"After serving over 20 years as missionaries in Tanzania, East Africa, my husband and I were not allowed to return because of my husband's health. To say the least, we were not very happy and I questioned God - 'God, You call a lot of people to go somewhere else to share Your story and they won't or don't go. Here we are, we know the people, know the language, know the culture, love it and are doing what You called us to do, and now we can't go back. WHY?' Well, needless to say, we didn't get an answer then.
So, we became involved in our local church and began to settle in. But in our 50's and coming to the technology age rather late, the job market was not very good. Being somewhat crafty (in a good way), I had a couple of craft booths and did craft shows. In the beginning, it was very good, but as the Chinese imports got better and better, it was difficult to compete price-wise and many crafters dropped out.
Since I had always been involved in ministry, I found myself with an empty feeling in the midst of my usual busyness. A prison ministry needed volunteer help putting Christmas packets together for their inmate students. Our Sunday School class volunteered. As non-profits are always looking for volunteers, I agreed to work one day a week. Exodus Prison Ministry is a correspondence course for inmates with over 3,200 students. As is often the case with our volunteers, I had found my spot. Except for that first week of working one day, I have worked 4 days a week for almost 9 years, all on a volunteer basis. I became office manager and then last year, when the director retired, became the director of the ministry. Using my God-given organizational skills and creativity, I began to streamline, making our operation more efficient and using our donated funds more effectively.
Prison life is drab and colorless, and one of the things I did (about 7 years ago) was introduce color by including bright inserts. About 3 years ago, I began to make little bookmarks and tags to include in each set of lessons going out - about 450 every Friday. So I began at night, making backgrounds to hundreds of tags, printing Scriptures and encouraging words on paper and labels, so I could make the number of tags we would need every week. And to paraphrase the song – I was making salt leaks (pieces of art or crafts with Scripture) before making them was cool. When I had about 2,000 we began to put them in every set of lessons.
Then, through a Bible journaling site, I learned about Lisa Albinus, founder of the Salty Sidewalks ministry. I now had a way to stockpile tags for use in ladies conferences and many other places. They were much more fun. The prisons will not allow heavily painted or glued on things, no ribbons and the other things we use to make our tags pretty. But I could adapt my prison tags idea to ones for Salty Sidewalks, and I have done that.
Cut-up boxes, junk mail, used greeting cards, gesso, paint, markers, pages from song books and old tattered Bibles, maps, and ribbons all come together for my tags. And as I am still doing for the prison tags, I can make lots of backgrounds, lots of printed words, and turn out a lot of tags.
The prison ministry has filled that ministry spot in my life and the tags for my ministry there, and for Salty Sidewalks has filled the creativity spot I so badly needed.
I never doubted God had a plan - just wasn't sure why or how - but He did, and I can only thank Him for the opportunities He has given me. As well as for finding the Salty Sidewalk community, and the support and love that is shared.
In the front of my journaling Bible is the Scripture Exodus 35:31-33:
“And He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills-- to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts”.
And this is my prayer for all of us-that God will inspire artists with creativity and wisdom that reflect God’s beauty; that they will seek God, and that their work will bring strength, goodness, and hope to others, and glory to His name".