“I have been working in Carry 117 for almost 2 years now. I’m thankful for the woman that I get to work with and the amazing relationship I have with them. I am thankful that I now have a life that isn’t full of ups and downs, and I have a lot fewer worries. I’m thankful to those special people in my life who support me.” Meseret
“I’m thankful for the skills that I have learned from my job and the relationship I have with everyone that I work with. I am also thankful forthe fact that I am healthy and that I can actually work.” Haregeweyn
“I have been working in Carry117 for the past 4 years now, and I’m thankful for my job because I love what I do. I can support my family through what I earn and I am thankful that I get to learn how to make beautiful bags. I’m thankful for the amazing and talented people I get to work with each day and I’m really thankful for Heni.” Ayni
“I have been working in Carry 117 for 7 months now, and I’m thankful that I have a job which is right in my community. I am thankful that I get to take good care of my child, and I am thankful for the amazing woman I get to work with.” Mesekerem
“I’m so thankful for all the blessings that God has given me and thankful for the freedom that I get at Carry 117… the freedom to explore my talent and be who I want to be. I’m thankful for the relationship I have with the woman at Carry 117 and that we treat each other like family . I’m thankful for my job as a supervisor because I love what I do now! I am also thankful for all the skills that I have learned at Carry 117 and the fact that I am now able to make these beautiful bags. I’m thankful for the amazing people that God has placed in my life people like Heni and others.” Medi
“I’m thankful for all the blessings that God has given me through Carry 117. My life has been different the day I started this job and I am thankful for it. I’m thankful for my Carry 117 family and for Heni.” Alem
After the Carry 117 Mission Trip came in January of this year, and I heard about the idea of having Carry 117 House Parties, I couldn’t quite predict how it was going to be. I had never gone to one of these things before, because we don’t really have something like that in our culture. So I thought it would be a small thing. I wasn’t sure how many people it would reach, if it would be worth it because there would be people from all over the country reaching out and we would need to deal with shipping and communication and small sales, etc.
Typically, I lean more toward bulk sales; they are usually what draws my attention because they are easier to manage. So I wasn’t sure how having these small House Parties was going to turn out. But, on the Carry 117 USA Tour this year, I got to experience my first House Parties and they actually blew my expectations out of the water. They turned out great, and I feel so encouraged and excited.
During the House Party we took a little time to share about Carry 117. You know what I loved? I loved that we had video footage of Korah. I love that we gave a visual perspective. Even before we spoke, we played them a video that showed Korah and what it looked like and what the people looked like. They were tuned in. It really helped people connect to the words we were sharing. We talked about what we do, what the name means, where Carry 117 is located. They asked great questions like, “where do the profits go?” These questions led us to prepare even more for upcoming House Parties. It was a great atmosphere.
We made more money than we anticipated. But that wasn’t the only reason it was a huge success. Actually, the best part of the House Party was NOT the money. It was the people at the party. We made some incredible connections and contacts.
For example, we had a woman sign up on the spot to host another party.
Another lady who owns a boutique and wanted to talk about carrying our product.
And ANOTHER woman who wanted us to come speak at her school for a student/parent event.
It seems like the rippling effect will be amazing.
I think House Parties are going to take Carry 117 to another level.
I am super thankful for the USA Staff, for coming up with these amazing ideas: House Parties, 117 Mission Trips, and things like that. I have been so surprised in the best way with the outcomes.
I would love to invite anyone reading this to have a House Party. We would be honored to come to your home and share with your circle.
My husband and I had been to Ethiopia in 2010 to adopt our son, Ade. We instantly fell in love with the country. The people, the culture, the atmosphere, the way they love each other and others. We knew immediately that this place had captured our hearts.
I am a stay at home mom with four kids. As a stay at mom, sometimes, you struggle with the question “what is my purpose?” Yes, I know my purpose is to raise my kids and to take care of my husband and my family. But outside of that, there has to be something more. When I stepped off of that plane in Ethiopia and smelled the smells and heard the sounds, I started crying and I said to myself, “I’m home.” I am not a traveler in the least bit. I am a major homebody actually. So this was very unusual for me.
