Dresses of Hope. That's where it all began for me. Two years ago I heard about a team from Mosaic Church preparing to go to the Dominican Republic, and something inside me sparked to life with a desire to collect dresses to send to the little girls in the rural mountain village where the team would be serving. Wanting to be bold and dream big, I asked God for one hundred dresses. Ha! He gave me a hundred and fifty! The enthusiasm of the girls receiving the dresses was so great that I determined to do it again for the next trip, with ideas for how to do it even better. One of the betters was to include others in the preparation as well as the donations. The blessing I got from preparing all those dresses for the 2011 trip was too much to keep all to myself again, so I solicited volunteers to help process the 181 dresses that were donated for 2012. We spent many hours making cards, doing minor mending, ironing out the wrinkles to make every dress look like new, and pinning a lovely card to each dress with a ribbon. Oh, and most important of all, we prayed over each dress for the girl who would receive it.
Lin making tiny bows to glue to cards
Cards for dresses
And more cards
Piles of finished dresses ready to send
The message handwritten inside each little card says:
"Little girl, you are precious to God. We pray that
every time you wear this dress you will remember
how much Jesus loves you."
That load of dresses was then divvied up among the team members for transporting in our suitcases along with other goodies that had been collected for little boys and for the clinic. We were instructed to plan one suitcase for our personal things and one suitcase for gifts we were taking.
It has been reported to me that the first year Dresses of Hope came to Pedregal it was disorganized and confusing, as those doing the distribution hadn't had time to figure out a systematic plan of action. From that first experience, however, Sharyn came up with a strategy that would smooth out the biggest bump in the process, which was how to keep someone from getting more than one dress while someone else got none. The word quickly spread that dresses were going to be given out on Monday at 3:30, and by 3:00 the porch of the clinic was crammed with expectant niñas and madres who appeared on foot from every direction like ants to a picnic. Mechi, the clinic secretary, stood in the doorway taking down names. Dozens of names. As the first page filled up with two columns of names she began a second page, quietly keeping the rambunctious crowd from bulldozing the door.
Waiting for dress giveaway to begin
Mechi taking down names
Meanwhile, Kristi and I wiped buckets of sweat from our brows while holed up in the tiny storage room, doing our best not to stumble too many times over the suitcases and bags overflowing with dresses, while we sorted and organized them according to size.
Staging area for dresses in the storage/exam room
When the piles were ready we hauled them out the back door to the gazebo where they were flopped across the walls for easy access when the gate was opened and the girls were allowed access to our free dress store.
Somehow Mechi and Sharyn managed to keep the crowd under control and permitted only a limited number of girls to go back to the gazebo at one time. Kristi, Debbie and I would quickly size up a customer and make a few selections til we found one that was a good fit and also to her liking, then send her on her way with a hug, a smile and a dress tucked under her arm.
Here they come
And so it continued for 45 minutes, at which time we closed shop for the day and learned that we had given dresses to 70 beautiful little girls.