Ministry of Isa Project opens doors for Bangladesh women
By Cathy Jewett
For the Salisbury Post
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
The message of this old proverb proved true for two spiritual friends when, in May 2006, their single step of faith led them to a place thousands of miles away from home to the impoverished third-world country of Bangladesh.
In Dhaka, Bangladesh, Cindi Thorpe, ISA project coordinator, and Haven Parrott, founder of Women of Himfluence Ministry, were immersed in the lives of economically and socially oppressed Bengali women. These are women for whom educational opportunities are limited to working as domestic help, which often subjects them to sexual abuse. Other work options include breaking bricks, working as prostitutes or toiling daily in sub-standard conditions of textile sweatshops.If these jobs are not available, they end up begging.
The tiny impoverished third-world country of Bangladesh is home to more than 150 million people, and 14 million live in the capital city of Dhaka.
On the third day of their journey, Cindi and Haven met two missionaries who were trying to change the lives of the Bengali women by providing jobs that enabled Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu women to work in a clean and safe Christian environment.
Jackie, a businesswoman/artist, and Shelly, a missionary/designer, were teaching these women the stories of Jesus and praying with them every morning. They were even helping the women learn to save the money they were earning.
It was that day while standing in the 100-degree, cramped, second-story production room of Motif, Jackie’s fair trade company, when the idea and plan for the ministry of the Isa Project began.
Isa is the Muslim name for Jesus. Listening to the whir of the foot-operated sewing machines along with the chatter and laughter of the Bengali women brought about the question of what could be done to make a difference in the lives of these women. The sweltering heat that filled the air was nothing compared to the burning desire that filled the hearts of Cindi and Haven ó a desire to find a way to support the efforts of both Jackie and Shelly in helping the Bengali women as much as possible. The ministry of the Isa Project and its proceeds would serve this purpose.
The personal stories of two Bengali women strengthened the desperate need to design a plan of assistance. One employee named Josna used some of her savings to purchase and plant 2,000 mahogany trees. When the trees mature in a few years, they will be worth $300 each. This money will be enough to put her 7-year-old daughter through medical school. Nazma, a young Muslim girl, had worked in a sweatshop until she married and had a baby. She could not take her baby to work so her mother and she had to find another job. They began working as brick-breakers, and she was able to take her son with her and not leave him in the slum where they lived. One day, she prayed that God would grant her a job where she could take care of her son. Her prayer was answered by getting a job at Motif, where she now earns enough so that her mother can stay home and take care of the baby. No one in her family has ever been to school, but Nazma hopes that one day her son will attend school.
Cindi and Haven began to design the implementation of the ministry called the ISA Project. The plan would be to simply offer the handcrafted bags and Bible covers being made by the Bengali women to those women who would attend Haven’s speaking engagements and ministry-sponsored conferences. Then they would send all the proceeds back to Bangladesh, where efforts could be continued to expand the investment into the betterment of the lives of the Bengali women.
In a leap of faith and not knowing how to pay the costs, they placed an order for 800 bags. To date, more than $25,000 has been sent back to Bangladesh.
Motif, the fair trade company, has doubled its labor force and moved into a larger facility. A missionary family is being supported as well as a Christian radio ministry, which broadcasts and reaches out to the Bengali villages every morning telling them the stories of Jesus Christ.
Support for the ministry of the ISA Project will be continued as part of the upcoming 3rd annual Women of Himfluence conference at Parkwood Baptist Church in Concord on April 26. Handcrafted bags, Bible covers and silk scarves will be available for purchase by women who choose to attend this conference. Women of Himfluence is a nonprofit organization that exists to equip and encourage women with the word of God for the work of God to the glory of God.
Find out more about the conference and ministry at www. womenofhimfluence. com.