“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 my first exposure to The Bridge.
And although I thought it was neat at the time, I really had no idea that one day it would mean so much more to me.
When I graduated from college, my aunt gifted me the most fun patchwork fabric bag I had ever seen, also from The Bridge and also made in the same place in Kenya. I used that bag for several years until it slowly started to fall apart.
Fast forward a few years later, while I was in Kenya, my dad and sister were in Holland, Michigan for a college visit, and I asked my dad to please go to The Bridge and check it out because maybe someday we could do something like that. I didn’t really know what “that” meant, but I liked the concept of fair trade, and I loved this store.
Jump ahead again to my 5th time in Kenya, and I was now standing in the workshop where that gifted checker set was made, along with 7 artisans on our newly formed Grain of Rice Project team and we were learning more about this wonderful concept of empowerment through fair trade. That was 2013.
And now recently in 2017, I went back to The Bridge in Holland to see if they would become a retail partner and sell our GORP things. And I made it into the basement! For some reason, it made me gleefully excited to see all the behind the scenes parts of the store, all their inventory, and their organized shelves. I was so grateful that this opportunity had finally come.
Isn’t it funny how God can bring things full circle in our lives? And sometimes it’s something that might seem so insignificant at the time.
Of course in my reminiscing, I have omitted all the challenging parts…the times I’ve wanted to quit (when sweet Belinda whispered in my ear that I can’t); the month when the entire country of Kenya ran out of turquoise beads as we tried to finish an order; the days when the neighbors wanted to evict us because the children were singing too loudly (I’m not making this up!), the night when the poorly constructed bunk bed finally gave way as I was trying to sleep; the days of painful prayers as artisans lost extended family members, and children were admitted to the hospital.
At times when we pursue our calling, we become worn out, discouraged, and ready to give up. The struggle is hard when you cannot see the fruit. I still continue to struggle with African time, and so God’s timing can make me even more impatient. And yet, when things do come to fruition, we can look back and reflect on the journey the Lord has taken us on. Even in the trials, in the pain, the suffering, and the struggle, I believe God is guiding us on that journey and that He is faithful.