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7/24/97 These women work at reaching the world a stitch at a time

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–How many yards of cloth does it take to reach around the world? No one has kept count of the yards of fabric, the hours of work or the items made, but the sewing ministry of Downtown Baptist Church, Orlando, Fla., has reached across continents with a tangible expression of God’s love.
“I can’t go on a foreign field, but I can sew,” said Janie Youtsey, one of the sewing group’s active members.
Just a partial list of the group’s projects illustrates the scope of the ministry:
— Bosnia: knitted scarves and hats.
— Wales: 50 choir robes with bows.
— Guatemala: stuffed animals.
— India: women’s skirts.
— Kenya: knitted scarves.
— Haiti: children’s shorts and shirts.
— Honduras and Panama: diaper shirts and receiving blankets.
Responding to needs in their own country, members of the sewing group have made curtains and dresses to send to sunny Hawaii; long, warm scarves to shield faces from the Alaskan cold; and dolls and pillows to raise funds for the Oneida School — a boarding school for underprivileged mountain children in Kentucky.
Needs in Orlando aren’t neglected, either. The women have provided quilts, blankets, sleepers and knitted caps for babies at BETA House, a home for unwed mothers, and made preemie caps for babies at Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando. Items have been donated to several homeless shelters.
The ministry isn’t limited to people in poverty; the sewing group also has made costumes for Christmas programs and for Acteens.
“I don’t care where it goes, as long as somebody needs it,” said Youtsey, 80, a retired businesswoman.
About 20 people — mostly senior adult women — are involved in the sewing ministry, said Gladys Partin, 85, a former schoolteacher.
For those who can’t come to the church to sew on weekdays, “we make up kits” with everything but thread for individuals to work on at home, noted Fannie Mae Wesley, 72, also a retired schoolteacher.
A classroom and an adjoining floral storage room at the church double as a place to collect and sort the donated materials and the completed projects.
“Every time you get a project, you have to go through looking for something that will fit,” Youtsey explained. “We try to work with what we’re given before we buy anything.”
Money for purchased items is provided through the church’s missions committee, Woman’s Missionary Union and individual contributions.
Each completed item carries a tag with the words, “Given in God’s name.”
Members of the group learn about the work of missionaries and ministries that benefit from their sewing.
From missionaries Lacy Pat and Bill Curl, who received the choir robes, they learned that music ministry is a “foot in the door” for missions in Wales, where other approaches have not been as successful. The Curls are from First Baptist Church, Orlando.
If a choir robe she has made brings just one person, Youtsey said, it will be worth it.
“It’s going to bring more than one person,” Wesley assured her. “I’ve got more faith than that.”
The sewing group members have especially enjoyed sharing with missionary Marvina Hooper, whose home church is Downtown Baptist. Marvina and her husband, Howard, with sons Seth and Evan, returned to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in June after a furlough in the Orlando area.
The Hoopers work with students through English classes and a Baptist Student Union-type organization.
Some of the students regularly go to a public hospital to do social ministry. Many of the patients come from towns where there is no evangelical witness, Howard noted.
The students give mothers of new babies packages with shirts, receiving blankets, diapers and pins, booties and caps if they have them, sometimes a couple of disposable diapers — a real luxury there — and gospel tracts.
Marvina Hooper said she is thankful for the sewing group. “They have a direct impact on our ministry,” she said.

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  • Shari Schubert