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The Fabric of Ministry

MAF’s Carolyn Monson began a ministry that helps local women earn a living

 

Carolyn Monson ran her hands across colorful bolts of fabric, admiring the new designs. As she made a pile of her favorites, her three children scurried about the store, weaving in and out of fabric displays.

At the counter, the owner greeted her warmly and they exchanged a few words in Sesotho. The children moved in behind the counter, expectantly, and he plopped colorful buttons in their outstretched hands. They enjoyed these regular outings as much as Carolyn did—outings that provided a bridge to the people and culture of Lesotho.

The fabric store in downtown Maseru, where Carolyn buys her fabric. Photo by Lem Malabuyo.

Carolyn is a stay-at-home mom to three while her husband, Matt, is an MAF pilot/mechanic and program manager in Maseru, Lesotho. Carolyn says that from the beginning, they’ve had a shared vision to immerse themselves in the culture, to befriend and minister to the Basotho people.

One way that Carolyn has found to do that also happens to tap into one of her passions. Carolyn had earned an art studio degree in mixed media, including textiles, and God has opened doors for her to use her talents to help Basotho women crafters.

An expat missionary friend introduced her to ‘M’e (mother) Puseletso, a woman who loves to sew. Carolyn asked ‘M’e Puseletso to make some items for her out of the bright, patterned Seshoeshoe fabric, which is popular throughout the culture.

Between ‘M’e Puseletso’s skilled hands, Carolyn’s creative designs, and the vibrant colors, something beautiful emerged.

Carolyn Monson, left, with “M’e Putsaletso of “Pam’s Bags.” Photo by Lem Malabuyo.

“We started out making bags, and as I wore them around town, people began asking me about them,” explained Carolyn. “Over the years, it’s developed. Now we’re making smaller bags and table runners, aprons, ornaments.”

Today ‘M’e Puseletso’s hand-made items are for sale in the MAF gift shop in the U.S. And a local orphanage in Maseru purchases them for its short-term volunteers. The Monsons and other MAF staff members, and their expat friends, purchase them as gifts for their supporters.

It’s been a huge blessing to ‘M’e Puseletso, who is unable to work outside her home due to health problems. The sewing projects have created sustainable income for her, and she was able to support her son through college. Now he has a good job and is able to give back.

Carolyn recalls one of the verses the Lord gave her before they came to Lesotho, and how it applies to pursuing ministry opportunities. “Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in him. And he will act” (Psalm 37:5).

“We can have an idea of our own and we can step out and pursue it,” said Carolyn. “But without the Lord’s blessing or His direction in enabling that, you’re not going to get anywhere.

“I had this idea and didn’t really know what to do with it. But by being faithful, in pressing in and putting my time into this, He has blessed the path that we’re walking, and then provided people who are interested in buying the product. And so, I see his blessing in that.”

Carolyn’s latest purchase of colorful Seshoeshoe fabric drying on the line. Photo by Carolyn Monson.

After her latest purchase, Carolyn washed the fabrics and then hung them outside on the line to dry. The next morning she buckled her two daughters into their car booster seats and drove across town to deliver the material to ‘M’e Puseletso.

The girls played together while the two friends strategized about designs and sorted out the order details. Of course, there was time to catch up on each other’s lives as well. ‘M’e Puseletso heard all about the new baby bunnies at the Monsons’ home.

“We’ve become like sisters,” said Carolyn, which is a sentiment echoed by ‘M’e Puseletso.

With Lesotho’s high unemployment and so many people struggling to make ends meet, Carolyn feels this is one way she’s been able to help—by getting behind ‘M’e Puseletso and local other crafters.

The exterior of the Lesotho Mountain Crafts center. Photo by Lem Malabuyo.

Carolyn also discovered a weaving center about forty-five minutes outside of town. It employs several women who weave, and

Woven items for sale at Lesotho Mountain Crafts. Photo by Lem Malabuyo.

sew, and make lovely crafts. Carolyn coordinates transport of their products to MAF’s U.S. headquarters, where they’re for sale in the gift shop.

 

“I just really love to support women that are doing crafts and making a living off the arts,” said Carolyn.

Whenever her parents or others visit, Carolyn enjoys taking them to the weaving center. It not only provides a nice drive out of the city, but it also allows the guests to observe the ladies as they’re weaving and sewing.

When visitors see a woman and hear her story, and know their purchase will directly help, Carolyn says, “People are excited to participate in that.”

 

A woman works on a felt Nativity set figure, one of the items sold in the MAF gift shop. Photo by Lem Malabuyo.

Whether she’s partnering with local crafters, providing hospitality in her home, or taking care of her family—which includes homeschooling her oldest now—Carolyn says it comes back to continually asking the Lord: “What do you want? Where do you want me to serve today?”

 

It’s this pattern of relying on the Lord daily for His strength and guidance that allows her to keep pressing into the culture during the different seasons of motherhood and ministry.

 

 

 

 

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