Sifa Threads has been serving the practical and spiritual needs of at-risk Tanzanian women since 2013.
Before disembarking the plane, I paused like I always do when I arrive in Dar Es Salaam and took a deep breath.
A wave of familiar scents assailed me as I stepped onto Tanzanian turf: sea air, tropical vegetation, foreign spices.
This was my ninth visit to Tanzania. I can still remember my first trip in 2012, when my husband Jerry and I arrived just two weeks after our children, including ABWE missionaries Aaron and Stephanie Boon, got to the field. We found them doing what all first-term new missionaries do in a developing country with no connections: anxiously figuring out essentials like housing, transportation, food options, clean water, and internet without knowing the language or who to trust. All they could do was rely on God for wisdom and protection, utilizing their stateside ABWE training and applying a nervous sense of humor whenever possible to alleviate the stress.
The purpose of this trip, though, was not only to visit family but to observe God’s handiwork in one of the team’s ministries called Sifa Threads (sifa means “praise” in Swahili). Over the years, God has graciously allowed me to witness this ministry move from a God-placed burden placed on the hearts of three missionary women—our Stephanie, Shantelle Brutsman, and Beth Calmes (a BBFI missionary)—to an incredibly thriving reality.
Sifa Threads began in 2013. The setting was a makeshift, screened-in back porch “classroom” with two young Tanzanian women as the first students. Stephanie, Shantelle, and Beth crafted the curriculum to include biblical training, English, business and math, along with basic sewing skills.
Char poses with a group of Sifa Threads students on her latest visit to Tanzania.
Today, it is a two-year program with a fully functioning training center and at the close of 2020 has 12 locations around Tanzania. The school provides hope though the gospel to young, marginalized Tanzanian women who, left to the plight of their circumstances, face poverty, sex trade, dangerous health conditions, and no viable means to support themselves. While many organizations seek to employ women, Sifa Threads uniquely trains their students to employ themselves, removing dependence. The ministry involves sewing and artisanal and entrepreneurial skills as a means to share the gospel and conduct biblical discipleship.
I was there to witness and support Sifa Thread’s second annual fashion show—an energized event featuring this year’s students’ beautifully handcrafted clothing designs—and their subsequent graduation the following week. This mother’s heart was bursting with excitement, delight, and thankfulness at what the Lord has done.
Twenty-six Sifa Threads students showcased their clothing designs in front of a crowd of nearly 250 people during the ministry’s second annual fashion show.
But Jerry and I have been around missions long enough to know that it is not always celebrations and milestones. Every success or mountaintop experience from the Lord has countless moments of discouragement and seasons of stagnant ministry in its wake. To share the inspirational Sifa Threads journey without noting that it has also been purged with trials, frustration, conflict, discouragement, and tears would not be fair or accurate.
When ministry hits hard times, Christians and missionaries can find assurance in the fact that our Lord cares more about faithfulness than results, because “neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
Editor’s Note: Visit Sifa Threads for more information.
About the Author
Char Pelfrey serves as the coordinator for Sifa Threads ministry. She and her husband Jerry (Lead Pastor for Grace Baptist Church in Mason, Ohio since 1985) have four grown daughters: Tiffani, Stephanie, Brittany and Whitney, all who love and utilize their unique gifts to support the Sifa Threads ministry. Char enjoys music, church ministries, travel, hiking, diving, writing, and time with family.