Sewing Machines & Hope
Imagine, for a moment, that you're a Mozambican woman. You've worked hard all your life to provide for your family. Life's never been easy, and now that you're getting old, the years of work are beginning to tell on you. Your hands are gnarled and calloused from years of scrubbing laundry and working in your garden. Your back is bent and twisted from carrying heavy loads and arthritis is slowing you down. You and your daughter live together in a little, one-room shack. Her income keeps food on the table, while you look after the house and take care of your grandchild. But one day, your daughter doesn't make it home from work...
In the weeks following the funeral, you search for some kind of job. No-one wants to hire a woman your age. Your relatives are either unwilling or unable to take you in. So you turn to your local church for help. They do their best to help you keep food on the table, clothes on your back and provide an education for your grandchild. But there are many other widows also asking the church for help, and the resources can only go so far.
Your future is perpetually uncertain.
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress... James 1:27
Throughout the Bible, God speaks again and again about His love and compassion for widows. He is adamant about the fact that His people are called to share this love and to help those who can't take care of themselves.
There are always limitless numbers of people who need help, but limited amounts of time and resources with which to help them. With our partner church, Peniel, we began brainstorming some ways to equip widows to provide for themselves.
When we posed our ideas to the women who are supported by Peniel's compassion ministry, several of them were eager to learn a new skill that could bring in a little more income. So, with hand-crank sewing machines and cheap, bright-colored capulana fabrics, Carla's sewing classes began...
When I showed up with my camera to document one sewing session, I noticed right away that these aren't just classes. They are important social outings. The ladies chatted and laughed in a mixture of Sena and Portuguese as they decided what type of work each was going to do that day.
Then there was deep concentration as women teamed up on their lengths of capulana. Measuring, marking, and cutting. Advice and instructions flowed in a steady stream from one to the other.
Once there were enough cut pieces prepared, some of the ladies went to the sewing machines. They turned the handcranks that power the mechanism with one hand and guided the pieces of bright fabric with the other.
This is, apparently, a tricky business. Carla got called in to consult about snarled threads and machine problems.
Once the pieces were sewn, it was on to the last two steps: Turn the finished products right-side out...
The ladies seem to be learning well and are already working almost twice as fast as they were in the beginning. That's a very good thing, as nearly every person who's seen the capulana notebooks wants to buy one. We'll even be sending several hundred of them to the States later this year!
The ladies are now sewing together three times a week to fulfill the demand.
But little things can change lives.
Giving purpose, hope, and the dignity of work to those who need it most.