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SCIENCE
pdf The Architecture of the Universe and the Urantia Book by Frederick L. Beckner  
pdf Stars, Galaxies, Superuniverses and the Urantia Book by Frederick L. Beckner  
pdf Monmatia Revisited
by Bill Laurune
 
Earth-Moon Evolution
by Dr. Phil Calabrese
A Tale of Two Orvontons
by Dick Bain
pdf Urantia, 606 of Satania
by Israel Dix
 
A.A. Zachow, Revelation Worker
and his article in Cosmic Frontiers, April 1977
archaeology  
Jesus the Boatbuilder and the Ancient Boat by Saskia Praamsma
pdf Ancient Cyprus
by Stefan Tallqvist
 
pdf India: Lost Cities Found
Compiled by Saskia Praamsma
 
pdf Did the Jews Really Not Bury Their Dead? by Charles Arterburn  
Atlantis/Urantia Book Parallels
by Robert Sarmast
pdf First Atlantis/Eden Expedition Analysis
by Commodore Robert Staney Bates
 
urantia community
Building a Temple to the Father
by Fred Harris
Celestial Nights 2003
at Cape San Blas
CN 2004 - A New Spirit of Unity
by Al Wolf
 
Celestial Nights 2008
at St. George Island
A Voice from the Garden
by Meredith Tenney
URANTIA outreach 
pdf Sowing Urantia Seeds in India
by Bhagavan Buritz
 
pdf The Dauntless Norman Ingram
(1999) by Saskia Raevouri
 
pdf Norman Ingram's Venice Beach Booth
by Richard Omura
 
pdf Outreach 2000
Various projects undertaken by readers
 
pdf The Revelation in Capetown
1999 Parliament of the World's Religions
 
Joys of Service - Urantia Book Prison Ministry by Joy Brandt (2003)
The Kenya Sewing Machine Project
by Meredith Tenney
Pipeline of Light
by Michelle Klimesh
South African Book Seeding Mission
Mark Bloomfield's reports
Here and Now
by Mark Bloomfield
A Letter of Gratitude from South Africa
by Simone Cox
India: The 2008 World Book Fair in Delhi
by Paula Thompson
Operation Reach Back
by Pamela Burr and Paula Thompson
Mission to Patagonia
by Pradhana Fuchs

 

Atacama Mission: "Seeding the Desert"
by Jon DeToy [2011]
Mission to South Africa
by Buck Weimer and Charlene Morrow
Mind, Body and Spirit Church of Tallahassee by Fred Harris
Pato Banton in Santa Fe NM 2009
by John Wilcox
Pato Banton's Outreach Ministry
The 2010 Cosmic Road Show
by Andrea Barnes
book reviews and articles   
The Amazing Gerdean Saskia Praamsma reports on The Zo'oid Mission
 pdf Birth of a Divine Revelation
reviewed by Matthew Rapaport
 
pdf Secondary Works - What Works?
by Saskia Raevouri
 
 Gardner, Moyer and Mullins: Three Histories by Matthew Rapaport  
pdf Secondary Works
Reviews and Descriptions, 2002
 
The Urantia Book and OAHSPE
compared by Harold Sherman
pdf Larry Mullins Reports
on The Sherman Diaries
 
Spirits of Promise
by GerdeanO'Dell
God's Orchestra
by Saskia Praamsma
teaching mission  
Correcting Time
by Fred Harris
online Welcome to Change
by Bob Slagle
The Second Revelatory Commission
Related Transcripts
spiritual travel  
Our Visit to Findhorn 1985
by Saskia Raevouri (1985)
Mediterranean Adventure 1998
with Joy Brandt and Saskia Raevouri (1998)
pdf A Visit to Russia
by Cathy Jones
 
Journeys to FreeSchools in India
A cause supported by Urantia Book readers
cartoons and more

The Kenya Sewing Machine Project

The Women's Corps seeks to empower their African sisters by providing them
with a means to support themselves


 

1. MEREDITH'S STORY
Last summer [2004] I had the good fortune to visit Kenya with my friend, Cathy Harrell, and my daughter, Paige. Cathy had been to southwestern Kenya several times before, doing missionary work with a small African church.  As a long-term Urantia Book reader and a midwife, I joined her after feeling a call to work with the Kenyan women. While there, we met with a group of church women in the town of Abossi to talk about family planning and women's issues.  The stories the African women told were distressing.


