He broke my heart for the people of Africa

Image: Debra Erwin missionary for Africa. Debra taught the people of Africa how to make jewelry.

Debra Erwin missionary for Africa. Debra taught the people of Africa how to make jewelry. (Cindy Sutherland)

For nine years Debra Erwin was a missionary in Africa. You ask how did she come to Italy, Texas? Due to some health challenges Debra had to come back to the states and live with her son who resides in Frost. She realized it was going to take more time than she realized to bring her back to good health so she found a place to rent in Italy and is waiting until she can go back and help the people of Africa again.

Erwin was raised in Colorado. So, how do you go from Colorado to Africa? The church she was attending was needing volunteers to go on missions to Russia, Mexico and Africa. Some of her church friends kept telling her she should go. So, finally kicking and fighting she agreed to go but only to Mexico. By the time she agreed to go the church had all the volunteers they needed for Mexico. They really needed volunteers in Africa.

At the time Debra smoked and had a severe fear of flying. She could not imagine having to fly eighteen straight hours to Africa and hey, when could she smoke? Could she be that long without a cigarette? And it cost three thousand dollars to go and volunteers had to pay their own way. She had no relatives she could ask for help for her ticket.

Erwin’s prayer was, if you really want me to go on this mission you will have to provide the money, take away my smoking habit and make it an easy and smooth plane ride. Well, needless to say money started coming in from all different sources, one down, two to go. The next thing she had to conquer was her smoking habit. A friend told her to have faith and let go of the cigarettes. And every time you have a craving repeat, “Who the Son sets free, is free indeed.” In one and a half months she kicked the habit and has never picked up a cigarette again.

Debra’s flight to Johannesburg, South Africa was smooth and easy-just what she asked for! Once there she began helping the adults and the children. For her first year and a half she helped to open up three foster homes for abused children and children that lost parents to starvation and AIDS.

Before she went on her mission, Debra bought books on jewelry making and taught herself how to make jewelry. Her thought was she could teach them and they could sell the jewelry. Part of her mission was to teach the people how to be independent and self supportive.

The next year and a half she was with an organization called Jewels of Hope. This organization taught the children how to make jewelry. The children would make the jewelry and then it would be inspected to make sure it was good enough to sell and they would attach it to a card that told their individual story with their picture on it. The jewelry is sold in Australia, New Zealand and the United States and eighty percent of sales goes back to the kids. The kids get a paycheck to pay for schooling, food, clothes and so on. Debra said, “Some of these kids by the age of ten are the heads of their households. Many of the young women we helped are single moms and this program gave them pride in themselves to be able to help provide for themselves and their families.”

All in all Erwin had volunteered in six countries, Africa-Johannesburg, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Zambia and Lesotho. She can’t wait to go back. She is currently making and selling jewelry to support herself and ten percent of her sales are donated to Jewels of Hope Foundation for the African people. She can’t wait to go back, she said, “God broke my heart for the people of Africa and I can’t wait to go back, that is where I belong.”

If you would like to purchase some of Erwin’s jewelry call: 972-921-3772. Or if you would like to know how you can help the children of Africa go to the Jewels of Hope website.