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A Passion for Africa

A Passion for Africa

By Shirley Utz—Houston, Texas

Sew Powerful has really been about answered prayer for me. When I was a young girl, God laid a passion for Africa on my heart. In 2007 I traveled to Tanzania as part of mission team. That only increased my passion for Africa. So at the beginning of 2015, I asked God to let me return to Africa, and also to help me use my sewing skills to do something worthwhile.

I’m retired. I love to sew, although, I am not a professional seamstress. I love shopping for fabric but really need to make very little for myself or my family. I head a group at my church that sews for the local pregnancy center and for nursing homes, but I needed something that really struck a chord in my heart.

And then I saw a posting about Sew Powerful on Facebook and took a look at the page—it was perfect! Africa… sewing…fabric…the possibility of returning to the continent I’ve been in love with most of my life.

I bought fabric to make purses, and then I wound up with a severe eye infection, making sewing purses nearly impossible. I dreamed of purses and the girls who would receive them. I dreamed of lives changed by the opportunity for education. I dreamed of sewing the purses I’d bought the fabric to make. And eventually I was able to do that; it wasn’t as many as I’d hoped to make, but I had latched on to the dream.

I’ve applied to go on the 2016 trip to Zambia and see firsthand what Sew Powerful is accomplishing through its cooperation with the Needs Care Centre in Lusaka. My heart is full.

But there’s more—today I had lunch at a local restaurant I love. It’s owned and operated by a wonderful Christian family. The restaurant is raising funds to help support orphan girls in a town in India. Joanne and I began talking about that, and then I told her about my sewing adventure with Sew Powerful. She mentioned how she’d love for her home-schooled girls to learn to sew, but she doesn’t know how. I offered to teach them, and…well…she wants her girls to reach a point where they, too, can sew purses for girls in Zambia. My heart is fuller still!

I knew from the moment I saw the Sew Powerful website, that God’s hand was on the ministry. And now He’s orchestrating some new things, not just for Sew Powerful, but for me, personally, through that same ministry. Did I mention that my heart is full?

Follow Up—My Trip to Ngombe

GOD continues to answer prayer. I was part of the team that went to Zambia in July 2016!

The trip for my team was originally scheduled to depart on May 14th; but, due to illnesses, that trip was cancelled and a couple of us were transferred to the July team. Even though my heart was set on going in May, this turned out to be best, because my mother-in-law died shortly before the originally scheduled trip; I would not have been able to go. GOD had everything orchestrated down to the last detail.

We were each able to bring a suitcase filled with sewing and educational supplies for the seamstresses and school teachers at the Needs Care School. In order to make my church more aware, I set up a Sign Up Genius page for contributions; everything from Gingher scissors to paperclips was on the list. It was so amazing to see how quickly people came forward with contributions. Those who didn’t provide actual items, gave me cash. (That cash, along with some from a friend outside my congregation, purchased a Snap Press for the seamstresses.) Most of these donors did not sew, but this gave them an opportunity to participate in Sew Powerful and learn about it. One of those donors has become a “champion” for Sew Powerful at my church and also a dear friend.

The trip itself was incredible. Meeting the indomitable Esther; hearing the stories of the seamstresses who are now able to provide for their families and send their children to school; hearing the stories of the girls who received purses last year and the difference it made for them in attending school; seeing the smiling faces of girls as they received purses created by women around the world; seeing the difference a nearby clinic makes to the school and the community in the fight against AIDS; seeing the miracle of Three Esthers Farm and the hard work of another miracle named Nicholas; sharing all of this with a team of like-minded, extraordinary people, including four remarkable kids.

I was blessed beyond measure. I will continue to make purses and advocate for Sew Powerful because the memories of this trip are indelibly imprinted on my mind.

When I make a purse, I see a real person at the other end.

Entering Ngombe, there is what we would call a landfill. It was a deep gully filled with trash; but growing up the side of the gully was a very large blooming bougainvillea. The deep pink colors and beauty were a stark contrast to the garbage nearby. Flowers bloom in unlikely places. Hope is found in the darkest places. There is so much “darkness” in Ngombe: the extreme poverty, the AIDS epidemic, the weariness; but there is also great hope. That hope was reflected at the Needs Care School, in the Sewing Cooperative, at the Three Esthers Farm, at the clinic, and in the faith and determined spirit of a woman named Esther.

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