Shown at the Prospect UMC pulpit during the church's quilt presentation to the Newton County Sheriff's Department is, from left, Melissa Coker, Emmie Adamson, Donna Long, Prospect UMC Pastor Ronny Brannen, Newton County Commissioner Lanier Sims, Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown and his wife Janice Brown.
It takes more than needles and thread to make hundreds of quilts. It takes the love of Christian women who care about people they will never meet to make them.
So far, those women have assembled more than 275 quilts that have been given to young orphan girls in Thailand and Ghana, as well as distributed locally.
"They came to me with the idea last February or March a year ago," said Senior Pastor Ronny Brannen of Emmie Adamson and Donna Long, two of his Prospect United Methodist Church members. "I said, 'That sounds great. Have a meeting.' Only the two of them showed up for the meeting."
Discouraged, Adamson and Long never dreamed their idea would finally get off the ground and today be one of the most active ministries at Prospect UMC. The quilting ministry was recently celebrated at the Newton County church during special services on Mission Sunday.
The special day featured the presentation of 100 handmade quilts made by the Quilting Ministry of Prospect to Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown and District Two County Commissioner Lanier Sims.
The quilts will be placed in Newton County squad cars and distributed to those in need of warmth and comfort during situations involving law enforcement. The Quilting Ministry also presented two special quilts to Brown and Sims in appreciation of their service to the community.
"The quilts we presented to the sheriff's department will be put in their patrol cars to be used in a crisis situation, a fire or domestic situation or in an accident where somebody's out in the cold," Brannen said.
"It's something they can wrap around a child or an adult. The whole idea behind that is we want somebody to be physically warm, but to also know the love of God wraps around them. We pray over those quilts and for those who will be wrapped in them that they will know they are loved and cared for."
The pastor said before the quilts are distributed, they are brought into the sanctuary and placed across the backs of the pews.
"It's such a beautiful, colorful day with 200 quilts laid across the altar and everywhere," he said. "At some point in the service, we pray that these will be a blessing."
Anderson and Long founded the Quilting Ministry of Prospect and even visited a church in Augusta that was doing a quilting ministry to find out how to make it all work. When the pastor last year announced his plans for a November 2011 mission trip to Thailand where the church supports an orphanage for 115 girls, the quilters decided to get busy.
"It took off with that project," Brannen said. "Those ladies haven't look back."
They originally planned to make 30 to 35 quilts to take to the little girls in the orphanage and agreed that the older girls would be understanding if they didn't get a quilt too.
"Well, they started having about 10 people come and then about 20 and they got to making quilts," the pastor said. "By the time we left (for the mission trip), they had over 200 quilts. We took 135 quilts to give to all the girls there and the staff and then quilts for new girls."
Prospect UMC takes part in Global Servants and the House of Grace orphanages in Thailand and Ghana. Brannen has been on 10 mission trips to Thailand and on that last trip, he presented the quilts and baptized almost half the girls living in the orphanage. The girls range in age from 4 to 23.
"While I was there, I baptized 47 girls at the House of Grace," he said. "It was a big, big day. It was Sunday and we had a worship service that morning. That afternoon, I baptized 47 of them then gave out the quilts as gifts to the girls. After that we had a big ice cream party for them.
"They were overjoyed. All the quilts are a little different. Some of them immediately wrapped the quilts around themselves and were showing each other their quilts."
In March, Brannen went to another House of Grace orphanage in Ghana where six little girls ranging in age from 6 to 9 were living. He came bearing 12 quilts for the girls, the staff and a few extra for new girls.
"For them it was really funny," he said. "It was almost 100 degrees there and to give them a blanket, we had to explain what it was for. It gets what seems to be cold to them later during the year. One of the ladies also made scarves for the little girls. I presented those to them that day and had to explain what they were for."
In addition to providing quilts for comfort and warmth to girls in Thailand and Ghana and now for adults and children in crisis situations in Newton County, the Quilting Ministry of Prospect continues to look for projects and new ways to share their talents with those in need.
They make hats for those going through radiation treatments and they are making quilts for members of the church youth group who are going on a mission trip to the Bahamas. The students will work on a facility for a children's camp there and each one will have a handmade quilt from the Quilting Ministry to use during the trip and to leave in the camp when they head for home.
The quilters work hard to comfort all God's creatures, great and small. They have even made dog beds for the county animal shelter.
"Nothing goes to waste," Brannen said of the scraps of material the women use. He said they are always looking for ways to help and serve.
"Their talents are unbelievable," he said. "People who can't sew donate material and businesses have donated material. We've been able to use all of that. They've always got somebody else in their sights on what to do and how to do."
While the women sometimes all get together and quilt, the pastor said they don't always all come at the same time. The Quilting Ministry of Prospect has now grown to around 30 women who gather to sew, iron and cut fabric.
"They come on Wednesday evenings," he said. "We have small groups... They're their own small group. They'll sit there and talk and cut and sew. Some come on Tuesday mornings. Depending on what the project is and what they need to get done, they'll meet however often they need to.
"There was a time when they realized they could get all the quilts made for the girls in Thailand that they were coming Tuesdays mornings, Wednesday evenings and other times. It looked like a factory."
While the quilters are all Prospect UMC church members, others interested in quilting are invited to take part in the ministry by quilting or donating fabric and funds. They can contact the church located at 6752 Highway 212 in Covington by calling 770-786-6303.
"They're keeping me busy," Brannen said. "I'm just trying to keep up."Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snellville, Ga. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.