We returned home with our son, and a year later I went back to Ethiopia with a group of people from our kids’ school. It was then that I met one of my best friends in the world. The moment I met Henok, it only took one look into his eyes to see the person he was. To see his passion, his heart for Jesus, and his heart for others. I was instantly inspired by the person that he was, and that helped me realize what my purpose outside of my family was.
I spent that week with Henok—watching and learning from him was so much fun and extremely eye-opening for me. I couldn’t wait to get home to tell my husband all about him and Habti (our driver). I continued to go back for the next three years and my friendship with them grew stronger and stronger.
I knew that my husband had to come meet them and that our non-profit, Orphan Free, had to partner with Carry 117. Orphan Free is focused on adoption funding and family preservation, and Carry 117 is also focused on family preservation! So in October of 2014, Joe flew to Ethiopia to meet these guys he had been hearing about for four years! He felt like he already knew them. I told him, “You will probably only have to spend two minutes with them before you will know that this is what we are called to do. You will see Henok’s heart and you will know.” Well, he called me within 15 minutes of meeting them and said, “You are right. I love them and we are definitely partnering somehow with them.”
We have been so blessed by Henok and Carry 117 and all they have accomplished. I am so proud of them. I love seeing the pictures of them and the smiles on their faces and the family-centered atmosphere that Henok has created. That is one of the things I love so much about Ethiopia: their value on the family. Americans could learn a lot from them, especially when it comes to slowing down and taking time for our families. Henok and Habti have taught me a lot about being a family and for that I will be forever grateful.
Henok and Habti have been with me through some of the best times of my life and some of the saddest times of my life. They have walked with me to see my son’s family again and they have rejoiced with us when we brought our son back to see his family. They have been there when we have received devastating news about his family. They have helped me when I have been deathly sick. They are more than just best friends, they are family.
When you go across the world to serve, it can be easy to get so caught up in who you are serving that you miss a chance to build a relationship with the people you are serving with. The people you are shoulder-to-shoulder with as you are serving others. Had I focused on who we were serving more than who I was serving with, I would have missed the opportunity to build these relationships that I treasure so much. So that’s my challenge to you… to invest in the people you are serving with.
I first met Henok five years ago. Traveling with educators, parents, and students from the Christian school where I teach kindergarten gave me a front row seat to watch God work in and through His people in Ethiopia. As a translator and friend to our team leaders, Henok was helpful, kind, and gracious as he patiently answered our never-ending questions.
Our first opportunity to “minister” came when we visited an organization in Korah. We played with the children who lived around this compound, which employed women living in Korah next to the trash dump. Children seemed to come out of nowhere and quickly outnumbered our team. It didn’t take long for shy smiles and hand-holding to break the language barrier. The children seemed as curious about us as we were eager to meet them. Soon game playing began paving the way to later hugs as we left their circle to join the women inside the compound.
We made our way inside the structure made of mud walls, pausing a moment for our eyes to adjust to the dimly lit space. More shy smiles greeted us. Beautiful praise and worship songs accompanied skilled fingers rolling clay into beads and weaving thread into scarves. I will never forget the joy radiating from many of the women as they sat working together.
The local pastor began to share stories. AIDS had created the widowed status of many people living in Korah. One woman later told me through interpretation, she lived “in fear of getting the sickness.” Other stories revealed a life of begging and relying on trash from the dump for survival before the opportunity to earn money to pay rent and buy food for their children. Many were separated from their husbands who’d gone off to find work and they lived with anxiety mixed with hopeful anticipation of their return.
I have been a kindergarten teacher for many years; I love children. But that day God knit my heart to the heart of these mamas. Upon return to the states I shared their stories many times over and prayed for them throughout the year. I was grieved when I learned this ministry had been shut down the next year, but I was overjoyed when I learned Henok had begun Carry 117.
