by Rebecca Sommers MDS/MW USA Sister-Link Coordinator
Nearly 10 years ago Hurricane Charley swept through the center of Florida. In fact, it was Friday, the 13th. Within the next 4 weeks two more hurricanes would blow with a a vengeance in the same location. This was the first major storm that would face the then newly appointed Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) director, Kevin King. On our drive from the airport to the project site, Kevin asked the question, “How can we get women more involved in MDS?”
That question created more questions and discussions. The simple step of giving a wall hanging to the first home built in Wauchula, Florida started the beginning of the Sister-Link ministry–a joint ministry between Mennonite Women USA (MW USA ) and MDS. More details and a plan were presented to MW USA and they responded with: “Let’s do it!” After leaving the Florida project (when Katrina hit land) Elaine Good of Lititz, Pennsylvania, became the first coordinator for this project. The purpose of this Sister-Link was to tell people in the wake of the storms that women across the US and Canada are praying for them and want to give them a gift of beauty. There became another valuable purpose and that was to give women an opportunity to do something as many of the quilting volunteers were retired or didn’t have the time or ability to go to disaster zones as an MDS volunteer.
Eloise Yoder of Archbold, Ohio, became the next coordinator. There is a long list of names of persons making quilted wall hangings from out West, from the Midwest and from the North to the East. They comprise the part of the blessing that homeowners receive.
Ruth Guengerich and myself traveled to Cameron, Louisiana for a house blessing. But in fact, we were blessed in return. The house keys, along with a Bible, the book The Hammer Rings Hope and the wall hanging are given to new homeowners. Ruth and I visited homes that were finished and the first thing they wanted to show us was their wall hanging.
A few years ago, Elaine and I meet with the staff of MDS at their new building in Lititz, Pennsylvania. We were beginning to think that maybe this SIster-Link ministry had run its course and it would be time to end it. It didn’t take us long to know Sister-Link was a valuable piece and MDS wanted to continue it. Over 250 wall hangings have been given and several lay in wait for a request from MDS to send them to a project site. We do know that many more, along with comforters, have been given that we have no account of. Volunteers often bring a gift of these items when they come to work.
When Sister-Link began I thought it was a nice thing to do, but didn’t think it was a big deal. Today I believe this was a call for women to care, to do something and to lift up prayers.
There is a slideshow of pictures on the MDS website showing house building and pictures of comforters and wall hangings being given. Also, we keep a photo album up-to-date with photos of homeowners and the person receiving the wall hanging.
After Katrina hit, Elaine and Leon Good absolutely PACKED their car with prayer shawls that, again, were made by many women across the US. They delivered them to a women’a retreat in Meridian, Mississippi. Many more shawls were taken to Atmore, Alabama for the women at the Native American Assembly. These shawls brought prayer and caring as people were healing.