“I remember one day they announced at church that they start Salem Arts Exchange.
They said something about sewing. I never doing that. I asked someone to tell me more,” said Christine.
Four years ago and new to America, Christine found herself alone and jobless. Injured from her first job and with definite orders from the doctor not to work, she sat all day at home, worrying about her family and feeling hopeless. Her husband and children were still back in Africa and there was no timeframe for when they would be reunited.
“A button fell off my dress and I didn’t know how to fix it. In Africa, it is cheap. Here you pay a lot of money. Everyone wants money every hour,” said Christine.
A month in and hearing good reports from her friends, she decided to go to the Salem House.
“I want to learn how to fix my own clothes. I want to learn a new skill for my future.”
Her First Day
She was greeted by Anna and Trudi immediately when she walked into The Salem House. Anna and Trudi became her first sewing tutors.
“Anna is very special to me. My first day, I called ‘Anna, Anna….’ every few seconds. She was behind me the whole time. She helped me a lot. If Anna is on vacation, then I call ‘Trudi, Trudi…’” said Christine.
With a laugh, she reminisced about completing her first handicraft product – a pillowcase!
“I was so happy when I finished my pillowcase. After, I made many things. I made baskets, pencil cases, purses, bags.”
Her first few minutes with the sewing machine were rather unnerving. She stared at it and thought to herself, “I have time.” Nodding emphatically, she added, “If it’s hard, maybe I learn slowly, I have time.”
But then, once the lesson got going, her fears went away because she says her teachers showed her love.
A big smile spread across her face, “When I got there, it became easy because they showed me love.”
“I was alone in America. I worry about my family all day. It was a terrible time. But when I would go to Salem Arts, I’m not alone anymore. It’s like an answer to prayer.”
“One day, I was sick. A volunteer named Kris came to my home. She helped me clean my kitchen and do my laundry. I felt like I was back in Africa. Can you imagine?”
“I forgot my birthday one year. I was thinking about my family at home. That day, Anna called. She asked me to be with her family. Her son was going away to college and they want to celebrate. In Africa, I went out to eat at nice restaurants with my family. I never do that here. I felt like Anna was my family when I went into the restaurant. After, we drove around to see Christmas lights. So beautiful. I came home and realized it was my birthday. Wow, God loves me! He sent Anna to celebrate my birthday with me.”
“Sometimes, when I feel very bad and worried about my family, they will ask me for news. I share with them and they pray for my family. Can you imagine?”
A Valued Grace
Christine is reunited with her family now. She has healed from her injury and is working several jobs to support her family. Her children are in American schools, learning English and working hard. Her husband recently found a job as well.
“God used Salem Arts to teach me something valuable. Now, I know how to fix clothes for my family. He told me, ‘You’re not alone in America. I have other people for you.’ I will never forget those words.”