My name is Sarah and I am writing on behalf of myself and my good friend Ceilidh (Kaylee) who have been led on a crazy adventure that only shows God’s goodness and faithfulness and AMAZING plan.
I have always loved Bread We Break and have been going for the past 3 years (since I became a Christian) and it was put on my heart a little while ago to reach out to you guys and share this testimony with you.
After I first became a Christian, the only thing I wanted was for God to use me in a unique and clear way. I had visions of rescuing orphans, feeding the hungry and sharing the love of Christ with people in Latin America. God heard my prayers, and called me to Guatemala where I have been living on and off for the past two years.
This last September when I was back in Canada, I began to feel this urge to make websites for ‘the poor’ in Guatemala, and help local businesses develop online stores. I believed that if they had an online store they would be able to make more income and support themselves.
So this last November I went back to Guatemala with no exact plan, a little fear, but faith that we serve a good God, who promises to go before us and protect us. About two weeks after arriving in the country settling down in my Guatemalan ‘hometown’, San Pedro La Laguna, I went back to meet with some women in a cooperative I had known from my previous time in Guatemala. In Guatemala, many groups of women start weaving cooperatives as a way to support their families and send their children to school. The cooperative is comprised of a group of backstrap weavers (people who make textiles and turn them into scarves, purses, backpacks etc.) and sell them in one physical store location. The people in a cooperative (usually marginalized indigenous women) can not afford to start their own business so they pool their resources together and share a place where they can sell their products.
When I arrived at the cooperative I asked the leader Clementina (who I had previously met) how their cooperative’s business was going, and she began to tell me about the problems that the cooperative was having. She explained how they were unable to have a sustainable source of revenue and things were hard. She continued to tell me how when rainy season came (May –November) the women in the cooperatives often couldn’t make any sales due to decreased tourism levels. This makes it difficult for these women to send their children to school as they need to pay for the tuition.
Clementina continued to tell me the cooperative needed two things: a website and an online store . I couldn’t believe it, and I immediately told her I would work with her and would develop a website and online store for the cooperative. At this point, I still did not know how to make websites or online stores. But this was no barrier for God, a few days later I met a professional who has an digital marketing agency. He offered to help me for free. I thanked the Lord.
Now that I had a techy guy to help me but, I needed content for the online store. I continued to take photos of each individual product that I would use for the online store. At this point I had found a white wall and a nail and began to hang the products on this nail. But the products didn’t look very pretty. For weeks, I would go down to the cooperative, trying various methods to improve the photos and aesthetic appeal of the products. Additionally, I knew the customers would want to hear the stories of these women and would want to know how their purchase was making an impact in the community. So Clementina arranged for site visits and I began to go to the various different houses of the women weavers (there are 35 women who work in the cooperative and who can send their children to school as a result of the cooperative). I began going into the homes of these women. The poverty was incredible, I saw 12 people to one stove, no running water and homes without electricity. I realized that my little DSLR camera wasn’t good enough to capture the strength and tenacity of these women weavers – and I really wanted to display their powerful stories on the website. However, this struggle was soon overcome when I was one day introduce me to a Canadian photographer who had a studio in the town where I lived (I had no idea that his little studio existed!). He was interested in what I was trying to do and agreed to help me by taking professional photos of the women and said he would use his professional flash and even bring his Guatemalan assistant (who was also a photographer).
I had schedule a site visit when my friend Ceilidh was coming to visit me in Guatemala during her reading week which was a week later. Ceilidh had been attending Alpha at The Meeting Place during this time, as she was exploring Christianity and what a relationship with Jesus meant. She arrived in Guatemala and instantly became interested in what I was doing and was excited to do a site visit to see into the lives of the women weavers. We met with the photographers and together we went to visit the artisans homes. Ceilidh was really moved by the experience and a huge desire was placed in her heart to work on this project with me. She even planned to return back to Guatemala in a few weeks to continue working on the project. I found out later that during this time Ceilidh accepted Jesus into her heart. Suddenly I realized God was continuing to provide and use this little project.
Ceilidh returned to Guatemala a month later. Shortly after she returned to Guatemala, we both felt a nudge to go and speak with another cooperative. We wanted to be able to help more groups of women, and we were looking for leather products. I knew a woman from church named Anita who had started a small cooperative not long ago and Ceilidh and I both felt we needed to see her. We arrived at this woman’s cooperative and spoke with Anita. She told us the story about how she spent all the money she had to buy products from women who came to her and ask for her help. These women were extremely poor backstrap weavers (they made scarves and other products) and did not have any other form of work. They needed to sell their purses and scarves so they could send their children to school, for food, to buy their medicine and to meet their basic needs. At this time, Anita had a job as a tour guide and would bring the products to her tour groups. The people loved the products she brought to them and Anita realized she could help a lot of women by selling their products. She believed God was calling her to do this, and she began using every last cent she had to buy the womens products and sell them. She later got financial assistance from a friend and opened the cooperative that is now helping 26 women have a form of income and experience the love of Christ. Anita explained how the slogan of the cooperative is “Blessed to Bless”. Anita’s incredibly story of struggle and triumph and her heart for God captured us. We knew we had to help and work with this cooperative. Her story really inspired us, and we believe that is will inspire others too.
God is good, and he works in miraculous ways that are greater than anything that we could ever hope or imagine. I have come to see how the Lord loves his children and takes such good care of them. He provides for us in ways that seem impossible… in ways we could have never imagined ourselves. Ceilidh and I are just everyday people. Anita and Clementina are just ordinary women. We haven’t done anything different than anyone else, we just have had the amazing opportunity to serve God and want to continue to serve Him. We believe God uses his children in incredible ways and that there are young adults in Winnipeg who need to the hear the message that God wants to use them and WILL use them.
We are going back to Guatemala to serve God by continuing this project in October. We also thank you for the ministry of BWB, for serving the young adults in Winnipeg and abroad.