If we were in Iowa, these would be the crazy friends who'd pile into the GMC Acadia with me, and we'd crank up some '80s music and sing like rock-stars into our air-microphones all the way into the city.
We'd make a scene in the shampoo aisle at Target, then laugh about it again while we hunched over half-eaten grilled panini at Panera. All the way home, we'd talk about how the kids would have been horrified at the behavior of their mothers in aisle nine, and then we'd discuss what we're bringing to church potluck, and we would all nod in agreement when someone says we really need to do this more often.
And then I would drop each of them off at the front doors of their cozy homes, where refrigerators purr and zippers click rhythmically against the inside of the clothes-dryer.
But they don't live in Iowa.
They do hang their clothes on cactus branches in Haiti. Their roofs are tin, walls are mud. Floors are cracked. Or wall-to-wall dirt. They don't sell that at Carpet One.
And they don't need refrigerators because they don't have much of anything to put in them.
One front door is a sheer pink curtain. My new friend Anoise waves us in, and she holds that thin curtain back for us, welcoming friends in.
Oh that silly Anoise ... she'd be the bubbly one heckling you from the backseat of the GMC Acadia on the way to Target. She's the one who would make faces for the camera. She would also be the one you would call when you're having a no-good, horrible day. And she'd be over in five minutes flat to cheer you up with her trademark hug.
We've spent the last few days elbow to elbow, making jewelry. (Anoise and several other women who work at ViBella Jewerly in Haiti are part of the reason I've come here. I have traveled here with the company's founder, Julie Hulstein. She's a retired schoolteacher who has a heart for providing life-changing jobs for at-risk women.)
And now, Anoise the necklace-maker has opened her home to us. We step inside, and when you cross thresholds like that, there's no turning back. This isn't Facebook, and there's no "unfriend" option here. These are real human lives, women whose hands I've held when we prayed together, women whose laughs I've memorized.
May I introduce you to Anoise?
Judith's heart beats strong, hopeful. She walks with her shoulders back, her chin high, and she's in-the-skin proof that there's no such thing as a small life.
She makes you know that you serve a God who delights in impossibility. She grabs me by the shoulders when she tells me this: "Jesus is my life. Jesus is my heart. Jesus is my salvation."
And you better believe she believes it.
Judith, a ViBella artist, is the one who'd be singing at the top of her lungs with you at a Chris Tomlin concert. She'd be the one to link arms with you when you walk across the Target parking lot. And she'd tell you how her job as a jewelry maker has changed everything -- how it's an answer to prayer.
(Photo: Judith, and her step-aunt)
Meet Adeline. She describes her former home life in two words: "extreme poverty."
She's 29 years old, and her job at ViBella is the first steady job she's ever held -- aside from braiding people's hair for money a while back. It's not that she doesn't want to work. Job opportunities are rare. She used to have to borrow money from friends and neighbors to support herself and her son.
"It feels like a joy, a big joy to work at ViBella," she says, beaming.
Still, life is hard. Really hard. As in, I-can't-get-her-house-out-of-my-mind hard. She invites us into a home with no electricity, no stove, no sink, no refrigerator, no couch, no table. You can cross from one side of the house to the other in two seconds or less. I have no idea where she goes to use a toilet or take a shower. She eats once a day -- the meal provided to her by ViBella.
She invites us across her threshold, into her one-room home with a tin roof, and I look at her there through the lens of my camera.
My friend, Adeline, and she smiles back at me. I feel like I've just brushed up against heaven, and if I could speak her language, I'd ask her: "Don't you agree that we really need to do this more often?"
And her eyes, they make me know her answer.
To read more about ViBella, and to order jewelry, visit the website here. Your purchases help real women whose thresholds I have crossed. Your purchases help my girlfriends, my sisters, your sisters.
Psst ... I watched them make dozens of these beautiful cross necklaces and purchased one for myself. My favorite!