Thursday, July 24, 2014

Aftermath: Quilts of Compassion

My daughter Mallory and I had the honor to join Janice Grimes, Executive Director and founder of Quilts of Compassion, during her mission for the Tupelo and Louisville, Mississippi areas portion of the "Quilts for the South" deployment. I blogged last month about the way God combined my Eight Days of Hope timeline with my quilting passion and connected me with Janice's ministry. After volunteering to longarm a stack of quilts, and adding a bunch donated by my friends all over the country, I brought 25 quilts to add to QOC's 650+ quilts and assisted in distributing them to people affected by the April 28 tornadoes.

The Quiltmobile dragged a trailer from Toledo, OH, full of quilts for the area. We unloaded the trailer at Anchor Church in Tupelo to reload the Quiltmobile for driving through the affected neighborhoods.

Quilts of Compassion began the disaster response portion of their mission after the Joplin tornado in 2011.

Anchor Church loaned us their youth room for staging.

The quilts arrived bagged with numbers of quilts in each bag. 

We sorted them by infant, kids, adult and lap quilts. The lap-sized prayer quilts are provided abundantly by the sewing groups dedicated to Quilts of Compassion's ministry. I think any individual out there who wants to donate to the ministry should consider adult masculine and feminine quilts a priority based on what I saw. Twin to queen sized quilts are really necessary for families who have lost everything.

On the other hand, these "pocket prayer quilts" are an amazing tool to share the ministry with extended family, caregivers, first-responders, and community members who can carry the tiny quilt in a pocket or purse. Mallory and I left the week with lots of plans to make many more of these to share with others, and to send to Janice. Stay tuned for some great patterns here in the future!

Our first morning, WCBI, a local television news station, interviewed Janice and provided great coverage of our mission.

And Janice did a great job of outfitting us in polos and caps...very official! After a few homeowners related the stories of scammers and insurance woes, I quickly saw why it was important for us to be professional in our appearance. The LAST thing these people needed was to feel mistreated or fear manipulation or exploitation.

Since I had already established a relationship with several families during my week in Tupelo, we started with those names that either I knew, or someone from Anchor Church knew, had been affected by the storms.

Charles received a brand-new home from the ground up from Eight Days of Hope, and three new quilts from Quilts of Compassion.

Roy and Delilah received many man-hours of construction...and these beautiful quilts. 

We just went door to door, following the Lord's leading, and distributed quilts as we could to families still dealing with disaster rebuilding and clean up.

I loved seeing just how precious the quilts were to their recipients, and how the people who received them were encouraged by the prayers that we said with them, and continue to pray for them. To know "I am not forgotten" months after the hear God is faithful, and God loves them.

On our second day in Tupelo, Christian Televion Network interviewed Janice. I was blessed to learn more about her calling to this ministry. God works through quilts...I saw so much evidence day after day.

I was blessed to bestow Tupelo Strong, the special quilt I pieced and quilted and prayed over for Tupelo, to a sweet pharmacist who works at crosstown, right in the heart of our city.

The third day we went to Louisville, two hours south of Tupelo. We'd heard they were hit even harder than Tupelo...but I still wasn't prepared for the emotional day we had. Their hospital was destroyed.

Homes were just gone.

Lives were lost. 

But there was still hope. We met some lovely people, who have strength and determination to rebuild. Our quilts are with them to remind them we are praying, we love them, and God loves them.

We even commissioned some people to pass quilts on to others we could not reach in our one day in town.

Nikki took on as many quilts as she could carry. She lost her home and family members in the storm, so it's even more precious to see her love for her community and friends, and willingness to be His hands and feet to show compassion to the hurting.

On our last day in Tupelo, we distributed as many more quilts as we could into the hardest hit areas.

Janice took time that morning to share her testimony in my parents' Sunday School class, and gave everyone there a lap quilt to distribute to someone that needs comforting. The act of giving away comfort means just as much to the giver as the receiver. Trust me. My heart is full to overflowing of all the stories I simply cannot type in a simple blog post.

My hubby Dennis, dad Roy, and Janice just before she drove away to continue on to Alabama and Tennessee...Dad coveted one of the quilts we gifted so much that I know what his Christmas gift needs to be.

It was amazing to witness all the love of God through and to His people, truly blanketing them with the Peace that passes understanding, and the Hope, Grace and Compassion through Christ Jesus...all from the comfort of a quilt.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Aftermath: Eight Days of Hope

I spent the week of July 11-22 serving the people of northeast Mississippi who were affected by the tornadic storms that hit the area at the end of April 2014. My husband Dennis and I volunteered with Eight Days of Hope XI, and joined 3000+ others to help with the reconstruction and cleanup, particularly for the underinsured and uninsured home owners. We were able to stay with my parents, who were fortunate to not suffer any damage at their home in West Tupelo. The hardest hit areas in the county were located in East Tupelo, particularly in the Joyner neighborhood, Sharon Hills, and then Mooreville and Auburn, and many others.

We traveled from eastern North Carolina with our daughter Mallory and granddaughter Erin (2.5yo), so my parents were able to enjoy a visit with our kids while we were dedicated to long days at job sites.

