The year may be ending but NEW things have just begun at the Bible Education Center in Champaign/Urbana.
As another year comes to an end it is a time to reflect on all that has happened in our lives, the world we are living in over this past year, and into the projected future. This can be an exciting time of reminiscing. World events though unsettling at times are an exciting wake up call to the fact that we are in fact in the last days as events change every day. Change is never easy and I have had much change over this past year but I am happy to celebrate many of these same changes as they have brought with them growth and new insight, relationships and much joy.
When I consider how we have touched the lives of those that have come into the BEC or been associated with us in some way over at least the last 6 months I can only say that God has been good. New relationships have been forged, existing relationships strengthened and real growth apparent in many that have been coming to the BEC on a regular basis. When I look back in hindsight and consider these relationship 6 months ago I am amazed at how blessed we are to be a part of them.
Home visits/touching lives
Some contacts we have made may have only been a brief interaction but touching just the same; for instance the homeless woman suffering from chemo treatments that we were able to bless with many household/clothing items left over from a rummage sale, the family (a single mother with 3 children) we adopted over the holiday and blessed with unexpected gifts and money to help pay utility bills so their heat would stay on, or the young lady that stopped in and requested we pray with her for guidance and strength during a difficult time of changes she was needing to make.
We have had a longer time to get to know some contacts such as the elderly we have been visiting on a weekly basis thru a volunteer organization called Faith In Action. One women I have the privilege of getting to know is named Maria and suffers from serious health issues including cancer and severe rheumatoid arthritis and yet she speaks often of her faith and trust in God for her strength and healing. Sister Dana has been visiting a woman who, once prominent in the workforce, has now become confined to her apartment with few or no visitors. She shared with us that some of the other residents in her low-income senior housing complex often don’t even come out of their apartments for weeks except for medical appointments.
Enjoying time with Maria, one of the care receivers we visit on a weekly basis.
Our Snuggles Stitch-a-thons have been a great success and from them we are also developing new relationships. One knitter confided in us that she has no one in her life to visit with and how much it means to her to be able to gather with other adults and converse. Some have expressed how much the project has given them a sense of meaning, being able to be a part of a community project. These people once feeling lonely, meaningless or overlooked in such a fast-paced society, have found a purpose and new friendships with us.
Who is to say what fruit may come from our interactions in the future? Developing trust and real relationship takes time and so we pray that our opportunities to be a light to the community will continue to grow. With God’s blessing, his love and a little effort, the good news will continue to be shared with those seeking in our community.
Our first Snuggles Stitch-a-thon (an opportunity for community volunteers to gather together at the BEC to work on making the Snuggles squares that are sent to SA to be made into blankets and an opportunity to have social interaction) was held in October and we were not exactly sure what to expect. We had been receiving several calls responding to a newspaper article that was run on the Snuggles project the previous month, but we really had no idea how many participants might show up. Not knowing what to expect, we prayed about the afternoon and hoped for the best. God is so good and blessed the afternoon like He has so many of our efforts! To our great joy and amazement we were flooded with guests attending our first, of Lord willing, many-to-come Stitch-a-thons. Over 45 guests showed up for the afternoon! It was nearly standing room only. What a blessing to see a room filled to overflowing with willing helpers in doing good deeds. Time was spent getting to know one another; we enjoyed themed refreshments such as cookies shaped like yarn balls and knitting needles and made dozens of squares by the end of the afternoon. I gave a Powerpoint presentation of the project to our interested friends. Free literature, DVDs, pamphlets and The Bible Hope book were made available at each of our events. Largely as a result of the news article – awareness and visitors to the BEC have increased quite a bit over the last several months. Many visitors stop in just to drop off finished squares or donate suitcases to be filled and shipped to SA. The Snuggles Project has become a great “non-threatening” way of increasing awareness of the Bible Education Center in the community.
Setting up for our first Stitch-a-thon.
Standing room only at our first stitch-a-thon. We were overwhelmed at the turn out for our first event.
Private lesson being taught by Sister Rachel Campbell to those wanting to learn to crochet.