Cathy Harrell with her new friend

They told us they were concerned about contracting AIDS, which is epidemic in Kenya.  They said that their husbands were unemployed, frequently drink too much, and visit prostitutes during the day.  When they come home at night, they demand sex but refuse to use protection.  If the wives turn them down, they are beaten.  Since the women have no income, it is impossible for them to leave their circumstances and care for their children alone.

Kenyan men also object to the use of birth control because they believe it is an invitation for women to be unfaithful. As a result, the average Kenyan woman has eight children, although none I met wanted that many. The women endure debilitating poverty, back-bending hard labor and spirit-crushing debasement in a society where women's opinions, concerns and needs are not valued and mostly ignored.

 

After listening to the harrowing tales of these lovely and gentle women, I told them that their sisters in America often empower each other by joining together.  I mentioned that we had formed a Women's Corps to help each other.  The Kenyan women responded enthusiastically, saying tht they wished to form a Women's Corps too. They vowed to pray for our Women's Corps if we prayed for theirs.


Meredith explaining the rhythm method of birth control, before she realized
that the women had no say over when they would have sex.
* * *

A FEW DAYS LATER, we were invited to attend a meeting in Gelegele, seven or eight miles away.  As few people own cars in Kenya, we hired a driver to take us there. At the end of the afternoon in Gelegele, we waited fruitlessly for our driver to return for us, but he never came. Thus I began the long walk back to Abossi with my African friends, Sally and Caroline, who carried her two-year-old daughter, Deborah, on her back. As we walked, we passed many inebriated young men—the poverty and unemployment in this country has demoralizing effects on everyone.  We talked of the role of women, and Sally spoke eloquently of her dreams for a better life for her sisters. 

It was a long walk, and after several miles my legs began to ache. About then, a car pulled up beside us as we trudged down the dirt road. My American friends were piled inside.  Someone called out, "Hey Mer!  Hop in!  We'll fit you in; there's miles to go."  I thought about hopping in the car, driving away, and leaving my Kenyan friends in a trail of dust to continue their long trek alone, but I couldn't do it. The circumstances were too reminiscent of global realities on our planet; we wealthy westerners drive by with all the goods and resources, leaving the Third World in the dust to struggle on alone. 

Instead, I chose to trudge the rest of the way home on foot with my African friends.  When we finally reached Abossi, the sun was setting and we were exhausted, but the air was filled with our laughter and our joy.  It was a great gift to have had the opportunity to share their burdens, even if it was just for an afternoon.

As we talked about women's empowerment, the Kenyans expressed a wish for a cottage industry—some means of earning an income and improving their lives and the lives of their children. They spoke of a desire for sewing machines, explaining that if they had treadle machines, (there is no electricity), they could sew school uniforms for the children and sell them at half the ready-made price, and make a profit.

* * *

WHEN I RETURNED HOME, I approached members of the various Women's Corps branches around the country—Delores Nice, Lee Loots, Jo Ann Wiedman, Helen Luke, Judy Langston, Donna D'Ingillo, Steffani Murray and others— to ask if they would be interested in helping the Kenyan women obtain sewing machines.  Their enthusiastic response has led to this fund-raising effort. I thank Lee Loots and Linda Mac in particular for their dynamic energy, which has brought in women's groups from several bible-based churches to participate in raising money.

Although the sewing machine project is spearheaded by members of the Women's Corps, it is not an attempt to promulgate the Urantia Book. This is a woman-to-woman effort.  It is not about any particular dogma, creed or religion, but an interfaith initiative demonstrating that love can transcend doctrinal differences. It's about acting out of love for our sisters who are struggling. It's about stepping out in courage and faith to help one another, and shifting from telling people about the Fifth Epochal Revelation to living out the values in the Fifth Epochal Revelation.

We UBers have spent many years trying to give away the Blue Book with minimal success. Certainly, most folk in rural southwestern Kenya, with its low level of literacy, biblical culture and extreme poverty, are not ready to receive the Urantia Book at this time. They will, however, respond positively to our efforts to demonstrate the teachings. No matter what we believe or what we read, women can unite behind the goal of loving service to each other. 

On behalf of members of the Women's Corps, I am inviting you to help share the burden of these Kenyan women by contributing towards a sewing machine fund.  We are working together with Sylvia, the leader of the women’s group in Kenya—a schoolteacher and the co-pastor of Glory Church— to price treadle sewing machines as well as materials to get the project off to a good start.

