By Quinn Lavespere, Message Staff Writer
[img_assist|nid=7597|title=Spirit-filled ministry|desc=Ladies of First Homer’s prayer shawl ministry include (from left) Shirley Vines and 92-year-old Eva Hardy. To her right are Margaret Rowell, Joy Hays, Denice Owens, Brenda Mitchell, Mildred McHam, Barbara Monzingo, Betty Gathright, Renee Cross, Barbara Booth, Sandra Hines, Claire Brown, Nancy Ross, Carolyn Bice, and Linda Duckworth.|link=none|align=right|width=640|height=511]HOMER – Some ministries are characterized by a spirit that is incredibly sweet and loving.
One women’s ministry in Homer proudly and happily embodies that spirit.
Made up of young and old members, the Homer First Baptist Church Prayer Shawl Ministry lovingly knits and crochets prayer shawls for people with various needs, all the while leaving an indelible mark on those they come in contact with.
“Loving-kindness is the foundation that this ministry is built upon,” group member Joy Hays said. “Through us, we want God’s Holy Spirit to deliver healing and anointing on all those we come in contact with.”
The prayer shawl ministry began in October 2007 with 15 ladies present.
At the organizational meeting, the concept of knitting and crocheting shawls for people with various needs was developed.
The needs ranged from serious health and emotional problems to those in grief or even rejoicing, whether the occasion was the birth of a child or the wedding of a family member.
“Volunteers are asked to pray as they knit or crochet, specifically for the person to receive the shawl, as well as for the ministry,” Hays said. “The group meets on the second Sunday of each month with an average attendance of 10, and we presently have 25 volunteers ranging in age from 31 to 92. Some are beginners, while some have been knitting and crocheting for many years. Our pastor, Dr. Jimmy Simeon, wholeheartedly supports this ministry as do all members of the church family. Contributions from church members have provided for the purchase of yarn, though many purchase their own supplies.
“We’ve distributed 292 shawls as of July 21, 2011, and we pray over every single one,” Hays continued. “We want our prayer shawls to have God’s anointing on them and have seen many of them bless people profoundly through God’s anointing.”
Hays said the shawls have been given to many people, such as cancer patients, those losing loved ones, and church staff as a form of appreciation. As a further testament to the spirit of the ministry, babies are also given prayer shawls.
“On baby dedication Sunday each baby is given a blanket with a prayer attached,” Hays said. “These shawls serve as not only a physical covering, but also a spiritual covering for these babies.”
The idea for the prayer shawl ministry was Hays,’ but she was adamant that the group has no real leader and that all in the group are totally equal. That camaraderie and the group’s wholehearted dedication to God have led to blessings from the Almighty that have affected both the group and those around them, Hays said.
“God has blessed this ministry through the comfort that it has brought to people who are sick,” Hays said. “Sick people have wrapped their shawls around their shoulders when they’re cold, and those people have told others how God has used that to bring them comfort in a time where they’re going through a stressful situation.
“We’ve been blessed with a young volunteer who’s 31,” Hays continued. “He’s blessed the ministry in our church – it seems like this is a family thing. They all feel a part of it. Mostly, it’s blessed every member. Any member of this group will tell you that we are far more blessed than the people we take the shawls to.
“It’s such a blessing to see the members helping each other!” Hays exclaimed. “When this ministry started out, I felt that the ones who were passed over were the ones who could still use their hands and do something, and I thought that they needed to do something other than take trips. I thought they needed to be involved in a ministry, because these people have been Sunday School teachers and a vital part of the WMU. I heard of a prayer shawl ministry in Mississippi that had taken a prayer shawl to my sister-in-law when she had cancer surgery, and the more I read about it, the more I felt like it would meet the needs of the members I was thinking about. That was my vision, and I believe it’s fit right in with the group.”
Hays said she hopes that the group can get more volunteers in the future.
“Some people might say, ‘I can’t do this,’ but we will teach you,” Hays said. “We’ve given shawls to people all over the United States, and we hope to meet the needs of more people as we follow God.”