By Mary McCracken, Director of Community Outreach
As the new Director of Community Outreach, I have been slowly making the rounds to the various agencies and groups who partner with BelPres in our surrounding community and at the church. This past Thursday morning I decided to hang out with some of our home crowd, the ladies who make up the BelPres Fireside Knitters. As a person who loves all things yarn, I was looking forward to meeting women with a like-minded passion and to the conversation I knew would ensue.
Having just moved to the area, some of my “non-essentials” are still packed away. I woke up early to search for my knitting needles, but to no avail. Not wanting to embarrass myself by showing up empty-handed, I grabbed a crochet project I found in a drawer, stuffed it into a bag with a crochet hook I found in my pencil jar, and arrived promptly at 9 a.m.
Meeting in the library just off the church lobby, the setting is beautiful for knitting. Light pouring into the windows, comfortable couches, books lining the walls. Over the next hour, the ladies arrived, each one with their knitting projects in hand. As the newcomer, at first I introduced myself; quickly, the ladies took over and would introduce me to those who arrived next.
At one point, Jan King took me to what I now call “Knitting Disneyland,” a room filled with yarn and completed projects waiting for the proper season to be given out. Beautiful hats and gloves for school kids who live in poverty, neck and wrist warmers for the homeless, lap robes for the elderly or those who are ill. In showing me the various projects and patterns, Judy discovered a ball of yarn that would complement my crochet project and we returned to the library. The room was crowded now, with multiple conversations, laughter and the joyful feeling of community. I searched to find a seat; two women scooted close together on the couch to make room for me. As we squished together, I felt a shifting in my spirit, comfort and peace encircling me.
I was a newbie, yet one of the group. Some of the women reminded me of my mom, who lives across the country and whom I seldom see. One woman shared that she was facing a heart-breaking decision, and we paused to pray for her. Another woman was struggling with her pattern, and two of us leaned in to see where we could help. Another woman passed around a small piece of knitting she had been working on as she learned a new type of stitch. Always, there were stories being shared and two hours quickly passed. As I left to head back upstairs to my office, the ladies warmly asked me to come back in two weeks. “Bring your projects,” they said, “or work on one of ours.” I assured them I would return.
Back at my desk, I thought about what had just transpired. Two hours of knitting! But there was more. God weaves His story through the tapestry of time. He invites us into the marvelous, beautiful, glorious work of His love for His creation, weaving our individual threads into the greater whole. The Fireside Knitters are quietly working their own threads into God’s tapestry. They take their simple yarn and work it into beautiful, practical, creative gifts for those who are in need. As they send out their gifts, they wrap others into God’s story of redemption and reconciliation. As well, they take the threads of their individual stories, weave them into each other’s lives, building community through prayer, laughter, work, and presence.
As a newcomer, I felt the gentle thread of the Fireside Knitters’ welcome and acceptance wrap around me and draw me in. In the beauty of the room, squished on the couch, listening to stories, God was inviting me to weave my thread into the tapestry of a new community. That community is busy in the missional work of valuing the lives of those who are often devalued by our society: immigrant children, the homeless, the elderly and the chronically ill. Though their work is quiet, peaceful, simple – they are kingdom power brokers.
“My goal is that their hearts, having been knit together in love, may be encouraged, and that they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely, Christ…” (Col 2:2 NET).
Now it’s your turn! Where have you felt God’s presence in a strong community?