Friday, October 23, 2009

You are so beautiful . . .

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Busy little chickens . . .

When I walk to our storage room, my students follow behind me in a line. They are so chirpy, small, and cute that one day I started calling them my "little chickens." When I want them to go somewhere, I sing out, "Come my little chickens!" They all laugh and hurry after me.

These past few days, my little chickens have been very busy! We attended the Refugee Policy Forum at Agnes Scott College. Refugee Family Services invited us, and we enjoyed the opportunity to meet lawmakers and others who work on behalf of refugees. Our market was a big success. Afterward, I took everyone out for ice cream.
It was very cold outside that day, so I think they wondered a little about my sanity. Tim and I always took our boys out for ice cream after any event that was noteworthy. This event certainly fell into that category!

Speaking of cold, the yarn group -- under Shirley's guidance -- has crocheted some adorable baby caps and booties. Aren't these precious?
The women are so skilled. We show them photos of what we want, and they return to us with beautiful creations like these.
Amy has directed the bead group into making some gorgeous necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. We are finding earrings to be a big hit.
I am thrilled with my beginner sewing class. They are getting it! I have promoted two of them to the advanced class. The others are making very good bags now, and it won't be long before they graduate, too!
We borrow a larger classroom on Tuesdays when advanced sewing, beginner sewing, and bead group all meet at the same time. It is a VERY busy and crowded room. We love it!
The advanced class is making refugee bags. These are a big hit everywhere we go. Many have two pockets -- one for a cellphone and one for a bottle of water.Hinde is rightfully proud of her first refugee bag. She put the pocket on the side -- a great adaptation of the form.Rajaa made some extra-large refugee bags. They're great for tall people!
Don't you love this fabric?
Here's another of Rajaa's masterpieces.
Durga got a kick out of modeling her bag. She is such a sweet, kind woman. I love her.
Netra decided her bag could be carried the Bhutanese way. How do you like this? Very clever!Yesterday, I was calling my little chickens to follow me to the storage room. One of them called out, "Teacher, teacher! You are the big chicken!"

Come see our flock of lovely ladies at Clarkston Community Center. The big chicken herself would love to sell you some booties, beads, and bags!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I will fear no evil (Text by Tim)

"...I came naked from my mother's womb, and I will be stripped of everything when I die. The LORD gave me everything I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!" Job 1:21

Though the hour was late, our younger son, Andrei, was in his apartment working at his table when a bullet blasted through the upper left corner of the window above his bed shortly after midnight Saturday.
A mile away and a short time later, I awoke from a deep sleep in the wee hours of Saturday morning to loud knocking on our front door. Not sure whether I had dreamed it, I waited. Then the sound came again, from the window of a front bedroom. By then Cathy was starting to stir, wondering what was going on. I told her someone was outside knocking. At that moment the unknown fist banged on the bedroom window right next to our heads – a startling and frightening noise that got us up and creeping out our bedroom door.

Clutching the keychain panic button of our alarm system, I peeked around the corner of the entryway and saw through the glass of the door our younger son, Andrei, standing with a policeman on the front porch. A new fear: Andrei was under arrest!

The policeman quickly assured us, “He’s OK; he hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then the two of them told us what had happened. Someone fired a random gunshot through the window of Andrei’s nearby apartment. When he stepped outside to call 911, the police – who already were there investigating a report of gunfire – saw him and got the story. He asked for a ride to our house, where he spent the rest of the night.

The next day, Andrei and I went to his apartment to get some of his stuff. We knew he had spent his last night there.

Seeing the bullet hole in the glass a few feet above his bed and the second hole in his bathroom wall slammed home the terrifying reality of the incident. The bullet had passed through the doorway into the bathroom and gouged the wall. At the time of the gunshot, Andrei was at his work table a few feet away in the efficiency apartment. If he had been in bed, it would have whizzed right over him. If he had been going into the bathroom, it would have cut him down.

Sunday morning in church, we sang a popular praise chorus titled Blessed Be Your Name. Hearing it, I marveled again that Job could accept with equanimity the loss of everything he had.

I thanked God with everything I had that He did not take away Andrei, but spared him. Yet I also realized that if the ending had been different, I still would have only one place to turn. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Please join us in prayers of thanks for God’s mercy and in prayers for our safety. Sometimes it’s a scary world.

Friday, October 16, 2009


Volunteers give time and talent to The Refugee Sewing Society every week. They are the lifeblood of our ministry. Without them, we would fold.

Amy's bead group always amazes us. Under her guidance, they are creating beautiful necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Amy taught them how to make beaded Christmas ornaments. We sold a lot of those at our last market day!
Shirley runs our yarn group. She keeps track of crochet hooks, knitting needles, and yarn. She helps the women know what to create and how to fashion their art into salable merchandise.
Sharon runs Bunny Buns, our cloth diaper initiative. The idea to sew diapers was Sharon's, and she has spearheaded the effort to create these useful items. Our prayer is to one day see bright green baby bottoms all over Clarkston!
Brittany faithfully helps set up and run markets, manage our money coming in and going out, and has just started helping me answer emails and keep track of our calendar.
Chelly, a member of North Metro Baptist Church, helps often in our bead class.
Rina came to us from the Atlanta Sewing Guild. She has been testing the older sewing machines people donate. I want to get as many as possible up and running, because these metal machines are the most hardy and most reliable. Rina comes on Tuesdays, too, and helps with teaching, setting up teatime, and much more.Sherrill came to help out last Tuesday. Our busiest and craziest day of the week is Tuesday when we have both beginner and advanced sewing . . . and beads!
Shelley attends Emory University in their school of public health. A group of Emory students has become involved in helping the RSS sell market bags. This lovely young lady also bought several bags the last time she visited. Thanks!
Here are the Emory students cleaning and sorting out our storage room.
I'm saving our two newest volunteers for another blog. Todd and Carol have stepped into our lives in a big way, and we are so grateful. We also have some long distance volunteers. They are awesome, and I'll tell you about them later, too!Oh, yeah! I'm also a volunteer. I wouldn't trade that joy for anything.


