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A Look Back and Ahead

The Barbershop Workshop

Another new year is upon us, and today I had coffee with a friend who asked me what my goals were for Grain of Rice Project this year. My answer was to see growth in the amount of people GORP impacts for Christ, both in the U.S. and Kenya but to still maintain personal connections to each person we serve. Our belief at GORP has always been that life-changing impact happens one-on-one, and we strive to maintain that. Every January, as our organization grows a year older, I reflect back on our very humble beginnings.

Here's a quick recap in case you haven't heard the story:

GORP began in my husband's apartment living room...his very small living room where there was barely room to move (or rather shimmy) between the couch and coffee table and where if two people stood with outstretched arms side by side, they could just about touch the walls. I spent that summer cutting fabric on the floor because there was no table space and learning how to pound metal rivets into the leather basket handles because we didn't have a rivet gun. We were small in numbers then. There were just 3 artisans, my sister, me, and my husband who helped cut out our greeting cards in between waiting for taxi jobs for his business. There were times that all six of us crammed into that little room, cutting, weaving, sewing, and taking pictures to post to people back home. We were clueless and yet so full of hope. Every morning we would meet and pray and set goals

Our living room workshop

and ask for God's guidance. And every afternoon when my sister and I needed to escape from overwhelming uncertainty, frustration, and pure exhaustion, we would run downstairs and across the busy road to the local soccer field and just run laps while all the little kids yelled, "Wazungu (white people)" and wondered what we were doing there. After we had packed our bags full of products and returned home and sold out of everything, we thought this perhaps could be a for real thing.

So the next year, we helped our friend Tall to start up a barbershop business (even though he'd never cut anyone's hair before) where GORP used the back room, that was literally half the size of the living room used the prior year, where barely everyone could fit around the table to make beaded jewelry. The rent was cheap, and there was a reason for that. The rats were rampant, the fumes from the furniture making business next door were intoxicating, and the daily battle with the dust and dirt from Kibera's street was never ending. The honking from the matutus, the hawkers selling their goods, and the smells of chapati and sewage wafting in from the street, all competed for our attention. And who could forget that the large trench being dug immediately outside the door for the fiber optic cable being introduced in the neighborhood, meant that we literally had to jump over it and try not to fall into the mud and so did the customers. Did I mention there was not a bathroom in this place and that chickens were wondering in and out the door? Yet as men got their heads shaved and women had their hair plaited, braided, and twisted, we all frantically worked in the back and a vibrancy shown through our little group. We had extended to 8 artisans, another American volunteer, and a kids program. Our theme that summer was One Vine, One Tribe in Christ. And it was awesome to see how through the unity there, Jesus was providing hope and opportunity for many people.

After serious amounts of prayer, we were given a grant the next year that allowed us to finally rent a building of our very own (that has no sewage running around it) and to purchase some actual furniture and sewing machines. And while there are still some quirks, like the plaster falling in the bedroom ceiling and the plants growing out of the roof, it has really felt like manna from heaven. We've grown to 12 artisans and 30 kids and 4 Kenyan staff members, and the impact continues.

Thank you so much for being part of this journey with us. We hope that you are inspired by the stories of each person we empower and by their perseverance, faith, and hope. May you also be encouraged in your own journey this year and may God guide each step as you set goals for the new year.

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