First Corinthians 12:7 reads, “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is; everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits” (The Message).
At North Seattle Friends one of the ways we show who God is to the world is through quilts. A quilt is creative. A quilt is warm. A quilt brings comfort, blessing, and healing. A quilt is beautiful. A quilt shows care and love. Each of these attributes of a quilt is also an attribute of our loving God. Quiltmaking offers plenty of opportunity to show the world who God is.
In the Peace Through Pieces Quilting Ministry we work with Trauma Healing and Reconciliation Services of Burundi (THARS, www.thars.org). Our quiltmaking is used as trauma healing for women who are victims of torture and sexual violence in central Africa.
Through this work we’ve learned that:
- God works mightily in the ordinary. Jesus compared the kingdom to a mustard seed or yeast—the smallest, seemingly most insignificant things. When God spoke to Moses in the burning bush, sending him to release the captive Israelites, Moses said, “Why should they believe me? What sign can I give?” God said to Moses, “What’s in your hand?” God used the ordinary—a shepherd’s staff—to show who God is. And God is using ordinary quilts in Central Africa to show who God is.
- Healing and peace come to the makers of a quilt, as well as the receivers of a quilt.
- In Burundi, when a loved one is grieving, sick, or troubled, a common token of comfort is to give that friend a blanket. Quiltmaking works hand-in-hand with an already existing tradition.
- In Burundi, if you improve the life of a woman, you improve the life of a whole village.
- In every village where the women we’ve trained are quilting, everyone in the village wants what they’ve learned—including the men. Women who have been raped and rejected by their family and community—sometimes forced to live out in the bush—have not only been restored to their homes. They have gone from being victims and outcasts—essentially the lepers of their communities—to being celebrities.
- Quiltmaking can aid in the healing of ethnic hatred. At one workshop when the 20 women gathered for the week-long training, some were arrogant and rude and directed hurtful, hateful things towards the Twa women teachers. Ignoring these barbs, the teachers just set out to teach quiltmaking. After a few days the students spontaneously apologized to their teachers, saying how much they appreciated them, saying that even though they came from different ethnic groups, different backgrounds, and different communities, they’ll leave as friends. God is using quiltmaking to heal the hatred among the Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa ethnic groups of Burundi.
- And we’ve learned a great deal about joy. We held a workshop at the Friends Peace Center near Uvira in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Conditions in Congo continue to be appalling. Deaths from violence, hunger, and disease are expected to exceed six million. Incidents of rape and sexual torture of women exceed 100,000. And yet, among these Friends women, many of whom are victims of this outrage, there was great joy. Joy in learning a new skill. Joy in making something beautiful. Joy in the gathering of women together with outbreaks of singing and dancing several times a day. One THARS staff member in Bujumbura, Burundi, on hearing the stories of joy, said, “Oh, yes, the Congolese. They are known as the ‘Joy of Africa.’”
I have so much to learn from this kind of joy. Obviously it does not come from circumstances, comfort, or security. I am making it a new goal to become known as the “Joy of Seattle.”
In closing I offer you these querries, just as God asked Moses:
What’s in your hand? How is God calling you to show the world who God is?