Friday, June 24, 2011

Beading Hearts

Rwanda Partners is beginning to work with bead cooperatives and will soon be offering the beautiful magazine beads made by these women. We had the privilege of visiting with them one morning and learning a bit about the process of making beads.

Magazine beads are made from a triangular slice of paper, sheared from the rest of the page and then wound tightly around a pin. All the slicing and wrapping of paper makes for beautiful beads. Yellows and oranges ribbon through deep blues, suggesting a sunrise. Greens and browns conjure up tall grass praires and wild horses. But there is no telling for sure – the fragment of the photograph geometrically parceled out and wrapped around themselves obscure the composition of the original witness. There is beauty in the mystery and seemingly random variation. There is an important truth hidden in the way a dominant color emerges on each strand despite the complimentary and analogous bits and flecks.

The beads in many ways tell a story of redemption – something new to adorn the neck made from something used and thrown out.

A few of the women shared their stories with us. As a group they seemed particularly reserved, offering a politeness, which seemed to guard the deep waters of quiet and tired pain. The two who spoke shared bravely, but the whispered tone suggested a voice still trying to find itself under a history of shame. It is no revelation that poverty is exceptionally cruel to women and children. The things women are subjected to and the limited, demeaning choices that present themselves make for hard years of soul-crushing sacrifice – food for the children often coming at the expense of dignity.

A primary education in the suffering of women in poverty helps us see the safety and quiet of the bead cooperative for what it is – sacred space. Employment by the use of able hands. Without threat of violence. Or shame. The calm of the bead cooperative was like the pristine silence of a cathedral, full and rich, aromatic and light.

As I got out of the minibus upon arrival I had seen two birds making peaceful, sweeping circles in the sky above the building. As the women shared their stories with us, I could not help but think of Isaiah and the vision of those who hope in the Lord soaring above the trouble in the land, floating on the wind high above. When I shared what I had seen with the bead makers they clasped their hands together and smiled knowingly. One woman seemed to clutch the promise to her chest and rock it back and forth on her lap like a child.

These women understand weary.
They understanding walking.
And now, working together on the floor, as they string small, colored globes, they feel the renewal of hope. And so they smile quiet smiles. And make beautiful things out of paper.

29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:29-31

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