BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)–WorldCrafts, a ministry of national Woman’s Missionary Union, reached a sales milestone in the 2001 fiscal year. For the first time since its 1996 startup, the nonprofit ministry that markets handmade crafts from across the world broke even.
A look at the 2001 sales figures explains how the young ministry has become virtually self-supporting so quickly: Last year 43,340 items were sold, a 135 percent increase above the previous year’s sales.
WorldCrafts project manager Karen Flowers attributes the sales increase to the popularity of their main marketing tool, WorldCrafts parties. These parties are designed to be much like other home parties that feature Tupperware or Pampered Chef products. Hostesses purchase a party kit containing catalogs, a video, recipes, invitations, clip art and more.
“About 80 percent of the hostesses choose to have their parties at a church,” Flowers said. “They are very popular with Women on Mission groups, Girls in Action [GAs] and Acteens.” WMU began promoting the parties nationwide in the fall of 2000, and one year later in fall 2001 about 425 party kits were ordered.
In this time of increased patriotism, “Buy American” is a popular plea. However, buying overseas with WorldCrafts is a great way to reach out to a lost world as a consumer, WMU officials say.
WorldCrafts assists men and women living in poverty by providing income. These artisans are guaranteed a fair wage for their products.
Sales of WorldCrafts elephants and turtles, for example, have made it possible for a church of around 50-plus attenders and a school of about 80 children in a community of 6,000-8,000 people to sustain themselves, writes Scot McHaney, a Southern Baptist missionary to Luanda, Angola.
In Thailand, the increased demand for WorldCrafts has allowed groups to add more workers. The new Thai Country Trim (TCT) center in eastern Thailand provides sewing work for women like Nongklan, a single mother solely responsible for her two young children and two children from her husband’s previous marriage and her sister’s two children. Nongklan told missionary Lynn Kinnison that she was considering suicide before she learned about TCT.
Through TCT, she is not only supporting her family, but she has also made a profession of faith.
Kinnison writes, “Thanks to the ladies who purchase the items made by ladies all over Thailand. It is our greatest desire to see that this ministry is used to share God’s love with many, many others.”
Besides providing income for those who desperately need it, WorldCrafts provides a legitimate reason for missionaries to remain in countries closed to the gospel. As these missions specialists will attest, getting a foot in the door of these closed nations is a huge battle won, via WorldCrafts artisans and go-betweens who are committed to fulfilling orders and maintaining contact.
With more than 130 different items, a great variety is available in the WorldCrafts catalog. From the popular Turkey shopping bag to the Jordan olivewood Christmas ornaments that have had to be reordered frequently, there’s something for everyone. Flowers said all the Christmas items sell well. And consumers are fascinated by how some of the items are made. For example, the items from Mali, mostly wooden nativities and potpourri boxes, are produced by “pedal power” because there is no electricity available.
Susan Chaffin Goggins is a correspondent for The Alabama Baptist newsjournal. For a free WorldCrafts catalog and/or information on hosting a party, call 1-800-968-7301. (BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: AT WORK IN INDIA and AVAILABLE IN U.S.