EPWORTH, Ga. (BP)–What do these three people have in common?
— Eight-year-old Sarah was waiting for her surgery in the pre-operative area of the Scottish Rite Hospital. Sarah had been diagnosed with a brain tumor.
“There were seven kids having surgery and it was bedlam,” her father John Walton recounted. “She was sitting in my lap and understandably frightened.”
At the door to the cubicle appeared Sarah’s pastor, Tom Jordan. In his hand was a teddy bear blanket, which Sarah immediately reached for. She was wrapped in the blanket while they prayed. The blanket has continued to be a great source of comfort to Sarah. It has accompanied Sarah to all of her appointments and was even spread over her during an MRI test.
— Peggy, meanwhile, suffers from a degenerative spine condition that has forced her, at age 52, into retirement. In the last two years she had had two major surgeries. Her hand-stitched lap quilt provides comfort both physically and spiritually. “I take it with me to doctors appointments. Offices can be too cool due to air conditioning and often I have to sit waiting for a doctor for several hours,” she said.
— Every night when Eric’s mother tucks him into bed, she lays his lap-size quilt over his blanket. “He is having a hard time with the death of his father and why God would take his dad,” his mother said. “The quilt made teaching him that God loves him a nightly affair.”
All three all recipients of a lap quilt or blanket from the quilt ministry of First Baptist Church, Epworth, Ga. All of the blankets and quilts have been prayed over and represent a desire by the church ladies to share the love and healing of Jesus Christ.
Every other Tuesday the ladies meet and work at two quilt frames. Not everyone in the ministry quilts, but everyone has a very necessary job. One member cuts squares, while another stitches around the edges of blankets or embroiders squares. Others support the ministry by providing food or the funds to purchase fabric. Lunch is potluck and is attended by pastor Jordan, church secretary Priscilla Jordan and music minister Bart Starr. Tom and Bart are known as good cooks, whose creations are always welcome.
Several kinds of quilts are created by the ladies. Some are hand-embroidered or appliqued with traditional designs on white quilt squares and hand-stitched on the frames – and particularly well-liked by older recipients. Other quilts are store-bought with printed designs and can be hand-stitched or tacked. “It doesn’t matter what kind, it’s the love and prayers that matter,” quilter Ruth Ballew reminded.
The blankets are especially helpful when time is an issue. Since they only require cutting and binding, they can be delivered on short notice.
The message attached to each quilt or blanket is direct and sincere: “This quilt was made as an expression of Jesus’ love for you. With each stitch we have prayed that this quilt would bring you comfort. When life gets tough wrap yourself in this quilt and remember you are in our prayers.”
A blanket sent to a 40-year-old man in Pennsylvania who was dying of cancer and given two weeks to live arrived the day before the funeral. The family, who had recently lost two other family members, was amazed at the love expressed by those who live so far away. The blanket was displayed at the funeral and now gives comfort to his widow.
Carol, meanwhile, received a blanket for a friend in Texas who was dying of cancer. It was to be her last visit to her beloved friend. Several days into the visit Carol noticed that her friend had pulled the blanket up to her face. “Are you cold?” she asked. “No, it just feels so soft and warm.”
Recently the quilt ministry gave a blanket to every church youth who is attending college. The idea began with a request for a blanket by the mother of a college freshman. She was worried that her daughter might neglect her faith while attending a secular college. The mother reasoned that the blanket would remind her of her church’s senior saints and the faith she was raised with. A special note to the students was written to express the ladies’ prayers for the strengthening of the student’s faith.
A bulletin board at First Baptist Church displays photos of the quilts and notes of thanks.
“Each time I use my lap quilt, I think of the time that was put into it,” Jonnie writes. “Your thoughts and prayers made the anxious hours before surgery and while waiting for the results a lost easier to bear.” One elderly woman’s daughter wrote, “Her eyes sparkled as she showed it to me. Indeed she does feel comforted and love.”
“The quilt you presented me covers me many nights as I sleep,” writes Vicki, who is battling cancer. “The real covering is the love and prayers the quilt represents.”
As for 8-year-old Sarah, she has started her own blanket ministry. While recovering from her surgery, Sarah and her family developed many friendships at the hospital and on the Internet support lines. They now deliver blankets to young brain tumor victims at the hospital and through the mail. “Every time I see Sarah’s blanket it brings back memories,” her father, John, recounted. “I can’t tell you how much we appreciated this very special, unexpected gift.”
Those interested in starting their own quilt ministry may contact First Baptist Church, Epworth, Ga., at (706) 492-4242.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: CARING BY QUILTING.