In light of the slumping demand of our Khutsala Artisans products, the decision was painstakingly made to lay off 40 of our Khutsala Artisan team. Many of the artisans are women. Most are single mothers or widows raising their children and grandchildren on very little pay. On average, each employee feeds 13 people on their homestead. Although we pay a fair wage, in a country with over a 70% unemployment rate, it’s difficult for them to make ends meet WITH a job and without...well...that’s almost impossible. Devastating.
Five of the widows that would be terminated wanted to meet with me for prayer and counseling. They had told our Human Resources manager they couldn’t live without this job. Literally. They said collectively, “We have decided we will go home, buy some “tablets”, give them to our children & then ourselves. We are better off dead than starving.” When Barry messaged me and said they wanted me to come to the office, I had been having a rough day. I had been contemplating what it is I do here on a daily basis and wondering if it really matters at all (and had actually talked to Barry earlier that day and said those exact words). Of course, my response to his message was, “I guess...What am I suppose to say to them?!?” He replied, “I don’t know. Just pray with them, encourage them.”
On my way to the office, the verses in Psalm 126 pushed its way through confusion and hopelessness I was feeling for them. I could only remember a piece of it. “Those that sow in tears, will reap with shouts of joy.” I got out of the car, slammed the car door, walked around to the front of the office and slid into the bench at the picnic table. Across from me sat 5 widows. Some of the widows were older with years of labor and suffering etched on their face. The others seemed much too young to be widowed. Their heads were bowed in despair. It was tangible. The heaviness of it all made my heart race and voice crack under the pressure. My friend, Cynthia, began to speak to them in SiSwati and tell them that I was there to encourage them, to pray with them, and to somehow give them hope. My mind screamed, “What?!?! Really, Lord?? Speak through me! There is nothing that can satisfy their scorched places but You.” I stuttered through the first few sentences that fell out of my mouth and then I opened my bible to Psalm 126. As I read, my nervousness and confusion left as I was reminded of His promises to those who belong to Him. Tears rolled down their cheeks as they heard the promises on the page and the word came alive in their hearts. Mine too. One verse lead to another verse and then another in the scriptures. Alive. It was like a momma fluffing a a soft blanket and covered them and tucking it around them tightly. His Spirit gave them comfort and I reassured them He had not forgotten them. He loved them. He would not fail them. Shouts of joy will come. I was reminded of a verse in Rev. 7 and in Psalm 56 about tears. In Rev. 7 he tells us that He will wipe every tear from their eyes. But Psalm 56:8 got me.
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”
He collects our tears. Not one falls. I looked up from reading those verses and I could see fear, despair and sadness leave their faces and their tear-filled eyes turn upward with a smile of hope.
Now for the rest of the story...God does hear our prayers!! Within a few days, it was determined that due to the increasing demand from vendors in the area, we would begin ramping up our crop production, specifically for beets. I don't like beets. My family doesn't like beets. But the Swazi people love them! As a result of this, the Project Canaan farm needed to add an additional 10 people to work our fields and harvest the beets. So that meant of the forty people that lost their job, ten of those were eligible to be rehired. And of those ten people, all five of the widows that I had prayed for were rehired! God does answer prayers!