The Red Shawl

Martha with Valentina and Dmitry (Small)

by Martha Mellinger

It started with a red shawl but turned out to be so much more. I had simply wanted a special gift to send to my adopted holocaust survivor, Valentina, for her birthday. Something useful,  something needed, and something that would convey human love and the Father’s care. But what to send? The inspiration came to make a red shawl –  hand made especially for Valentina. Each stitch became a prayer that this would be the perfect gift, that the timing would be right and that somehow this precious survivor would know that God had not forgotten her.

The gift arrived at the AHI office on the morning of Valentina’s birthday. Although Valentina lived an hour away and volunteers had been visiting in her area the day before, there was the sense that it was important for the gift to be delivered that day.  Upon receiving the gift, Valentina’s eyes sparkled and a broad smile crossed her face. Just that morning she had gone shopping for a shawl but did not have enough money to buy the one she wanted and came home empty handed. Just in time for the delivery of The Red Shawl.

As I began telling The Red Shawl story to others, many wanted to also make gifts for the survivors. Some knit dishcloths, others crocheted scarves and tatted doilies, pieced lap robes, or made pot scrubbers. A little neighbor girl used a loom to make hats for the survivors and an 8 year old granddaughter made pot holders.  Another granddaughter used donated yarn to create mesh shopping bags. A woodworker used the scraps of cedar wood to make room fresheners.

Many groups are glad for new projects ideas.  Inviting my Amish neighbors for a Tea Party and telling them The Red Shawl Story inspired them to sew toiletry bags.  A creative stitches group agreed to make lap robes. A Tuesday morning ladies group took project kits home to complete and had an auction to donate money for supplies. A Sunday School class designated gifts as their special Christmas project. Some of the women in that class even worked on their projects during the Bible lesson!

As the story continues to be told and word gets around, donations come in to help with the project supplies. Nearly 70 skeins of wool yarn were given to make slippers. Leftover squares of fabric from a women’s fellowship were pieced together to make lap robes. A large bin of fabric samples was donated from an upscale store in New York to be made into tote bags.

Creative opportunities are found to get as many people involved as possible. A church ladies retreat will offer a service project for the women to complete projects for the survivors. At a scrapbooking event, participants will be invited to embellish notepads for the survivors. For those who are less creative, packaged kits are prepared for them to complete and return.

It is so simple, really. Allowing God to prompt us to use the supplies, the skills, and the time that we have to provide that personal touch to the gifts we can offer to others. It is trusting that He knows the needs and will supply those needs through us. It is knowing that each gift given in His name will bear His mark and do its work to touch hearts and open them to His purposes through them.

We look forward to seeing what more God will do. Who will He bring to help us? What projects will He lay on our hearts? How will He provide supplies? What doors will He open for us to present the needs to others? We are willing and available and He does the rest!

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