The last eleven days in Sierra Leone have been quite mind blowing, working with the beautiful, totally irresistible and super talented designers from Living Seeds - a business and training school founded by the incredible Nick and Kitty Marsh! Their heart’s desire is to train and empower young people in Sierra Leone to flourish, to come out of poverty and to not only see their own lives transformed but to help transform their own communities and nation. The focus of the vocational training offered at Living Seeds is fashion - and so yours truly was divinely connected with Nick and Kitty to come out here and help these gems launch their very own fashion label! Wow. To say that I am quite undone by the privilege I was given to pour into these incredible treasures and to witness the gold that came out, would be putting it lightly!
As I prepared to go out there I wasn’t even quite sure what to expect to be honest! I repeatedly prayed to God that He would use me to bless each person out there, asking Him to equip me not just naturally with skill, technique, craftsmanship and wisdom but supernaturally - with love, passion, compassion and celebration. And maaan, He did not disappoint. He was just soooo darn faithful that my heart is full, I am just so amazed at all that took place and God gets ALL the props!!!
It was such a joy to spend the first week helping them to understand the craft of pattern cutting and pattern marking. I was then able to teach them how to gather research to inspire their design work. I watched them create their very first mood boards and then create a series of initial designs from their freshly adorned boards before knocking the ball out of the park with their speed designing creations! I can’t tell you how impressed I am by their hunger, their diligence, their passion and commitment!
It was absolutely no surprise to me when they totally aced it with their prep for the fashion shoot during the second week! No matter what I asked them to do, no matter how many times they had to stitch and unstitch their garments they were so gracious and focused that I was literally floored with admiration!
On the day of the shoot. Well even the night before when we did the dress rehearsal they were spectacular. But shoot day…Oh my gosh. My heart. To watch these beautiful ones come so alive and grow in such confidence as they had their hair and make up done, as they all got ready for the camera… As they totally engaged and gave me one pose after another, coming out of themselves, taking risks and giving their all. The girls bringing it. The boys totally bringing it. So gloriously beautiful to see them shine so bright.
It rained all day during the shoot. Yet they were all amazing. As it chucked it down all around us, with hair and make up retouched twice already yet no sign of sunshine, light or a dry spell, they continued to be full of joy and peace. When we all started to worship whether it stopped raining or not, they all sung their hearts out. And then miraculously for about an hour it did stop raining and their all stepped up, striking their poses for the camera, moving here there and everywhere…totally committed, totally professional…totally delicious. The shots were incredible. I am just so proud.
And then with only one day left of the trip we went back to designing again, working on drawing and presenting their final design idea and then producing technical drawings for each design. Slightly tired and weary from the shoot the day before as I began to explain their task for the day I could tell they weren't sure what they were doing and lacked confidence. Yet what developed through the day enlarged my heart no end. As they gained momentum and saw their design work coming together they became so encouraged.
They were SO amazed. They had never even considered that they would one day know how to draw and apply colour. Yet here they were literally enamoured by the work of their hands and the fruit of their labour. When we all presented our work at the end of the day each and everyone of them gushed with pride at their new found ability to draw. Not a single one of them remained the same.
‘Yet they weren’t the only ones that have been changed. I have been forever marked by this beautiful company of young people. Each one of them has a story. Many of them are heart breaking, but here at Living Seeds each of them is truly flourishing despite their history. Despite their circumstances or their misfortunes. Each of them knows the Lord. Each and every one of them is living in His love. They have truly been given beauty for ashes.
They have experienced such glorious redemption in God that many of them refuse to leave. It’s so deliciously insane. Literally many of them graduated the school years ago and could receive support to build there own small businesses but they choose to stay at the school - part of the family. Part of the community. Refusing to leave the hub of love that Nick, Kitty, Agnes and Tamba have fostered over the last seven years.
And this is what I experienced over the last eleven days. An incredibly humbling, heart exploding community that embraced me so lovingly, who learnt from me so enthusiastically, so readily, so passionately…who taught me afresh what it means to be hungry, diligent and committed. Oh how I love them and I am just so so proud of them. I’m so in awe of all of them and blown away by the work being done out there. What an utter privilege and honour to be able to sow into their beautiful lives and to use my gifts and abilities to help a nation flourish. Wow. Totally and utterly wow.