November last year I attended my first Days for Girls sewing event, as detailed in this post. Before leaving that day I pulled myself together enough to talk to Shannon and her right hand lady Dee, to give them a few more details about my treadle sewing machine history.
In case you’re unaware, my mom – known on the Internet as Damascus Annie – is one of the world’s treadle sewing machine experts, and she had me treadling before I ever used an electric sewing machine.
As I spoke with Shannon and Dee I told them that I’m good at sewing on a treadle machine, but my mom is the one they should really be talking to about getting their hands on a sewing machine and how to use it. She’s an expert. And she’s a teacher. They were excited about this.
I went home ruminating on the whole crazy thing that had happened – God telling me to get involved, going there and finding out that they need treadle sewing machine users, and then hearing that I was being sent to Africa – and I wondered a little if I was just making the whole thing up.
At bed time I was able to tell Tim about it. I started at the beginning and when I got to the part where I was hearing God say things, he laughed. I told him I think it’s wild that my skill set, which is rarely in demand (treadle sewing skills, folks!) is actually needed somewhere for something. Truly needed. That has never happened before.
“So I’m not just crazy – you also think these circumstances and what I think the Holy Spirit was saying are clear indicators that I should maybe consider going to Uganda? ” I was glad he had laughed instead of giving me the, “I think she’s crazy, but if I say anything she may become violent” look. I’ve certainly gotten that look before.
“Yes, I think these are pretty clear signs.” He was still smiling.
“If I go, you’ll have to take care of all the kids.” He was smiling a lot less now. But he’s still amazingly supportive.
A week later, early in December, I saw my mom.
“Hi Mom, do you want to go to Africa with me?”
Mom laughed. ”Yeah right. ” She thought I was joking. I was half joking because I thought the chance of my mom going on a trip to a place that might not have electricity but likely has malaria is about 1%. But I was half serious too. She picked up on it.
“Why?” She braced herself for the catch.
“Because they’re teaching women in Uganda how to make reusable feminine hygiene products on treadle sewing machines, and they don’t know how to treadle.”
Mom’s swift mind was going. She was already thinking of all the pros and cons. I kept talking. In 15 minutes she knew everything I knew. I used all my powers of persuasion and every story I’d read on the daysforgirls.org site to get her to see the immense benefit the kits are to the women and girls that receive them. I also pulled on the knowledge gleaned from reading “Toxic Charity” to convince her that it was the best way to help the economy of Uganda, so by the time I got done talking her answer had changed from “Yeah right” to a very reluctant, “Maybe.” That alone was a Christmas miracle.
I missed the December DFG sewing event, but I made it to January’s. I stayed late to talk to Shannon and Dee about the trip because I knew nothing about it at all. I didn’t even know if there was space open for more people to go, to be honest. Shannon was super busy, so I cornered Dee.
“Uh, Dee?” I didn’t even know where to start. How do you invite yourself to go on a trip across the world with someone you only met once before? ”So…you and Shannon had mentioned that you’re going to Uganda?”
Dee practically cut me off with her response. “Oh! You’re coming too!” Her eyes were big and excited. Dee is nothing if not enthusiastic. All of her body language managed to rejoice in the thought of me coming to Africa with them.
I’m pretty sure I told her at this point that I didn’t know anything whatsoever about the trip except that it was planned for the fall of ’16, and I thought I stomped on her enthusiasm by saying I hadn’t decided for sure yet if I was going to go. (This might not have been true, but I felt like I hadn’t fully committed yet.) She got out her planner to tell me the dates, cost, general plan, etc.
Shannon walked up. Dee turned to her and said, “Julia is coming to Uganda with us!” She was very happy about this. Maybe I hadn’t stomped on her enthusiasm as hard as I’d hoped.
Shannon says, totally straight faced, nodding, and as if it was completely obvious from the beginning, “Oh yeah, I knew she was in.”
I was incredulent, ”Wait now, don’t I get to decide this? I just found out when it is and stuff. I have not committed yet!” I needn’t have said anything. They ignored me anyway…
I eventually told them that I was in the process of convincing my mom to go too, but that they’d better pray about it a lot, because Mom isn’t the type to be all gung-ho for discomfort. I described the Christmas miracle and told them that if there was ever an initiative that got all of my mom’s passions and interests engaged at once, this would be it.
That evening at home I called my mom. She put me on speaker phone so Dad could talk too. “So Mom, are you coming to Africa with me?”
Dad shouts out, “Yes!” He’s as enthusiastic about adventures- even ones he’s not invited on- as Dee is.
Mom is less enthusiastic. She’s talking slowly. ”Well, I hadn’t really thought about it at all through Christmas, but this week I’ve thought about it a lot.” She proceeded to ask a ton of questions, some that I had answers to, some that I didn’t. The talk turned from the trip plans to how we’d actually go about teaching people how to sew stuff on treadle machines, which type we’d be using, and so on. She also, sometime in the middle of our conversation, started to say “we” about the sewing instructors. These were clear signs of her intent but just to make sure, I asked her before hanging up -
“Mom, are you going to go with me?”
“Yeah, I don’t think I can say ‘no’ to this.”
I smiled. I am happy my mom is going to be with me on my adventure. It’s going to be crazy and scary and tiring and stretching, but the company is good. We’ve both become very excited about the prospect, and I really hope there are no trip cancelations in our future.
Now we just wait and prepare. Those two activities have been both stretching and rewarding, and they’re only going to become more difficult. So far I’ve submitted a lot of paperwork, “helped” with a garage sale (I use the term “helped” loosely because I had my 4 kids with me), worked at DFG events, attended a Ugandan dinner party, gotten sucked into IF:Gathering and IF:Table – my new loves, made some new friends, read a book to help prepare mentally, attended a few trip meetings with our team, and volunteered to help with some fundraising. It certainly has not been the mellow year we were expecting. :) Oh well. God is good, and if He wants me in Africa, that’s where I want to be.