JEFFERSON CITY -- When volunteers from Memorial Baptist Church in Jefferson City traveled to Sierra Leone to minister, six additional women went along, as well -- in fabric, thread and spirit.
"The Lord told me one day, 'You've got this sewing machine'...and just led me to start looking" for ways to use it, Memorial member Imogene "Ima" Gleize said.
While surfing the Internet, Gleize discovered Nancy's Notions, a website that caters to those who sew. "I was looking online...and came across the article about making dresses for Africa," she said. "I thought that would be one way I could help."
In addition to selling patterns and other stitcher paraphernalia, Nancy's Notions participates in and encourages its customers to use their sewing skills for several charitable projects, including Little Dresses for Africa (littledressesforafrica.org/blog).
The not-for-profit organization distributes dresses to little girls and pants to little boys in remote parts of Africa. When asked, the group also sends items to countries in crisis, including Haiti.
Nancy's Notions provides a free, simple dress pattern online and sells three additional patterns that can be used. The Little Dresses for Africa organization provides instructions for making a simple dress out of a pillowcase.
Although Gleize had sewn quite a bit for her twin daughters when they were young, she had done little since. But the ease of the pattern convinced her to renew her skills.
She decided to ask other seamstresses at church to help. "I asked Marva Lister to pray about it.... She did and we got several ladies involved."
"She knew I used to do a lot of sewing," Lister explained. "I got involved because I've just always had a soft spot in my heart for children."
Lister taught children's Sunday School classes for several years. She and her husband were foster parents and had volunteered at Jefferson City Child Care in the past. Health issues forced her to give up those activities, but now sewing is allowing her to again minister to children.
She made a dress to show other women at church. "They were just, 'Oh, I can do that,'" Gleize said. Ann Waters, Betreace Barger, Ida Childress and Childress' daughter, Marlene Neeley, volunteered.
The group constructed more than 50 dresses for Memorial's team to distribute in June. "Maybe we can't go overseas, but maybe we can use our talents in other ways," Gleize said.
She and husband Herb, both retired from long careers at Linn State Technical Institute, minister here at home as members of the Christian Motorcycle Association.
Gleize also is considering other projects she might do for future mission trips. "I might do something else for them to take over," she said. "Memorial is a very mission-minded church. I'm waiting to see how the Lord leads and what is needed."
Lister will keep on sewing since one Memorial member plans to return to the West African country. She wants to make pants and shorts for boys, as well as dresses for girls. But since she used all her stash of material to make dresses for the June trip, she's hoping other seamstresses will donate from their own stashes, especially cotton material.
"I intend to keep sewing as long as someone keeps going to take them," she said.