The Power of A Purse

By Jan Paul—Fayetteville, Arkansas

Can a purse be powerful? Interesting question. It reminds me of those old TV shows where the little old lady whacks a guy over the head with her purse. Recently God showed me the power of a purse without actually hitting me over the head, but He did get my attention!

I initially heard about Sew Powerful’s Purse Project in 2014. I downloaded the pattern, looked over the instructions, got confused and gave up! Wow, THAT’S an inspiring story, isn’t it? Pitiful!

However, since I’d requested a pattern, I continued to get updates on the program. As I followed the Sew Powerful story, I became more and more interested in what was happening half a world away at the Needs Care School in Zambia. God was growing a love in me for these children who lived in one of the world’s poorest urban slums.

I read and reread the 2014 trip reports and updates on Sew Powerful’s website. According to data collected, these purses were certainly powerful in the lives of the girls. Because of a purse, not only were girls missing fewer days of school at Needs Care, but they also had a much better shot at passing an exam to continue their education—and, ultimately, improve their lives. I was very disappointed I hadn’t participated.

Fast forward to me getting an email in July about the new 2015 purse pattern—of course, I rushed immediately to download that pattern and start sewing purses like my machine was on fire! Um…not.

Sadly, once again I had the best of intentions...I wanted to make a purse, but when I finally downloaded the pattern in September, the directions still seemed daunting, even though I’ve been sewing for years. Then I got an email from Sew Powerful about an instructional video! (Cue heavenly organ music and beams of light breaking through clouds!)

I watched that video over and over, found some cute fabric in my stockpile and, finally cut out a purse! I sewed with my iPad right beside my machine, step-by-step, rewinding and re-watching each step until I got it right. Oh, and yes, there was frequent use of the seam ripper! But one purse was finished! Hallelujah!

But wait, hadn’t one of the emails said Jason and Cinnamon were praying, asking and expecting 1000 purses for this year? And they were asking for this incredible number when they barely got 500 the previous year? I confess I doubted that prayer would be answered. So, I got busy making more purses, as if it somehow depended on me.

At about this time I found out about a Facebook page started by some wonderful Australian seamstresses who were sharing information and encouragement with other purse makers. Posting pictures of finished purses and receiving compliments from others who were working toward the same goal was incredibly motivating! We were a team!

The girls for whom we sewed became “our girls.” As I followed the sewing progress via social media, it started to dawn on me how many purses were being made literally all around the world: Australia, India, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.S. Some precious lady in South Carolina had made over fifty purses, and was still going!

Jason sent updates about the wall of boxes that was stacking up as purses began to arrive. Still in the back of my mind I questioned whether the goal would be met. I sewed as many purses as I could by the November 11th “extension,” and sent them off.

On the night of the “unboxing,” my husband and I excitedly watched the live stream to see if we could spot the boxes I’d mailed. (We did!) When we heard someone say on the video that they had to go out and buy more plastic bags, we looked at each other, “Surely that means they have over a thousand purses!” When the totals started being announced, it was quite obvious the goal would be met! I thanked God for answered prayer and headed to bed.

When I got up the next day and looked online for the final count, I was stunned! 1,619 purses! God had provided far over and above what was asked for or expected! His portion to those precious girls wasn’t just a full cup, but an overflowing one! Why had I doubted? What had made me think my pitiful efforts were even necessary? 

Today, as I think about the scope of the Sew Powerful project, God’s goodness in allowing me to play even a small part in it is humbling—kind of like being whacked over the head with an old lady’s purse. Powerfully humbling! I thought I was sewing purses to make a difference in the lives of the girls—and I was, but as it turns out, God had me sewing purses to cause a change in my heart as well. He was patiently growing my faith, allowing me to see a glimpse of how big He really is!

So back to the question: Can a purse be powerful? Well, let’s see....

  • God is using a purse to improve the lives of girls living in extreme poverty by providing greater educational opportunities for them.
  • He’s using a purse to build a worldwide community of seamstresses with the common goal of showing these girls how very much they are loved and valued.
  • And He’s using a purse to continue to teach me much-needed lessons about His faithfulness and sovereignty.

Yep. I’d say that’s one powerful purse!

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