About two years ago I was the recipient of a Prayer Shawl, hand knitted by a sister in my congregation, Pam Risser. While recovering from a broken ankle and unable to attend services, I was pleasantly surprised when Don returned from Sunday services with the gift. As I lifted the shawl from the tissue paper, I felt a warm and spiritual presence flow through me and wept when I read the attached prayer for God’s healing in my recovery. Although it was July, I wrapped the warm shawl around me every day during my afternoon naptime, feeling deeply cared for by my sister and my church family. I asked Pam to share the story of how her Prayer Shawl ministry began. Here is Pam’s story:
As a young child I remember sitting beside my Grandma Martin as she held a fine steel crochet hook in her hand, hooking it in and out of fine crochet thread, resulting in beautiful doilies or inches of lacy edging. I was fascinated to see pretty things coming from a simple length of thread. By the time I was in middle school, I was holding a set of steel knitting needles or a crochet hook in my own hands.
Knitting and crocheting are hobbies I have enjoyed for many years. But, during the busy years of raising a young family and working alongside my husband on the dairy farm, I had little time to enjoy such activities. The children grew and began leaving home for college and once again I had time to pick up some of the needlework that I had laid aside. I made a trip to the nearest arts and crafts store and strolled through the yarn aisles. Not sure what I wanted to make, I was browsing through some needlework books and magazines. Suddenly one in particular caught my eye. It pictured a woman wrapped in a shawl on its cover with the words “The Prayer Shawl Ministry: Reaching Those in Need”. I picked it up and began to look through it. Inside the front cover were these words. “Over the centuries, shawls have come to symbolize shelter, peace and spiritual sustenance….The (Prayer Shawl) Ministry’s message of caring is simple, universal and enduring. And we have seen time and again that the creation and presentation of a prayer shawl, like all acts of generosity, enriches the giver as well as the recipient.”
What a wonderful way to take something I enjoy and use it to bless someone else. Thus began my own ministry of knitting or crocheting prayer shawls and giving them to those God lays on my heart. Often I start one with a particular person in mind, but not always. However, I always have one on my needle and have found that God brings someone to my attention before it is finished. As I work on the shawl I pray for the person who will receive it. I also include a written prayer on a card that is given with the shawl. Recipients have included my prayer partners at Marion Mennonite and family or friends who have suffered loss, illness or heartbreak. Some of my favorites have been those that I have knitted for my own children when they have left to go overseas or to college so that they can feel their mother’s prayers when wrapped in their shawls. Or the nursing prayer shawls I have made with my soon-to-be- born grandchildren on my heart and in my prayers.
I love the symbolism that the prayer shawl provides. As the recipient is wrapped in the warmth of the shawl it serves as a reminder that they are also wrapped in prayer. It is such a visible way of showing sister care to another. (Pam Risser, Guest Writer)
Lorraine Eby, Sister Care Coordinator
Franklin Mennonite Conference