Giving a presentation on the work being done in South Africa and sharing with guests how their participation is making a difference thru the Snuggles project.
Working one on one with a lovely young girl named Savannah. Savannah has a learning disability but she didn’t let that deter her at all from wanting to learn how to crochet.
Our second and third Stitch-a-thons were in Nov/Dec and though attendance was lower (over 25 attending these month – most being repeat participants from the Oct. stitch-a-thon) we were able to continue building on these new relationships. The second month we Skyped Lucas and Leona Scheepers so that the participants could ask questions and hear about the impact of Snuggles from the South Africa end. Several returning participants brought new friends with them and so the project continues to grow. Many women that have attended have taken the Snuggles concept to their own knitting groups and are doing their own “stitchathons” to support us. Some of these are; nursing homes, the Carle Hospital Knitting group (a large local hospital), a “snowbird” that is going to get her friends wintering in California to knit squares and a couple ladies that were working here temporarily for State Farm, that are taking the concept back to their home churches (in Alabama and Louisiana)and starting up their own groups. This has been a wonderful means of sharing about the BEC and classes to people that probably would not have otherwise come in. One gentleman, Mark, came to the BEC for the first stitch-a-thon and is now attending our Sunday memorial service on a regular basis. We feel that it is great to be encouraging others in the community to “do good works in the name of Jesus” alongside us! It is for us to plant the seed and God gives the increase.
This project continues to offer so many opportunities to reach deeper into the community and build relationships. For example, a mother and daughter called and made an “appointment” to come into the BEC to learn how to knit. We had a lovely time and were able to share more about the BEC and the classes we offer. Other snuggles knitters/crocheters that read about the program in the paper but were not physically able to attend have requested that we stop by and pick up their donations. These home visits have been great opportunities to share God’s love and the mission work being done in SA. What a joy these visits bring to these people who otherwise live solitary lives and we in turn are blessed with their company. One kind lady knitted over 145 squares in one month’s time between our Stitch-a-thons! She is our current world record-holder!
Sisters and Friends
October was also the beginning of our new Sisters and Friends class held once a month in someone’s home. Sisters from both ecclesias and friends of the BEC are encouraged to attend strengthening our relationships with the students as well as within the brotherhood. I had the pleasure of hosting it in October and we discussed an idea that came to me shortly after my daughter’s wedding ceremony, which was in early October. During the ceremony the fuses blew on some of the lights we had used for decoration. This got me to thinking how we too at times can have our “fuses” blow, causing our “light” to no longer shine, when we allow the world and cares of this life to overload us. As with a literal fuse you need to go to the source of the problem, change the fuse and reconnect to your power source. We too need to examine our spiritual lives and see what may be preventing us from letting our light shine
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matt 5:16
We then need to make necessary changes and reconnect with our power source; the inspired word of God, prayer and our Heavenly Father. We live in a world filled with such darkness from the immorality that is so prevalent to the sheer lack of belief in any Heavenly power. It is at times an overwhelming task to preach the truth to such a society but there are those seeking if we will only be patient and persevere. God will call those whomsoever He wills and we must be ready when they come seeking for more.
Sister Clatie Fisher from the Bloomington ecclesia hosted the November Sisters and Friends class and Sister Dana Pratt of the Champaign County ecclesia hosted it in December. The opportunity to unite sisters from both ecclesias is enhanced by the ability to also involve our BEC students in these classes. They have been lovely casual get-togethers where we show hospitality and are encouraged and strengthened by one another in God’s word.
Visiting at Sisters and Friends class.
Rummage/bake sale/caroling to benefit Snuggles
Late October and early November kept us busy sorting and pricing donated items for our first Rummage Sale held at the BEC. We advertized at the stitch-a-thons that donations would be accepted and we were blessed with more “trash to treasures” than we expected. On the big day, many conversations were struck between volunteers and those browsing the goods and collectively over 85 pamphlets, DVDs, and Bible Hope books were taken by those stopping by. We combined the rummage sale with a bake sale that was set up outside of the BEC so all who entered had to pass by the delicious baked goods that had been lovingly prepared for the sale. We sold beautiful bread cloths that were hand made in fall colors by Sister Liane (our newest sister at the BEC) and quick breads that were perfect for holiday giving. This sale provided for many conversations with passers-by and people in the community to learn more about the BEC. The proceeds will be used to continue supporting the South African Snuggles project.
