Today’s post is from our Vendor Network Manager, Mark Palfreeman. We’re excited for you to hear his story and the way our new Words Matter Letterpress Blocks collection is connecting all of us at (in)courage to some beautiful stories around the world.
Take a walk around your house today and see how many different countries of origin you can find printed on the products you own. It can be rare to find something that was made in the USA! Like it or not, imported goods dominate the marketplace, and often our initial reaction to this reality is negative. We are concerned about the loss of American jobs and we assume that the foreign factory workers are being mistreated.
A few years ago my family sold our possessions and moved to India – one of those places we often see as the country of origin on products. Our determined purpose and calling was to build authentic friendships and to proclaim the redemptive power of Jesus. We quickly discovered that people, at least city dwellers, all over the planet share a similar hyper drive pace of life. Our family struggled to build genuine friendships in the frantic marginal space on our neighbor’s schedule. We longed to have a connecting point. We prayed for an opportunity to merge paths and to share common ground.
In our searching we soon found our distaste for imported goods challenged. During a flight from Chicago to Delhi, I chatted with a businessman from Texas and the more I asked questions, the more I discovered that the importing of goods had provided him the relationships that my family so desperately wanted in India. As I walked from the plane that day it felt as if the cloud over our path had cleared.
If you were to take the list of countries you have compiled from the products in your home and marked those places on a map, you might notice that they tend to fall in the areas with the least exposure to the Gospel.
Could it be that this import trend has Kingdom potential? What if followers of Jesus engaged in these business platforms for eternal purposes. What if?
Now, more than five years after my epiphany on the airplane, I am working alongside the (in)courage team to import on purpose. We choose to partner with artisans on the other side of the world, in areas with the least exposure to Jesus, in order to demonstrate and proclaim His Kingdom.
Practically, this vision takes many forms as we engage factory communities. However, our mode of operation is to focus on three critical areas that are always present, as each factory community we encounter has leaders, laborers, and some sort of vision for the future.
More times than not, the businesses that create our products are family owned and multigenerational. We are intentional about knowing the family at a deeper level than the business transactions we share. This involves attendance at wedding celebrations and cultural festivals. It requires taking our family members international to interact in person. It means ongoing virtual communication and weekly involvement in life events. In each of these encounters the conversation naturally leads to redemption in Jesus and prayer in His name.
These local business owners each have responsibility over, and influence in, the lives of hundreds of artisans. Every laborer has a story and a family that we also want to know personally. Today there are international standards that guard the wellbeing of factory workers, and every brand desires to protect its reputation. But these requirements are a far cry from the selfless love Christ calls us to.
To insure that we protect and bless the hands that create our goods, we have teamed up with an organization called Ethical Sourcing Network (ESNet). This kindred hearted company focuses on the work environment and has a specific passion for the good of the laborer.
One beautiful aspect of these business relationships is the way our vision for the future is tied together. The success or failure of one partner has a direct impact on all the members of the team. We love the way (in)courage is intricately connected to people on the other side of the planet, and they to us. From an idea for the new Words Matter Letterpress Blocks sparked in Arkansas to a business owner in India, to product that inspires a mom in Canada, we are connected. And it would be impossible to do any long term planning without serious consideration of how it will affect our friends and coworkers internationally. This interdependence creates an incredible opportunity that we hold with trembling hands.
Many companies have surely taken advantage of the supply chain in these developing areas. We are doing something radically different. The purchase of goods provides the opportunity to do something beautiful and redemptive as well. By God’s grace and your help, we will do that!
Mark is from southwest Arkansas originally and attended Ouchita Baptist University in Arkadelphia. It was in college that he began to follow Jesus and grew a passion for the world. Before coming to DaySpring, Mark and his family were involved in ministry full time and lived more than two years in India. He and his wife Terri have three sons and a daughter. Caleb is twelve, Brennen is eight, Jack and Darcy are twins and just a few weeks old.Leave a Comment