Super-excited today to introduce you to a gal I’ve got a lot in common with. We even share blood. My dad & her mom are siblings, just a few years apart. And I won’t go into it all here, but we used to NOT LIKE EACH OTHER EVEN ONE LITTLE BIT.
(I did blog about that here if you’d like to read more.)
And now? WE LOVE EACH OTHER SO SO MUCH.
Me: Tell us a little about yourself, Jen.
Jen: When I’m not chasing after my ten-month-old twin boys, Weston and Isaac, or hanging out with my photographer husband, Devin, I love to create art by hand. I’m a graphic designer by trade, but there is something so refreshing about using raw, hands-on materials to create something beautiful.
I’ve been to Uganda, Africa twice and have fallen in love with the people there. They have completely changed my perspective on what faith really looks like. My experiences in Uganda have also helped me to realize how incredibly blessed I am materially. Even though our family is “below the poverty line” according to the U.S. government, we are still wealthier than 80% of the world’s population (see what percentage you fall into here). I truly believe that if one has been blessed (be it with money, resources, talents, time, etc.) it is so that one can bless others. My favorite verse is 1 John 3:16-18, and it serves as a great reminder as to the “why” behind giving to the poor.
Me: When/why did you start making your beaded crosses?
Jen: I started making beaded crosses when I wanted something unique and meaningful to adorn the bouquets at my wedding. I got so many compliments on them, that I started selling a few here and there. Recently though (after reading The Hole in Our Gospel and getting more and more consumed with my desire to really love the poor), I needed a way to generate some income to support my giving habit, so I opened an online shop on etsy, and 25%-50% of all my profits go to help working mothers in Uganda.
Me: Tell us more about where the profits go.
Jen: There are two different places the profits go, depending on which cross is purchased. The “We’re All in This Together” cross features beads made by, and purchased from, widows living in the slums of Uganda. When one of these crosses sells, not only does it support the artistry of the women making the beads, but 50% of the profits are donated to Amazima Ministries which provides approximately 60 meals for a child living in the same slums (many of them children of the widows making the beads).
For all of my other crosses, 25% of the proceeds are donated to Kiva – an organization that provides small, low-interest loans to help those living in extreme poverty start a business. (By the way, the repayment rate of these loans is incredibly high: 99% of those receiving a loan pay in back in full.) One unfortunate misconception about the poor is that they are poor because they are lazy. However, more often than not, the poor are extremely hard-working. They simply lack the hope and opportunity to lift their family out of poverty. A small micro-loan can give someone living in extreme poverty the capital needed to start a business and begin using their talents and abilities to provide for their family. Giving them not only sustainable income, but confidence, empowerment, a sense of achievement and HOPE. All things that can break the cycle of poverty and be a catalyst for lasting change for the poor. Not a temporary hand-out, but a life-altering hand-up.
Another reason I chose mothers specifically is this: I love adoption (I have two adopted sisters whom I adore), but I would love even more for a mama to be able to keep and provide for her babies instead of having to give them up for adoption because she can’t make enough money to feed them. I would love for kids not to be orphaned by AIDS because the only available way for their mother to make a living was to sell her body. A Kiva loan can change these things and keep babies in the arms of their mamas.
Me: Any stories about where your crosses have gone/who they’ve been given to? (I’ll share that I gave one to a sweet mama in Cambodia.)
Jen: A friend of mine purchased one of the “We’re All in This Together” crosses for a single mom with five adopted, biracial children. My friend wanted to give it to this mom as an “I love you” gift from God on Valentine’s Day. Little did my friend know that this mom had just read Kisses from Katie (written by the young woman who runs Amazima Ministries – the organization that hires the widows making the same magazine beads I feature in the cross and that runs the feeding program that I give to). This single mom was blown away that God had blessed her with Katie’s beads at that very time when she was yearning for a piece of Africa again (she had traveled to Kenya 2 years earlier). WOW.
Me: Any words of inspiration for mamas of little ones who want to do something to make a difference in the world?
Jen: It can be really hard to feel like you’re doing “enough” to serve the poor when so much of your time as a mom is spent serving your own family. There are two things I’ll say to that: One, don’t miss this precious season of raising, training and loving the children God has placed right in front of you. Allow it to be a time for God to mold you into the example He needs you to be for your kids so that as they grow, they can be witness to and involved along side you in loving others. And two, try to find something that you can do with the talents, time and opportunities you have right now (however small those “mites” might be). Pray about it and see what ideas God gives you.
Thanks Marla! I love how God has brought our hearts together through the blogosphere and our love for the poor. You, Gabe, and your girlies are such an example to me of what a family working together to “Love God, Love Others” looks like. Love you, cousin!
Me: Love you too, Jen!! Thanks SO much!!
Today Jen is giving away one of her gorgeous beaded crosses–you pick which one! They are really, really, really beautiful, friends.
And if you don’t win, you can still get 10% off any cross from now until September 15. Just go to her etsy store and enter the code MARLA10 (my first-ever discount code named after me!) when you check out.