to the medical exam stage. They left the interviews with no medical forms, and only the promise that soon they would be contacted about the next step! It has been a long couple weeks of holding our breath.
Today they received their medical forms! And onward they move to the next stage in this journey. Medical exams, background checks...With each step it becomes more real that soon (just in time for winter?!?!?) they may find themselves in Canada.
Let's celebrate this latest step on Mapendo and Argentine's journey and at the same time also remember Solange and Riziki, who remain in Congo. 
Many times on this journey I have wondered about the different paths we all take. When do you stay in your home and when do you flee? Which road will prove safer? Please keep Solange and Riziki in your thoughts and prayers these days. Living the daily work of life is never easy and in Goma, it can be a real struggle. Yet these women endlessly impress me with the beauty they create, and the steadiness of their hands each day.

Monday, September 18, 2017

"A Memorable Day in Our History"

That is what Mapendo's husband called this day...the day this photo was taken.

They were sitting in an office building waiting to meet with Canadian Visa Agents.  How amazing that this day should ever arrive.

They were asked many questions. The interviewers were kind.  And shocked by all they had been through.  And by the clothes they were wearing.  Argentine was wearing a dress she had made (if you look real close at the purple cloth she has on you will recognize it as a SHONA cloth!)  The interviewer asked "Did you really sew that dress?  On your own?"  She loved the dress.  And the hands that made it,

Their fingerprints were taken.  They signed forms.

And then they were sent home to wait some more.  We think everything went well, but still it is a nervous wait.

Perhaps the SHONA women are better at waiting than I am.   Perhaps all of Africa is.

When it rains in Congo, you find a roof to stand under and you wait.  That  is what everyone does.  You stand with complete strangers, huddled together, just barely out of the rain.  But there is no cursing the sky and looking impatiently at your watch.  There is chatter and laughter.

It always felt to me as though no one had anywhere else to go, nothing else planned.  Then I would glance at the basins full of tomatoes they had been carrying on their heads, the bags of charcoal by their sides, and I would know that they were headed somewhere.  We all are.  My schedule was no more urgent than theirs.  They just knew to expect the rain.  And to expect the sunshine after a while.

We will let you know as soon as we hear more!  Thank you for sending your love and prayers!  And in the meantime please keep shopping SHONA! 

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Chalk dust

It's loud outside.

In the world these days.

But here I find myself in the quiet.

Unpacking a shipment

of new bags from Mapendo and Argentine.

I unfold each bag slowly, feeling the cloth in my hands.

tracing the stitches made just slightly uneven, by a hand-peddled sewing machine.

My heart rests for just a minute.

Soon I will go out in the world again.

But first I peer inside the darkness of each bag,
and look for what I know I will find.
White dust on black cloth,
The line of chalk that Argentine drew.
The path her scissors followed.

I let my fingers trace that path.
It is not enough.
Selling these bags.
Argentine and Mapendo are only 2 refugees.

But I know their names.

So I fold each bag carefully
and am thankful for the chalkdust that rubs off on my hands. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

In search of miracles

A miracle happened.
I just don't know when.

Maybe that is the way that miracles work.  They dance in the shadows, just out of sight, and you can never quite see them full-on.

Let me explain.   You remember that Refugee Resettlement Fund...that fund which so many of you donated to months and months ago. Remember how it seemed like we could never possibly reach our goal?  Guess what!   We reached our goal!!! $58,500! (.That amount is truly unfathomable to me. It seems like a miracle and I am incredibly grateful.

But where did this miracle start?  Did it start with a small group of Canadians who started this fund...who heard about Argentine and Mapendo and their families and decided to try and sponsor all 9 of them at once.  Never mind how much money they would have to raise, or the paperwork they would have to do...or the fact that they had never sponsored that many people before.

Or was the miracle when so many of you showed up and chose to support the fund.  Because honestly...   You could have looked at the numbers and gotten discouraged.  But you gave anyway.  That amazes me.

And then, out of the blue, I got a message from a supporter.  Her family wanted to donate some money toward the fund.  That sounded nice.

Then it turned out they wanted to donate the whole rest of the fund.  Can you imagine that?  At the time both SHONA and AIRSS had been working really hard.  And had raised around $25,000.  Over $28,500 left to go.  It seemed like an awful long way.  And now, in a moment, this generous family wanted to donate the rest. They said they wanted to remain anonymous and that it was a reminder of God's provision.

A miracle, right? Yes, and we are so thankful.

But maybe miracles aren't really about where you arrive at, no matter how amazing.

They are about where you started from...  and the little acts of faith that carries you forward each day.

Because here is the thing.  That family that showed up in the end...they didn't really fall from the sky, Hollywood style.  They actually showed up  8 years ago.  And bought a few purses.  Purses that the women sewed themselves.  And then this family stood with us, exactly the way all of you have stood with us.  For a long time.  Making small donations, sending love, praying for these women.  And that, to me, is the miracle, dancing in the corners, just out of sight, scattered in a thousand pieces.

 The miracle is that each of us have our piece to the puzzle.  And then somehow, when we least expect it, those pieces fit together.  Thank you all for each piece that you hold.

Learn more about the Resettlement Process and where we are now