Cultivating Beauty from the Dirt

November 9, 2017 | 0 Comments

It may be November, but this week, I’ve still been uprooting carrots and vegetables from my garden.  If you live in Northwest Indiana, you know that this is nothing short of a miracle.  Fall has pushed itself in, and as much as I wish I could be one of those people who walk around proclaiming how much they love “sweater weather,” I am not.  I am just always cold!

But back to those carrots!  As a kid, I did not enjoy gardening at all, and my childhood memories include being woken at early hours of summer vacation to go out and pick fruit from the garden.  But now as an adult, I LOVE it!  There is something so satisfying about realizing the tiny seeds that were almost haphazardly pushed into the ground have now resulted in something AMAZINGLY wonderful to eat.


As I uprooted the carrots covered in dirt, I couldn’t help thinking about how these little vegetables are such a great metaphor for all that’s happening at Grain of Rice Project in Kenya.  Our workshop is just like those carrots, surrounded by the dirt of Kibera.  The environment smells, the trash is everywhere, and any attempts to clean your shoes results in them becoming dirty shortly afterwards.  And yet, despite the sewage and overwhelming scene of trash piling up, there is much fruit and much beauty.


Even with all the mess of the slums, every weekday, mamas and papas are hand-stitching, hand-beading, hand-carving each individual piece that we sell.  Each scrap of paper is becoming a bead.  Even the remnants of fabric, which many would throw in the trash without much thought, are being collected from local tailors and transformed into trivets, bowls, coasters, stuffed animals, and more.

And then there are the children, whose socks are full of holes from all the handwashing, whose once new shoes are full of dirt from the trek to school, and whose uniforms often reveal missing buttons and small tears.  And yet, these same children can be heard proclaiming a joyful noise to the Lord; their eyes are full of sparkle when there are new markers to draw with, new opportunities to be creative.

And the footballers, whose cleats fall apart in only a few months from the trashy environment where they play, come with dedicated hearts, and joy for being part of a team.  On Saturdays when they gather at the workshop, their excitement for singing to the Lord, often becomes so loud thatit spills over our gates.

From the dirt, from the hard circumstances, there is beauty.  We must only have the courage to find it, embrace it, and cultivate it in our lives and others.


The joy of the Lord is our strength.  Nehemiah 8:10

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Living in a Truck

October 25, 2017 | 2 Comments

I’ve been living in a box truck for a week. Yes, you read that correctly. My last week and half was dedicated to a big outdoor event selling for Grain of Rice Project, where most people camped in rather nice or at least decent RVs, while my friend and I spent 10 days living the…

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Full Circle

September 20, 2017 | 0 Comments

“I can’t believe I finally made it into the basement,” I happily told The Bridge store manager, Sara. Fourteen years ago, an art teacher, whom I was observing throughout the semester for one of my education classes, had gifted me a checkers set made inKenya with African fabric and Coca-Cola bottlecaps—my first fair trade gift, and…

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Our Concern Is For Peace

August 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

Abandoned streets, boarded buildings, closed shops…this is not the Kibera that I know. The Kenyan election was a week ago, and still our workshop has not re-opened and many of our friends are still in their homes, too afraid to return to work, to afraid to go anywhere. This is not the Kibera that I…

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July 19, 2017 | 0 Comments

Town…such a small word for such a crazy experience. “Town” is how people refer to downtown Nairobi.  “I’m going to town today,” they’ll say.  But to me, town is not really a place but an adventure.  I started having dreams at 5 a.m. this morning about going to town.  I’m blessed and have nothing to…

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Mix Matched Socks

July 12, 2017 | 0 Comments

Last week it was the toxic smell of burning plastic drifting in our windows at 5 a.m. that just about drove us to the edge.  When it starts to become a daily occurrence, which causes a choking fit that cannot be stopped even when smothering a pillow over your face, I can assure you that…

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Retreat Reflections

July 10, 2017 | 0 Comments

This morning we returned from our 2nd annual GORP Retreat.  To say that the workshop, kids program, and football team programs are busy is an understatement, and some time away to bond, reflect, and rejuvenate was definitely necessary.  We’ve added four new people to our team in the past 6 months, and we wanted to…

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June 25, 2017 | 0 Comments

If you’d arrived at our house this morning, you’d have wondered why Edwin and I were jumping for joy and praising God at 9 a.m.  It certainly wasn’t because of the bleating goat that someone is literally keeping right outside their house in this urban area, nor was it the squawking chickens and roosters that…

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Hard Stuff

June 20, 2017 | 0 Comments

The workshop is calm and still right now.  I can hear Charles snipping fabric in the small sewing room behind the main building and the ticking of the clock on the wall behind me.  The neighbor’s gate across the street creaks as people leave for work.  A rooster is crowing in the distance and there…

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Yobel Training

June 14, 2017 | 0 Comments

Our team has all made it to Kenya. We had a few quick days in Nairobi to adjust to the jet lag, and check on our artisans, football team, and kids program, before we set out for the villages. This past week we’ve been in a village in Meru, Kenya, which is in the central…

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Leaving on Jet Plane

May 31, 2017 | 0 Comments

Tonight we are heading out for Kenya, and if you’ve seen me lately, you’ve probably noticed the swirling in my head of all the things on my mind.  There is always a lot of anticipation on my end as I travel, and this year even more so as I push through wrapping up one chapter…

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