Dennis and I have volunteered with 8DOH before, so we decided ahead of time that we would do drywall work while there. We brought tools primarily to do drywall, even though many crews came to do roofing, painting, landscaping and tree removal. Dennis's cousin Neil and his wife Melba and daughter Makenna along with Makenna's friend Jenna also volunteered from Florida and met us for a week of family "vacation" and service. We met a couple from Montgomery, LA, as well as another volunteer from Louisiana who wanted to do drywall. We all worked well together all week.

At our first job, we hung drywall for a church that was adding a fellowship hall. It was a nice open space, and went pretty fast. Another team came behind us and did the mud work and finish work, while yet another team primed the walls for painting.

Then we moved to a home on Old Saltillo Road. The home owner's primary home was a new construction that they'd just completed when the tornado struck and obliterated it. A small guest house was badly damaged but was repairable. The home owner and his wife are going to live in the efficiency apartment in the little guest house until they can rebuild their home again. So, we hung another 30 sheets of drywall as a team.

The team went on from job to job all week. Dennis and the team completed seven jobs in eight days. 

When a job is completed, a bright orange paper that says, "DONE!" in the center is posted in our dining facility at the main headquarters for 8DOH. Nine completed jobs form a cross on the walls. By the end of the week, the walls were covered in crosses.

We ate breakfast and dinner together every day, and had sack lunches at the work sites. You can imagine that the logistics for 3,500 people is pretty involved. Everything ran very smoothly!

Eight Days of Hope began after Hurricane Katrina and has grown with each subsequent trip. Two years ago, we were in Pamlico County, NC, just an hour from our home, and I brought a team of middle school girls to serve. Dennis and I have done our best to model the Spider-Man mantra, "With great power comes great responsibility" for our children, and my schoolchildren were no exception.

Of course, it is actually Luke 12:48 where Jesus reminds us that the one who is given much is also asked for much, and given even more, asked even more. We believe in our gratitude for our gifts, we are called to give back not only money, but time. Not only remotely, but in a personal, messy, sacrificial way. 

It is our goal to love God, and love people with all our abilities...and even our inabilities. I'm so astonished even after 28 years of marriage by the buckets of talent and ability my husband has. There are no jobs he cannot do and do well and do wide-open without regard for his physical comfort or needs. I keep myself busy handing him things, or holding the other end of something bulky, or picking up supplies needed so he can keep going. And all the time, he teaches young girls the skills they need to do the job--whistling while he works--and just gets it done. It is a privilege to see how these simple acts bless the hurting, and remind them that God provides for them and loves them.

Eight Days of Hope XII is on the horizon, because disaster response continues to be necessary. In the meantime, there are local ministries to serve, neighbors to help, and lots of ways to use your talents and gifts to glorify God and love His people. I challenge you to get messy using the great power you have been given in your own personal "great responsibility."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Making a Meaningful Memory

I had one more quilt top donated by my friend Diane G. in Greenville, NC for Quilts of Compassion's deployment to Tupelo, MS, and I really wanted to get it done before we left. How much cleaning did I really need to do before we left, anyway?!? PRIORITIES, people!

So, I slipped it in the frame Tuesday, and got the binding ready to go. I even had some time to go fishing and crabbing Tuesday evening...

I got the binding attached Wednesday morning, and popped it in the laundry. I love the post-first-wash wrinkle. I quilted this strip quilt with Glide "Celery" in the Vivacious pattern by Lorien Quilting. I did some freemotion decoration on the raw edge appliqué in Lilac.

I finished early enough Wednesday that I thought *maybe* I could get one more done. But in my stash, I only had two more completed tops ready to go, and I was hoarding them for a different reason. Both had originally been designed for babies that had died tragically, and I had just been too sad to finish them. This dinosaur quilt was pieced for a coworker's third son, Mattox. My friend Meredith and I were hired the same summer, and were science teachers in a small school. Unfortunately, her son had a heart defect they discovered by ultrasound that necessitated early delivery, surgery, and only lived a few days. I love this family, and had chosen the bright colors to suit their personality. 

So, it's been nearly seven years now. I texted Meredith, and asked her if I could finish Mattox's quilt for a tornado victim, to honor his life. Just as I expected, she said yes...and I loaded "Mattox's Dinos" into the frame. I chose this modern, dense quilting pattern in Marigold Glide thread. Meredith's family is full of redheads, and I love this orange for Mattox. I left myself room to quilt in the label.

Last, but not least, I had this final quilt I've moved with my stash since 1996. I was pregnant with my third child when I took a class with Lynn Kough (which, she informed us, rhymes with rough, tough and enough!), author of Stretching Traditions. Her class was "Color and Size Explosion" and we pieced these marvelous 41" square quilt tops, playing with both cool and warm colors, and size changes in our units from 2" to 4" HSTs. I loved mine, and laughingly boasted I had my first baby quilt ready to go.

Then I miscarried a month later.

And I was just so SAD that I didn't quilt at all for nearly a year. When I did sew again, I couldn't finish this one. But it seemed to be time now. My baby, that I've always called Hope, would be generous. And 18! So, I'm calling this one "Explosion of Hope." It's quilted in Glide Marigold in Vivacious, with a great plaid backing.

And, with my final effort, that makes 20 quilts traveling with me to Tupelo for the tornado victims.

And hometown newspaper ran a great article about Quilts of Compassion, and me, today! 

I'd like to challenge all of you quilters to make your next project a charity quilt. Quilts of Compassion, Quilts of Valor, or an organization in your local area...they all need your help. You may have an old, abandoned project you can finish. Repurpose it into something beautiful.