Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Behind the Bag- Amanda

Oh, hey there! Behind the Bag is returning with a bang! 
A firecracker, if you will. We are so excited to introduce you to Miss Amanda Herdina. Amanda was on the very first Visiting Orphans team we hosted at No.41. They were the first team to meet the girls and we could not asked for a more amazing group of people to pour into our little sweeties. And the best news is, Amanda is now living just up the road from us in Rwanda. 
Amanda, we just adore you and we are so thankful for the story you are living.

I was giving it time. I sat and waited until that ‘perfect moment’ to write about my Behind the Bag experience. A year came and went and here I am... just now writing my story.

It was May of 2012 when I had the privilege of traveling with the first ever Visiting Orphans Music Team to Rwanda. A team my partner in crime, Frank, and I helped orchestrate to a country I had never been. My blood was pumping, my pulse was racing... “I was going to make a difference.”

And then we walked into the No.41 house one afternoon. Guitar in hand, dance playlist on Bieber, and about 8 girls and a team of 12... the dance party started. It was like no other. Language barrier? What language barrier? These girls wanted to praise. They wanted to worship. They wanted more and more and they laughed and smiled, giggled, and sang some more.

As we sat down to listen to Tara’s testimony, I couldn’t believe it when I heard that these girls weren’t always this way. That they were shy, some raised as orphans in a world of hurt, anguish and despair.

And that was the beginning of when my world began to shake.

Tara moved to Rwanda--pretty much on a whim, if you ask me. She has, what I like to call, the Crazy Bone. She moved to Rwanda without an iota of what was next and was confident that when she said, “Yes” that her life, as she knew it, would change. What she didn’t realize at the time was how she was going to forever change these girls’ lives.

We sat and heard story after story of how each girl would spend hour after hour, day after day, working sun up until sun down on perfecting these bags of art. When we walked into the shop, it was nothing short of obvious the hours they spent making sure each shoulder strap was positioned, each print was screened, each stitch sewn with the utmost perfection. The bags were (are) beautiful.

But it was so much more to me than that. These bags were a symbol of something so much bigger, so much more. These bags were a gift that gave these girls a skill that then gave them hope and encouragement for a brighter future. The girls sit in community each day having people invest not only their money, but their time, into their lives, building such a confidence that it just radiates throughout the room.

So you can imagine my surprise when Tara said the girls weren’t always this way.

And you can imagine how it burdened my heart to want to be a part of something so beautiful.

I instantly bought a bag and when I brought it home, it was a constant reminder of the change Tara had started within these girls. I knew after that trip that I was going to be making a decision, inspired by No.41, in my very near future....

...Fast forward to today. June 2013. Exactly one year later, I sit in the girls’ living room at No.41, surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of not ONLY bags, but aprons, shoulder bags, handbags, backpacks, headbands, cuffs, oven mitts... I could keep going. And then it hit me.

What better ‘perfect moment’ than this?? There isn’t one! This business has skyrocketed and the supply is endless! It’s the perfect moment to share my Behind the Bag story. So here I am.

You see, as I sat there in the living room that day a year ago, every word Tara spoke penetrated deeper and deeper burning a hole in my heart telling me I was going to hear it (whatever ‘it’ was) and eventually say “Yes”, too. I just didn’t realize at the time what that was going to look like...

Today? I’ve packed not only my No.41 bags, but all my bags and belongings, and have made the commitment to live here, in Rwanda, for the next year. Much to my surprise, I wasn’t on that trip last year to make a difference. No.41 was--in these girls‘ lives and in my own. I sit here in this living room again seeing these girls a year later and they’re still changing. They are continuing to grow into stronger, more confident, and (as if it were possible) more beautiful women. The change these bags have made on their lives is so evident as I listen to them share their hopes and dreams of the future...

These bags. These bags are forever making a difference every time someone purchases one. And the effect has rippled into more than giving the girls a salary, a home, and a sales commission... it has also provided lunch for 870 children at school each day!!

These bags. There is so much more Behind the Bag than what the eye can see. These bags that surround me are a constant reminder of the effect they have had on these girls, the difference they have made in the world.

And the difference they have made in me.

To get your very own No.41 bag, click here.

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