“That one is one of mine,” Kadijah said quietly as we watched a lady try on a headband with a hand-stitched rose attached to it. Several of us had set up a booth at a local plant sale to sell the handicrafts of Intertwined, a refugee women’s sewing cooperative.
Kadijah, a widow whose husband was murdered before her eyes, is a gentle woman, friendly and outgoing. She loved sitting at the booth and helping sell the items. But seeing Americans choose to buy her handmade items—this was a new victory for her and the other women of the co-op.
Hers had been a comfortable, secure life in her home country. Her husband had been important and fairly wealthy; he did not want her to go to college or to work outside of their home. Her siblings were doctors and engineers. Her parents wanted her to go to school as well, but she loved and respected her husband. Sadly, she admits he was wrong. How could he have known the trauma and turmoil she and their children would live through? And now to be living in a low rent apartment in America! How could any of them have known?
But she has survived, and despite great loss, today she holds her chin up and smiles as the suburban woman walks away wearing a new headband with a hand-stitched rose. “That one is one of mine.”
I pause to regain my composure. I am in awe of these brave women. My interactions with them are sacred, holy exchanges. They meet three times a week to sew, to sit through classes in English, math, and design principles and to study Proverbs 31. For several weeks’ work, they currently get less than $30. It is a cooperative in which everyone works on projects, and then at a sale the profit gets equally divided. Some of the money is held back to buy new fabric and thread. Everything else (electricity, rent, gas for transportation) is provided by the non-profit workers. A few of the women have sewn before, and some have not. For some of them, this is the first time in their lives they are able to make money.
“That one is one of mine.” That is what I hear wafting through the trees. The words come, not from Kadijah, but from the Father, as I look at these ladies, whose veils, long sleeves, and flowing slacks separate them from the tee-shirt and shorts-clad shoppers. Most of the crowd passes them by, unaware, or perhaps even with a twinge of resentment, as I heard one Christian say recently, “I wanna just say to them, ‘You are in America; take all that stuff off!’”
The Father looks beyond that “stuff” and whispers, “That one is one of mine.” Jesus says, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the 99 in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says...’that one is one of mine!'" (Personal translation)
What a wonderful privilege it is to be able to wear a headband or carry a bag made by “one of His” heroes. These brave women cope with death and great loss and are able, with hope and trust, to move boldly into their situations.
Kadijah is not a believer, but out of thousands of people who have fled for their lives from her country, she and her two youngest children were chosen to come to the U.S. And out of the hundreds chosen to come to America, they were chosen to come to this city. And out of the tens and twenties of refugees brought to this city, she was chosen to be one of the ones the non-profit staff met. And out of the ones who were helped to resettle, Kadijah was one of six women chosen to enter into the program of Intertwined – one of the six who hears and experiences the Father’s love weekly through the staff of Intertwined.
The Father has claimed Kadijah; she has been chosen. She may not know it yet, but His love is surrounding her, hemming her in, bringing her to the day when she will either accept His love or reject it. We don’t control that, can’t manipulate that. We just place the opportunity before her, giving her small doses of truth, cooperating with the Father. And we wait, knowing the inevitability of it all!
“That one is one of mine.”
Pray for the women of Intertwined and for the staff who loves them.
About the Author:
Melissa S. (’11), the first graduate to complete the Intercultural Studies program with a concentration in Islamic Studies, has committed her life to work with Muslim women. Melissa has organized, with the help of her team, a women’s sewing cooperative among refugee women living in the U.S. Melissa works full time with the women, driving them to class, training them, and encouraging them to believe they can make a difference in their families, their city, and this country. For information about the work, go to the Intertwined Etsy page or visit them on Facebook.