Sylvia sent us a project proposal, and the total cost of the sewing machines and project is $7,000.  We will fund raise until March 30th.  Cathy Harrell is returning to Kenya in July and will stay for several months, so she will be able to monitor the disbursement of funds, assist in setting up the project and provide us with updates. If you would like to receive news on how the project develops, please send an email with the notation 'subscribe to Women's Corps' to meredithhtenney@yahoo.com

To increase the impact of the project, we have suggested to Sylvia that the women's group in Kenya repay the cost of the sewing machines from their profits over time by putting the money into an investment fund for themselves.  If they set aside the payments in their own women's collective bank, they will be able to loan funds out to individual women for their  business ventures. You can see how this idea plays out and improves women's lives at: 
www.villagebanking.org/stories-afr.htm

Our world has long been dominated by self-interest and violence. Sometimes the troubles on this world seem so overwhelming, the task so hopeless, that it's hard to begin.  Nevertheless, each act makes a difference.  This is one small thing we can do to help rectify the injustice which surrounds us. As a member of the Women's Corps, I have long believed that women have a unique roll to play as spiritual leaders in the new age upon us.  Let women step forward now and demonstrate a better way—the way of love in action. The Women's Corps asks you to share some of the abundance we have here with the Kenyan women's group in Abossi.  We invite you to partake in the joy of serving each other and discovering that women together can empower one another.

Some of you may live near each other or an established Women's Corps group, and decide to do a fund-raising project together. Others may wish to donate individually. If you cannot afford to send money, then please send a positive prayer instead for the empowerment and well-being of these Kenyan sisters.  Please share this with any woman you feel might like to help. Although this is particularly a woman-to-woman effort, men are welcome to contribute as well!
--Meredith Tenney
January 31, 2005

2. SYLVIA'S LETTER

Chamgei Chebaibai,

I received the letter concerning the project now at hand from Stanley. The women are very excited about it and especially your acceptance to donate the sewing machine project for Abossi is a great joy and we receive it whole heartedly. Give my appreciations to the entire women Corps for accepting and funding our sewing projects. I have checked in Kericho prices of sewing machines that we require at the moment.

Concerning the materials and other required items, we shall sit with my development  team and write a full proposal  that I will post as soon as possible. The other items required will include materials such as Rolls of tetron Plain Mix colours for school uniforms, checked Suiting materials, Lining materials, tetrex Materials and other materials for women’s dresses, threads, Buttons, elastic cords, laces and machine needles that will be included in the formatted proposal that we shall prepare and send. If there is any other information that is lacking, let me know so that I will reply.

Thank you and God bless you.
Sylvia Tanui

 

 PROPOSAL FOR SEWING MACHINE PROJECT

Name of the women group: Glory Church Women group of Abossi.


Location:
Abossi lies in a remote area, whose population is over 30,000 who live below the poverty line. Most of the families rely on women to provide food and clothing. Henceforth this project will benefit the community, especially women and children.
 

Request: receive greetings from the above mentioned women group. We held a women’s corps meeting on 23rd September 2004, and we requested to be supported with the following items:
 

Sewing machines

10 big table straight stitches machines @ 13,700 = 137,000/=

5 small table straight stitches machine at @ 8,500 = 42,500/=

2 big table zigzag machine @ 32,800 = 65,600/=

4 Knitfer SK pullover/ sweater machine @ 57,000 = 228,000/=

Materials

5 rolls of tetron plain 45"/36" mix colours (school uniforms dresses and blouses) @ 1,400 = 21,000/=

5 rolls of tetrex 60" mix colours (school uniform shorts) @ 9,000 = 45,000/=

10 rolls tetron printed 36" mix colours for children clothing @ 1,925 = 19,250/=

5 rolls checked suiting 60" mix colours @ 9,600 = 48,000/=

1 roll lining material 60" – 100m at 8,000/=

5 dozens of mixed threads @ 400 = 2,000/=

10 packets of buttons for shirts and shorts @ 350 = 3,500/=

10 rolls of elastic cord @ 220 = 2,200/=

10 rolls of nylon and cotton laces @ 150 = 1,500/=

10 dozen of needles @ 45 = 450/=

25 pairs of scissors @ 100=2,500/=

20 pairs of tape measure @100=2,000/=

N/B

We accept any alterations from you, concerning the above listed items.


