SPRING HILL, Fla. — As part of a new missions push, Discovery Church gave each member of its congregation a bracelet to remind them to pray for the Ecuadoran village they are sponsoring. But the bracelets, handcrafted from jute by the villagers, began smelling and looking repulsive after just days.
"I know we committed to wear them for a year, but mine already stinks to high heaven," says one man. "I poured cologne on it, and that just made it worse."
People say the foul odor, which is exacerbated by wetness, is interfering with their business meetings, social lives, even marital intimacy.
"We can’t go near each other without sticking our hands in plastic bags," says one couple.
Worse, the bracelets have dulled from their initially attractive bright colors. After one week the woven bands appear "brown, ratty and embarrassing," says one woman who now wears a larger bracelet over the top of hers.
A local businessman who attends the church says he wears his high on his arm so his employees won’t see "this twisted ugly string on my wrist," he says. After it slipped down during a formal presentation, and some people complained of the odor, he fashioned an arm garter to keep it riding high.
"We’re supposed to pray for this village whenever we think of the bracelet, so I’m praying for them all the time," he says.
When the congregation gathers for worship on Sunday mornings the sanctuary "smells like a hog farm," says another man. "It’s hard to focus on the Lord."
The bracelet is indeed a reminder for many, "but not of anything good," says a woman. "It’s getting harder to think of the Ecuadorans with any fondness."
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