By Anna Eggler
She walks into the building, barely mustering enough courage to open the large yellow door. Her palms are tucked deep in her pockets, and her heart races faster than she can speak. Thoughts of her future are clouded by the memories of her past. She catches a reflection of herself in the glass window and thinks to herself, "Why Lord, have you brought me here?" Just when she is about to pivot back out the door and down the same familiar road of loneliness, hurt, despair and doubt, she hears a sound from a room down the hall.
Could that be laughter? It's been a while since she has heard such a joyful cadence. It feels uncomfortable at first, but then it becomes strangely inviting. She sits down at the table, adorned with beads and surrounded by smiles, all different, yet similar to hers. "These smiles have hope. These beads have hope. My heart can have hope too." she repeats to herself.
Hours pass and the women around her share their stories with her and they begin to treat her like the missing seat at the table has been for her all along. She begins to believe that it was. She is finally embraced and loved for who she was, who she is, and who she is going to be. And like the sun when it pierces through a dark cloud, a smile spreads across her face bringing the light to the shadows in her life. I witnessed it from across the room. It was just a few seconds, but it felt like hours. This smile is the confirmation that God is about to do another beautiful thing, and it will be a gift to witness it.
You see, each woman who walks into a Charlotte Jewelry Project carries with her a life of experiences. From trafficking to abuse, to poverty and discrimination, our artisans have seen it and felt the wounds that are attached. If you think about it, we all carry our own experiences with us. Hurts of the past, guilt, and shame from what we've done, or things done to us. Life is messy, it's hard, and can be lonely when you go it alone.
We have been asked, "How do you encourage each woman who comes to Fashion & Compassion?" or "How do you help someone if you have never been in her shoes?" And I will tell you this: It's not about what we do, but almost entirely about what God does through the context of community: Our Community of Artisans, Our Community of Staff & Volunteers, and Our Community of Partners- locally and globally.
- Community of Artisans: We recently did a survey in which we asked the artisans what is one of the greatest benefits of being a part of Fashion & Compassion. An overwhelming majority picked "for the benefit of being in a community." You would not believe the stories of women who have come from being isolated and alone, to have others who can relate and empower them. We have heard the word "sisterhood" used numerous times as the artisans refer to one another. Women from around the world have become one, and women from around the block have become one. I like to think it is a picture of Heaven.
- Community of Staff & Volunteers: We have found that each hand and heart at the table has been used to lift others up. Whether someone is incredibly organizational, or just loves to talk & pray, those who are a part of our team are a part of the family God uses here at F&C.
- Community of Partners: We can't do it alone! That is something we have learned over and over again. The Body of Christ is essential because we each play a different role. We rely on each other in Charlotte and around the world to see God's purposes achieved in each artist's life.
God receives so much Glory when we do things together and His love is put on display when we unify as one to empower and lift one another up. So why is a community so transformative? Because God designed it to be! Hebrews 10:24-25 says this "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Being in a community allows us to experience the Love of God through one another, encourage each other in our gifts & talents, hold each other accountable, and ultimately walk through and out of the trials and sufferings endured on this side of heaven. Jesus' personal approach to loving us reminds us that love has to be in proximity of one another. It gets right up close to you and says, "I'm here for you."
The testimonies of light in the darkness, restoration, and empowerment are largely due to God's use of community and the love found in it. So I leave you with this question, what community is God calling you to be a part of? What role in that community is He asking you to play? If you are currently going it alone, reach out to someone and begin a life of fellowship. We have seen more transformations than we can count, and I do believe this is Jesus's heart for us.
He loves us. Oh, how He loves us.