Setting up the donated items for the rummage sale.
“Customers” browsing the goods at the rummage sale we hosted at the Bible Education Center to support the Snuggles project.
Manning the Bake Sale table: Sister Dana Pratt, BEC student and dear friend Pat Causeman, Sister Liane Morales, and Sister Jennifer Millay.
December brought cooler weather which necessitated the outdoor Farmers market to move indoors for the remaining season. This brought many more visitors inside the mall than usual. We hosted our second caroling and bake sale the last day of the Holiday market and had a wonderful time. Brethren and sisters from both the Bloomington and Chicago ecclesias joined us for the morning and into the afternoon. Over 31 brethren and friends gathered for the festivities of the day. Holiday baked goods and cookie trays were for sale while the carolers serenaded the shoppers. Some of our carolers have excellent voices so many shoppers detoured to our end of the mall just to hear our singing. The afternoon ended with a game and movie afternoon where BEC students were invited to join us for a light supper and we watched Joseph’s Technicolor Dream coat (as requested by one of our BEC students). All in all it was a joyful day of service.
Caroling outside the Bible Education Center during the Holiday Market. Brethren from three ecclesias and friends of the BEC, over 31 in all showed up for the caroling event.
Holiday treats and baked goods lovingly prepared by sisters in the ecclesia on display at the bake sale.
Community Volunteer work/special events
We continue our volunteer work for the local high school after-school program. We have completed two six-week terms and are getting to know the students more with each opportunity. As time goes on the students are getting more familiar with our presence and are even asking more questions about who we are and why we volunteer at the school. Again, another great way to share with the young people in our immediate area about the BEC and why we choose to share our love for God in the community thru service. One of the high school teachers attended one of our stitchathons and hopes to bring students along in the future. She has also asked for us to do a presentation on Snuggles to the Multiculture club she runs at the school. We are delighted that the overlap of just reaching out is bearing fruit in the community!
Students from the local high school, cooking during an after school program where Sister Dana and I volunteer weekly.
Students are learning great life skills in the after school program as well as enjoying themselves while cooking together.
November and December are holiday months in the US. This is a time for families and friends to get together and celebrate. I have always had a large extended family that enjoys time together during these seasons. We enjoy good food, sharing stories about our lives and just being in each other’s company. We have so many examples in the Bible of sharing meals together as an intimate form of fellowship. It’s hard for me to imagine having no one during these holidays to get together with and yet several of our BEC students don’t have this privilege. The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays became perfect opportunities to do something special for our friends at the BEC. Since several didn’t have families of their own to celebrate with during the holidays, we decided to celebrate with them. We (Sister Liane, Sister Dana and myself) prepared a special meal and decorated the BEC with seasonal decoration like a turkey centerpiece for Thanksgiving and snowmen for the month of December. We enjoyed great food, played games and shared lots of fellowship for the afternoon.
Sharing a holiday meal with students and friends of the Bible Education Center.
Loaves and Fishes
Our Loaves and Fishes ministry has been put on hold for the time being. Our mission is to prepare healthy, great tasting food for people that are not able to cook for themselves such as the elderly or those suffering from health conditions that may limit their ability to cook. We were preparing meals for a lovely lady that suffered from a terminal lung disease. Unfortunately her condition deteriorated this fall, and much to our sadness, she passed away. We are comforted in the fact that our meal assistance allowed her to remain in her home much longer then she would have on her own, which was a huge comfort to her toward the end. We will continue to seek others that would benefit from this form of help but until we find a health department approved kitchen we will not be able to advertise our services to the public. We feel there is a great demand in our senior community for proper nutrition that is not being addressed. It is our dream to someday have a facility where we can prepare larger quantities of nutritious meals at low or no cost to those in need. We continue to pray and have faith that the Lord will provide us with sponsors and funding for such a facility when the time is right.