Made With Love 2018
By Rita Maisel
In many churches, late summer and early fall have always been busy times preparing for fall bazaars, church suppers (yes, a lutefisk supper was announced the other day), the annual drives for mission kits and news from hurricane disasters. This year the schedule has been altered somewhat by trade war rumors which limited access to some of the supplies and made changes in ways of doing things, a revamping of the kits we had done “forever” and in some groups simply new leadership and new ideas. However, needs still exist both in our country and around the world, and church groups and others will still reach out to those in need. This year the damage of Hurricane Florence and possibly others to come will be with us for a long time while a recent fire at Williston left a reported 400 people struggling for new homes. There are typhoons in India and the Pacific areas, refugees seeking havens in other countries, epidemics that decimate far-off nations, damage left from the hundreds of wildfires in Canada in recent months and, as always, the trauma of wars and of families pulled apart by circumstances beyond their control. The needs around the globe are so great that most feel our drop in the bucket would not be noticed. Still others here in relatively safe North Dakota are convinced we are too far away to worry about other people’s problems. The following are some of the ways local people are reaching out locally and, at times, globally.
A solar oven project began at least twenty years ago in South Dakota. Volunteers in Mission visited Haiti and observed that the poverty stricken land needed many things. Actually, members of three or four of Langdon’s churches have been volunteers in that country so can underscore how desperate some of their needs are. In this case, the volunteer who built the first ovens was United Methodist and soon had visited churches in both North and South Dakota to raise funds for the project. Haiti is a warm country, and much of their cooking has been done outdoors over charcoal fires with the charcoal made from trees. The population has increased much faster than the stands of trees, and they no longer had fuel to cook their food. What they did have was bright sun day after day. What they needed was a portable and durable means of harnessing the rays of the hot sun to cook their food and to purify water. Beginning with designing the oven in a basement or garage, the first ovens were taken to Haiti along with workers who helped to set them up and train the people to use them. A recent bulletin about the program tells us they have now placed more than 15,000 of the ovens. Political changes closed the doors to installing the ovens in Haiti at the present time but allowed the project to expand to the Dominican Republic, Sierra Leone and, most recently, to a desert reservation in Arizona – all places with hot sun and limited fuel resources. There is now a construction site in North Dakota operated by volunteer helpers. Others raise funds for the materials used in construction. For the last two winters, ladies in Langdon have made some of the many heavier potholders which go with each oven when taken to their new homes. This need emerged when early cooks found the ovens and the food too hot to remove it quickly. With a solar oven, you cannot just turn the oven off! There are rumors that snowbirds in Arizona may be drafted to help with the assembly and installation on a remote reservation this coming winter.
Quilts are a familiar project in several church groups as well as the Senior Citizens. They are used following almost any type of emergency such as a fire, flood or highway accident. They go to families in need through social service, to graduating seniors, to homes with a new baby, as wedding gifts and for dozens of other situations. Some are lovingly made by a family member for a special occasion, but many are made and stored until the makers hear of a need and offer their work. For many years I had Lutheran ladies living on all sides of me, and they were quick to notice any piece of clothing that they felt could go to better use in one of their quilts. I believe they take polyester fabrics, jeans and have heard some of the ladies mention stacks of “fat quarters” purchased at a quilt shop before the owner lost interest in making that color of quilt. Ask around. Quilters are always looking for new materials and inspiration.
Fleece blankets with tied edges are always welcome at homeless shelters, hospitals, and as gifts. If your class at school or a 4-H group wants to try the project, you might get your picture in the newspaper when the blankets are presented. Check with the hospital or nursing home before you begin to see what they can use. Project Linus likes the fleece blankets for their softness, but because many of their blankets go to hospitals, they have specific sizes on their requests.
Homeless shelters like adult sized hats and mittens which can be purchased or knitted. Several local people regularly make baby hats, booties and sometimes sweaters for Altru’s neo-natal needs or for their bereavement ceremonies. They will also use blankets, and it is best to contact them before embarking on a full-scale project.
