By Ellen Hanusa Wonderlin
One March Saturday, Zoe Lawson, 9, and her sister Ivy, 7, tagged along with their mother MeLissa to a quilting bee in the basement of Grace Lutheran Church, Des Moines. It was a first in a series of activities geared toward passing on skills and expanding participation among congregants in the hands-on work of Lutheran World Relief (LWR).
There, guided by a bevy of members with a long history of sewing quilts, the girls and others learned to thread a needle, tie knots, and piece fabric. They also discovered the value of “snippets,” bits and pieces of material too small for anything but pillow stuffing. “This is really fun,” Ivy said.
Later, on an April Sunday, Ivy’s mother told some 90 people gathered at Grace for an all-congregation service opportunity for LWR, that Ivy and Zoe practiced making knots with their snippets. They turned them into bracelets and gave them to their friends at school. “They were so excited to share their story about making quilts,” MeLissa said.
Likewise the veteran quilters and others who assemble LWR school, sewing and health kits shared their stories. They told of the meaning of having lasting friendships and the deep sense their work has made a difference in people’s lives in Jesus’ name. Many times, they said, they got involved because another simply invited them.
So on that April Sunday, these faithful LWR supporters returned the favor – and opened the invitation to all. They encouraged adults to pair with youth they did not know to assemble kits and learn basic quilting techniques. Working together across generations, they made a memory and shared the faith. Some 150 health and school kits were assembled that day.
“God works through the hands and faces of people,” said Pastor Daniel Ruth, LWR’s Social Marketing Manager, who came to Grace for the event. “Jesus doesn’t keep distant forever. When He shows up, everything changes.”
Louise Bergman*, a long-time member of Grace now in her 90s, knows the truth of this. She has stitched nearly 2,000 cloth bags used for school kits. “I never bought one scrap of material,” she said. “The congregation gave it to us. So everybody in the congregation has helped.” Since 2000, Grace quilters have contributed 686 quilts, 52 just this year. The congregation also gave over 1,200 school bags, 400 sewing kits, 1,700 health kits and 475 layettes during that time.
Melanie Williams Gibbons, LWR’s Quilt & Kit Ministry Coordinator, also attended the April event.
*After the writing of this article Louise Bergman passed away. Louise is worthy of a story herself — I always thought of her as the Energizer bunny. I’m glad she was well enough to come to our LWR day and be recognized along with all the other women for their work.