Friday, March 27, 2009


Poor Tessie's expression of bewilderment echoes what we're all feeling. We are moving -- again. This will be the Palmer family's fourth and fifth moves in the past eleven months.
We began our mission work at Huntington Ridge in Norcross. The gunfire outside our windows and the thief climbing up our balcony were both just a little too scary for an author with an overactive imagination. So we moved closer to the refugees in Clarkston. We also moved Andrei into an apartment with another man who has similar life challenges.A few months ago, we found an affordable house nearby -- but it needed LOTS of work. We hired several crews and they did a wonderful job. Now we're moving out of our apartment . . .And into our new home. Andrei is also moving. He'll be staying in our former apartment until our lease runs out. Then we'll move him -- again! -- into a studio apartment in the same complex. With boxes in the living room, books on the bed, and empty shelves, we are all feeling disoriented and exhausted. Tomorrow friends from our church will arrive in the rain to help us move. One joy we've been experiencing is the little flower garden Tim planted in the fall. It's just outside our door.The little bed was in the shade, and people kept stepping on the pansies and the emerging bulbs. But finally last week one of the pansies pushed up this beautiful yellow blossom.
And how about this gorgeous tulip?
Spring is here, and we are very excited! We're so grateful for abundant blessings -- warm places to live, food to eat, friends to love, and beauty outside.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Working women!

What a fun day! I loved every minute I spent working with members of The Refugee Sewing Society. And when I say working, I mean working. There was a lot of laughing and chitchat, of course. We ARE women! But when they get down to work, these ladies mean business.
The women in Kelly's knitting and crochet groups are making purses and bags.
She tried teaching them about pull-on knitted slippers, but the message was just not getting through. So they went back to making purses.
In the sewing room, the ladies were learning about spray starch. Ironing goes to a whole new level when you add starch, as Hinde (below) is finding out.
Hari worked hard on the rolled hems of her napkin. Think about how this sentence sounds to a new English speaker: "Everyone look at her hem." Her? Hem? Him? Huh?
Man Bista measured out placemats. Turns out the marker shelf from our new dry erase board makes a nice ruler! Every day we learn how resourceful refugees can be.
Madina and I were discussing how to make a knot on the sewing machine. Here's another interesting sentence for a new English speaker: "Make the knot like this, not the knot like this." Say what???
Binti worked very hard to create placemats. She is always diligent.
Santa does some of the straightest stitching in our class. She is a natural seamstress, and I'm looking forward to watching her skills grow.
One of my favorite things is watching my women help each other. Here Hinde (a Muslim from Somalia) discusses ironing techniques with Hari (a Hindu from Bhutan). Cool!
Leela always forges ahead. She works at a restaurant in a food court at a mall. She saved her pennies and bought her own sewing machine. You go, girl!
Dhaka and Beda focused on cutting and threading -- two challenging tasks for women who are still learning many things Americans take for granted. We only have one ironing board. We have two irons, and they are always busy. Today one iron fell off the board and crashed to the floor. One of the ladies fell off her rolling chair, too. Both went back to work right away!Amy is our amazing volunteer who has filled so many gaps in our program. She brings the snacks and tea for the ladies and sets everything up before class. She took over the sorting and tagging of countless beaded necklaces. And now she is straightening out our files. All monumental tasks. Thanks, Amy!God is blessing and enriching the women of The Refugee Sewing Society. He has given us joy without measure. Thank you for partnering with us and watching what the Lord is doing.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lotsa love . . .

My friend Amy said, "You must be doing something right!" That was her assessment of the incredible enemy artillery fire I've been under this past week. If I were sitting around twiddling my thumbs, she was explaining, then Satan wouldn't be targeting me all the time. Interesting.

But God is always victorious. In the midst of too many burdens to count, He blessed me with some incredible joy. Yeah -- I'm a grandma! A refugee grandma, that is. This past Thursday, one of my beloved women gave birth to her first child, a beautiful son.

