Every great work always has a special beginning…
The TESFA Story begins with a story about my friend… She was beautiful inside and out — confident, poised, mother to three athletic, strong-willed boys, a wife to a husband she cherished, kind-hearted and compassionate — and most importantly, the love of Jesus filled her heart. In February 2011 she received a diagnosis that shocked us all…LUNG CANCER. She had never smoked a day in her life and had always maintained a healthy and active lifestyle. She had had a dry cough that continued to linger and in typical Patti Arn form, she pushed her way into, and through, the doctors for them to take a deeper look. Her family, her friends, not even Patti, was prepared for the news and the months that followed as she and her family (she often referred to them as Arn’s Army) warred with this ugly disease. Patti lost her battle with cancer on July 19, 2013, just a few minutes before midnight. She left behind a loving family and friends who continue to remember her.
The Sunroom Sisters
Because of Patti’s illness, rigorous treatments, and wanting to carefully manage every moment of her life, she resigned her position at the Mercantile in Portland, Oregon. Each day was focused on getting well and “what mattered most.”
For Patti what mattered most was her husband, her boys, her Jesus, and helping others. Several years earlier she had added a sunroom in her home and found it to be a place of peace for her as she prayed and read devotionals each day. She would often talk about her special moments with God in her sunroom. Patti, and a small group of friends, also met together as a table group at Ladies Bible Study and committed to walk with her through her illness and pray with her for healing. I am not sure how it happened, but our group named ourselves Her Sunroom Sisters. Deep friendships were forged as we prayed, encouraged and at times cried together. Patti attended our group faithfully each week, even when some mornings were met with sickness and exhaustion. As Her Sunroom Sisters we would often text Patti and always close the text with a Sunflower image. When we sent flowers or gifts we would include a Sunflower. The Sunflower became our “thing” and a symbol of our hope and love for her and for each other.
Patti fought a tremendous fight to get well and would often say to me, “Help me talk about something other than cancer.” She had a tender heart towards what I would call, “the suffering innocent” and was particularly interested in helping the poor. At the time Petros Network was planting church communities in remote areas in Ethiopia that were far from basic services and clothing or food markets. People were coming to Jesus in the thousands but living in extreme poverty and struggling to meet basic life needs such as feeding their families, scrounging for clean water or shelter, providing education for their children and obtaining even minimal health and medical needs. Patti would often say to me, “What are WE going to do about this?” I loved her spirit and we began to talk and dream. With the help of our Ethiopian partners we selected 12 widowed women to receive seed grants, some relief funding, and education and lifeskill training. We didn’t have a name, we weren’t even sure what we were doing, but we began to brainstorm the idea of a center for women and creating a product the women could handcraft to change their futures. Although a foreign context, Patti was well equipped for this new task and wanted to use her gifts in a significant way. Historically, she had been very successful in the fashion industry as a buyer and merchandiser. We prayed she would be well enough to go to Africa in November.
But, cancer was getting the best of Patti, and on July 19, 2013 Patti Arn went to be with Jesus…
Today I can still hear her say, “Linda, what are WE going to do about this?”
By The Way…Do You Know About The Sunflower?
Little did I know, the Sunflower is a very special flower and has significant meaning as we remember Patti and expand The TESFA Project.
Sunflowers are annuals with showy, daisylike flowerheads that are usually 2-4 inches across and bright yellow blooms. They are grown as a crop for their edible oil and edible fruits/seeds. There are so many correlations to the Sunflower and mission of The TESFA Project I could write for days. But one thing I want to make sure to mention is as the Sunflower matures and actually begins to die, it produces hundreds of healthy, life-sustaining seeds that are considered one of healthiest snack foods you can find. For more information on Sunflowers see the Farmer’s Almanac or learn about the benefits of Sunflower seeds here. The Sunflower is an amazing flower!
For a season we enjoy the beauty of the blooming sunflower, but in its death we are provided hundreds of seeds that have the ability to sustain us. In honor of Patti Arn we have used the Sunflower as the inspiration of The TESFA Project logo. May all of us live our days so that the seeds of our lives live on as a living legacy!
TESFA Means HOPE in Amharic
TESFA means HOPE in Amharic. When we say The TESFA Project we are saying The HOPE Project or The HOPE Center. Our dear Patti was a warrior of hope and even though she didn’t feel well herself, she always had an encouraging and hopeful word for friends and the medical teams that supported her.
Continuing the Dream…
Today The TESFA Project has grown into more than we ever expected. In Fall of 2017 we opened The TESFA Center which includes a women’s medical center and areas for special needs children and local product creation. We also have a Guest House, garden and cow fattening business on the grounds.
We are constantly morphing and improving ways to reach and empower desititute women. Our results are inspiring land has been secured and plans are being considered to build The TESFA Center in Ethiopia. A team of courageous women have joined forces to assist with developing curriculum, creating merchandise, and expanding The TESFA Project not only to Gojo, Ethiopia but with God-willing, throughout the remote villages across Africa. The original 12 women we launched as a pilot group have been very successful and have provided the research and momentum to add hundreds of women into our program.
On Tuesday, September 12, 2014 we launched The TESFA Project to Portland, Oregon. We took special care to pause and remember our friend, Patti on this significant day.