A dark Sudanese woman's hand is spread over some fabric while she sews decorative stitching on a sewing machine.

One stitch at a time

It’s six years since my mum passed away. Last weekend my sister helped dad go through mum’s boxes of sewing stuff.

Mum loved quilting and collected pieces far and wide. Dad had the job of cutting them into whatever shape was needed. He’d grumble, but secretly loved working together with mum.

Recently, I’ve been helping the Lutheran Community Sewing Group at Albert Park in Adelaide put together a video about their volunteer ministry to new neighbours – former refugees arriving from places like South Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the video you see former strangers welcomed with hugs and smiles, taught sewing and English, making dresses and making friends.

Children are cared for in a crèche. Everyone is fed.

No one is judged because of where they come from, or what they believe.

One new neighbour, Immacule from Rwanda, shares in the video her joy at having people to talk to and being able to laugh again.

The video is called One Stitch at a Timeand this got me thinking about all the little things you Lutheran women do to help others and how these all stitch together to make a big beautiful impact on people’s lives.

I especially thought of the women you teach to sew at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya through ALWS. They have new lives because of your generosity and kindness.

Mary Nagum knew nothing about tailoring before her training with ALWS

Meet Mary Nagum … from nothing to 20 dresses a day!

“Before this training, I knew nothing about tailoring.

In South Sudan, I was just working on the farm. We grew vegetables and maize. We also had cattle, but this is men’s business.

We left Sudan in 1993. I was 26. We left because there was fighting. I came with my husband and my child, but my husband has now died here in the camp.

Now I make school uniforms for the vulnerable children.

I also make bags from open hessian, with small holes in the sides. People fill this bag with dirt and plant vegetables. It is a garden bag.

I can make 20 dresses in one day.”

Sudanese woman proudly holds a bag sewn in brightly coloured fabric.

Mary Napeok only knew how to brew beer (illegally) before the ALWS sewing workshop

Meet Mary Napeok … from beer to blouses!

“I fled South Sudan because of the war.

They killed everyone in my family except me.

In class, we first learn how to use the treadle machine. Then we take pieces of paper with patterns and practice our stitching.

Then we practice on materials.

We are then given a piece of fabric, and shown how to measure, mark and cut it.

The first item I made is a blouse. When I finished it, I took it to my teacher, and she said it is good, so I feel very good.

I decided to do the training because I know I need something to help my children. Before this training, all I could do was brew beer. This is illegal. I was arrested and taken by the police.

I don’t have a husband – I am a survivor. Now I have my certificate I will be looking for more work from LWF to sew clothes. I am hoping LWF will give me a start-up kit.”

Sudanese woman displays a bag she has sewn. Slung over her right shoulder, it is sewn from brightly coloured fabric with indigenous designs on it.

Sunday Lino uses the money she earns from sewing items to pay for her sister and children to go to school.

Meet Sunday Lino … from forgotten to thanks

“I don’t remember South Sudan as I was only seven years old when I came here.

With the training, I now make bags. We get customers, and we sell. We put part of the profit into the group account, and we use the rest for our families.

As a group of 10, we made 80 bags in two days. For this, my share of the profit is $100.

I give perhaps $10 to my husband, and the rest stays with me. He says to make my own decisions.

I use this profit to help pay the school fees for my sister, and to send my own children to school. It is important children go to school so they can develop well. If girls don’t go to school, they are at risk of illegal sex and such dangers.

When a child goes to school, they can become a doctor or professor.

My husband is happy I am working and bringing in money. He works too. Now that the food ration has been decreased, we can use this money to buy extra food, as well as pay the school fees.

We ladies work much harder than the men.

If a husband goes to work, that is his job, and it is finished.

Even though I am working at this job, I must still do all my other work. I am fetching the water and going to the distribution to bring home our ration, and collect firewood, and do everything else. If I dared ask my husband to help carry water, the whole community would abuse me.

We are very grateful you are coming to help us. Because of your support we now make more money than those people who are employed. We give you our thanks.”

“We give you our thanks.”

It is wonderful to have the chance to pass on to you the thanks of people like Sunday and the two Marys.

Whether your support is a donation during worship at a zone meeting, or from making cakes for an after-church stall, or sewing together a handcraft for a trading table, or volunteering with the Lutheran Community Sewing Group, or crafting quilts like my mum did (and my wife Julie does) to delight others …

… you can be certain that your stitches join together with those of other Lutheran women, one stitch at a time, to make a beautiful tapestry that blesses lives forever! Thank you!

About the Author

Jonathan Krause

Jonathan is the Community Action Manager for Australian Lutheran World Service (ALWS). If you’d like ALWS to visit your Fellowship or Church, and share stories with you, and show the Sewing Group video, just ask! Call 1300 763 407 (local call rates apply from with Australia) or email alws@alws.org.au

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