PORTSMOUTH — It started with a sewing pattern and a mission conference. Bruce Powers, pastor of Westhaven Baptist Church in Portsmouth, attended the MC2 conference sponsored by the VBMB last summer at Eagle Eyrie. Staffers of the Woman’s Missionary Union of Virginia shared about a project to sew jumpers for various mission needs, including the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North and South Dakota. Sewing patterns were available and Powers decided to take one, but he had another part of the world in mind.
Norfolk and Portsmouth Baptist associations are sponsoring an indigenous church planter, Godfrey Phanye, in an area known as Disaster Park in South Africa. As part of Westhaven’s goal to establish partnerships, both local and global, the congregation committed to support this partnership and took the lead in publicizing the opportunity among area churches.
“We were determined to make our partnership more than sending a check each year,” says Powers. In May of 2008 he traveled to South Africa on a team that led a retreat for pastors and their wives. He met Phanye and when he returned home and shared with the congregation the ways God was working there, the church’s missions leadership made a goal of sending a team to work with the church planter in 2010.
Knowing Westhaven had a needlework group that was always looking for a good project, Powers took the pattern for the dress to the group’s leader, Billie Lusk. He shared with her his idea of each member of the team carrying sundresses to give to the church planter in support of his work. She was excited about the opportunity and promised to work on it.
“Two of the regular members of the sewing group proceeded to make a few dresses and as the news spread at church other women began to ask if they could make some, too,” says Lusk. The fabric closet kept recieving donations of fabrics and the seamstresses in the church continued to make dresses.
The project culminated on April 29 with the presentation of the children’s handmade dresses to the church. When the congregation came to Wednesday dinner that night, they found jumpers strung on clotheslines across the room. This group of ladies had made a total of 60 dresses and since all of the materials had been donated, there had been no cost to the church.
A mission team from Norfolk Baptist Association led by Roy Smith, director of missions, will travel to South Africa later this year and will likely deliver several suitcases of dresses from Westhaven Baptist in Portsmouth. And the excitement generated by the handiwork of the sewing group has generated excitement in the congregation as well.
If interested in fabric and a sewing pattern, contact Maria Lynn at WMU of Virginia at (804) 915-5000, ext. 8301, or email [email protected].