17 April, 2024

Lydia’s Mission: Empowering Women to Impact Generations

by | 1 March, 2024 | 0 comments

By Laura McKillip Wood 

Jabulile started working at the dump in South Africa out of desperation. She sorted through the garbage to find plastic and other materials that could be sold or recycled to support her family.  

She tells of a time when she opened plastic bags and found they were all full of diapers. “They were so smelly,” she says, “and I was so nauseous, but I had to do it because I knew at home I had such a bad situation. I knew I had to do it for my kids.”  

One day an American woman brought her trash to the dump. Jabulile and other women there surrounded her car, each trying to get the best and most valuable items from her trash. 

The young American woman, Claire Brown Kriel, was shocked at the conditions the women worked in; she felt God leading her to do something to help them. She tried to talk with Jabulile, but they couldn’t communicate because of the language barrier. Claire was determined to find a way to speak with the women. The next day, she returned with a translator. After hearing the women’s stories, Claire offered to visit every Wednesday to hold a Bible study for them. The ministry that would later become known as Lydia’s Mission was born. 

“At first, we were not very keen on it because we didn’t really think a person like her could come to a place like the dump,” Jabulile says. “We were confused but decided to give her a chance.” Over time, the women came to enjoy the meetings, and they began to find encouragement to face their problems. “This really has made a huge difference in our lives,” she says. 

A Growing Problem 

People in low-income areas around the world often go to landfills and garbage dumps to pick through the trash to find things they can sell or recycle. Needless to say, it’s not a lucrative endeavor, and they still struggle to provide for their families. The Bible study helped the women’s spiritual and emotional health, but what about their physical needs? Claire Brown Kriel began thinking of ways to equip and empower women to thrive in their lives, not just enable them to continue barely to survive.  

“We don’t want to be an organization that just gives, gives, gives. We want to be an organization that equips and teaches skills and resources,” Claire explains. She acknowledges there is a time to provide emergency resources during crises. However, Claire says she hopes “to set the women up for success for the future, even if Lydia’s Mission is no longer around, empowering them to make a brighter future for themselves and for their children or grandchildren.”  

Lydia’s Mission aims to help women break the cycle of poverty for their families.  

“Before Lydia’s Mission, our kids were starving because we as parents were also starving,” says one of the women employed by the ministry. 

A Dream to Empower 

Claire had very limited funds when she began employing these women. In fact, she could hire only one person at a time. She was honest in telling the women she could not hire everyone in the Bible study. The women chose the neediest among them to take the jobs as they came. Eventually all the women from the Bible study at the dump were able to work in the ministry. Today more than 35 South African women work full-time in Lydia’s Mission. The women are taught skills and discipled, and they have become change agents in their communities. They have gained self-confidence and are facing life’s challenges with strength. 

Lydia’s Mission workers do a variety of jobs. The ministry first started a sewing business, which teaches women to make stuffed animals that are then sold online and at craft fairs and events in the United States. Additionally, Lydia’s Mission has a large garden that covers over an acre of land. Women work in the garden and care for farm animals, providing income that makes that work self-sustaining. Some of the food produced goes to Hope Centers, where children from the community can eat at least one meal a day so they don’t go to bed hungry. Lydia’s Mission partners with local pastors who oversee those centers. They provide food, Bible education, funds for school uniforms, and medical screenings for the children. They hope to begin providing educational support, financial help for education, and medical support for children with special needs.  

Go Go Center 

During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lydia’s Mission realized older people in their community were becoming depressed and anxious. Their needs were not being met during times of isolation. Claire dreamed of creating a place where these people could receive medical care and food, and also be loved and cared for. In 2022, Lydia’s Mission built a center where about 75 older people gather to socialize and have some of their needs met. These “go go’s” are where grandmothers and grandfathers in the community can go daily to share their lives together.  

“It’s given them a purpose in life, and you can feel it there,” says Ineke, a nurse in the ministry. People attend Bible studies at the center and connect with others in the same situation. Ineke also provides basic medical care.  

“It’s so rewarding to know that we’ve done what we can to love the widows and love the orphans, showing them the body of Christ in action,” Claire says. 

Learn more about Lydia’s Mission at https://lydiasmission.org

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