On Joy On Relationships

Fleshing Out God’s Call, Family Style….

So.  Today I am speaking for a BIG 10 Minutes to a small group of people about my involvement with The Spero Project.  (A local non-profit ministering to the under-resourced populations in Oklahoma City, specifically the refugee community).  I got this text from Kim, the co-founder, she was really specific with her request and asked me to speak on:

 

“What the crafting co-op has meant to me and what I’ve learned.”

 

um.

 

well.

 

I thought I would start off by telling you how it all began.

 

3 years ago, Denver played a show for an organization called Keep It Local, here in Oklahoma City to benefit a “new” local non-profit, The Spero Project.  I was invited through Facebook to attend.  When I clicked on the “event” page to confirm my attendance, I saw a link posted for The Spero Project.  So.  I clicked.  Curiously, I surfed around the site, and instantly my heart was drawn to their mission.

“Confronting injustice and oppression by mobilizing the Church to fully engage in a Biblical response to under-resourced populations.”
 
At the time I was in a strange point in my faith.  I was currently in a Bible study at church, and really digging into scripture with a group of amazing women.  We were knee-deep in the old testament and I felt spiritually saturated, as if I needed to wring myself out… I visited another Bible Study (out of curiosity).  They were studying Isaiah.  This Bible study group was well-known for digging into the word, and picking apart scripture, I was excited because I felt like I needed something “deeper”.  After attending for 3-4 weeks I realized this was NOT the “deeper” I anticipated.  Yes, it was an in-depth study on Isaiah, but my discerning spirit kept nudging me, telling me this is not the place I was to be.
I remember sitting in a circle and looking around the room at the women.  We all looked alike, we all probably shopped at the mall, we all probably ate at Chick-fil-a, we all probably attended church, we all probably went to college, we all probably drove mini-vans… We sat there, in that circle discussing the following verse:
Isaiah 1:17-
“Take your evil deeds
out of my sight!
Stop doing wrong,
learn to do what is right!
Seek justice
encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless, 
plead the cause of the widow.”
 
Out of no where I felt disgust ripping through my chest.  My eyes went blank and I mentally removed myself from the conversation that was going on within the circle I sat.  Suddenly, I found myself begging the questions:  WHY are we sitting in this million dollar building, talking about these issues, and why are we NOT doing them?!!?!  All of these women are 20, 30, 40 years old… WHY are we still talking about seeking justice, encouraging the oppressed, defending the fatherless and pleading for the widow????  WHY are we talking and WHY we are NOT DOING?!?!?! WHY?!?!
I left Bible study that day feeling so unsure, convicted, repentant, burdened, overwhelmed… I had no means of articulating the emotions rising up in me that were spurred by this one small verse.
I drove home, went on with life, but this inner rage never left.  It was as if God opened my heart and mind to things unseen and I could no longer look away, my soul scarred from the Holy Spirits prodding. (I have learned that  when true conviction sets in by the means of the Holy Spirit, you may run, you may try to hide, but He will seek you out, at all cost.)
God and I conversed continuously over those few weeks. I countered His calling with statements and questions like: How do I live this way; seeking, encouraging, defending, pleading?  My kids are too small (2 and 6 mo at the time). I have no money to donate.  I cannot drop my family and move to an orphanage in Africa, God.  I have children to care for, a husband to love, a family to build, how do I have time for this commissioning you have put on my heart??  He kept gently responding with, “I know, Heather.  Trust me.  Give ME the reigns to your life.”  In our conversation I kept yanking those reigns tighter, claiming ownership to the life He gave me.  I came up with every excuse in the book, and God kept nodding, confirming that He knew my current situation, and the life He created for me did not discount the call he placed in my life…. Then, I had a revelation… God’s Call and My Life are not mutually exclusive… They are instead harmonious, and when blended into ONE they are a beautiful display of sacrificial living.
The lightbulb clicked on, shining a light on the fact that my life was caged by the excuses I was uttering.  I set up fences, gates, doors, barriers, walls because I had children who were growing and I had a marriage that was thriving…
Thoughts started taking over my mind.  What would it look like if I sought justice with my children by my side?  What would it look like if my husband, children and I encouraged the oppressed in our neighborhood?  How could the family God gave me defend the fatherless?  Hand in hand, could we serve the widow?
I had come to  point where I was willing to let the fence I built around my life fall.  Letting go of security and ownership of my own family I was willing to say “Yes” to the Holy Spirits nudge.  At the time I was unsure of what I was saying yes to.  I didn’t know of the ugly tears that I would cry or how parched my soul had become, and no destination was set in front  of me.  I was simply saying yes to obedience. 

