Of all the pieces of jewelry I have, this cross and the one my mom had are the ones that have the most meaning to me. They were made by the Maasai in Arusha, Tanzania. Growing up in Vancouver, WA, USA, one of our pastors had lived in Arusha when his parents were missionaries there. Our church, even though that was the only connection we had to anyone in Africa, felt part of the lives of the people in Arusha and they felt like we were part of their lives. When I was in high school, there was a famine there. The people in Arusha, like others across Africa, couldn't grow the food they needed and couldn't graze their cattle. The people of our church started raising funds to buy truckloads of corn to send, as a Lenten discipline (instead of giving up something, it was giving something). The first year, when the corn got to them, they were so thankful that they sent back a huge manila envelope full of these crosses, one for every person who had donated to the corn fund. Our church voted to raise money the next year during Lent as well, and got other churches in the area involved. Once again, the Maasai people sent back these crosses. They are made by the women of the tribe, and both men and women wear the beaded jewelry. The backing is cow leather.
I wear my Maasai cross every Lent to remember the people in Arusha. There is now a school for girls there and several other churches have missions connected with them, too.
When I was a freshman in college, one of my friends was a native guy from Kenya. One day at lunch, he was telling everyone stories of customs "back home." He told a story about a wild boar hunt. At the end of the story, he looked around the table and said, "All that was true except for one thing. Guess what it was." I was wearing the Maasai cross, and pulled it out from underneath my jacket. Anthony's eyes got wide and he couldn't speak for a minute, then he told everyone that the thing that was not true about his story was that it wasn't a wild boar. His tribe doesn't hunt boar, but the Maasai do. He asked me about the cross, and I told him the story. He thanked me on behalf of the people of Africa as a whole for caring and for contributing.
I then told him another story connected with the Maasai in Arusha. After the second year that we raised money for corn, our church burned. As soon as our friends in Arusha heard, they set up a collection for our church to help pay for rebuilding! In acknowledgement and remembrance of their gifts and sacrifices to help pay for a roof for our new building, the sanctuary at our church has inlaid ebony in the cross, font, and altarpiece. The font basin and pitcher have native designs and were made by our pastor's brother, and the communionware.
I used a template & an element from “Craft Fair” by The Cherry On Top, 3 papers from “Craft Fair” by the GingerBread Ladies/ADB Design/Jumpstart Designs, an element from “Bring On Spring” by the GingerBread Ladies/Kristmess, and an element from “Fresh Start 2020” by the GingerBread Ladies/LDrag Design. The font is “Christina.”