To our friends and family, supporters and prospective supporters: 

We have a confession. 

Over the last year, many of you have been following along with our journey. In fact, a handful of you have been with us from the beginning: through the research and writing phases of what has become After Trade. Yours have been the ears that listened to so many of our early ramblings. Yours have been the words of feedback and encouragement when we needed it most. Many of you sat through what seemed an eternity as we tried to put words to something almost unexplainable, those times when you were brave enough to ask our next steps, or what After Trade even is. You’ve followed our journey from Seattle, back to North Carolina where we chose to announce our plans to move to Tanzania. It began to feel more real as we stepped into the scary season of fundraising, with the realization that if anything could come of After Trade, we wouldn’t be able do it alone. Some of you invested right away. But all of you have had to bear with us in our attempts to ask for help. January marks one year of fundraising, and we’re still learning about what this looks like. 

Somehow during this year, we acquired a mentality that if we had to depend on others to believe in us and this work in order for After Trade to be possible, then we needed to convince you all that we know something, or that we have a grand plan.

We have worked diligently in our research to gather information on the realities of coffee, and expose it. Perhaps we’ve done a pretty good job at appearing to know something. All of which has not been in vain, as this has undoubtedly shaped and informed our hope for After Trade. But over time, we’ve become well-versed and well-rehearsed, creating an appearance of certainty in what we’ve come to know.

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Despite our research and apparent knowing, the reality is, we know nothing. In fact, the only thing we are certain of is our ignorance. 

With this confession, comes risk. For those who have already invested, you may regret your decision to be part of this work. Or perhaps for those who have considered investing, this confession will be the determining factor in your decision to not be part of this work. Today, few people want to invest in something that cannot guarantee premeditated, expected results.

But we are learning that to confess our ignorance is a step into faith. That ignorance is not always a bad thing; in many ways, ignorance can be a virtue. Indeed, there is much harm in going to a Third World country with an assumed knowledge and plan for development. 

Perceived certainty and expected results are predictable and safe. But uncertainty, and our admission of ignorance, opens a space for hope that calls us to action. 

Our willingness to admit our ignorance frees us to discover the fullness of what After Trade may come to be. And it reminds us that we can’t place boundaries around what After Trade is or isn’t because it is continually becoming with each supporter, and more importantly, with the joining of farmers and families in Tanzania that is forthcoming. 

There is a lot of unknowing in this work. We don’t know exactly what After Trade is going to look like. But we do know that the land, that is, Tanzania, exists. And that great struggle and much suffering among coffee farmers exists, and that it occurs both on and as a result of that land. But we aren’t going to Tanzania because we think we know something. Admittedly, we don’t know the first thing about what it takes to grow and cultivate the land or coffee. 

Instead, we are going because we have a responsibility to one another. After Trade is grounded in the hope of what relationships can do, our capacities to persevere together in the face of uncertainty. We are going because we have a desire to serve and a willingness to learn alongside farmers and families.

Confessions are meant to be heard, so we’re grateful for those who have taken the time to read our words. In moving forward, we hope you’ll continue to journey with us and be part of this work. 

// aftertrade.org

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