Friday was another day of joy as women arrived for beading class. They filled up two tables. I'm guessing close to 15 showed up in their knit caps, sweaters, saris, and bead necklaces.
Thank goodness Amy had left us with a good supply of snacks. It's usually hard to get the women to leave their beading for even a few minutes. But Friday, I saw them all make a sudden dash for the refreshment table.
This sweet lady was thrilled with her goodies!
As always, I was so grateful for Man Bista (center, below) who gracefully conducted both classes. She is learning more about American tastes and styles from beading books and discussions we've had.
A favorite time for me and the women is when they reveal the necklaces they've made. Wow -- so pretty!
Please pray that I'll get some relief from stress this week. I feel like I'm on the brink of exhaustion. Pray for our precious women and their families. Pray also that all the work we're doing to build markets for the products these women have made will come to fruition. Thank you for your faithful support in reading the blog, writing to me, and praying for us.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The other days . . .

People ask what we do on non-ministry days. I've learned there's no such thing as a non-ministry day! Once my refugee families had my phone number -- which I gladly gave them -- the phone began ringing day and night.

Since we've been on the mission field, and for 23 years before that, I've worked as an author of Christian fiction. Check out to see my books.

Recently, I reduced my writing to three days a week. Now the Lord has led me to take a sabbatical from my writing career. Maybe forever!

Here's my current messy office. The level of messiness rises with the approach of the end of a book. I'm finishing up The Courteous Cad, and my readers are going to be relieved. They've been clamoring for this book for several years.I've had to postpone The Courteous Cad due to other book contracts. Right now, I'm putting the finishing touches on it. My amazing and wonderful husband reads and edits every book I write before I send it to publishers. His great editing and his sense of story have a huge impact on my writing. Thanks, Tim! So, here's what the inside of our closet looks like!
These books are like my children. I conceived and birthed them, rejoiced that others loved them as much as I did, and am now ready to let them go.New beginnings are fun . . . and scary. Tim will continue his part-time job as a tennis center attendant. I will increase my ministry days -- to continue visiting in homes and supervising The Refugee Sewing Society. We believe our loving Father will take care of us. Thank you for your support and prayers as we take this big step!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Somali refugee can-opening trick! And other fun stuff . . .

How to open a can: Somali-style

1. Put can on floor between your feet.
2. Insert sharp knife into can lid.
3. Use sawing motion to open can.


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Today was such a fun day! Even though I am struggling with a bad cold and some very heavy burdens, I rejoiced to spend time with my refugee friends.

Our little baby boy is growing up fast. He was born ten months ago. Now he can stand on his own and totter a couple of steps . . .
But only in the direction of mama!
My dear friend always has new arrivals at her house. I think she is the self-designated Somali welcome wagon. Today this beautiful young girl and her family were visiting. They arrived 5 days ago from Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya.
What a blast it was to watch my friend and her husband having fun together. When I got out my camera, she ordered him to sit down for a formal picture. He was being a little shy. She never is!
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How's this for a pretty pose?
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Yeah, now that's just right! I really love these two. Married at 15, they're the parents of seven kids. Please pray for them.
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As I was leaving, I remembered that I had a basket of goodies from Holly Springs Baptist Church, our partner in South Carolina. My friend -- as always -- was thrilled to get the gifts and very grateful.
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I spent many hours today helping my family of 10 from Burundi. They had let their Food Stamps expire and were out of every fresh fruit and vegetable, as well as eggs and milk. For the second time this month, I ran to the store and bought some food to tide them over. We worked on getting their Food Stamp card reactivated, making sure they had Medicaid, and talking about how to get jobs for the father and oldest son.
Poor Imani (Faith) had been sick the night before with a temperature of 103. I was glad they used the thermometer I gave them, but they didn't understand the difference between "doctor" and "hospital." In their refugee camp, it's the same thing. You can't go to the doctor without going to the hospital. I had told them that if the temp ever got to 103 or over, they should go to the hospital. Since this happened at night, they (thinking I meant the doctor's office) were sure it would be closed! I was glad to hear that her temp was down to 98 this morning.