Prayer shawls have been around for at least twenty years. A book about the ministry by Susan Jorgenson, “Knitting Into The Mystery,” came out when the project first began. I purchased a copy of the book for our church even though I did not knit and just thought it would be a good title to have in the church library. Circle ladies disagreed. They were not going to knit or read the book. I took it home and may have loaned or given it away as a gift. But a project I was working on needed some of the ideas in that book so I checked with the public library and other churches. To date none have found a copy of the book. To remind myself of the origin of the prayer shawl ministry, I went back to music by Sister Miriam Therese Winter of the Medical Mission Sisters in Connecticut. Not only has this lady written hymns found in a number of hymnals in Langdon churches, but she is also remembered for leading an ecumenical workshop years ago at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut. Two Mennonite ladies from nearby Pennsylvania came and brought their knitting. The ladies present brain-stormed how knitting could be used as an expression of love and comfort for gifts and for friends who had suffered cancer or a recent death.
That group set out the guidelines which prayer shawl groups in many countries follow today. First you pray. A proverb in the book says “Begin to knit. God will show you the pattern and He will send you the yarn.” The shawls are a gift of love and are not sold. Most remember Linda Schauer bringing the prayer shawl idea to Langdon when she worked as parish nurse for United Lutheran. Part of her duties included visiting shut-ins and older church members as well as working with the residents of Maple Manor. In 2003 Linda and ladies at United Lutheran made prayer shawls for some of the residents at Maple Manor. When she became pastor at Osnabrock, she took the idea along to their congregation. Meanwhile the Maple Manor Auxiliary took on making shawls for other residents. The shawls had to be handmade, and those who used knitting machines thought it slow work. Others mentioned arthritic problems from the heavier needles and hooks suggested for use with the yarn and patterns, but they kept on knitting and crocheting. When they learned the Maple Manor shawls needed to be laundered, the blankets made went to another format.
Later some of the original auxiliary ladies joined an ecumenical group at the Langdon Presbyterian Church, and today they are still making and distributing prayer shawls. While the instructions are to pray as you begin, the ladies also pray as they knit or crochet even when they may not know at the time where the shawls will go. Each shawl comes with a booklet of prayers and is hand delivered to the recipient – a gift of love made for that person.
In August of 2005 our church needed 20 baby sweaters for the layettes they were packing. I do not knit and do not read patterns. My yarn had been given to Lutheran neighbors for their quilt projects. But I still had crochet hooks. A friend in Bowman sent me instructions. Yarn appeared in my car and on the doorstep – proof of the proverb from the prayer shawl book. Dr. Fasharo, at CCMH at the time, told me not to stop – his mother handed out the sweaters when they got to the missions in Nigeria. With that encouragement, two cousins dug into yarn on hand and began to crochet as well. Some of mine were rejected by the ladies at our church-”take this home and make it over”. A friend from Devils Lake called that evening, and when I told her their reaction she asked for those sweaters. Her church wanted to do layettes and needed sweaters. That began a shared mission project which has lasted year after year. Cavalier and other churches asked for them as well. In 2018 our churches are no longer doing the layettes, but Langdon’s baby boom is well-known so other homes were found for sweaters made this year.
Into the void of changing mission needs came phone calls, e-mails and visits asking how many purple scarves was I making? Project Lydia is not actually a mission project. It began in Minnesota in 2017 as preparation for an international United Methodist Conference to be held in Minneapolis in February of 2020. Delegates from places where they have never seen snow were hesitant about making the journey to such a cold place. Minnesota ladies decided to make them scarves – purple for the Vikings and for Prince. They chose the yarn which was made in Turkey and usually marketed in Canada and the US. Because making many scarves in the same dark color can get boring, by June of 2018 they asked for help from ladies in North and South Dakota. They had to be purple and gave the dimensions, but the pattern could be anything the maker chose – just my speed. The suggested amount was twenty scarves which was a reminder of the original sweater need. Digging into leftovers from previous projects produced yarn for the first two scarves. Then it was time to go shopping and miraculously a gift card for a yarn store appeared in the mail. That store did not have the suggested brand or color so, to date, alternative yarn has been used from China, India, Turkey, Canada, and even some marked United States “from imported fibers”.
Another major need this year, and probably in years to come, has to do with the cleaning buckets needed to mop up floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, typhoons and wars. Churches have lists of what goes into these, and you can assemble them if you wish or send a check made out for that purpose. The buckets, mops and other tools can be any color you wish. In case you want to add hand work to your gift, most groups are also looking for volunteers to help use the contents of the cleaning buckets.