A few months ago I had a chance meeting with Danielle. I found out she’d served in China with her husband a children for several years and had been back in Joplin for just over a year. She told me about her non-profit called Velvet Ashes, and before I knew it the words flew out of my mouth, “How can I help you?”
Sometimes you just meet a person and you know instantly that you’re passionate about the same things.
As many of you know, my husband is a pastor at a church. Most of the time, when he tells someone that, they say, “That must be rewarding!” It is, yes. But people who work in churches are also imperfect human beings, and the same is true of those who serve overseas (and often they are financially supported by churches). “Rewarding” is often replaced with lonely, exhausting, frustrating, and hard. Danielle knows these feelings firsthand, and that’s why she felt led to create an organization based here in Joplin, MO that encouraged women serving around the globe.
“Here’s the reality: there are thousands of women living and fighting on the front lines of the world’s biggest problems. They are feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, educating the uneducated. They are planting churches, rescuing victims, rebuilding lives. They are wiping bottoms, clipping finger nails, and doing mounds of paperwork. They are women who have left the comfort and security of their home country, daring to believe that their two hands can make a difference. Here’s the flip side of this reality, the side that is so often unseen: these brave souls often end up isolated, lonely and broken down. Velvet Ashes exists so that these women can have a place of connection and renewal. It’s a community of like-hearted women who connect across the globe to be reminded they are not alone. We’ve had multiple women say that they would have packed their bags and headed home if it had not been for the encouragement they found at Velvet Ashes. That’s why we’re thrilled to host “An Evening in the Grove,” (March 5th in Downtown Joplin) because we want to show the Joplin community how they can have a global impact, quite literally, by empowering world-changing women.” -Danielle
How beautiful is it that yesterday, I could spend the morning with Danielle and her good friend Emilie (another world-changer who recently spent several years in Sudan) and create portraits of them to help share their story with all of you?
Emilie discovered this online world-wide community of women while she served with her husband, children and teammates in South Sudan. Yesterday, as I did Danielle’s makeup and Millie styled Emilie’s hair, Emilie recounted stories of her experience – working on their compound that included a dental clinic and pastor’s training facility, raising young children amidst dangerous political unrest that once resulted in their packing bags and fleeing in the night, and many other stories of the challenges and victories she faced. She spoke about her passion to serve those around the world while respecting and valuing their cultures, and about empowering women whose societies tell them men are kings and women are slaves. But what stood out to me most was Emilie’s peaceful countenance – her open heart and her loving smile. She serves because she genuinely loves people, and thanks to the community she found with Velvet Ashes she was able to keep going.
After all, the velvet ash tree is a tree that thrives – against all odds – in the desert.
“Velvet Ashes has over and over again shown to me that it is poignant, relevant and fills a gap – takes care of a great need. Many women working overseas are in spiritually oppressive atmospheres, and in a place where you want to be healthy spiritually it often takes another voice in your life to not only give you soul-nourishing advice but also just the simple, comforting words of “You’re not alone!” – Emilie
If there’s one thing I know about my community of men and women, it’s that they want to see our world made better and they want to encourage the people who work so hard to make that happen –
Please check out the amazing event coming up Sunday evening March 5th at the Ramsay in Downtown Joplin! Grab a ticket fast and invite your friends! I sincerely hope you’ll join us for live music by Eine Blume, food from local eateries (like Frosted Cakerie, Bearded Lady Roasters, Instant Karma, The Cheesecake Lady, Hackett Hot Wings, and more) and say hi to me while I photograph all the attendees!
Thank you friends, as always, for encouraging me too. I always hope to do the same for you.