International Market About More than Goods
Lace from Zimbabwe, handbags from Cambodia, bracelets from Congo, necklaces from the Philippines — the arts and crafts items were for sale but this was a different kind of international market.
There was as much conversation across the tables about the work of church women around the world as about the goods on display.
An area for sales that will benefit ministries outside the United States was set aside in the Experience Hall at the 2010 Assembly of United Methodist Women.
The artisans represented women organized for United Methodist mission, primarily in Africa and Asia. Esther Gitobu, a missionary from Kenya, who currently serves in Cambodia, was at the table of Cambodian goods. The hall was filled with hundreds, if not thousands, of participants in the Assembly.
“All the items are made by Cambodia Methodist women,” Ms. Gitobu explained, barely audible above the hum in the huge exhibit space. In Cambodia, an autonomous Methodist denomination is emerging through inter-Methodist cooperation.
Many of the women in the marketplace knew about Ms. Gitobu’s work and paused to ask about it.
Grace Musuka, whose table was laden with clothing and needlework, is the coordinator of programs for women, children and youth of the United Methodist Church in Zimbabwe. “Here, I will show you a picture of the lady who made the crocket you just bought,” she said to the reporters, extracting the photo from a stack on the corner of the table.
It was important at each booth for browsers to know that the objects on display were made by the hands of women and other church members using their skills for the glory of God and the benefit of other people. Ms. Musuka pointed to objects made by residents of a home for the disabled.
Chita Millan had brought a range of goods — jewelry and fabrics — from her home in Calasiao in the northern Philippines. “Our proceeds,” she explained, “will go to help abused women.
Jacquie Mujunga was one of several women from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She was showing jewelry and figurines made of malachite stone and sculptures of curvra, a wonderfully lustrous metal.
Masele Mamie was also from the DRC, a huge country in central Africa where the United Methodist Church is widely dispersed. She came from the Katanga area.
Many of the temporary shopkeepers at Assembly’s solidarity market will stay for a day after the event closes for consultations on women and mission within the worldwide United Methodist Church.
*Elliott Wright is a freelance religion news reporter and former communications officer for the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.