Thank you for your prayers for these families. We appreciate your prayers, your generous donations, and the time many of you give as volunteers. May God bless you!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sewing Ladies

I didn't take many pictures today. Too busy re-threading jammed sewing machines, teaching the meanings of "inches" and "yards," explaining the concept of "matching" and "coordinating" fabrics, sorting yarn, organizing files . . . and on and on!

These ladies, below, are in my morning sewing class. Rain was pouring outside today, so our numbers were down. That was fine. We needed time to regroup and focus on our ministry. Small groups make relationship-building easier. I really love these women!
One example of their kindness occurred today as we were cleaning up the room in preparation for the afternoon class. I mentioned that the floor need to be cleaned -- scraps of fabric, loose threads, cookie crumbs, etc. Buddha immediately grabbed the broom and started sweeping. I kept trying to help, but she always said, "Ma'am, please no. Let me do this."
She swept our room thoroughly, and that gift meant so much to me. Thank you, Buddha!

The other volunteers and I ask for your prayers as we search for ways to market the beautiful items our women are making. I am so grateful for everyone who supports The Refugee Sewing Society -- and that includes you!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Crazy Daze!

Living on the front lines of a battlefield is never easy. The enemy is always lurking, waiting to attack. This week, I got clobbered. Figuratively and literally. (I'll spare you the tale of the unlicensed, uninsured teenager who backed into my car's rear door.)

I was already under a lot of stress as the week began -- Andrei has been struggling with many things in his life, my latest book is due at the publisher on March 15, the house we bought is being remodeled. AND I'm trying to devote as much time and attention as I can to ministry.

Last Monday, we registered almost 50 women for classes with the Refugee Sewing Society. Beading classes were to begin on Friday. On Thursday, I learned that we were losing our beading teacher. I didn't handle it well. The Lord forgave me and began to fill in all the gaps. At Tim's suggestion, we piled into our car Thursday night and drove to Walmart to buy $60 worth of beading supplies. By Friday morning, I had lined up our beautiful Bhutanese friend, Man Bista, to teach the two beading classes. She used to teach beading and all kinds of crafts in her refugee camp in Nepal. The twenty women registered for the two classes came pouring in and quickly got to work.
The women love to work and chat. I encouraged them to sing. Imagine my surprise when one of the women began singing a Christian hymn -- in English! She openly told me that she is a Christian. Two other women in the class said they were Christians, too. That turned a very bad day into a very good day! The Lord is providing a great foundation for our ministry, and I'm so grateful.
Man Bista worked with the women -- not only discussing their efforts but teaching some new skills.
My biggest shock was the sight of these women opening their bags and taking out huge handfuls of necklaces they had created after their previous class.I sorted the necklaces onto coffee filters and began to tag them. Some of the women had already attached prices they hope to get when we sell their work.The afternoon class was larger than the morning one. MORE NECKLACES!All day, I was thanking God for Man Bista's quiet service. I am praying that we can begin to pay her for the 4 hours she will teach each Friday. Like most of our new refugees, she and her husband are both unemployed and very worried about paying their rent and other expenses.
I love the faces of these strong, beautiful Bhutanese women.And I adore my jolly Somalis! This sweet friend is due to have her 7th baby next month. Every time I see her, I am sure she's just about to have that baby right there in the Community Center!We have so many necklaces now that we're going to have to work hard to find venues at which to sell them -- and the other things the women have made. One of my lovely volunteers has already stepped up to the plate and will begin working to reconfigure the marketing program that vanished with our beading teacher.

How about a beautiful afghan, anyone???
Or some gorgeous handmade vests and sweaters?
My beloved best friend from Africa days has purchased ALL the baby-doll caps our women made. Thank you, Janice!
Just when things seem truly overwhelming, along come the kids! This bunch of sweeties piled into my car when I dropped Kelly off at her apartment. Tim and I are really here for one thing -- sharing with people the amazing news of God's grace and mercy through Jesus Christ. When we get down to that . . . to PEOPLE . . . all the other junk just drifts off.

Please pray for these beautiful refugees who have come to America in the hope of a new and better life.When I get attacked by the enemy, my favorite thing to do is look at the faces I love so much. What could lift your spirits more?
May God bless and protect us all.