Good works prepared: Faith Willard and Sarah Aulie

One of Hand and Cloth's beautiful blankets draped across a chair in my bedroom. They truly are lovely and would make great Christmas presents!

One of Hand and Cloth’s beautiful blankets draped across a chair in my bedroom. They truly are lovely and would make great Christmas presents!

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.

Not-random-at-all acts of Gospel

Dave and the boys with Papa, Dave's dad. What a cute bunch of guys!

Dave and the boys with Papa, Dave’s dad. What a cute bunch of guys!

When we were together with my husband’s side of the family over Christmas, my father-in-law made an announcement: “For my birthday this year I don’t want you to buy me presents. Instead, I want you to do random acts of kindness during the week leading up to my birthday.”

His birthday is February 1, so last Monday we received our instruction letter, which included suggestions and the number of RAKs (Random Acts of Kindness) for each of us. Each adult was asked to do six RAKs and each child/teen three. The total added up to his age (which I’m not revealing).

I left my house most mornings last week thinking about those RAKs. I prayed about them. I created extra time in my morning routines so that I wouldn’t feel rushed, so I could see opportunities and then engage in them. At night our kids shared their ideas for RAKs with each other and us. They were excited about telling them to Papa at the end of the week. There was something a little different about how we approached each day.

We had a shared mission for the week, and it drove us.

Why is it so hard for us to remember that we are “on mission” as followers of Christ? And not just any mission; we are on the greatest mission of ALL.

When I was a kid, I loved watching shows like Charlie’s Angels, The A-Team, and—my favorite—Scarecrow and Mrs. King. The common element of these was a sense of mission. The heroes in each show were given jobs by a wise boss who knew more than they did, and they pursued them with purpose and a trust in the one who planned them.

We have been told that “good works have been planned in advance for us to do” by the wisest “boss” of all, and these good works are not simply “random” or merely “kind.” They are part of an intricate, grand plan that incorporates even the ones we see as “small” done by the “smallest” of us. They are all part of God’s Gospel plan.

We can begin each day knowing we are agents of God and our days are not random at all. This requires LISTENING. We have a huge advantage over Charlie’s Angels and the Scarecrow. They lived back in the days of landlines and snail mail. Spiritually we are equipped with Bluetooth headgear so advanced it is invisible. We have the Holy Spirit within us. If we LISTEN to Him, we can hear the promptings to draw near (to God and others), to speak (Scripture says we’ll even be given the words to say), to befriend, to let go our agenda for the moment or day, to listen to others, to act, and even (perhaps the hardest work of all) to see mundane tasks as Gospel work.

Not-random-at-all acts of Gospel—all throughout our days.

For further study: Psalm 73:28 (one of OUR good works can be simply telling of the works of God), Matthew 5:16, John 10:32 (Jesus talks of his good works as being “from the Father”), Acts 9:36, Ephesians 2:10, Philippians 2:13, I Timothy 5:25, 6:18, Titus 2:7, 2:14, 3:14, Hebrews 10:24, James 2:14 and 3:13.

This picture actually relates to a piece I posted last week: Crimson Berries, White Snow. A couple days after I wrote that post, we had a fresh snowfall, and I noticed the white snow covering the crimson berries. I couldn't resist--such a beautiful picture of Christ covering us with His righteousness!

This picture actually relates to a piece I posted last week: Crimson Berries, White Snow . A couple days after I wrote that post, we had a fresh snowfall, and I noticed the white snow covering the crimson berries. I couldn’t resist–such a beautiful picture of Christ covering us with His righteousness!