We drove along the dirt roads of rural Zomba with about 20 boxes jostling in the back seat of our little bus. Three of us stood in the aisle, putting all our weight against the boxes to keep them from toppling as the vehicle rolled down a hill. It was—to say the least—a makeshift transport.
I kept asking myself how we could possibly use all these boxes. If you’ve ever been part of a packing event at Forgotten Children, you know what I’m talking about. There are thousands of clothing items and hundreds of boxes—where does everything go?
As it turns out, those clothes go anywhere there’s a need. Sure, it’s fun to see pictures of sponsored kids wearing clothes from our local organizations and churches. On this trip, we saw lots of apparel from Wells County high schools. But at its core, FCW’s clothing ministry is far bigger than that.
Many areas of Malawi—especially more rural ones—are made up of chief-led communities. Basically, the Village Head makes all the decisions, and you have to build a relationship with him before you can be involved with his people.
Clothes are a common need; they’re the perfect connection point. When you go into a village, there’s a big difference between, “Hey come to our church this weekend,” and “Could you and your people use some new clothes?” FCW’s partner, James, does the latter—and we saw firsthand how the people love him for it.
Over the past several years, James has developed deep friendships with the Village Heads in his area. He doesn’t just serve the kids that live in his orphan homes or come to his programs. James sees the bigger picture; he builds community from the ground up.
When we did our morning of clothing distribution, we didn’t do it in the community just outside the gates of the orphan home. We drove farther, expanded the ministry’s reach with something so simple—a few articles of clothing.
In a few weeks or months or years, maybe some of the people in this village will show up at church services. Maybe a Village Head will reach out to James and ask if he has room in his programs for a kid who needs a fresh start. Maybe this one morning of clothing distribution will hold in their minds, will launch their next steps.
These are the building blocks of sustainable change: Mothers chatting as they pick out clothes for their kids. Toddlers running around with their new outfits in hand. Old women laughing, their faces long-creased with smile lines, as the kids stare cautiously at the white strangers in front of them.
That’s the heartbeat of the ministry. It’s why all those hours of packing, all those dollars toward shipping containers, really matter. They’re the first step toward something bigger.
If you’re wondering where all those hundreds of boxes go, the answer is “everywhere.”
Did you know it only costs $10 to ship a box of clothes for families on the other side of the world? If you’ve eaten out at a restaurant recently, there’s a good chance you spent almost that much. What if you used that money to send a box that could make a world of difference? Click here to take action.