At the moment we have Glory Church Women from Litein (Ruth and Caroline) who will assist to teach sewing, and we also appreciate if you can locate women who will assist during summer time. The women also welcomed the idea of goat multiplication project and we are ready to apply. The project coordinators are as follows:


Ms. Silvia Tonui

Mrs. Regina Langat

Ms. Ann Chepwogen


Thanks in advance and we are looking forward for your reply.

Your sister in Christ

Sylvia Tonui and Abossi women corps.
 

Questions and Answers

Q. Who will receive the money when it is sent? I am concerned, after reading about the husbands, that they will find a way to take the money and spend it on prostitutes and booze. Will someone accompany the money to Africa to make sure it is spent on the sewing machines?

A. [Meredith] The women, too, were quite concerned that the funds be protected. Sylvia is co-pastor of Glory Church, and will receive the funds for the women. The group proposed that the funds for the project, and any profits they make, be held in trust for the women through Glory Church. That way the entire group of women can disperse the funds to themselves, or one of their number as needed, without fear of extortion. After spending most of the summer with these women, I developed a deep appreciation for the integrity and honesty of several of the groups' leaders: Sally, Caroline, Sylvia and Ruth.

A.[Cathy]: Sylvia is a single woman, an elementary school teacher in the Abossi area and a co-pastor at the church that is in the series of churches that we are working with in Kenya. She is totally reliable as a contact person. Her heart is for the people...in fact, she is not of this tribe, but moved there to teach and minister. We have known her for the past 3 years and can personally vouch for her integrity. At this point I am planning to return to Kenya in June and stay for three months. I have no fear that Sylvia will misuse the money. We hope to establish a system within the church structure to safeguard the money for the women. All this needs to be worked out. Our efforts in this area have been to get more and more people involved in the church so that a standard of righteousness can be maintained.

Q. Can you tell me what sewing machine you plan to purchase and how you plan to transport the machines and material to Kenya?

A. [Cathy]: The major brand of sewing machine that we saw in Kenya was Singer. There may be others. These machines are available for purchase in Kericho, a small city about 3 hours from Abossi.

Q. What is the price of the machines and how many do you plan to send?

A. See PROPOSAL above.

Q. Will the machines will be safe after arriving in Abossi?

A. [Cathy]: Our experience with this group of people has been that commitment and activity happens when we arrive to orchestrate things. I plan to oversee the purchase and delivery of the machines. My idea is that they will build a small structure to house the machines and we will be there to see that something has been done to secure them. . . . Abossi is largely an extension of one large family. Joshua, the patriarch became a Christian in the '60s and has spent his life bringing in people and resources to make that happen. He contributed his own funds to build a church and has overseen the pastors.  He is a true shepherd to his people. This sewing project is the  outcome of this same vision. We have his backing and support within the context of their culture.

Q. Will they be protected from being stolen and sold on the black market?

A. We will take necessary precautions to secure the project. While the women are the primary beneficiaries it is our hope that the community be uplifted as well. Plans for the future include starting bee-keeping and honey production. Our thinking is that the men would add this on in addition to their animal husbandry and milk production.

Questions? contact Meredith Tenney or Cathy Harrell

Goal = $7,000
Raised = $7,995

UPDATE 6-13-05

Here is the latest news from Cathy Harrell: "We are in the countdown to leaving on June 30th. We will be working in the Abossi area to implement the program during the last 2 weeks in July. We hope to have some photos to send to Mer during that time. . . . In the meantime we have been researching microlending, microfinance and the like. We are aware of some of the problems and pitfalls, but I have confidence we will succeed in this project. . . . The "extra" money will go toward delivery costs, possible building and/or setting up the banking part."

Meredith Tenney's UPDATE 7-20-05

Dear Women supporters of the Sewing Machine Project;

Thank you all for making this project possible! Rosa Parks sat at the back of the bus until her courage and integrity led her to bravely step out and demand social justice and equality for her people. In doing so, she created a new and better life for everyone. Aided by the generous assistance of many women, we banded together this year to step out to empower and uplift our African sisters through the Kenyan Sewing Machine project. Such is the heart of the women, that we raised $1,000. more than the Kenyans proposed! Cathy Harrell returned to Kenya last month with the $8,000 raised, and writes that the Kenyan women are so excited about the project that, although none own vehicles, 15 of them made the long 4 hour trip from Abossi to Litein to greet her on her arrival.

