A timeworn church tradition each fall is the holiday bazaar and boutique, showcasing church members’ handicrafts. Sales generate funds to support special ministries and causes typically identified by women’s fellowships who organize the sales.
Yet some churches, in addition to or instead of those bazaars, turn their patios and halls into veritable global marketplaces, providing outlets for artisans from across the planet to display their distinctive, indigenous works.
Among the best-known is Ten Thousand Villages, a Pennsylvaniabased program that works with about 60,000 craftspeople in more than 30 countries to buy, collect and import their varied crafts to the U.S. and enlist congregations to provide sales opportunities and exposure.
"Village Harmony" is the theme of a sale 4 to 7 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 15 at Koinonia Mennonite Church, 2505 N. Dobson Road, Chandler.
"You purchase a gift and give it to friends and relatives, but it’s a gift that goes back to the people" in other countries and supports their families, said Hazel Kauffman, a charter member of the church founded in 1976.
Distribution of crafts to the larger world traditionally is a major hurdle for artisans in far-flung regions. Among Ten Thousand Villages’ goals are paying fair prices for handicrafts, offering goods that reflect and reinforce rich cultural traditions and promoting fair trade, responsible lifestyle choices and Christian ethics. Crafters working with Ten Thousand Villages are primarily in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
"Many would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed, and this income helps pay for food, education, health care or housing for themselves and their families," said Barbara Taft, a member of the church’s Ten Thousand Villages planning committee.
The organization estimates that $1,200 in U.S. sales of crafts can keep one Third World artisan employed full time for a year.
Mennonites make up a major portion of the American volunteer force at Ten Thousand Villages’ U.S. headquarters in Akron, Pa.
"I used to live in Akron, and I could see the warehouse from my office," said the Rev. Rich Sisko, pastor of Koinonia, who once served a Church of the Brethren congregation there. "We had people from our church who would volunteer over there to pack these goods."
Koinonia has hosted Ten Thousand Villages sales for about 20 years.
"I think the Mennonite Church really tries to be multinational or global in its approach to the Christian faith, witness and perspective," Sisko said. "We are trying to be aware of world needs, and Christmas is a time when we are very economically aware of all kinds of things," including those who "barely pull together an existence."
Kauffman said she is hoping for at least $1,000 in sales next weekend.
The nonprofit Ten Thousand Villages began in 1946 as part of the International Federation of Alternative Trade.