When did you first hear about Fashion & Compassion?
Where you already planning to do a mission trip to Africa? I heard about Fashion & Compassion several years ago when my friend and co-worker left the company we worked for to co-found the organization. I knew that I had desired to return to Africa in the near future but it wasn’t until Celeste mentioned the trip in the spring that I was seriously considering a mission. When she casually mentioned it, I was all in.
What was it that drew you to Uganda specifically?
Interestingly enough, I had read two books in the spring and summer and I didn’t know before I had chosen them that they were actually based in Uganda. The first book was Kisses from Katie, a story about a young college student who left everything to adopt several children in Uganda. The second book was When Helping Hurts, which gives a much needed insight to how short term missions can negatively affect poverty stricken people. It was through these books that helped enlarge my heart for Uganda specifically.
Tell me about the Acholi people/ what they’ve endured because of the LRA / and the artisans you met.
The Acholi tribe was from an area in Northern Uganda, but because of the war with the LRA, most of them were either killed or forced out of their land and fled south to Kampala, the capital city. Out of the 12 artisans, almost all of them endured an incredible amount of suffering and death during this time. Most of their families were brutally killed and they barely escaped with their lives. I will let them tell their own stories here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152709109826321.1073741829.728476320&type=1&l=01e18bee05
Did you accomplish what you hoped to during your time with the Acholi people?
All in all, we accomplished what we set out to do, which was to tend to their spiritual, emotional, and physical needs, as well as bring back the jewelry that they had made since we left them last time. However, as always in situations like this, we needed more time. God raised more funds than I needed for the travel expenses for the trip, so I had an excess of funds to invest into their livelihood. Because of several complicated factors, we didn’t make a decision of what to do with these excess funds while we were there. We are taking our time to wisely decide how to invest it, which is good, but I wish I would have seen the funds go to work with my own two eyes!
Was there a specific event that impacted you the most on this trip?
There were many moments that deeply impacted me that I am still recovering from. But there was one moment in particular that seemed to put me over the edge. It was the moment my brain shorted out and, as a defense mechanism, kind of shut down emotionally. Margaret was sharing her testimony and the translator, in her African accent, said what I thought was, “…and the rebels banned seven of her children and her mother…” and I whispered to a teammate, “Banned them from what?” And she whispered, “Burned.” A week later and I still can’t snap out of it or process the incomprehensible tragedies these women went/are still going through. If you haven’t read these testimonies yet, please do.
Do you think this will be the first of many mission trips to Africa?
This is actually my 4th trip to Africa. The first trip was a small group vision trip with two part time missionaries and a friend to Benin, South Africa, and Swaziland for 10 days. The 2nd trip was for two months with Mission to the World in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The 3rd trip was to visit a friend in South Africa a few years ago, and this is my 4th. I absolutely have a heart for Africa and hope to go many more times in my life.
Will you work with Fashion & Compassion again, or are there other organizations that you would like to be involved with?
It’s very possible that I could work more with Fashion & Compassion. It’s a wonderful organization that truly cares for these groups of women around the world and they are making an impact in these communities. I am definitely open to working with other organizations as well, especially those that tend to the most fundamental needs of poverty stricken individuals around the world. I love the idea of helping people groups without hurting them, meaning, it’s important that we empower them and not just hand out charity. One example of this is helping them start up a small business selling food rather than buying them a pantry full of food.
On your website you mentioned you were writing short stories about your time in Africa. Is this something you plan to release in book form in future?
My desire would be to write these stories/devotionals to be distributed in book form. With my full-time job and other projects on my plate, it will realistically take years to complete. I started writing them, however, as a means of coping with wounded memories from my time in Africa. I had never fully dealt with those memories and realized that a decade later, they were still haunting me. So these memoirs have helped me insert Jesus into my wounded memories and redeem them. After experiencing what I’ve seen last week, I know that I will need to write about Uganda soon.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
The survival of these women, and other Fashion & Compassion groups around the world, solely depends on the sales of their jewelry. Their prayers revolve around the sale of their products so that they can feed and educate their children. Please consider visiting www.fashionandcompassion.com and purchasing some of their jewelry for upcoming Christmas gifts! Also, please feel free to view my photos from the trip here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152715586171321.1073741830.728476320&type=1&l=524f669a8a
Thank you so much for sharing with us, Ande!