Amazin' Amy -- in her brand new sari, above -- is our bead teacher. She claims a lack of talent in jewelry making, but the sales at our last two markets tell a very different story.
Krishna takes beads from the boxes that Amy has sorted. It's a challenge to keep the beads in order. It also takes a lot of skill to know what appeals to American buyers and how to make those items.
The bead group works around a table, sorting and chatting. Our Bhutanese and Somali students love to make different kinds of jewelry. And wear it, too!
We usually have beginner sewing in the same room as the bead class. It's a busy place! The sewers are in the back cutting fabric, while the beaders circle a table and work hard to complete their projects.
Amy always makes us smile -- whether she's teaching, pirouetting, singing with her guitar and harmonica, or talking with her students.
Does this necklace look like something you would buy? Yes? Me, too!
Please check out our brand new Etsy shop at

Keep coming back! Our products are flying out of there very fast, and we're replacing them fast, too. If you see something you like -- buy it now! You'll get more than a cool bag or beautiful necklace. You'll get the joy of knowing you've helped feed a refugee family!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ridin' along in my automobile

I call my car the refugeemobile. I drive a lot of miles each week with a gaggle of giggly girls on board.I never knew that shutting and opening a car door could be so confusing. Did you ever notice that we use a handle to open the door from the outside . . . then we pull on a piece of molded plastic on the inside to shut the door . . . then we pull on another handle to open the door from the inside? Neither did I! Now I'm very familiar with the many nuances of car doors.
And don't get me started on seatbelts! I spend a lot of time teaching my women -- even when we're not in class. My favorite moments occur when one of them suddenly understands, and I hear a great big "Ahhh!"

We all remarked on the amazing resemblance of Netra and her two beautiful daughters. In Nepali, there's a word that means "exactly the same." Netra and her girls are definitely "barabari!"
Pray that the refugeemobile keeps going. It's at nearly 100,000 miles, and I've still got many roads to navigate as I transport my pretty friends.

Monday, October 5, 2009

My man . . . down!

That's Durga hiding behind the stack of market bags. She is quiet, painstaking, and very gentle. One day last week she got very excited. "Teacher!" she called out. "My man . . . down!" She tilted herself over to one side to demonstrate. "My man . . . down!"


Communication is always a challenge with refugees from so many different countries. I hurried to Durga's side to discover that she had chosen a fabric covered with pictures of Noah, the ark, the animals, and the rain. On one side of her bag, Noah was right side up. But on the other, he was upside down. "My man . . . down!"

I explained how to cut the fabric and turn it to place Noah the right way up. Then I took the opportunity to tell the story of Noah and the ark. The women gathered around and everyone listened raptly. When I came to the end, I began to explain that Noah had not died because he obeyed God.

Durga's face lit up with a smile as she broke into my story. "He pray to God!" she said.

That's right, Durga. Noah prayed, and God listened. God spoke, and Noah listened.

Am I listening now? Are you?

Whatcha doin'?

We're making lots of cool stuff, that's what! Have you counted the days to Christmas? Do you want awesome gifts that keep on giving? Why not shop with The Refugee Sewing Society!
We're sewing really cute doll clothes. We have clothes that fit the American Girl size doll and also the Cabbage Patch doll.
We're sewing two kinds of nifty bags. We have our standard market bag -- our biggest hit at only $10 each. Take a look at these pretty fabrics! Buddha is modeling our amazing red market bag. It was a huge success at our last market. We only have 17 of these lovelies left.
Hinde is hard at work every time we open our doors.
Big news -- we have a new kind of bag! We call it the refugee bag. It's so amazing that people keep buying them almost as fast as we make them. Tim graciously agreed to model the bag. It goes over your shoulder and across your chest. The zipper is on the inside. Becca, who's very happy with the new market bag that Zahra made, brought us the original refugee bag.
The bag originated in Zambia. We're excited to watch the response to our newest product. Thanks Becca!
How about this pretty fabric? We have several refugee bags still available in this pattern.
But this is one of a kind!
We're stitching, ironing, and folding these bags just for our customers.
And as Zahra can tell you, we do measure carefully!
Our beginner class is trying out for a job sewing sandal straps for a really wonderful company that benefits schoolgirls in Uganda.
Our beginner class has many older Somali women. They can relate to the Ugandan girls. If you never went to school in your whole life -- like most of these Somali women -- measuring and sewing straight lines is a challenge. We're up to it!
The yarn class is making our best-selling dishcloths. If you've ever used one, you'll know why we sold out at our last market! And they're only $3 each. Will wonders never cease?
Shirley keeps the yarn ladies moving along. But we are in crisis right now. We have no yarn! And we also need very small crochet hooks. Can you help?
Shirley keeps digging, but this basket doesn't contain the five loaves and two fishes. Nope, there's just nothing left. That's the last of our yarn on the table, so we really need your help.
The doll blankets we made have gone over big. And Montaha will tell you how much fun she's having every time she gets paid. Today she let out a shriek and got positively hysterical with happiness! Hanaa is faithful to our program, gradually bringing her friends to join us one by one.
Our bead group is busy, too. They are making gorgeous Christmas tree ornaments. I'll save them for another blog. Stay with me!