Gathered around two white foldable tables set with cups of coffee and loads of batting is where you can find the ladies of Graves Memorial Baptist Church’s sewing ministry every Tuesday morning.
Each week, on that day, since around 2000, Barbara Barber has led this group in stuffing dolls, crafting pillows and quilting covers. After hearing about her sister’s Sunday school class buying stuffed animals for a nursing home, Barbara was inspired to start putting her sewing to good use in Oak Grove.
“I just thought it would be a great thing for us to do. We started using our own machines and our own materials and our own patterns and everything. Then, people started donating things to us,” Barbara said.
Now, over 20 years later, the group still sews strong, making close to 20 dolls each week to give to children in hospitals. They also send pillows, blankets, hats, lap robes and bibs to nursing homes or whoever is in need. They even sew overtime, making enough items to sell and raise money for the church’s building fund.
“I sew a lot, even at home, because I have a lot of grandchildren, a lot of great-grandchildren,” said Loyce Sternhagen, a member of the sewing ministry. “It’s just an enjoyable way to spend a Tuesday…It makes you feel like you’ve been a part of enlightening someone’s life.”
Though this group of women is motivated to minister because of their love for Jesus, meeting each week also provides them with an advantageous avenue for anyone in their stage of life: fellowship. “This has been a way for me to get to know people in the church,” said Geneva Owen, who moved to Oak Grove last year. “It’s a very good way for me to get to know people and their names and to get to know their personalities. This is a wonderful group, and I have just been blessed by it.”
“When you sit in an apartment and you look at the four walls and then you come out here on a Tuesday morning, it is great,” said Thannis Phillips, the oldest member of the sewing ministry at 95 years old.
Developing friendships has been one of Barbara’s favorite parts over the years as well, but the group agreed that the life-wisdom they gain is worth the Tuesday morning commitment alone.
“I tell my husband I come here every week for all the knowledge I get,” Brenda Barber said.
Maybe it’s that Barbara spent 29 years teaching first grade or maybe it’s simply the sharing of everyone’s combined life experiences. Either way, along with their morning’s cup of joe comes a heaping of knowledge.
“I listen a lot. I glean. I learn,” Owen said. “I love this group of ladies and I wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world unless I had to. Sometimes I go back to where I came from and visit for a week or so and then I can’t wait to get back.”
That kind of excitement is what sustains Graves Memorial’s sewing ministry. Amidst these two decades, full of laughter and the bustling of an at-work sewing machine, God’s hands are ultimately stitching hearts of service.
“I have never been in a church as active in the community as this church is,” Phillips said. “Knowing that what you’re doing is impacting the life of someone else; that is the important part.”
“We just do things that we think will be helpful,” Barbara said.