Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lifestyle of Interruptability

A month is a long time to go without a blog post. And a lot has happened at HCHT in the past month. Some things were great: We had our prototype party (that I'll write about this weekend with pictures) and found out that a talented, thoughtful and amazing young woman we've asked to move to Austin and be our intern is going to come. You'll hear lots more about Kelsi; we can't wait for her to get here! We had some new artisans at our last meeting and saw some that we hadn't seen since November. One of the new artisans is the aunt of Ku Lo, whose new baby Anna was on our babies post. Ku Lo's aunt picked up a prototype project to help Ku Lo out and made two of the cutest purses out of basmati rice bags. They are adorable--hopefully we'll be ready to roll with those soon. I love the super sewers!

This has also been a hard month for our little community: Ma Lay's husband, Ibrahim, was dying on a mattress when Caren and I went to see them one Tuesday night; he had not had any food or water for four days. They didn't want to call a hospital because they have no jobs, no insurance and no Medicaid (they were denied coverage--don't get me started). We called 911 and the chaos of the next several minutes was gut-wrenching. After a month in the hospital, Ibrahim is out, but still in very poor health. He had some kind of surgery and experienced renal failure. His wife was in the hospital with diabetes. Their four children are being cared for by the community and their aging grandparents. We can't always understand the specifics (nor do the refugees, most of the time). Their bewilderment and anguish has kept me awake at night. I have no idea when they will be able get a job; the supplemental income we offer is like sticking a finger in a leaky dam. We can't fix this situation.

Some of our weavers, the Mehs (Meh Mo, Koe Meh, Oo Meh and Bo Meh) are sisters. They lost their dad to cancer last week and Caren went to the funeral. I'll let her tell the story, but I'll just set it up by saying she was the only non-Burmese face out of more than 60 people and there was a eulogy played on beer bottles. We grieve this week with our beloved Mehs--after losing their homes, languages, some husbands and children, two brothers and their families (left behind in Thailand), losing their father is sadder than I can think about.

We've had other things come up that have kept us from moving forward on our prototypes or our plans for the next stage these last few weeks. Sometimes, we're almost paralyzed by all the great things we could be doing and haven't started yet. And yet, as I was reflecting on this last month, I realized that we've been doing exactly what we should be doing. Our goal has never been just to make money for these women; we're involved in their lives and we're their friends. Because they need money for their families, we're doing what we can to help out. Our relationships are at the heart of what we do.

Some of our best friends live in Brazil in a fairly unusual situation; they opened up their home to all these people who needed a place. Now they have an amazing ministry for homeless people out of their home, six friends who live in their home (probably more by now!), all kinds of teenagers who find a home with them. It's not all always convenient or comfortable, but my friend Ali talks about how they've cultivated a lifestyle of interruptability.

That's our goal at HCHT.  This whole thing started at an "inconvenient" time for us--Caren and I had small babies and careers, enough on our plates for years to come. This ministry has not always been easy or convenient. People ask me sometimes how we can be busy with so many things and the answer is, sometimes we're busy, sometimes we're not, but we're always available. Whether their families are in crisis or in the slow process of learning about life in this bewildering country, how can we not help? We didn't set out to be available, nor to be interrupted. I have struggled with this from the beginning because I'm a planner. NONE of this fits into my plans. How grateful I am that God has carved out this space in my life anyway. We don't have more time than other people to teach ESL class, make jewelry prototypes, work on the website, make marketing plans, start grantwriting to take the organization to the next level, sit and visit with our friends, help them with crazy hospital bureaucracy, set up appointments with case managers, and be involved in their lives. Fortunately, our time is not our own--we don't "have" any time at all. In God's time, these relationships came together. They bless me and, on occasion, I'm able to bless them. God interrupted my plans and I have been transformed because of it.

So if we don't always talk about the products, know that our hearts and our hands are full with the women we love. Join us in prayer for them--the stress they walk in would flatten me. Help us spread the word about their beautiful things--they are fierce workers for their family. And if you want to come be involved in the godly messiness of this ministry, let us know. We love working with people who are available to having their lives interrupted.


  1. What a great update on the latests "goings-on" in the HCHT world. Being confronted with the possibility of having to do a mouth sweep on Ibrahim, I am convicted by this quote from Mother Teresa. She probably wouldn't have hesitated or been relieved beyond words when he woke up before she had to do it!
    "Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work."
    I am often slow in this work, but it only reinforces my reliance on the graces I have received. So we keep on...

  2. You girls do amazing work. Not many people are able to come alongside situations like this and not get totally overwhelmed with the complexity and great need of the situation. You honor them by having a relationship alongside them instead of coming in and trying to fix them. You may not have "products" right now, but you are definitely doing God's work and calling. What a tough month for these families. You guys rock! Keep doing what you're doing =)

  3. Wonderful post, dear Jessica. Thank you for loving your neighbors and in the process, reminding me that loving my neighbor means so much more than giving in the ways that are easiest for me. I like your naming of it: living a lifestyle of interruptibility. That is so difficult for me but I'm learning too in my own community that it is right to be open to being interrupted both by my children and my neighbors. I'm sorry about the Mehs father. We are praying for all of them and for you and Caren.

  4. Thank you for being such a beautiful version of Jesus in Austin to the l"east of these"