One morning, I happened to run an errand for my husband and I stopped in a local store, Shop Good to buy some tickets to a Charlie Hall cd release show.  I walked in, lugging my giant infant carseat, ready to buy 2 tickets, when I met Audrey, one of the owners of Shop Good.  We instantly hit it off (only because we were meant to be friends) she began telling me about The Spero Project.  Every purchase made in Shop Good gives back locally or internationally, and the local non-profit they were currently supporting was The Spero Project.  I knew that rang a bell, because Denver was playing a benefit show for them coming up… so she gave me more and more info on what they did and gave me an e-mail of one of the girls who helps coordinate volunteers.

I left Shop Good that warm morning, with e-mail in hand… not knowing the repercussions of that encounter.  Later that day, I e-mailed Kelly (the name on the card) and met up with her the next week.

 

As we sat in a crowded Starbucks on a crowded Friday morning she asked:

 

Kelly: “Do you know what a refugee is?”

 

Me:  “Do we have refugees in Oklahoma!?”

 

Kelly:  “Yes.  Do you know where Burma is?”

 

Me: “Wait….We. Have. Refugees. In. Oklahoma. ?”

 

Kelly: “Yes…from Burma, Russia, Iraq, Afganistan, the Congo, Kenya, Jordan, Iran….. Can you come next week to our crafting co-op?  Wednesday night at 7:00.”

 

Thoughts started pouring into my head (Wait, Wednesday night?  I will have my kids.  Alone.  And…7:00… that’s around bedtime….no. way. can. I. do. this.)

Me: “Can I bring my kids?”

 

Kelly: “They would LOVE for you to bring your kids”

 

Me: “I will be there….”

 

I got into the car that morning, unsure of what I had committed to, but I knew it was right.  The next week I met the women and community that would change my life.  An entire community full of families: men, women, and children affected by war, genocide, religious persecution… within 10 miles from my doorstep. I saw families who had children snatched out of their homes to fight war; families that spent years in the jungle displaced because of war; families that had to pack 1 suitcase in a matter of minutes to leave the only life they ever knew because of war…  Families who were oppressed, children who were fatherless, women who were widowed… because of injustice. Isaiah 1:17 fleshed out.

 

I began to be involved in the refugee crafting co-operative through The Spero Project.  Women, sitting in a circle, on the floor, sewing, cutting, gluing, crafting… And through the work of our hands relationships were forged that went deeper than language, a love was developed that was carved in my heart so hard it will never leave, a respect grew that exceeds all the mountains in my life, and friendship that knows no cultural boundaries.  I am humbled by these women who I have sat with for 3 years, women from Burma, from Thailand, from Jordan, from Russia.  I am thankful for their children, who have played with my children, who have held my babies, who have braided my daughter’s hair and made my sons laugh.

 

After having my 3rd baby, the girls insisted I have a native Burmese wrap to carry my babies in.   I have yet to master the native art of “baby wearing” but Zadie sure enjoys it!

 

As I reflect on the question “What the crafting co-op has meant to me, and what I have learned” words cannot express rapid beating in my heart, the swelling of my soul and the tingling in my eyes.  The tears shed, the nights I have lied in bed asking “why God?” on their behalf, the embarrassment I have bore because of our self-absorbed American culture, and the indignation I have felt towards a church that have looked over this population… no words can express these emotions that rise up in me.  No words can express the gratitude rooted in my soul, or the joy I feel after being with my community.

 

I did it because I was called, I do it because I love.

 

 

Kim-chee is from Burma.  She came to our most recent Christmas craft co-operative.  She has been in the US for  under a year.
War Gay is Karen, she is from Burma and has been doing work for the crafting co-op  since it’s creation.  Her work is meticulous and all hand done.  She embroiders most of the clothing and Tom’s that we have done.

 

 

Today I read Ezekiel 17:22-24

22 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it; I will break off a tender sprig from its topmost shoots and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. 23 On the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a splendid cedar. Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of its branches24 All the trees of the forest will know that I the Lord bring down the tall tree and make the low tree grow tall. I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish.
“‘I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’”

 

Birds of every kind will nest in it; they will find shelter in the shade of it’s branches.  Yes.  Yes, they will.

