Daring to Believe: How a shirt can change a life

Hey, hey fair trade lovin’ friends. I’m excited to share this awesome group with you today! I was contacted by Ben and Kelly Field about their group a few months ago. I didn’t really realize the opportunity being presented to me to review their shirts. They offered to send one for my husband to try. I was immediately impressed with the quality of workmanship and excellent tailoring. But I am even more impressed with their mission and what they are doing to make a difference in India.

Dare to Believe started with a couple in India (Abraham) who saw a need and then took a step of faith to meet that need. Shortly after, friends from the US joined in (Ben and Kelly). Abraham was born into an upper caste Christian family in India, and fell in love with a woman of a lower caste from the tribal region of Northeast India. He disobeyed the rules of culture (caste system) and they were married. Because he married a woman of lower status, he was disowned by most of his friends and family and lost his job. For the safety of Abraham and his wife they moved into the slums. While living in the slums, they noticed hundreds of orphan children living on the street. Not only were the children hungry, but they were often rounded up and sold into slavery and prostitution. They began by feeding them, then teaching them. When they were with Abraham and his wife they were getting the opportunity to learn and were safe. For that reason more schools were established. Their passion for Christ lead to the Bible college. By God’s grace, the Bible college was started with little funding. Students come from hundreds of miles away for the rare opportunity to learn about Christ. They often leave everything behind when they go against culture to follow Christ.


As a way to fund these ministries, a clothing factory was started in 2012 run by women from lower caste villages as an alternative to prostitution. 


To date over 400 shirts have been sold in the U.S. at local events and retail shops. They recently became available online as well. Thousands of dimes (10₵ = one meal) and other generous donations have been collected to feed members of the lower caste and move this entire ministry forward. Local people have put their faith into action to meet needs and open doors that were once closed. These people have helped to streamline fund transfers, establish the nonprofit status, advertise, network, sell shirts, and so much more.

Here are a few pics of my husband (and fair trade fashion warrior in training). The quality of these shirts is amazing! The stitching and attention to detail exceeds many of the mainstream brands for which people pay far more. I highly recommend these shirts for any guy on your graduation or birthday list or for Father’s Day. There is also a 20% discount code below, but I encourage you to read Ben and Kelly’s trip report which follows. It’s funny and informative, and allows you to see how much your money can be made to work for great purposes. Their online shop reopens tomorrow (4/1/14) or you can also donate here! I’m excited to see their new additions tomorrow! I’ve heard they may have some new ladies’ pieces coming in!!

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We just got back from an amazing trip to India where we got to see how the other side of our ministry is doing. If you are coming from a country like the US, the first thing you notice in India is the driving. They drive on the left there … unless you feel like driving on the right. Those lines that show us where your lane ends and mine starts are rare. This is of course, OK because who knows if it’s going to be three cars wide, four mopeds and a car, or two ox, one car and the largest hay bale you’ve ever seen. Keep a close eye out because you may be driving down the freeway and see a vehicle coming at you on the wrong side of the median… amazingly nobody seems to mind. The oxen migrate from their fields to the downtown areas each day to graze through the trash along the road, adding to the already unique traffic flow. Just as it is getting dark, you can see them heading back. In the US, a family of five thinks they need a SUV. We can safely say that all you need is one moped and the correct arrangement of family members.

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TRAFFIC JAM!

The Dare to Believe Ministry, as it is called on the US side, is supporting churches, schools, orphanages, and a Bible college in India. These churches/schools are like the local community center and are often just a plot of dirt (which we hope to change). They are much more than just a place to go for an hour on Sunday. Here they teach lower caste kids from the slums, tribal regions, etc. This is often the only education that these kids in remote areas have access to. Many go to the government schools which we were told were usually a baby-sitting service at best that offered a small meal. The kids would come to the schools associated with this ministry after government schools.

This offers them an education, a future, safety from traffickers, and knowledge of Christ.

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While visiting many of these schools we got to hang out with the kids. The song, “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” was a real hit … the faster the better.

If you’ve never been to a slum it’s hard to describe. Picture an ally with small homes crammed side by side as far as you can see. This ally is a huge maze that you could easily get lost in. Homes may have some concrete walls, if they are lucky, otherwise, they are constructed with whatever materials or branches they can find. Many people are sitting on the path cooking by fire on the ground. Many sleep there as well. The rest you’d have to see for yourself. We’ve been told that many thieves, drug dealers, and murders live here since the police do not enter this area.

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It seemed like a totally hopeless place, however, a story we heard from our friends took place when they were visiting the slums where they started their ministry and lived for a while. They were walking in when they saw two girls they recognized. The girls started hugging (and practically kissing) them. They were two girls from the slums that were educated in their school and went on to college. From what we saw, this would not have been even remotely possible otherwise.
Two of the churches/schools we were able to visit had orphanages. One had seven kids and the other twenty-two.

 

The church planters barely have enough for their own family, yet won’t turn these kids without a home away.

These were some of the most selfless people we have ever met. The kids seemed so happy and well taken care of in the orphanages. We played more games and even had a dance party at one that had a radio. What great kids.

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This same church planter who runs one of the churches, schools, and orphanages also travels to the tribal regions to teach and help with basic needs. The tribal region is like a slum, but they often live on government land in the country along the canals. They fish the dirty canals for food and pick through trash to find recyclable materials for money. Homes are constructed from bamboo, palm branches, and whatever else they can find. By the big response we got, it was clear that visitors are rare. We enjoyed an aerobic game of Simon says with the kids. When you speak a different language, Simon says everything … it’s a fun game of doing what the crazy Americans are doing.

During the worship times we were so impressed with the passion we saw both at the churches and the Bible college. There was no holding back. These church planters often give up everything and are frequently rejected by their family and friends; just like when Jesus says to leave everything and follow Him. They certainly do that without guarantees of any kind.

We got to sit and talk with a women’s group too. The difficulties that most of these women have overcome are things most of us have never experienced. As with most of the people we met, they are living day to day unsure of where their next meal is coming from, yet they spend a large portion of their time helping others. One lady was teaching 60 kids in the slums built by the sewage drains along the road. People build there because the land is not privately owned. She still faced opposition for educating the lower caste despite this being a place no one else seemed to care about.

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One of the recent projects was funding and building a church in south India. It was cool to see it up and running. We walked in and saw about fifty kids waiting to play games and sing. It was getting dark and the kids were still there because there was nowhere else to go and their parents usually did not come looking for them. These kids would be roaming the streets and at risk of trafficking if it was not for this school.

Over a year ago a clothing factory was started as an alternative to prostitution for women of the lower class. Due to the caste system and the lack of education an opportunity like this is rare.

It was great to see first-hand where the shirts we receive were produced and how talented they are. Some of these women and men are experts and some are in training. During the slow times these women find work at other clothing factories which shows how well they were trained here. Despite taking opportunities elsewhere during slow times, most come back to this factory because of the great work environment. Check out the shirts and use FASHIONISTA20 to get 20% off through the website https://www.etsy.com/shop/BelieveFairTrade?ref=l2-shopheader-name.

Through the faith and willingness of these people to serve, we literally saw lives changing through this ministry. Christ’s light was certainly shining bright here.


 

What could you possibly be waiting for (except April 1st when the shop reopens)? Use your purchasing dollars for good and let’s make a difference in the lives of people in India.

In Style & Love,

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3 thoughts on “Daring to Believe: How a shirt can change a life

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