LAKE CITY–When the Women on Mission group from Parkview Baptist Church meets monthly, the focus is typically on a local group or charity organization that benefits people in Lake City or the North Florida region. But with the group’s September meeting, these women are impacting the lives of other women across the globe.
They do this by holding their annual WorldCrafts celebration, an event that combines shopping, dramatic readings, international food and décor, all for a great cause. Held at the church in Lake City, this event benefits WorldCrafts, which develops sustainable, fair-trade businesses among impoverished people around the world. It is a ministry of the national WMU.
Through the WorldCrafts website, the women purchase things like clothing, jewelry, purses and home goods made by women from around the world who have escaped poverty, physical and sexual abuse and exploitation. The international artisans are taught how to make crafts and other items that are then sold online, providing these women with opportunities to make a living for themselves and their families. There are artisans in more than 19 countries, including China, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, India, Jordan, Myanmar, Turkey, North and South Africa, Rwanda, the U.S. and more.
“It really is a wonderful restoration for these women,” said April Janson, director of Parkview’s WMU or Women on Mission, and coordinator for this event.
On the WorldCrafts celebration night, the fellowship hall is decorated with an international flair, and international foods are served in keeping with the theme. Those attending place their orders online about three weeks before the event, and the items are all shipped together. All items are placed in colorful gift bags, befitting the international theme, and distributed during the party.
Each year, five of the group’s women dress in native costumes and prepare monologues portraying women who have benefitted from the WorldCrafts ministry. Typically, each tells what her life was like before WorldCrafts and what it’s like now. Just prior to these portrayals, a WorldCrafts video is shown which details how the ministry works and how it helps women.
“Some of the stories they tell are gut-wrenching,” said Gail Hartzog, who is leader of the Sharon Group, which hosts the event. “It’s mostly human trafficking and terrible domestic violence they are trying to escape. WorldCrafts training helps them to make a living and establish a home for themselves and their children. You can really feel good about helping these women improve their lives.”
Janson portrayed one of the artisan women from Uganda. Dressed as a Ugandan woman, she described how she escaped a life of poverty and prostitution and was now able to support herself and her children, paying for her apartment and the family’s food.
“It’s very effective, and people love it,” she said. “It just makes it real and brings it home. It’s like they’re standing in the room.”
This year’s event also served as a fundraiser for One More Child, which provides Christ-centered services to vulnerable children and struggling families. The Parkview women’s group donated 20% of the cost of all regular priced items purchased from WorldCrafts to One More Child, making the event even more impactful.
Janson said the Sharon Group, one of three WMU groups at the church, has a different mission focus each month that benefits local ministries, charities and those in need, including the Lad Soup Kitchen, Pregnancy Care Center, CARC Group Home and the VA Domiciliary. But with the WorldCrafts party, they are reaching “the ends of the earth,” as mentioned in Acts 1:8.
“We do regular local mission projects every month,” she said. “This is a way we can do something that reaches across the entire globe.”