Fast forward three years to when I returned to Ethiopia. It was my first visit to Carry 117. I was beyond excited to enter this new compound and meet the first employees; women whom God had tendered my heart toward three years earlier. Children greeted us as they had before but only a few. They played games outside the rooms as we visited with their moms. Pretty flowers stood outside to greet us, beckoning us inside for some beautiful God-ordained moments.
My sister and I, along with a few friends, had written notes to encourage the women, letting them know that God continued to bring them to our hearts and minds in prayer. It was an unspeakable privilege to share those notes and pray over them. I couldn’t help but be reminded of when the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians saying, “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart…” The love I had for these women came straight from God’s Spirit and aligned our lives in partnership through prayer.
As we embraced, I noticed that Alem, the cook at Carry 117, was wearing a child on her back. She had requested prayer for her children and I assumed this was one of hers. I was surprised and humbled to find out later that she was carrying the child of a co-worker so her friend could continue working. This beautiful picture of Alem physically “bearing one another’s burdens” deepened my desire to lift some of their burdens spiritually through prayer.
I have just returned from my third trip, with two years passing between visits. I’d read about the exciting opportunities God had given Henok and Carry 117 to expand and move to a new compound. We discovered the road leading to the new facility was too rocky for our van to traverse so we parked and finished the way on foot. With each step, I anxiously scanned the path before me and the horizon ahead of me for the first glimpse of God’s faithfulness.
It didn’t take long for the new two-story facility to come into view. Like a beacon of light in the darkness, this structure stood like hope rising in the midst of discouragement. My favorite scripture came to mind, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Henok and his team have brought this scripture to life as they have been obedient to Isaiah 1:17… “Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.”
Will you join me in championing Henok, these women, and this cause with your prayers?
“As I am reflecting on today, we had a SHOUT meeting after school and Miss Bohinc talked about her experience in Ethiopia, Africa. This changed my life completely. She shared pictures that took my breath away, and shared heartbreaking stories. This made me feel a little selfish, having so many clothes and shoes and family, where children there are orphans, have no shoes, and are begging for someone to pay attention to them. I hope I can get involved in the future, and go on a mission trip to Ethiopia someday. I never would have thought that hearing about this today would have as great of an impact on me today, but somehow I just feel like this is something I want to do.”
I have said a lot of “somedays” while talking about Ethiopia since the day I wrote this journal entry in eighth grade.
“I’m going to go to Ethiopia someday!”
“Someday, when we get to go to Ethiopia together…”
“When I’m in Ethiopia someday, I can’t wait to…”
“One of my life goals is to go to Ethiopia someday.”
But tomorrow, that “someday” is here. It’s really happening and I cannot believe it!!!!
For close to seven years, getting on a plane and going to serve in Ethiopia has been this idea in my head. And tomorrow, this idea in my head becomes a reality that I have been dreaming, hoping, and praying about for the last 2,520 days (since February 3, 2011 to be super exact.)
This is so surreal.
I’ve heard so many stories about people and places and teams in Ethiopia. I’ve seen so many pictures of the people I cannot wait to meet and places I cannot wait to visit this week. I’ve sent many friends off on their own trips to Ethiopia. I’ve heard just how long the flight to get there may seem, especially if you can’t sleep. I’ve learned words and numbers in Amharic, one of the languages of Ethiopia. I’ve tried (and love) Ethiopian food and coffee. I’ve learned more about Ethiopian culture. I’ve made friends who are from Ethiopia.
Somehow through the years, I’ve grown to love this place, these people, and this ministry with my whole heart from across the ocean.
And wow, what a week this has been leading up to this trip as I have been preparing and processing and packing (and repacking…and organizing the repacking). I have been left without many words to describe all that I’m feeling. These feelings are heavy and they are big, in the best possible way. And honestly, it feels surreal that this is even happening.
