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Artisans share their handiwork & their faith through WorldCrafts

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–Feeling the smooth wooden handle of his mallet, Abu San diligently taps it onto a small cutting tool to create a leather circle. As he shows his fellow Indonesian workers how it’s done, he works slowly using his tactile senses. Since he’s been making Christmas ornaments for more than 20 years, he can practically do the job in his sleep — or even blind.

Eventually, this leather circle will become an intricate Christmas ornament shaped as a wreath with hand-painted green leaves and holly, but San will never see the finished product.

When he discovered at age 29 that he had a degenerating cell disease from the retina to the brain that would leave him blind, San and his wife began training others to cut and paint these leather ornaments that are sold through WorldCrafts, a nonprofit ministry of Woman’s Missionary Union in Birmingham, Ala.

Using his talent and diminishing sight, San taught lessons on how to turn normal leather from tanned caribou hide into beautiful and unique angels, Christmas trees, stars, Christmas bells and other elaborate shapes and designs. When he could no longer take notes at training seminars, he used an audio recorder to relay the information to his workers.

Instead of rejecting God’s plan for his life, he embraced it, knowing his ornament business would be a source of income for Indonesians living in poverty and a place for Muslim craftsmen to hear about Jesus Christ.

Since the job provides an income, many of San’s workers are starting to build their own semi-permanent houses out of brick walls covered in cement and a red clay tile roof. But due to unstable incomes, many also are living in unfinished homes with incomplete walls, dirt floors and no running water.

Right now, the workers are struggling because prices of the materials continue to rise, while sales remain low. They are only paid when an order comes in, so the workers have to find other work. Otherwise, their family will go hungry.

To ensure that artisans like San’s workers have a roof over their heads, medicine and food for family members, an education for their children and the chance to hear about their Heavenly Provider, WorldCrafts, a fair-trade ministry of WMU, partners with local micro businesses around the world to market and sell their products in the United States. WorldCrafts currently works with artisans in 37 countries and continues to develop partnerships new artisan groups in other countries as opportunities arise.

Helping to relieve poverty, sickness and oppression, WorldCrafts offers four ways to minister: purchasing gifts from WorldCrafts, hosting a WorldCrafts party to raise awareness, praying for specific situations outlined in the prayer guide of the WorldCrafts catalog, and giving financially to the Jackson/Reese Endowment managed by the WMU Foundation to expand WorldCrafts to new artisan groups.

Since San has paired with WorldCrafts, he has witnessed a steady interest in his ornaments. “We feel that we have been very much helped, in that Americans are wanting to buy our product,” San said. “It is our hope and prayer that this relationship will continue and that future orders will come in. This will greatly help our financial situation and that of our workers.”

Although WorldCrafts provides financial support to artisans, it also gives spiritual support. Throughout San’s personal encounters with his workers, whether training sessions or conversations, he’s been faithful to share the Gospel. As a result, many of his workers understand the meaning of the ornaments and are learning to respect Christianity with a willing attitude. His own nephew even became a Christian while working on the ornaments.

“We ask for your prayers that through this handicraft project, many of our Muslim craftsmen will come to know Jesus Christ in a personal way,” San said. “Also, that they will enter this project wholeheartedly, making the product to the glory of God.”
For more information on WorldCrafts or to purchase online, visit www.worldcraftsvillage.com.

    About the Author

  • Ashley McCleery