West Michigan women are putting their gifts to work through a new quilting ministry.
"Living Threads is a memorial quilt-making ministry that seeks to help a grieving family celebrate the life of someone they loved and to keep his or her memory alive," says Scott Van Oostendorp, pastor of First Reformed Church in Zeeland, Michigan.
Family members meet with Living Threads director Jill Dannenberg, a member of First Reformed, and share memories of their loved one. Together, they design a unique quilt that is inspired by the person's interests or by mementos like embroidery work, photos, or clothes. Quilts vary from a small wall hanging to a large quilt for a bed.
The quilting process
Once the design is completed, it's turned over to volunteers during scheduled "ministry sewing days." Three or four people come at a time to cut fabric, iron, and sew the quilt top together. "Ministry sewing begins at 10:00 in the morning, and we open at 9:40 for prayer," Dannenberg says. "We spend intentional time in prayer, and that has been amazing what we've seen happen as we've prayed over the quilts, for the families and the children we minister to, and how God has answered those prayers."
When the quilt blocks are completed and pieced together, the quilt is turned over to a quilter who uses a long-arm quilting machine to put the layers together: the quilt top, batting, and a back that includes a story and photo about the person who has died.
"I see God working when we meet with the grieving families," Dannenberg says. "You see this hope and healing that's taking place--they're able to take their memory and keep it alive, and have an heirloom to pass on for generations to come.
"I also see ministry happening with our volunteers. I've had someone say, 'Finally! I have meaning and purpose to use the talents God has given me.'"
To raise money for operating expenses, Living Threads holds quilting events where people come and make an entire project, or work on a project over several events. To learn more, or to volunteer at Living Threads, visit www.livingthreadsministry.org or call (616) 566-4338.
Dannenberg also sees God working through Living Threads's mission focus. Families make a donation for the volunteer labor involved in making the quilt, and 100 percent of these donations are contributed to IN Network USA to help children in the Kibera slum in Kenya. Donations have varied from $50 to $1,000. Families also pay the cost of materials and a fee for the long-arm quilting.
Living Threads was launched in September 2010. In its first year, Dannenberg says, "We were able to send enough money to sponsor Saturday school for five centers for a month--for these kids to get food, Scripture, education.
"We often are humbled, and we just are amazed at what God has done in less than a year."
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