Women who helped make the Sewing Machine project a reality come from many parts of the country and many walks of life. Contributions came from the pastor of a black church in southern California, the Female Charitable Society in New Hampshire, the Association for Light and Life, Urantia Book readers, new agers, missionaries, and non church affiliated women who wanted to help their African sisters. Even some of our brothers helped out! Our beliefs and practices vary, but we are united in our commitment to serve. In stepping out to act, we created a new identity for ourselves as well as the Kenyan women. We became leaders in building spiritual community. Women reaching out to empower other women can change the world, and together, we will strengthen each other in our resolve to portray divine love in action.

The first national Womens Corps meeting will be held at IC '05, an international conference in Philadelphia on Monday evening, August 1 at 7:00pm. All women are welcome! If any of you will be in Philadelphia, watch for posters at the conference for further information on time and location. Contact the email address below for directions if you would like to attend. At the meeting, we women will speak our dreams and visions of the role we can play in these changing times. The love, nurturance, and gentle strength feminine leaders can offer is so needed! When we declare our intentions, we take the first step to creating a new reality for ourselves and others. Cathy Harrell hopes to be able to send an update on the unfolding of the Sewing Machine project in Kenya, and Sue Tennant of Flesherton, Ontario, will give a presentation about Free Schools, a wonderful new project we women can take on empowering young girls in India and Thailand with an education.

Any woman is welcome to join us! Please come and help us build international spiritual community by reaching out to other women in service. If you will not be able to attend our meeting, feel free to email your thoughts and ideas to meredithhtenney@yahoo.com and we will share them with the group.

If not us, who?
If not now, when?

Meredith Tenney

Update from Cathy Harrell in Litein, Kenya -- 7-20-05

GREETINGS to all who contributed to the Abossi Women’s Sewing Project and to those who have expressed an interest in this project!

We have seen the mighty spirit of God move this weekend as the project was birthed.

Several years ago when we came it was the prayer of Joshua that in addition to the spiritual nourishment that we were providing that we help to bring economic development. When Mer Tenney, a friend and nurse midwife traveled with us, she was an eye witness to the problems that women face in this rural part of Kenya. Her heart was moved to ask the women what would help. Their answer was sewing machines that could help start a cottage industry. Most of you know this story.

Sylvia Tanui, a primary school teacher is heading this project. She came into this area with a purpose from God. Four years ago she wasn’t sure what it was. Now it’s clear that her heart is to uplift the women of this area. Two years ago she stated that conception had taken place and we were now pregnant with a vision from God.

This past weekend the Litein Church leaders and ourselves traveled to Abossi to launch the project. We arrived Friday afternoon and were greeted by the women on the road. Excitement was oozing from every pore. We made our way up to the missionary house to pay respect to Joshua, the chief of this area. There is a protocol you must follow and you can’t skip one step or you risk insulting the cultural traditions. Joshua, a Kipsigi, is in his 70’s; tall and stately, commanding respect and reverence. According to former tribal ways, he has 4 wives and about 41 children. They mostly live in the area. He is the one that built the church on his land and the missionary, western style house that we stay in when we come.

After formal greetings from him, the local pastors and elders of the community and greetings by us from Litein and America, we walked down the hill and up the hill to the church. The women had gathered by then to greet us in their tribal tradition. They had bunches of carnations that they presented to us and begin to sing and dance a welcome song. They sang and backed all the way to the church. It was a royal welcome.

Over the weekend we had two important meetings. The first one was greeting us and preparing for the larger one where representatives from Litein, Abossi and Gelegele ( a nearby village) came to hear the proposal, select a committee and make a call for leaders. All in all there were about 40 people.

What happened the next day proved to me that this group of people were capable of working through conflict, misunderstanding and gender differences. Since I’ve been here the project is being refined and defined for the leaders. At the heart of this project was to bring a program that would empower the women. The leadership for the project was to be in the hands of the women. It was important to keep that on firm footing since there are other forces constantly pulling away the power and control. We struggled with the conflicting ideas that this should be a church project or not.

The next morning all the leaders assembled and we prayed in the spirit. I left confident that God would be the head of this project and that we were of one mind. All the way to the church different groups talked and negociated and by the time we reached the assembled women we were of one mind. Communication is always a problem when beginning a project with this much scope and it seemed at one point we would run aground. But, eventually the social machine did work and we were able to come to a consensus about how the project would be organized, it's mission and who it was to serve.

