They slowly gather in a room every Wednesday morning, with no pomp and circumstance. Once, these women were young and strong. They raised families and ran businesses, but life is like a river, with many bends and turns to negotiate along the way.
Now, the women of this group are moving on up in years. Many have retired; their children and families have moved away, and even their husbands have passed on. But these women have resolved to live life to the fullest.
They start each weekly session by plugging in their machines, setting out fabrics and praying together. Yes, some socializing happens, but soon, that comes to an end as each one lowers the needle on her machine and pushes down on its pedal. Whirling noises ensue, and each seamstress pulls her fabric through the machine and begins to sew.
Arthritis has set in for many of the women, and sometimes they stop to rub out the soreness. But as quickly as they can, they lower their heads and continue to work. Some are making stuffed animals. Cats, dogs and bears roll off the assembly line; each one is prayed over as it is made.
Other women are making clothes for small children; still others are knitting stocking caps and scarves. The women make each of these items with the purpose of helping someone come to know Christ.
These “sewing ladies” of Tulsa, Parkview are working in partnership with our ministry, which sends groups of students between the ages of 13 and 22 across the globe. The students have found a way to use these animals, dolls and articles of clothing to engage other cultures. Before each trip, these ladies deliver bags and bags of their handmade, prayed-over products, ready to give to the next team to use wherever they might go.
The students take these animals and pack them into trunks destined for places as exotic as the jungles of Panama and the darkest parts of Africa. Once the students arrive in-country, they set up their sound systems and begin to draw a crowd.
They have come to present a drama that starts with the creation and goes through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But before they tell this special story, they engage the crowd by making an announcement. “At the end of the program, we have a special gift for your children.” The gifts are the ladies’ handmade items.
A crowd gathers as the students share their testimonies and lay out the claims of Christ. As those watching wait for their gifts, the Holy Spirit leads many of the adults to another gift: that of Jesus as their Savior. Over and over, God uses these handmade products as His keys to open closed doors.
Orphanages and schools that refused to let us enter swing their doors wide open when they learn we come bearing gifts. Children who have never had anything to call their own now hug brand-new stuffed animals, smiles flooding their faces.
I wonder if when Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40), He was thinking of a stuffed animal sewn with love and delivered alongside the story of the greatest love of all.
A few weeks ago, during spring break, a team took these stuffed animals to Mexico and led 205 people to Christ. Seeing the church in action is incredible: the older generation partnering with the younger one to bring the Gospel to a lost world, each doing its part. As the Bible says, “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts” (Ps. 145:4).
Why are the women so diligent to return week after week, producing thousands of these stuffed animals? Why are the young people so diligent about going to the far corners of the earth to deliver the Good News? The two groups have a common purpose: “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).
God intends the whole church to work together, each member taking a significant part. Some are hands, and others, the feet. Together, they can accomplish more for the Kingdom than alone.
On March 29, Gay Faith, who led Tulsa, Parkview’s sewing ministry for many years, went home to be with the Lord. At her memorial service, 12 of her sewing partners paid their respects. But the next Wednesday, they were back at their sewing machines, continuing to pray and sew so we might go.
Thank you, sewing women, student missionaries and all who use their gifts to share His story.