The Transforming Power of Beauty

March 21, 2012 | 16 comments

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.)

by | March 21, 2012 | 16 comments

16 Comments

  1. Dea

    I am not kidding. I was raining this afternoon and I took a walk in the rain with my dog. It was a prayer walk and included you and those you are serving. But I was heart listening too and felt the Lord directing me to look upward. Over and over…..upward. I peered through all kinds off spring bursting out from above me. Rain drps ran down like tears on my face. I will lay down tonight praying for a “vibella” for Maria Theresa. Bless you my friend. Bless those who provide these jobs for these dear sisters.

    Reply
  2. Kim

    Thank you for taking us on this journey with you through your beautiful words and photos. Beauty from trash … it truly tells the story of Christ’s redeeming power, doesn’t it? Blessings to all of you.

    Reply
  3. Dan King (@bibledude)

    Honestly Jennifer… I’m going to have to stop reading these… you know what this does to me. And I think now you are seeing why. But I will continue to hang on every word and photo you share, and will continue to pray for these incredible people. To me, they are the superheros of the faith. It’s not the big-name theologians with fancy degrees, it’s these people with an incredible faith regardless of their circumstance. Beautiful.

    And thank you.

    Reply
  4. Lyla Lindquist

    Keep doing, keep seeing, keep listening.

    We keep praying.

    Love you.

    Reply
  5. Becky Lee

    Can’t wait everyday to check out your updates!! I think this must be the best “assignment” this reporter has been on in her entire career—your “reports” will help these woman as you reach so many people who will now know of them—-your “All-Mighty, All Knowing Editor” knew what He was doing sending you on this one!! Love ya, see you soon!! Becky

    Reply
  6. Ann Kroeker

    Beautiful! All of it–all of you–so beautiful.

    Reply
  7. Michelle HAge

    Sissy~thanks for the updates! Wowsers is about all I can say!! So many times there are words that just can’t even be found for these experiences, but of course, you as a rockstar journalist, have said it beautifully!! Many blessings sent your way as you continue to be the hands and feet of Jesus! Love ya, Michelle

    Reply
  8. Megan Willome

    Still praying. That Snoopy towel gets me. I’m not sure why.

    And may I say that I am amazed at the beauty of the jewelry. When you get back, you might want to talk to World Hunger Relief, which has a mission in Haiti, to see if they might want to carry the jewelry in their fair-trade store in Waco. Just a thought.

    Reply
  9. Cindy

    What a blessing for these beautiful ladies! Would love to hear how this company was started. Praying again for you this morning. Feel like I’m right there with you.

    Reply
  10. Brandee Shafer

    Wonderful post. I love, especially, the photo of the clotheslines.

    Reply
  11. Donna Kurtzleben

    I’ve been praying for my Christian sisters who are in Haiti and it’s so wonderful to read your words from there.

    Reply
  12. Alyssa Santos

    Oh, I love being able to witness the transformation from fearful to faithful. What little baubles, pretty trinkets but shining full with the hope and life of the resurrected Lord. I am thrilled you are in Haiti, that God led you by his right hand, to see his big hearted love for people across the globe. Thrilled. I’ll be praying 🙂

    Reply
  13. Shelly Miller

    So encouraged to see what you are doing Jennifer. Isn’t it amazing to see something so beautiful made from trash. I have a necklace from Rwanda made from out of date calendars. The beads are so lovely I would have never known they were paper. Thanks for sharing your words from the heart and the photos. What a difference they make.

    Reply
  14. jan

    Praying daily for you Jennifer and looking forward to your evening posts.
    Next to my computer, hanging from Inspiration board is my ViBella Faith necklace.
    The very same one that is pictured in your post.
    I treasure it and all the women who craft these marvels.
    From the old and worn, comes Renewal.
    Christ lives in Haiti.

    Reply
  15. Diana Trautwein

    Oh, my. Such beauty – everywhere you look in those photos of yours. Thank you for your updates, for your heart of love, for these words of grace. We’ll continue to pray for all of you as you finish out this week!

    Reply
  16. Missy

    Thank you for bringing this world to us. Thank you for opening up our eyes to true faith and trust in Jesus.

    Reply

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