This morning I had the opportunity to listen to Sarah Aulie (founder of Hand and Cloth, which I’ve written about before; click on the link to read about it) and Faith Willard speak at Wheaton Academy’s alumni recognition chapel. Both graduated from the Academy (50 years apart!), and Sarah, a 2000 grad, considers Faith, a 1950 grad, to be her mentor. It’s a beautiful story.
In 2007 Sarah was at a crossroads. She knew the Lord was calling her to do some sort of overseas work that would provide at-risk women with a livelihood, but she didn’t know any specifics. She asked her mother to pray for her, and her mother brought the request to the prayer group she led at Wheaton Academy. The prayer request spread to the administrative assistant of the Head of School, who maintained connections with WA alum all around the world, including Faith Willard, who’d been working in Bangladesh for more than 30 years by then. The admin assistant connected Sarah with Faith.
In 2007 Sarah flew to Bangladesh and saw firsthand the work of The Widow’s Friend, the organization Faith started in 1975 that now runs medical clinics, an orphanage, a high school, a mission/job skills training center for for widows, a school for the deaf, and a hostel for unmarried working women. Through Faith’s widespread work and connections, Sarah got a big-picture view of the needs in Bangladesh, and she became particularly interested in women who were unprotected by husbands or families. These women are often trafficked or forced to work in prostitution because they have no other options for supporting themselves and their children.
Sarah wanted to provide dignified work for these women, and when she discovered the kantha, a traditional blanket made from used sari cloth, she had an idea. She formed Hand and Cloth, a U.S.-based non-profit, to sell kantha blankets in the U.S., and partnered with House of Hope, a business in Bangladesh, to employ women to stitch the blankets.
I wrote a full article on these two women in the fall of 2012. Though I was able to interview Sarah Aulie in person, I had to talk on the phone with Faith Willard. It was a joy to meet her in person this morning and hear her words of wisdom to the students. She told them wonderful stories of God’s providence and how he has led her, time and time again, in the 65 years since she left high school. She, too, had many times when she didn’t know what she was supposed to do; she simply had an urge and a desire. She quoted Ephesians 2:10. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” NIV (the link has NIV, Amplified, and Message versions of it alongside each other).
“He’s already gone ahead and made preparation,” Faith reminded the students–and me. “If you just have a heart to honor the Lord, that’s all he needs. He’ll go before you and prepare the way. He’s always doing that. You’ll find He’s provided all you need.”
As I listened, I reflected on how that message has continued to be true for Sarah. Sarah is now married to a Greek man and is living in Athens, which–not coincidentally–is a real hotbed for trafficking. Sarah is already looking into ways Hand and Cloth can expand its scope and provide dignified work to some of the women trapped in Greece’s prostitution trade. Just as Faith said, God has once again gone before Sarah and prepared a good work for her to do.
Sometimes it’s a lot easier to see how God is making a way for others than it is to see how He’s going ahead of us in our own lives. Faith’s message was exactly what I needed to hear this morning, and I’m passing it along in case it’s what you need to hear, too.