Some Kind of Amazing

There is something kind of amazing about friends coming together to help one another out.

I had a wonderful opportunity to see this in action this weekend.

On a recent trip to Tanzania to work with Character 101 on various educational projects, I got my hands on some hand-crafted bags made from Kitenge fabric -- which is indigenous to Tanzania and East Africa. It was a dream come true for me.

About two years ago, I had the idea of buying bags from local artisans and then reselling them here in the U.S. as a revenue source for this non-profit. I figured that the purchase of bags over here helping students to get books over there was a marriage made in heaven.

However, at that time, we couldn't find what I was looking for and there was too much start-up activity with the organization to think about trying to chart that territory on our own.

So, we shelved the idea (pun intended).

However, a few weeks ago, I believe that God orchestrated a divine appointment with a fellow university alum and I was able to see some bags that she had that had been made by Tanzanian women learning the trade of sewing. I fell in love.

But she only had 21 bags with her.

I took them all.

And I literally just sold the last one.


On Friday, I made a Facebook Group page and a mere three days later, they are all spoken for.

I owe a lot of the project's success to a dear friend.

True, the bags sell themselves in many ways. They are fabulously authentic and hand-made by Tanzanian women. They are fully lined with pockets. They have a banana leaf button closure. They are gorgeous.

But presentation is everything and I am no photographer.

Yes, I did my best with my iPhone camera and my couch, but my best efforts produced this:

Not bad, but not amazing. One of my first sales was to a friend who fell in love with the "red one" pictured above. However, I quickly realized that some of the color didn't render correctly. This bag above that looks red, is really more of a rusty-red/brown color. And the most popular one, that looked like a turquoise bag of peacock amazing-ness, was actually green.


I didn't have time to fix it before heading out to my children's Christmas musical performance. After that, we headed out for a double date night for fragrant bowls of Pho (yum!) with my friend who wanted the "red bag" and her hubby and while we were there, they asked us to share about our recent trip to Tanzania.

And boy, did we!

I'm finding it hard to hold back and know what is too much to share and when to stop. I literally feel like I could talk about the trip and my feelings about it for hours.

I'm pretty sure that none of my friends want to listen to me for that long. But our friends were kind and patient and interested and engaged in what we were sharing.

I think they caught some of the heart and passion we have for the people and country.

It was a great date night.

Afterwards, our friends followed us to our house so that the "red bag" could go its new home. She came inside and oohed and ahhed over all the bags. But she stuck with her original choice -- even though it was more brown than red.

And then they left.

But not too long later, she messaged me with photos of her bag from her phone (not an iPhone) and it looked fabulous hanging on her chair in her kitchen. She is a photographer, after all.

Did I mention that?

I gave her props for her photo skills. And then, she did the most amazing thing.

She offered to take photos of the bags for me. All professional like. In our downtown area against a rustic brick wall she had found tucked away in an alley.

Can you guess what I said?

No brainer, right?

And here's what she captured...brace yourself. She's pretty amazing.

To say that I love the photos would be a gross understatement. She has the eye and the equipment and in that moment, I saw love being acted out right in front of my eyes as two of our children held the reflector thingies, I prepped each bag, and she snapped away.

She didn't have to do it.

She had a busy day of family things to do. Her time is precious. She makes money doing this.

She didn't ask for any.

She didn't want any.

She did it because she loves me and because she caught a glimpse into the life of a school child in Tanzania and her momma heart responded.

And it made me so happy to think about how amazing it all is when we all use our various skills and giftings to help one another.

My beautiful friend, Amy, took The Bags for Books Project to the next level. Her photos inspired me to find Swahili words that described each bag, Moyo, Kindu, Jua, Misalaba...and then to create some tags that double as book markers.

I know that much of the success of the fundraiser is due to her beautiful photos that capture the essence of a beautiful country.

A piece of her is going with the proceeds that I am going to send on to Character 101 later this week that will go towards educational supplies and programs for public school children.

My heart is so very happy. Much like this Moyo bag that she captured so well. (Moyo means "heart" in Swahili.)

And Tanzania has a piece of mine...and now, it has a piece of Amy's.

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