It’s my greatest joy to introduce you guys to a dear friend of mine who is doing a whole lot of good in this world. I met Kim Freeman many years ago at Fellowship Dallas where our husbands both served on staff. But I didn’t grow to really know Kim until an ocean separated us and I became the weeping blogger. (If you’ve been around here from the beginning, then you know what I’m talking about.) Kim and her husband, Jon are rearing five kiddos in Georgia, sorta living in the in-between time and as we all know, the in-between time is beautifully hard. But I’ll let Kim tell you about that and about the business she is running to bring hope to at-risk women and their families living in New Delhi.
Kim is this month’s What She’s Doing Now featured guest because her One Thing, Right Now is changing an entire community of women, one AshaBelle purchase at a time.
And through Friday, Kim is giving you guys 25% off any purchase using the code GIVEGRACE.
I recently lamented to a friend that I never know how much to say when I write our family newsletters and how I truly hate the process of doing them as we have been sending them out for years as we have changed cities, states and continents. Her advice– say it all. I’m not sure Lori wants me to say it all… well actually, she probably does, but I’m still processing, so here’s a slice of me being as real as I can be right now about a project I’m a part of that is dear to my heart.
I’ll start at the beginning. We moved to New Delhi over five years ago. And because it’s part of my story and I’m owning it, I’ll tell you that I went kicking and screaming. Not on the outside, of course, because that’s not what good Christian women do. No, I kept my hot mess of a heart hidden to most underneath a veneer of outward submission. But inside I was full of fear, anxiety, anger and resentment. During our seminary days I had told God anything, but when it came down to it, my anything had some exclusions. India apparently was one of them.
Now let’s hit the fast-forward button through a ton of tears, challenges and as slew of spiritual attacks and now, I look at the past five years in a way I never expected that I would. We have relocated back to the US recently, and even though I’m still raw and spinning, I look back at our time in India with a sort of gratefulness and peace that can only be attributed to the fact that God has held onto me, even when I didn’t know I was falling. And fall I did. Plenty of times. We all did. Because friends, life is hard everywhere. And tends to feel harder when you are thousands of miles away from familiar and it’s 115 degrees outside and your power just went out for the afternoon.
But this is not a story of falling, it’s a story of hope.
And we could all use a bit of hope these days, no?
So, for almost three years I stayed busy in my apartment in Delhi, adding children to our family and making a home the best I could. We found community with others at our church; I made friends with our vegetable guy and bought fresh okra off a cart in front of my house every day; I walked a few feet outside my door and had my nails done for $10; I cooked mostly from scratch and spent half a day making a meal, the other half was devoted to pest control and raising children. I lived a very small life in a gigantic city.
All the while Jon was out doing things and dreaming about the impact an influential church in Delhi could have for the kingdom and how business people could use their marketplace skills in exciting ways to be a light in a dark world. Then he went out and started a business while I wrote things and wondered what in the world God had in mind when he sent me to India. What was my place in this story he was writing? Because from my point of view it looked like I was permanently going to be stuck in survival mode for the next ten years or however long God had us in India.
Things had begun to shift in my heart, but India was still difficult for me in many ways. In early 2014 we were approached by our pastor in Delhi at the time to help put some business strategies for the income-generation project for women living in poverty that our Delhi church was doing. The project had been going on since 2006, but in order to grow, it needed to move in a new direction. I thought this was a great idea, but had no plans to be closely involved as there were already local leaders in place. Until one fine, toasty day in April when things changed. The two women that were leading the project called back-to-back to tell Jon they would no longer be able to be part of the project. The choice was now to either scrap the entire thing or someone else would have to take over. And that, my friends, is how I became the director of what I would later rename AshaBelle, because in Hindi, Asha (pronounced like Sasha without the “S”) and Belle means beautiful—a beautiful hope.
What AshaBelle does is we employ women from a local slum called Zakhira. The options for uneducated, impoverished women are few. These women have no voice, so they are often abused by employers, underpaid and overworked. Or they have to find a way to make ends meet by any methods they can. It is an extremely difficult life when you literally live day-to-day in a house that is usually smaller than most American bathrooms without access to a toilet that isn’t outside the neighborhood and across the railroad tracks.
Our artisans are hired and trained to create handmade jewelry and knitwear. I have a team of wonderful Indian ladies who lead the charge and offer mentoring, care, training and direction. We have been blessed with a manager that has a heart for helping the women grow not only in their job skills, but in their spiritual lives and has acted as much like a counselor as a production manager.
I am an English Lit person by degree and in no way savvy in the ways of marketing and selling products—in many ways I feel unqualified almost daily. I have always, however found great joy in designing and creating things, sharing stories and in empowering other women. So in many ways I can see how my past passions have prepared me for a present I could have never made up. Like never.
Our dream is to grow AshaBelle so we can make a larger impact in Zakhira. We support the efforts of the local church there that also provide medical assistance, adult literacy and scholarships for kids to attend school. And eventually we would love to be able to build proper toilets (can you imagine!) and provide childcare so our artisans can be confident their little ones are well cared for in their absence. These are big dreams that require more than we are able to do at the moment, but we know God is able to do these things and more.
This space here is all about loving your neighbors and being available to whatever God has for you. And I’m now even more convinced “our neighbor” is not only the lady directly next door, she’s also the one crying at night in a slum in New Delhi because her kids are hungry. Or in Africa. Or South America. And while we can’t help everyone, we can make small choices with our purchases every day that will have greater impacts than we can imagine in bringing hope and life and courage to women who have never known those things.
So that’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. That and the 11 month old who still sleeps in our room. What about you? What passions has God given you that have surprised you in whatever season or stage of life you find yourself in now?
Kim W Freeman is the wearer of many hats: a wife to Jon, mother of five, editor of IndiaAanya, writer and reluctant entrepreneur. She has a heart to see women grow in their faith and do life together in authentic community. Her perfect day would include cinnamon cappuccino, scones, rainy weather, aloo parathas and an inspiring conversation. When she’s not wiping noses, she haphazardly blogs over at her own place about life as a late bloomer. She currently resides in North Georgia with her husband and five little darlings. You can find her on Facebook here, over at AshaBelle here, Instagram here, and regularly contributing here.
*all photos property of Kim and AshaBelle