The idea of creating prayer scarves and using the profits came about through a convergence of ideas. I was visiting the beautiful state of Vermont for work, and while we were there, my family and I rented a cottage on the shores of Lake Champlain. Every day, I would walk beside the lake reciting words from Psalm 23 - "he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul". Suddenly the words "still water scarves" came into my mind, and I saw the concept of a beautiful scarf, a prayer scarf, with a verse from scripture and beautiful art work. I imagined the scarf being an expression of praise and a blessing for the person wearing it.
My walk around Lake Champlain
As I mulled over this idea, it connected with something that had happened earlier in the year, back in New Zealand. A visiting speaker had come to our church during mission week to tell us about his work with trafficked women for Tear Fund. I had been transfixed by his words and came out of the service with a compelling need to do something. I signed up to donate regularly, right away, but I felt something more was needed - though at the time I couldn't imagine what that might be.
Standing on the shores of Lake Champlain, I saw the connection: these scarves could be a way of raising money for organisations like Tear Fund who were working to rescue, protect, and restore trafficked people. The scarf would be a double blessing - for the person wearing it, and for a victim of human trafficking!
But when I got back to New Zealand, reality struck: how could I make scarves? I am a teacher - I'm not an artist or a graphic designer. I didn't know anything about manufacturing or importing goods or selling products. I didn't, in short, know how to make or sell a scarf.
I talked about this endlessly with my family. And then one day, my son said to me "you've been talking about this for long enough. Time to do something. Just set yourself a target to make ONE scarf this year, to see if you can do it. If you are meant to be doing this, doors will open for you".
So I set out to make a single scarf in 2019 - and just as my son said, doors opened. I had the idea that some of the scarves should showcase and celebrate New Zealand art: so I found images by New Zealand artists that suggested quotes from scripture. I contacted each of the artists on Facebook, asking if I might use their image and explaining what I was hoping to do. I thought "well, one of them will respond perhaps". Much to my astonishment, they ALL did! Their generosity was such an encouragement. Suddenly I was making 5 scarves in 2019.
One of the artists led me to a wonderful graphic artist, Tammie Grant, who did the work of putting the quotes onto the images. I located a company in China who could make the scarves and connected deeply with the young woman who liaises with designers, the lovely Louise.
I made one each of the scarves and took them to church for feedback after a service. To my amazement, I found myself surrounded by the women in my church, all delighting in the scarves and asking how they could buy one. Women were offering their services - to do the accounts, to be an administrator for the work. I was blessed by a local artist, Robyn Verdonk, coming on board as artistic director, bringing a whole range of skills to the concept, including a commitment to sustainable processes. Suddenly I was making not 7 but 70 scarves (10 copies of each design) - and even that proved not to be enough. By the end of the summer in 2019 and we had sold over 300 scarves.
For me, this process of creating and selling scarves has been an act of trust - of just taking one step at a time, relying on God's direction. My son, Edward O'Connor, who is a teacher of Christian meditation, describes our work with God as a dance: God plants an idea, and we take one step of obedience. He responds and we again take one more step. We are called, in my son's words, not to be passive observers, or to force something through our own volition; we are called to the dance. This has been my experience of developing these scarves. It has been an immense blessing in my life - and I hope it will be for you too.