By Vicki Brown, Word&Way Associate Editor
What do quilts, cookies and flowers have in common? At Park Baptist Church, Brookfield, those things and a host of others mean more members are caring for their community.
"Movin' Missions" began three or four years ago after the congregation emerged from a difficult situation. Pastor Mark Conyers decided to lead members to concentrate on missions and evangelism. The people chose to "take it to heart" and restarted the church's missions committee.
"That was a real turning point," Conyers said. "It was not just missions in the nebulous sense, but that Brookfield and Linn County are a mission field."
The church empowered the missions committee to listen to members' ideas and choose those that would meet needs. "It became the clearinghouse for ministry," the pastor added.
Park Piecemakers was among the first ministry the committee approved. Committee member Wanda Daugherity wanted to find a way to reach outside the church. Discovering a couple of women who enjoyed quilting and a few more who wanted to learn, she organized the Piecemakers in November 2003.
Other church members donated fabric and batting and the Piecemakers got busy, choosing to create baby quilts. They decided they would give the quilts to the families of every new baby born in the area.
"If we have the name, we try to locate the family," Daugherity explained. Quilters check the local newspaper for birth announcements and rely on word of mouth to supply names of recipients. They give the creations to every newborn they find, regardless of the family's background, economic status or religious preference.
Although the congregation donated quite a bit of fabric, the quilters sometimes buy some fabric to complement what's on hand or for backing. They started with the nine-patch pattern, but since have begun using other patterns as well.
Twice each month, Piecemakers cut and piece the quilts at the church.
After machine piecing the top together, the women add batting and backing. They usually tack the quilt together with yarn. Occasionally, a member will take a blanket home and machine quilt it.
Piecemakers don't limit their membership only to those who can quilt. Mary Elizabeth "Becky" Babb had sewn but had never quilted until she joined the group.
Some come to iron fabric and press seams open. Others help with cutting, while other members deliver the quilts.
When a project is completed, the women place the quilt in a large zippered plastic bag with a copy of "Parent Life" magazine, a congratulatory note, information about the church, a pen and sometimes a witnessing tract.
The women distributed 46 baby quilts in 2004 and 57 last year. "We shock people sometimes," Hurla Sprague said. Some, especially those who have no connection to the church, wonder why the Piecemakers want to give them a quilt.
"Some people have said, 'Oh, we don't go to your church.' Or, 'Are you sure you don't want us to pay for it?'" Sprague added. "They [all recipients] are always glad to see you and are grateful."
When Park Piecemakers learn the family has an older child, they try to provide a small gift for the brother or sister. Someone gave several small stuffed animals, and recently some books were donated to use as gifts.
Although the women concentrate on baby quilts, they once made a special dinosaur quilt for a toddler battling cancer. They also plan to try making vinyl aprons for church kitchen staff.
"We feel like through our actions we are sharing a witness," Sprague said. "We feel like we are spreading joy and goodwill, even if we don't see it."
Daugherity didn't stop with quilts. After seeing an article about giving cookies as a ministry, she thought baking and taking the treats to nursing home workers would be a good idea.
With the missions committee's okay, she put out the word to church members. One Sunday each quarter, members bring cookies to the church. Several stay after morning worship to bake more and to prepare trays for delivery.
That night or on Monday morning, designated members pick up the cookies and deliver them to workers at the local hospital, city and state offices or schools. The Cookie Cutters make and deliver 45 to 50 dozen sweet treats each time.
A "Movin' Missions" corner in a church hallway keeps members up to date on the various ministry projects. In addition to quilts and cookies, members can help with College Care ministry to provide snacks and encouragement to college students during finals week.
The church also offers a transportation ministry to take people to medical appointments, a card ministry for encouragement and Warm Winters, a ministry to collect coats, hats, gloves and blankets that are distributed before cold weather hits. The congregation provides a meal at Christmas for those who would otherwise be alone on the holiday.
Members also have collected music CDs to send to military personnel and books to send to libraries in the Gulf Coast region to replace collections lost in hurricanes Katrina and Rita. They host a Wednesday night Bible Club and provide a meal for community children.
The congregation is getting ready to launch its newest ministry — Petal Pushers. Word has gone out for members to donate bud vases and fresh flowers. Volunteers will place a flower in each vase with a ribbon and encouraging note attached. The gifts will be distributed to nursing home residents.
What effect has all the outreach had at Park Baptist? "It seems we have had such a growth in involvement in others' lives," Conyers said.
The pastor added that he has seen more interest in people, especially young adults, to be more directly involved in mission activities.
"Ministry provides more direct contact with people who need to know the Lord," he said.
"We touch their lives with love in two ways. We let them know about Christ's claims...and we let them know Christ in a personal way." (01-27-06)