As I watched the leadership work out the problems I became convinced that this project would be successful. I think there is spiritual depth in some of the leaders and administrative experience with others. There is a hunger for change in this area. It is so off the beaten path, physically and politically. Electricity is just a few km away, but it could be years before they get enough money and political pull to bring it to the church and farm area.

Each of the leaders spoke and encouraged the women, confirmed that it was their project and that the decision making would be their, with men as advisors only. At the end I stood and spoke about the process I had just witnessed and applauded them on their ability to work through the communication difficulties. I then charged them to take good care of the "infant" and be true to their word. We know from experience that groups can come together with vision and enthusiasm, but as the project and work load unfolds fewer and fewer people show up to help. I encouraged them to look beyond the differences in our respective cultures and to look to the Bible for the model of behavior and values that would make the project successful. That is what we have in common and that is what Jesus is calling us to. Love one another, be patient, be steadfast, forgiving, kind and persevere. I said some hard things, but in the end I received compliments on standing on righteousness. Power and money corrupt people, even spiritual power. But, if we humble ourselves before God he will raise us up.

By Monday morning they had elected a committee to oversee the project under the spiritual and legal covering of Glory Church, Kenya. We had talked at length about a building to house the sewing machines in and it's clear that more funds will be needed to properly house them. They are getting construction estimates and will inform us soon. Some short term structure may be built in the meantime. Joshua is going to deed over property to the church and to this project. Hopefully we will see this done before we leave.

As we walked around the area after church on Sunday I witnessed again the hardships that these women face day in and day out. Their work is never ending. They haul water from a stream in the valley up the mountainside, plant and harvest the crops, birth and raise the children, do all the cooking, cleaning and clothes washing. One of the local pastors told me that he has been helping his wife with chopping wood and had been criticized by the men. We discussed how social change is slow to come, but that eventually the younger generations will do things differently. In the end, real progress will come when they have electricity and running water...safe drinking water. In the meantime, my heart breaks to see people sick, hopeless and living at a subsistence level. For those who traveled or been on mission they know that this is more common than not world wide.

On Sunday I preached about Caleb in Numbers 13 and 14. We ministered the spirit of Caleb and of course talked about how Jesus puts his spirit in us to recreate us with heavenly, world overcoming values and strengths. We had a wonderful day praying over people and bringing more Light into a troubled world. We give all the glory to Jesus and our wonderful heavenly Father.

Bless you all who contributed to this project and to those who feel led to give into it in the future. We'll keep you updated as it unfolds.

In His name,
Cathy Harrell
Litein, Kenya

Update from Cathy Harrell, 5-8-2006

Click here for the original PDF version with illustrations

   

Click here for the PDF version with illustrations

Update from Annie Bowman/Cathy Harrell 10-13-2007

Annie Bowman: Just before leaving Africa, things changed by no action of our own, rather by the Abossi Tribal Leader's frustrations.  It seems that his many wives and daughters were quite jealous of the attention and perceived power that the women of the sewing project were getting.  He (the tribal leader) put an end to the sewing project by frightening the women involved, removing the sewing machines and taking away the access to the facility that housed the program.  Therefore, as of now, the sewing project is closed until further notice. 

Cathy Harrell:  It's true that the Abossi Tribal Leader took some actions just before we left. He removed the sewing program from the church building and they had to return to the small building where it was originally housed. He does seem to try to get his agenda across by intimidation and his traditional power. He did this just before we left Kenya and were not able to meet with him about these actions.

In light of this situation and several other problems, Sylvia Tanui, Rev. Stanley Melek and Ron and I decided to propose an end to the sewing school as we know it. At the end of the term in November and December the Abossi Women's Corp will meet, hold elections and make some important decisions about the way forward. It is and always has been their project with Western input, capital and advice. The US Women's Corp had been waiting for our input before deciding to go forward with any kind of future support. From the beginning, the initial fund raising was designed to be a one time capital investment of $8,000. The program was supposed to be self sustaining. There is and was the potential for that to happen. Internal tribal politics has threatened its survival.

Our advice to the U.S. Women's Corp was not to put any more money into the program. At the end of this school term, decisions will be made by them about how to proceed forward. We gave the Kenyans our advice and $385 to keep the program going until the end of the term. We recommended to them to disburse the machines to groups of five women that had been formed for the micro finance teams. In this way each group of women had a machine to use either for training, production, or they could sell it.

