A note from the (in)courage team: We’re sharing a little about our favorite fair trade and non-profit organizations this month and how you can support them. JOYN is touching the lives of women in India as well as their founder, Melody Murray. Keep reading to catch a glimpse of just how the Lord is using this business to share God’s grace and love.
At the very heart of JOYN is a desire to see lives changed. Changed lives – it’s why we do what we do. Our artisans live in some of the most difficult environments in the world, and it is our desire to connect them with opportunities for change. Our passion is to bring JOY to them, to their families, to their communities. We bring this JOY by providing them with sustainable markets and good design for their products. We use fashion to create better lives.
JOYN gives more than markets. We are passionate about a holistic approach to change – we provide our artisans with good work environments, education for their children, English and vocational training, medical care for their families. All over the majority world you can find artisans with handcrafting skills, but very rarely can these individuals sustain their families on their own efforts.
They need markets. They need connections. They need opportunities. When we provide these opportunities, we change lives. It’s that simple.
We have the privilege of working with more than 40 artisans who work in one of the most challenging environments in the world. At JOYN, we utilize as many handmade processes as possible, so we can create as many jobs as possible. Because each item is made by hand, each item is unique and loaded with quality. To learn more about our process, click here.
I awoke to a knock at the door. The light had just barely decided to get up, so I knew it couldn’t be much past 6 am. Iʼve always found it difficult to find just the right articles of clothing to throw on my body in order to feel decent enough to answer the door quickly, but I managed this time without waking too many other sleepers.
I heard her speak softly to me as I cracked open the door, “maʼam…maʼam.” It was Naina. She has a face, a voice, a walk, a talk, a past thatʼs so recognizable that you canʼt miss her. Sheʼs “Queen Naina” as some say – her dynasty and dominion reign over the streets of our town.
Sheʼs grown up begging. Forced to beg. She has family, but for some reason, in this crooked, broken world, they decided that once she could walk, she should spend her days out on the street holding her hand out, drooping her eyes, maiming her body so that she could make them a few bucks a day. It’s so backwards I canʼt even allow my mind to think on it too long without an anger welling up in me that makes me scared of my own self.
She just got married off to a 30-year-old last month. We think. She ran away from him last night and has now come to my house. She said she was hungry. My husband made her an omelet. Probably the first meal sheʼs ever received home cooked by an amazing dad. What now?
Iʼm 33 and mother of the two sweetest, cutest little rascals I could have ever wished for – five and six, brothers, built-in best friends. They race in for breakfast and greet Naina with a “good morning.” Levi sings her a ditty and hops his zebra over her arms as she eats. Micah sits across the table, noting intelligently that he really likes how Papa made his egg today, sunny-side up.
He has a current obsession with the various ways of cooking eggs. Naina’s just taking it all in. I look at Naina as she snarfs down her egg and she looks at me. She smiles as we sit around the breakfast table, probably something sheʼs never experienced before.
I have nothing in common with Naina. Nothing. Iʼve tried to relate, but how can you really understand someone whoʼs lived a life on the streets of India, scheming up every meal, racing toward any adult who appears to have money, only to stoop so low as to hold your hand out and yank on their shirt until they hopefully drop a few rupees in your palm?
For Naina’s whole life, her neuropathways have carried messages of fear, doubt, distrust, anxiety. How do you convince someone you care for them or that you wonʼt hurt them, when they have no context for the ideas of love and trust?
My life is as opposite as it gets. Privileged, blessed, fortunate – these words donʼt even seem to bring the comparison justice. I have had amazing parents, an ideal childhood, a good education and all the support, opportunities, and resources I could ever need to live a life full of good, joy, peace, ease. Sure, Iʼm normal. Iʼve had hard times, hard things happen, hurt. But sometimes I donʼt think I know what trial actually means.
I often think about how I couldʼve been Naina – or any of the other street beggars, lepers, handicapped, outcast, marginalized folks I see daily here. You might think some of them deserve it, but reality is that they were born into this life.
I was born into mine.
You were born into yours. What to do with this mystery?!
I donʼt know much about how to do this. How to live a life among the poor and offer hope, love, Jesus. I often find myself frozen with feelings of inadequacy and confusion. But I do know one thing and I seem to know it more every day.
I understand grace better now. Each day that I come into contact with the poor, each day that I see the brokenness in this world, each day that I open my door to a Naina, I end the day baffled by Godʼs love and provision for me. Undeserved. Undeniable. Oh how marvelous. How wonderful.
Can you imagine what it would be like for Naina to find it? To understand and claim Godʼs grace over her life, and her past? To see who she is in Him, and how much He loves her? To see Him begin to mend broken things around her? What a day that would be! Not Queen Naina of the Streets, but Princess Naina, beloved daughter of the Creator King of the Universe.
She finished her eggs and said she needed to get back home. I told her weʼd be here, and that this will always be a safe place for her. Itʼs 6:20 the next morning as I write this. The grey light is just fading in over the hills. My slippers and sleep pants are sitting next to my bed this morning.
I await my next reminder of His grace and love and my chance to share it.
By: Melody Murray, JOYN Founder
This post was originally featured on November 20, 2012.
When you purchase a JOYN item, you’re supporting many others in similar situations as Naina, who are now able to provide for their families because of the skills acquired through JOYN.
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