Shopping with Connie Rock

September 29, 2016 0 Comments

For some people, shopping is a necessary inconvenience. For others, it’s a hobby. For Connie Rock, it’s an extreme sport.

Nothing is off limits for Connie. She was raised in Bolivia and will barter with everyone, even if they aren’t selling.

Case in point, the night I moved to Gainesville, she negotiated with an employee of Pier1 for a broken lamp, eventually getting it for $5 instead of the sticker price of $20, and then proceeded to ask for the light bulb as well (the employee refused, something I still tease her about).

I’m a quick, in-and-out shopper. I enter a store with an exact idea of what I want to purchase and that’s what I do. No browsing. Connie, on the other hand, will go into a store knowing she needs one thing, but will still walk down every aisle. For her, it’s about the thrill of the hunt.

But it makes sense. She has an innate sense of style, going back to the 80s hair she rocked in at a missionary boarding school in Bolivia, and a talent for design. Her home is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, and she’s decorated weddings and big-event parties for years.

For me, shopping is a chore. For her, it’s an opportunity to make something beautiful.

I’ve shopped with Connie across 4 continents and 17 different countries, over the span of 9 years. And don’t get me wrong, when I’m overseas, I love going to the market. It’s a way to see more of the culture, meet more people, and get some beautiful things. But I’m more of a quick-browser, let’s-move-on-so-we-can-get-food (let’s be honest), type of shopper.

But this is where Connie comes alive.

First comes the preparation: 1) Money safely tucked away but still easy to access? Check. 2. Extra canvas shopping bags (more like totes)? Check. 3. Camera? Check. 4. Pad/paper? Check. Receipt book and calculator? Check. 5. Everything not extremely essential emptied out of said bags? Check.

That’s when you know this is serious.

Then comes the plan of attack, which happens usually on the ride there. From the 15,000 stall Jatchujat Market in Thailand to the street vendors of Guatemala, Connie has a plan. She instinctively knows where to find the most beautiful things, but it’s more than that—she knows her people.

Every purchase represents a relationship.

Connie will linger in a booth, pick up different items, and talk with the vendor about each one. She’ll ask about their families and tell them about hers (and show pictures of her shih tzus), and then usually try to marry me off to a single cousin of theirs, much to everyone else’s amusement. She tells them about Purchase Effect and why she’s buying in bulk, and tells them of the cause the proceeds will go to help in their own country. She takes pictures with them. And when she returns to their stalls months or a year later, she brings a copy of the pictures to give to them.

They remember her and they are excited to see her again. They feel remembered and valued—because they are.

At the end of a shopping day (because that’s what it usually is), we’re weighed down with bags. One time we even took a giant duffel that I carried on my back like a hiker’s backpack. In Nepal, I dubbed myself her personal yak. Other times, we’ve taken (or purchased there) suitcases. We stand on the street corners and wait for a taxi, arms and back aching from the absurd number of overstuffed bags, ready for the next step—returning to the hotel room and looking at all the beautiful things (or for me… food).

In our day jobs we are missionaries and Purchase Effect is a side business for Connie. But I really think it’s an extension of her ministry. This is how she shares the love of Christ wherever she goes.

This is the Purchase Effect.

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