Charlotte Bronte once said it: “I avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward.”
I think of the truth in Charlotte’s words when Marie Therese tells me her life philosophy in a few simple words. Marie Therese speaks through an interpreter, but she looks right at me when she’s talking, like maybe I’m the one most in need of knowing it. I probably am.
“Even though things were really bad for me, and they might not be good tomorrow, so be it,” Marie Therese says. “I will always have faith in God.”
No matter what has happened,
what is happening,
or what will happen,
God still is. And she still knows.
It was centuries before Marie Therese, even before Charlotte Bronte, when Job said it this way: The Lord may give, or He may take away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
Marie Therese says she has much to count as blessing. She has a job, the first job she’s ever held in her life. She is 33. Today, she’s wearing her collared ViBella shirt, and a name badge. She has a steady paycheck. And she has Jesus.
Marie Therese and the other women who work at ViBella are part of the reason I’ve come to Haiti. I have traveled here with members of Vi Bella Jewelry, a company that provides life-changing jobs for at-risk women. Haitians find discarded plastic bottles in this country’s littered countryside, and these women use those bottles to make beads — making beautiful works of art from trash. Behind each necklace, each earring, each colored bead, there is a Haitian woman whose life has been changed. It’s redemptive work.
And I’ve seen the proof. I’ve heard their stories. I’ve listened to the way this job making jewelry has changed the lives of real women who want the same things I want: to raise up good, healthy children, … to walk a life in grace. I’ve heard the vision of the company’s founder, Julie, with whom I am traveling in Haiti. Together, we’ve sat side by side with these Haitian women in a tiny room above the orphanage. Outside our window, orphans’ blankets and T-shirts flap on clotheslines. Inside, we are making beautiful things.
It’s all art. It’s all good. It’s all God.
And it’s transformational, friends.
Sure, the jewelry is beautiful — hence the name, “ViBella,” which means Beautiful Life. But the the real-life impact on very real lives behind these works of art is simply stunning.
Today, I invite you to meet Marie Terese. She is 33, married, and has five children. Together, she and her husband support 10 people who live in their home. ViBella, she says, has been a life-changing opportunity. Still, it’s not easy. The only meal she eats every day is the meal she receives as an employee of ViBella.
“Sometimes, my family will pass a day without eating. Before ViBella, life was very, very hard for me. And now it’s getting better,” Marie Therese tells me. “Before ViBella, … I was afraid.”
She invited us into her home this afternoon. Julie — an Iowan who is the ViBella founder — led the group in prayer in Marie Therese’s home, with twelve of her family members joining our circle.
Before we left, Julie and Marie Therese paused on the front step of the home for a photograph, leaning into each other. And Julie quipped: “Don’t you think we look alike?”
And I couldn’t help but think they did look very much like sisters. And if you ask me, it seems they both bear a striking resemblance to their Father.
(I will introduce you to some of the other ViBella ladies in future posts. You can see all of the ladies here. Thank you again, friends, for your commitment to prayer. I told our group of 16 tonight how you’ve been praying. I’ve read over your comments, and your emails, and we’ve been so encouraged by the ways you’ve loved and prayed from afar. Please pray for physical and spiritual restoration for many of our new friends here in Haiti. And pray for Marie Therese and all of the ViBella women. Their lives are much better, but still very difficult.)