This week, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the years I have waited to finally be able to go to Ethiopia. In those seven years, I see so clearly how God has not only changed my heart, but He’s changed my life. It’s a little overwhelming to think about how different my life looks today than it did the day I first wanted to go to Ethiopia. To now be able to see God’s hand at work in my life so clearly over those years, and to know that He has used it to prepare me for this very trip, is the biggest gift. Once again, I am left completely undone.
Honestly, I know this is the very trip I was meant to be on as my first. Why? I have no idea. I am praying and trusting that this week and in the time following our return home, God will continue to show me why, and that I will be open to seeing it. I’ve been reminded of a lot this week, but I think what I’ve been reminded of time and again is how faithful God is. I’ve been reminded when God puts something on your heart, He will absolutely make a way and see it through completely. I have been reminded that the dreams and plans I have for my life pale in comparison to what God has planned for my life. And I’ve been reminded that there is so much for us to discover in the “waiting.” In the waiting is where we discover more about who we are and who we were created to be, and it’s where we are able to lean into God, trusting him deeper and knowing him more. That’s what makes me grateful for the waiting.
I don’t know what or when your “someday” is… but I encourage you not to miss the waiting. It’s preparing you.
Tomorrow, my “someday” is here.
This eighth grade dream of mine is about to come to life.……
We asked the ladies of Carry 117 what they were most thankful for this year… this is what they said:
“I am so thankful for what I have learned at Carry 117. Even though almost every one is younger than me, I get to learn a lot from them. I am especially thankful for Medi’s jokes. My Carry 117 family keeps me alive. Over the last year on staff here, I am learning that life isn’t just about money… it’s also about giving and receiving love.”Etanesh
“I am so thankful that I have all my kids with me. I am thankful that my daughter Selam got in to a new private school, which is much better for her. So thankful for the self-esteem that I have been able to acquire, for the salary increase that I got, so thankful that I am able to cook for my friends here at Carry 117. For having Etanesh and Meseret, my friends, join me here… they are so amazing. It’s an awesome thing to see them thrive and I am so happy to have them here with us.”Alem
“I am so thankful that God provided us with a new compound! It’s such a great environment and we are able to make products with such a good quality. I am also thankful for the new house that I got for me and my son. It’s much better and much cleaner. Also I am thankful for the new skills that I have. Now I know how to do every thing from scratch, which I wasn’t able to do before I got here. Lastly, my son Yabsira came the top of his class and I am so thankful for that.”Medi
“I am thankful that my daughter Misgana is in kindergarten now and is doing well. She is such a healthy and happy kid. I am also thankful that we at Carry 117 are now being able to make leather bags, and make beautiful new designs. And I am very thankful for our new leather sewing machines at Carry 117.”Aynalem
“I am thankful to be part of the Carry 117 family this year. It’s such an amazing place. I have a family that cares for me and that are here for me all the time. I am so thankful that now I have a job and I am supporting myself and my family with my income.”Meseret
“I am so thankful that I am graduating in a month from school with the highest grade in my class. I am hoping to continue more with my education. I am also so thankful that we were able to serve our community when they where going trough a difficult time (trash landslide). I am thankful that we as a team got to encourage our friends and help them walk through the difficult times.”Misikir
“This year I am specifically thankful for my family and friends who are so encouraging – not just in my personal life, but also when it comes to work. I feel like the most blessed guy in the world to have friends like Eyob, Sami & Yili who are always checking on Carry 117 & the ladies & the Guest House and guests when I am traveling or overwhelmed with so many things on my to-do list. Additionally, I am thankful for my family and friends in the US – everything we do really is a combination of everybody’s work. I am so thankful I have so many people to love me and care for me and encourage me. I am thankful for the women we have been entrusted with. It’s not an easy job for them. Every day they are trying to learn and grow. Thankful for their patience and for everything that they do. They are growing in their production skills. It takes years to learn how to sew leather. Actually, it takes a college degree to learn to sew leather, and these ladies are teaching themselves and teaching each other. Thankful also to see their self-esteem growing. Thankful when I hear them joking around and laughing with each other one minute, and cheering each other or praying together the next. And lastly, I am most thankful for Jesus. I am thankful He chose me to do this. I feel so honored He trusted me with this ministry. He gives me the courage and the means and all that I need to keep going. He really is my provider.” Henok Berhanu
And it’s taken us a few years to get to the point where our sewing skills are advanced enough to make something beautiful out of it.
