|Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford|
|A view of the SERRV store in the Annual Conference exhibit hall.|
Annual Conference director Chris Douglas has shared the following letter from the staff of Plowsharing Crafts, sent in response to the generosity of Conference-goers after the SERRV store suffered a robbery during the Conference. The store lost some $1,000 worth of jewelry merchandise, but donations given by concerned Conference-goers virtually made up for the loss.
At the recent Church of the Brethren Annual Conference in St. Louis, our locally-based fair trade store called Plowsharing Crafts worked together with SERRV on bringing the display of SERRV items to the Conference attendees. I am the manager of Plowsharing, and on behalf of our staff I wanted to have an opportunity to share with you about an experience we had at the Conference, and talk a little bit about grace.
Overall, we had a wonderful time at our display, and we enjoyed many conversations with the wide variety of people who came by our booth and who supported fair trade. Sales were very positive, and by extension, quite a number of artisans and their families in the developing world benefited from the purchases that occurred.
However, as the conference progressed, we were saddened to find that a substantial amount of items, over $1,000 in value and primarily religious jewelry (cross pendants), had been stolen from our display. This information was conveyed to the Public Security office at the Conference, as well as the Conference staff, and both groups worked with us on resolving the issue and finding the perpetrator(s). Unfortunately, we were unable to find who had done this, and get the items returned.
At the same time, Conference leaders shared this information with the attendees at several of the large gatherings, and suddenly we were overwhelmed by the expressions of regret and sadness that this had happened, and by financial donations to help us recover from these losses. Over $1,000 was donated by a large number of people, and our feelings of anger and dismay that this had happened turned to feelings of gratitude and loving appreciation for the concern that untold numbers of attendees conveyed to us.
We feel blessed that we met so many wonderful and caring people who responded to a negative situation in a caring and gracious way. It truly helped us restore within ourselves the sense of community and sharing that is essential to our common faith journeys.
May God bless and keep all of you.
Shalom, Rich Howard-Willms, Plowsharing Supervisory Manager