Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Wildfire of the Gospel or a Sewing Project

Martin Luther King Jr Day, was a holiday from work for me. I had planned to spend the whole day scrapbooking - and this time, in contrast to other scrapbooking projects whose subjects were mission trips or a memory page for a retiring pastor, I would be the subject. I'm following a weekly challenge this year to create a scrapbook telling My Lifetime Story. By the time of the earthquake I was already two weeks behind, with the third topic to appear on Wednesday. Monday would give me a full day to complete the title page and the pages about my birth, and maybe learn how to use Photoshop Elements, a new program to me, to edit, crop and resize scanned copies of old pictures.

God had other plans for Monday. THAT plan started last year when we had a presentation at church about a project to support an orphan at a school, which our Sunday School has taken on. At the same time, there was information about Dress our People, a project to make simple shift dresses for the girls and tank tops and shorts for the boys. I ordered a set of patterns and put them on the shelf because they were partial patterns in multiple sizes - you had to cut apart the bodice, add length depending on the size, and repeat for small, medium, large and extra large. All on brown paper or they suggested wrapping paper. A good idea for some day when I was bored or otherwise inspired.

Through an email newsletter I learned that some ladies from the Cazenovia United Methodist Church were gathering to do a sewing blitz for Dress our People on MLK Day, and I knew I had to set aside my scrapbooking plans. With a local volunteer traveling regularly to a Haitian orphanage carrying the simple clothing, this church and others, have provided numerous articles of clothing to the impoverished Haitian children. Sunday, I pulled out my patterns, cut apart a dozen Wegmans paper bags (they like to contribute to good causes - I'll get more for my garbage can next time I go shopping) and started making the patterns. It took a LONG time and I was glad I had sewing experience. A couple of the dress lengths didn't match up with the instructions, so I left them unfinished, planning to get advice from the experts at Cazenovia. With floral fabric I got from WalMart, telling the clerk about the project, I quickly stitched up a small dress for a sample at church.

Mom's old Singer sewing machine in the back of the Subaru, I set out Monday and arrived to see 6 sewing machines whirring, complete with a iron and padded table for pressing in one corner. In another area of the room, tables were set up for cutting - a volunteer grabbed a length of fabric from a large stash, picked up a pattern, cut out the garment, and added it to the pile for the sewers. Two of the cutters were retired men - happily accepting the challenge to fit as many garments as they could out of each length. I met Jeanne, the organizer who told me they've made over a thousand garments in the two years since they've been doing this. She showed me that they use interfacing instead of paper for their patterns - it's easier to handle, and in most cases, sticks to the fabric well enough that little or no pinning is needed - a real time saver. They have two sets, which keep cutters busy. She helped me fix the problem patterns I brought along, and then I joined in by cutting out a few garments, then set up the sewing machine to sew a couple dresses.

On my way home I bought interfacing using a JoAnn Fabrics coupon, telling THAT store clerk about Dress our People. I cut out a second set of patterns, loaned the original to a church member who had called, and later promised to get a set of patterns to a pastor friend whose church members have fabric and a desire to help - back to JoAnn's with another coupon, and I have a set to hand off to the pastor when I see her at Tuesday Bible Study. In the meantime another church member called, so I have the original patterns ready to give to her at church.

The mission to make clothing is spreading like wildfire. A coworker dug some thread, fabric and bias tape out of an old dresser - things her mother had that that she's willing to donate to the project. (At Cazenovia, one package of bias tape was marked 19 cents - it was clearly brought out of a stash of notions someone's grandmother had handed down!)

I am reminded of the Gospel. The news of salvation is so compelling, that each person tells another - or a few others, and it spreads like wildfire. I've had numerous people ask if I'm going to Haiti now, and have responded, "probably not." I should reframe my answer and say that if God calls me to go to Haiti, I'll have to respond. I copied a quote that reads, "If you find yourself in a place you never thought you'd be and doing things you never thought you'd do, you can be sure that it's God's will." My will for Monday was scrapbooking. God had other plans, and I need to start telling people my motivation for these acts of service instead of simply telling about the project.

Who has time to blog?

I intended to take a picture of the cute dress and post this in January. It’s close to a month later, and I still haven’t gotten the pictures off my camera, but my oh my, the sewing project is exciting! Eleven of us gathered at church last Thursday night, and while we didn’t totally finish very many clothes, there was lots of activity! Several people traced patterns – two of them to return to their rural church nearby. One person finished tracing so a set could be sent to a church member’s sister in Massachusetts. Two of our sewers were novices – a thirteen year old girl and her ten year old friend.  We had some things cut out for the planned Saturday sewing session, and a few finished or nearly finished garments as well.

I wasn’t able to be there on Saturday for the sewing session, but when I went to church on Sunday, I wept. A pile of seventeen finished garments – frog printed shorts, pockets added to some garments, dresses with dainty lace around the neckline – covered a table, with a huge stack of cut out items on the chair. My heart was bursting with joy at the results of this effort by people in my church. One older woman glowed as she described the roomful of people, and the pinning, the cutting, and the sewing.  Apparently among the room full of women (plus the two girls from the previous gathering) an adult male member of the church came, as did a teenaged boy. They took my plea that you could help no matter your experience, your age or your gender!

This project is spreading like wildfire and my scrapbook has been set aside for now. The pictures will always be there, but there are hurting people in Haiti right now. I'm so glad people in my church and some of my other aquaintances want to help. We can’t go to Haiti ourselves but prayers are being acted out as people take on a tangible project like sewing clothing for kids so deeply affect by poverty and the tragedy of the earthquake. 

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