But, they may decide differently. . . .

Update from Meredith Tenney, March 26, 2008











Dear Friends,
It is sad to realize that so few people know the wonderful story of the sewing machine project. Although I am not familiar with all that has transpired in the last few months, a year ago the project was a marvelous success and an inspiring demonstration of Mother Spirit in action. When women from around the world unite in loving service to each other, amazing things happen, and if the whole story was told, I believe it would uplift hearts and encourage others to step out in service.

When the Kenyan women received their sewing machines they decided to create a sewing school. They wisely reflected on the old saying, "Give a man a fish and he will have dinner, teach him how to fish and he'll eat for life". They wanted the young women in their community to learn to sew, and to be given the opportunity to earn a livlihood for themselves! They hired qualified teachers to offer instruction in tailoring, purchased cloth, hired a night watchman to guard over their precious sewing machines in the church at night, and enrolled 24 students in the new sewing school. Twenty two were young women and 2 were young men.

They charged a tuition of $12 a month. A number of students could not afford to pay but Sylvia could not bear to turn them away, so she made them 'scholarship students' and they attended for free. The sewing course was 10 months long, and covered pattern making, dress construction, tailoring and sweater making. On finishing the course, the students who could read and write signed up to take the Kenyan national certifying exam for tailors, and every single one passed with flying colors!

The first Sewing School graduation ceremony was planned for November 19th, 2006, and Cathy Harrell and I were invited to attend. We accepted with delight, eager to return to Kenya and see how the project was developing. Although we hoped for good fruits from our efforts, what we found surpassed our wildest dreams.

The sewing school graduation ceremony was an unforgettable experience. Amazingly, nearly 1000 Africans attended. We discovered Kenyan parents yearn for their children to have an opportunity to go on in school, and every parent, family member and relative was at the ceremony to cheer the students on! The ceremony was held at the church in Abossi, and people crammed into every square inch of space, peered in windows, and stood in lines outside because there was no more room. When the procession began, the proud graduates marched into the church to an African drum beat, dressed in navy and white uniforms they had sewn themselves. The presence of Spirit filled the place and it was truly a thrilling moment!

The young students danced and sang a song, "We are so grateful, we are so hopeful!", and presented Cathy and me with traditional Masai dresses they had sewn for us. The older women of the Kenyan Women's Corps also sang songs of gratitude and welcome. Cathy and I could not stop weeping tears of joy. Multiple dignitaries spoke including the head of the Interfaith Council of Churches in western Kenya. It's as though the news of the hard work of the women and the success of the Sewing School had spread far and wide.

The tribal chief and the Pastors of Glory Church presented Ron Harrell and I with 'Talking Sticks', a token of leadership traditionally presented to males. I was informed that my 'Talking Stick' was to be given to my husband at home, but I smiled inwardly recognizing that the gift was in part an acknowledgement of the leadership role the women had played. Cathy and I presented a digital camera to Sylvia Tanui, the inspirational leader of the Kenyan Women's Corps, and asked her to document events at the Sewing School with pictures. Such a gift is an unknown luxury in rural Africa, and she was deeply pleased.

Everyone wanted to see the new graduates receive their Graduation Certificates so the program was moved outside so that the whole multitude could watch. The scene of the assembled crowd on the grassy hillside was reminiscent of the gathering for the Sermon on the Mount. Families clapped and cheered as each student came up to receive their certificate, and smiles were on every face. Prayers were offered for the success of the students. Carolyn, the pastors' wife, had made a rare treat -- two cakes for the graduation celebration. Each cake was cut into hundreds of bite sized morsels, and like the loaves and fishes, somehow there was enough for everyone to get a taste! Although this miraculous day had to come to an end, I know I will never forget the goodwill that saturated the gathering and filled every heart with hope. We may have been black and white, African and American, male and female, Glory Church and Urantian, but for that moment in time we were all one.

I was led by Mother to resign from the Women's Corps Board last spring and do not know what has occurred in Kenya in the last six months. If it is true that members of the Abossi community felt the women of the sewing machine project had become too powerful, then my heart is glad at our success in empowering the women. Truth can not be held back forever, and I believe Mother Sprit will continue to lead my Kenyan women friends to new and higher levels of service and self-actualization. Someday soon, women from around the world will link arms in a global sisterhood and step up to their rightful place as equal partners in the march towards light and life.

Meredith Tenney

 

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