The major export products of Ethiopia includes coffee and leather goods.
In fact, did you know…
“Ethiopia possesses one of the world’s largest livestock populations with a 57,829,953 cattle population that puts the country first in Africa and sixth in the world. The nation is also third in Africa and tenth in the world with 28,892,380 sheep population in addition to 29,704,958 goat population which makes the nation 3rd in Africa and 8th in the world. The hides and skin supplied to the tanneries have reached 1.4 million cow hides, 6.7 million goat skins and 13.2 million sheep skins.” says Leather Industries Development Institute (LIDI) Corporate Communication Director Berhanu Serjabo.
Ethiopian leather is indigenous to Ethiopia, and with numbers like the ones we just read from the Leather Industries Development Institute, we see a bright future ahead of us.
When we as a company first started learning to sew, we used recycled burlap. It was cheap, but it was trendy (at least here in the USA it’s considered trendy). However, it was very difficult to find burlap that had been maintained to our standards, because in Ethiopia, it’s considered one of the poorest materials. There, it is usually only used in the concrete making process, so nobody really takes care of it.
But when it comes to leather, people have a totally different mindset. Leather is considered the top-level material you could possibly purchase. Additionally, not everyone who sews can sew leather. It takes advanced skill and precision. And if you say you sew leather, you are more respected.
The ladies are proud of themselves and their work. To move from sewing material that is considered cheap and poor, to sewing bags made of the finest material in Ethiopia, has been quite an accomplishment for the ladies of Carry 117.
Our Leather Line currently includes:
The Korah Tote.
The Alem Clutch.
The Dopp Kit.
The Coin Purse.
The Credit Card Wallet.
The Passport Wallet.
The Snap Bracelet.
..and we have plans to add more products in the future. If you like them of course.
It’s been a journey to get here. And we are confident whoever carries our products is on a journey as well….
Check out all our Leather Line products on our ETSY store… and if you purchase… be sure to post a picture of you on your journey with your bag…. with the hashtag #wherewillyourstakeyou and tag us @Carry117!
Honestly, I’ve been hearing about Ethiopia for quite awhile now. My sister-in-laws visited for the first time when I was dating my now-husband. I saw the pictures. I heard the stories. It mattered, but it didn’t really change anything for me.
Five years later, I met Henok. He sat across from me at a kitchen table and told me about Carry 117. It all clicked. I learned about his process, his vision and his hopes for the company. As I listened, something changed. There’s just something about a story becoming real that ignites action.
I don’t feel like a particularly extraordinary person. I often feel like my skills have little to no impact on the world as a whole. I am not a Henok, or at least I don’t feel that way. And if I’m being honest, feeling that way gets in the way of me taking action.
How often do we feel like unless we have something substantial to offer, what’s the point? This is a lie. It keeps us complacent, immobile and ineffective. You have something to offer and so do I. It’s a matter of figuring out what that something is. For me, it’s writing and editing. That still doesn’t feel as significant as some other skills or gifts, but it’s what I’ve got. And isn’t that what God asks of us? Aren’t we supposed to use what we have for His purposes?
As 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 describes, the Christian family is a body with each person making up a different part of that body. Each part matters. We can be bummed we aren’t an eye or a hand, or we can own the part we are and offer it up to God to use.
I think often times we make volunteering too difficult. We want our skill to be snazzier or look more impressive. Don’t make this difficult. Offer what you have.
Meeting Henok and hearing for myself what God is doing through Carry 117 truly prompted me to do my part. This is the part I was designed to do. What part were you designed for?