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Shoppe 561 Blog

Reflections on the Journey

Posted by Janelle Lang on

Customers come into the shoppe and tell me I am brave to open my own store.  Inside I respond with “brave – how about crazy”.  Deep down I know this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing. As I was responding to questions for an interview about Rwanda I was amazed at how the path that started there led me straight to Shoppe 561.

In light of the 20th anniversary of the Genocide in Rwanda I was asked by World Help to share my experiences in Rwanda and the role I had played in helping rebuild Rwanda. First, the role I play has been minor and I am humbled that they would even believe it was worth noting.

Do what you can do. Those words forever changed my life. The Bishop of Rwanda shared these words when we asked him how we could help after spending days observing the reconciliation process which at that point was 17 years after the genocide.


I fell in love with Rwanda like no other country I have visited for missions or pleasure. I left a piece of my heart there and I hope I never get it back.  When the Bishop shared his advice, I had no idea what my “do” was or would be. Later that night the foundation would be laid.  Cyrus who is the Director of World Help Africa was sharing at dinner that he had visited the Anglican Vocational School where women were learning how to sew. I immediately perked up and asked if we could go visit and buy what they were making. I could think of no better gift to take home than  hand crafted bags that were also helping many of the local widows.


I placed a personal order for 100 bags because I felt God saying take them back and start a scholarship fund with the donations from the bags.  Billboards were everywhere warning women about not believing what the men were saying or promising; Human trafficking was and is rampant in Rwanda. I didn’t want mothers to unwittingly sell their child into modern day slavery because they needed money to feed their family.  If the women had skills they could find work and support their family. That was my do what you can do.  Before you know it with the generosity of others and God challenging me to release my emergency fund because there are women in Rwanda who were having an emergency at that moment, we had raised over $7700, enough for 11 women to go to school.

One day the phone rings and it is World Help saying the pastor called and is asking for my blessing to use the funds for 10 women who have just been rescued from prostitution. The women all wanted to go to the Hospitality School. Tears of joy, lives forever changed. Never would I have imagined when I bought 100 bags it would lead to 11 women being able to receive an education impacting generations to come.


What started as asking friends to give bikes to pastors in Rwanda for Christmas or Birthdays in honor of family members turned into 40 bikes.  Forty pastors being encouraged every time they get on their bike that someone in America is cheering them on. When they use the bike as the ambulance to get a sick person to the hospital “do what you can do” may have just saved someone’s life.


My heart breaks as 200 precious schoolgirls from Nigeria have been abducted into modern day slavery. For many we don’t know how to help or what to do as it is on the other side of the world. Take the Bishop of Rwanda's advice  “do what you can do”. That might mean keeping it alive on social media, writing a letter, or holding a prayer meeting just to name a few.

This is the one thing I know to be true; if you wait for the perfect plan you miss out. Take and embrace the attitude of "what can I do today", and just do it. You have no idea the impact of "doing what you can do" will have on the world.



Opportunity to Help Rwanda

I currently have 27 of the handbags from the vocational school still available. I ended up with multiple shipments as other teams went and brought them back. Due to the fact they were not declared for resale I am unable to sell the bags in the shoppe. If you would like to make a donation of $25 or more I would love to give you a bag. Once all 27 bags are gone, we will have raised enough for one more woman to go to school.



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  • I’m in for $100. And yes the bags are beautiful and I am sure that four people who buy something at the Shoppe in the next day or two would love to carry their purchases out of your store in one of those beautiful, hope-filled bags…

    Deb Vander Bogart on

  • I would like to make a donation of $50….and….. the bags look terrific too!

    elizabeth paquette on

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