By Jamie Shafer
Although Wendy Childress’ first visit to Colombia, South America, was short, its impact on her heart was lasting. On her blog she shares, “It all started in the summer of 2011. My oldest son, Caleb, and I went on a mission trip to an impoverished barrio nestled beneath the Andes Mountains in the heart of South America. That experience broke us. Completely.”
During their time there, Wendy and her son experienced the warmth of the people as they served in the community. She shares that experiencing the absolute poverty was hard, especially as a mother. Beyond the obvious need for adequate clothing and shoes for the local children, Wendy noticed even more basic needs like hygiene.
“For water, the slum area had one well—one small well for many people to drink from, bathe in, and wash clothes in. Lice and mange were running rampant.”
Most of the children had eczema and other skin irritations that would have sent many American moms running to the store for special soaps and creams. She was surprised to discover that the people in the community didn’t have access even to basics like a bar of soap. Or it was too expensive for them to afford.
Searching for Solutions
After returning home to Virginia, Wendy remained impacted by what she had seen and was struggling with how to respond. “My soul just wasn’t settled with the status quo life in North America. The Lord had placed a really strong burden on my heart.
“When I was little, I always dreamed of being a missionary,” she notes. “I thought I’d be in some far off land, living in the jungle. When I met Josh, we knew we were meant for each other. After we were married, our local church became our mission field.” She knew her first commitments were to God, supporting her husband in his ministry role, and to their three children. She began praying that God would show her what was next as far as reaching the world.
It didn’t take long for the ideas to come together. “I love all-natural remedies. I’ve always wanted to make soap using materials that God gave us. I started researching all-natural soap online. I learned not only does it help with sanitation, but it also helps with things like eczema without the need for creams because it doesn’t strip the natural layers of oil on our skin.”
Out of her research and prayer, the family-based company lávame clean was born. “Láva me” means “wash me” in Spanish. Wendy shares on the company’s website: “First and foremost, it is my fervent desire for lávame clean to help in every way possible in the spreading of the good news of Jesus Christ to the people of Colombia and abroad. He is our only true hope and salvation, and through him comes a complete cleansing of the heart and soul. Psalm 51:7 says, ‘Wash me and I will be whiter than snow.’”
Sending Good Gifts
For every bar of all-natural soap sold by the company, they donate another bar on the buyer’s behalf to an impoverished person who may not otherwise have access to soap. The soap was originally sent to those in need in Colombia, but Wendy says they have also expanded to Nicaragua, Africa, Ukraine, a Native American reservation in Washington State, and to the homeless in their Virginia Beach community (with the help of their home church, Kempsville Christian Church).
The other unique part of lávame clean is how the soap is distributed to those in need—it is always given through missionaries or via groups on short-term mission trips. “We send it through people. We didn’t just want to make a product and disseminate it around the world, but we always want it to go hand-to-hand, person-to-person in the name of Jesus. It’s not about soap. It’s about Jesus Christ.”
When asked how God has blessed her family through this company, Wendy replies, “To craft a humble bar of soap simply using the hands God gave us, knowing all the while that this same bar will be delivered—in Jesus’ name—into the hands of a person desperately in need of sanitation and hygiene? This privilege alone is the embodiment of joy. To God alone be the glory for all of these good gifts.”
Learn more about lávame clean.
Jamie Shafer is the communications director at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. She and her husband, Eric, have two children.