Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, and as part of the morning worship service the children will distribute small palm crosses to everyone in the congregation. This is an annual tradition at Green Hill and at many other churches. Did you ever wonder where these crosses come from? They travel all of the way from Africa, and they have an amazing story:
African Palms was founded in 1965 by Father Alan Talbot, an Anglican priest, who served for six years as a missionary in Tanzania. Father Talbot observed the poverty of the people and sought ways for them to increase their income. He encouraged the villagers to begin weaving palm crosses to sell to churches for use on Palm Sunday. In 1976, the Women of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Olney, Maryland, accepted the mission of distributing the palm crosses to churches throughout the United States, and African Palms USA was born. It has become the major outreach of the church, with net proceeds from the sale of crosses, and now totes, returned to Africa in the form of non-denominational, self-help grants. Since its inception, African Palms USA has awarded nearly $2 million to African communities to help meet basic human needs such as clean drinking water, HIV/AIDS education, fighting hunger, and farming ventures.
The crosses and totes are made throughout the year in villages near Masasi, Tanzania. This is a cottage industry performed by families at home or while guarding the nearby cashew crop from baboons. The villagers are subsistence farmers augmenting their income in order to purchase household supplies and family needs such as school fees for their children or bicycles for transportation.
African Palms USA provides palm crosses to churches as well as schools, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, military facilities, bookstores, and church goods distributors for use on Palm Sunday and other special occasions, such as baptisms, mission trips, pastoral visits, and Vacation Bible School, or given as bookmarks, prayer reminders, and much more.