After she graduated from college, Hannah* could have settled into the normal rhythms of “adult life,” staying in her comfort zone.
Instead, she moved to urban South Asia to spend six months at Serge’s Freedom Bakery.
“I started baking with my grandmother when I was little,” says Hannah. “She had a stool and I remember standing on it and mixing things.”
Hannah has always loved to bake and has been interested in international missions work. In college, she began to develop a passion for justice for women as well. So when, Hannah’s roommate told her about Serge’s Freedom Bakery in South Asia, everything just started to click into place.
“So many women in my own life struggle with freedom and identity. Women’s rights have always been a big deal to me,” says Hannah.
“So as I began to be educated as to what is actually is happening in the world, whether its sex trafficking or female circumcision or slavery, I began to feel this burden for women having the opportunity. I didn’t want to just draw a red ‘X’ on my hand and post it to Instagram. I didn’t want to just talk about it. I wanted to be about it. I wanted to actually do something…
When this opportunity came up it just made sense for me. It combined my passions and intertwined them and that made me really excited.
The women who are employed at the Freedom Bakery are women have been exploited their whole lives but they are now being given an opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their families – while hearing about Jesus. I was like ‘Heck yeah! I’m there.’”
Since joining the Freedom Bakery for a six-month missions internship, Hannah has been thrown headfirst into the world of Business for Transformation.
She’s building relationships with the women, leading devotions, developing and improving recipes, training the women and staff to make new products, and generally being a steady presence in the kitchen, through love and genuine care.
“It’s been a constant battle of ‘What is my purpose here?’” says Hannah. “‘Am I even making a difference? Six months, does that even matter?’ Then I have to remind myself: these women matter, and me being here matters.
First and foremost, I want the gospel to be heard, and secondly, I want women to have a chance for a better life.
“The woman who’s standing in front of me, she has worth, she has value. And if we can enable her and empower her and educate her then her family is being empowered. We’re helping her, but the ripple effect of that is that, because of her job, her daughters might not have to be in the trade one day.”
The thing that I love most about Hannah’s story is that she has been able to take something she was passionate about, a seemingly mundane hobby, and use it for the purposes of building the Kingdom of God.
God can and does use our passions and skills for His purposes, even those we don’t expect to be redemptive at all.
For me, that was the coffee industry.
After college, I was struggling to make ends meet as a freelance writer, and ended up working part-time as a barista in a café bakery. I love coffee, but at the time, that job was just a way to make rent, my temporary means to buy groceries. Little did I know that several years down the road I would be using that experience to help build the coffee operations for a bakery to provide alternative employment for women seemingly trapped in the sex trade.
For Hannah, that was baking.
Baking was nostalgia, something she did with her grandmother. It was a way to express herself creatively and bring a smile to someone’s face. It was a fun way to make a few extra bucks in college. But then, suddenly, Hannah finds herself in a position where she can use her experiences as a talented baker to bring the gospel, training, and empowerment to some very broken women in a very broken city.
“Just be willing to do things,” says Hannah. “Don’t underestimate the skills and abilities that God has given you. And be willing to step out and to use those abilities. Because if you’re not, then what is the impact that you’re making?
I was just a college grad who baked some cakes for fun on the side, and now I’m getting to teach women who were in the sex trade for years and years, but now have a sustainable job and can provide for their families with what they’re doing. I think that’s how the kingdom of God works. He takes broken people and uses them.
There’s a passage in Hosea that talks about being a door of hope:
“And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.” (Hosea 2:15)
That’s something that I want to be for people.”
*Names have been changed for security purposes.