 

I encourage you to say yes to obedience, and let that direct your path.  Your path will not be my own.  Maybe it is allowing your widowed grandmother to live with your family, serving the homeless, visiting a nursing home or helping a non-profit in your local church community.  Whatever it is be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s nudge, and don’t allow your family to be an excuse, but invite your children to serve alongside you.  Hold their hand, walk with them into ministry, talk about needs of people in front of your children, encourage their questions, and give them SAFE and controlled opportunities to serve.  Sometimes their innocence, laughter and their smile can break barriers and bring peace to those in need the most.

 

Here are some projects our co-op has done through the years.

We have done a variety of Oklahoma themed canvases that we have sold at SHOP GOOD in Oklahoma City.
Throughout the years we have done a variety of handmade custom jewelry and accessories.  We have done necklaces, earring, pins, headbands, and clips.  These are just a few that I have pictures of.  We sell our custom jewelry at SHOP GOOD

UPDATES:

 

Add caption
UPDATE:  This blog was published 2 years ago.  Our little crafting co-op does not meet anymore, but the relationships that were made during those years are precious and invaluable.  Our family has made life long friends with families from all over the world, and my children are loved by so many “mothers” that have taught me to be a better ME.  They helped nurse my sick children, they gave me parenting advice and always filled our tummies with yummy and new foods.  The reason I want to share this with you is to PUSH you out of your nest into the branches where birds of EVERY KIND are!!  And when you see those from other countries, refugees, immigrants, tourists… it is our duty as believers to show them that we are more alike than different, that we are loved by the SAME Savior.  FLY, little bird, fly.
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11 Comments

  • Reply HeatherDuncan#1Fan

    Wow Heather! You’ve done it again! Amazing read! 🙂

    September 8, 2015 at 9:10 pm
  • Reply Ashley Ditto

    Your blog and writing is so refreshing and inspiring. Wow!

    April 15, 2013 at 4:23 pm
    • Reply Heather D.

      Ashley, you are too kind. Thank you for reading!

      April 17, 2013 at 2:51 am
  • Reply victory

    What an amazing work- That which HE has begun will be completed.

    being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6)

    April 14, 2013 at 8:10 pm
  • Reply Erin

    This post makes me want to drive to OKC and come craft with you ladies. What an awesome organization, and kudos to the shops who support it. I’m feeling hungry for something like this, some tangible way to help that can also include the little blondies in my life. 😉 Loved reading this. You are an encouragement, old friend.

    April 12, 2013 at 12:45 am
    • Reply Heather D.

      Erin, you are welcome to come join us anytime you are in Okc!! 🙂 Did you know they have a large refugee population in Tulsa (??) But, still a little far from where you are. Be praying for an opportunity, and when it presents itself, you will know. Better to pray and be obedient than to force your own agenda, I have learned. Stop by Shop Good and Blue 7 next time you are in town and you can support us that way.

      April 12, 2013 at 1:32 pm
  • Reply mckenziegordon

    I love this! When you said, “God’s Call and My Life are not mutually exclusive… They are instead harmonious, and when blended into ONE they are a beautiful display of sacrificial living.” It’s so funny how we usually think they are separate things and God doesn’t realize all we have going on! So thankful you were obedient!

    April 11, 2013 at 10:24 pm
    • Reply Heather D.

      I know McKenzie. I am not sure why I always assume I have to do ministry while my kids are at home, or in the nursery… maybe their presence will aid in ministry, opening up hearts and minds in ways unexpected. Plus, when they walk beside us in service life, family and ministry are one seamless unit. Instead of 3 separate entities. I guess when I was a new mom I didn’t know how to juggle it, or maybe I didn’t have the opportunity to bring my children with me ? But I am so thankful for this community God has opened up for us. And what a dynamic for your family, where this verse means so much more. It looks so different in each person’s reality. God is so creative and purposeful, so thankful for that. 🙂

      April 12, 2013 at 1:29 pm
  • Reply Meredith @ The Laundry Can Wait

    Heather,
    Where is Shop Good located in OKC? Or is it online only? Such an inspiring post.

    XOXO,
    Meredith

    April 11, 2013 at 8:29 pm
    • Reply Heather D.

      Meredith, Shop Good is located at 9th and Broadway, on the same street as Iguana Grill, Sara Sara Cupcake, S & B Burger… it’s the most amazing store. Cute cute cute stuff, and every purchase gives back. 🙂

      April 12, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Thoughts welcome, please share.