First Baptist Church in Grapeland Provides Little Dresses for Africa

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – The Missions Team at First Baptist Church of Grapeland is working to help those less fortunate have a better life through their work with a program called “Little Dresses for Africa (LDFA).”

Debbie Kitchen, a member of the Missions Team, dropped by the offices of The Messenger earlier this week to discuss the FBC Grapeland efforts.

“I had seen this online several years ago and when our Minister of Missions (and Youth Pastor Larry Bogen) suggested we look around and find something interesting to bring to the church, I chose ‘Little Dresses for Africa.’ It was started in 2008 by a Christian lady named Rachel O’Neill who wanted to do something for the orphanages in Africa. Now, it’s all over the world. It’s not just in Africa. The mission has really spread out and gone to a lot of different places,” she said.

“What LDFA is – is a non-profit organization providing relief to the children of Africa. Ten other ladies and I have made 110 dresses in a couple of months. We send them to a distributor in Brownstown, Mich. where the LDFA offices are. From there, they distribute them to the teams going to the different locations all over the world,” Kitchen said.

She explained the LDFA organization also “… provides education about sanitation needs, they tell the people in Africa about Jesus and they also teach them the English language. It is a variety of things these teams go in and help with. Along with that, they take these dresses.”

“Most of these children are orphans,” Kitchen said, “because of the AIDS epidemic. A lot of them have no hope, they have no self-esteem and I think some of that is because they are little girls. I think their culture has a lot to do with that and the way they are looked upon. When they get these dresses on, it seems to change their whole life. It makes them feel like someone cares about them and loves s them because they them a dress. They are also less likely to be abused or kidnapped when people see them in these dresses because it appears someone cares for them and someone is watching after them – and also someone loves them.”

Kitchen added, “It’s not just about the dresses. It’s about hope. It’s about self-esteem and safety. It’s about so many other things. Their main idea is we’re just not sending dresses, we’re sending hope. That is their mission statement.”

She also explained people can get involved with the program at home. “You can sit at home and do this if you like to sew. One of the ladies on the team told me, ‘this has blessed me so much. It is something I can do.’ A lot of people don’t have the money to go on a mission trip or they may be afraid, but they want to do something. Well, they can do this. They can sit and sew and pray over this and it really makes a difference. That’s really what is in my heart. Anyone can make a difference and they can participate.”

According to the LDFA website, “Beginning as a grass roots effort, with a goal to take 1,000 dresses to a single village, LDFA has grown to numbers well over 4.5 million, with little dresses and ‘… britches for boys currently being sent to 81 countries in and around Africa.’  Collection and distribution points are now found all around the globe, changing lives here and across the ocean. Simple little dresses are sewn by volunteers all over the world and distributed personally by teams led by Little Dresses for Africa, sent with mission groups, and mailed directly.”

The website further stated, “As relationships are formed, needs are met by focusing on 3 areas: Our first focus is to provide a well to a community. Clean water serves a community with an average of 3000 people and saves lives immediately by increasing sanitation and providing clean drinking water.  It also decreases the amount of time children are required to spend in going great distances to carry water for daily needs and the temptation to draw water from contaminated streams because they are closer.  With the convenience of a nearby well, disease and sickness drops dramatically.

The second area of focus is primary education. “There is no doubt that education can change the future for children.  We focus on primary education because in our travels we noted that the very small orphans and child-headed families have a very difficult time in completing primary school if it is too far away.  The distance puts them in jeopardy due to safety issues along with it just being too difficult on small ones.  Students may not proceed to secondary school without a certificate of completion from the primary school.  Unfortunately, by the time older children realize the importance of education they are much larger than the primary students and embarrassed to attend.  A local school in the village will ease that burden,” the website stated.

“Our third focus is community.  For generations community has sustained the African people.  We find that providing a very modest place for the community to meet provides not only protection from the sun and also a place to meet during the rains, but can also serve as a feeding center, a place of worship and a place to host a mobile clinic.  Community is much more than friendship.  It is a way to sustain life by the sharing of information, resources and encouragement,” according to the LDFA website.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.