Covered with a Quilt of Prayer
Each year the Northwest Houston Corps covers 50 people with a special quilt of prayer. A partnership between the women’s ministry quilting group and the larger corps community helps to create a unique and tangible encouragement of prayer. About four years ago, Major Betty Carpenter started the ministry, using the framework of an interfaith organization called Prayers and Squares, to connect women who sew and all who pray into a powerful ministry of intercession. Today Tiffany Anzalone, a senior soldier, leads the ministry with enthusiasm and vision.
Quilters put the quilt together and add wool or other distinctive loose threads into the squares. After the quilt has been put together, it is placed in an open space in the lobby with a description of the person who will receive it and their needs. Everyone has an opportunity to pray for that person and then tie the added threads into a knot. When the recipient gets the quilt, the knots create a unique texture. The sensation created serves as a tangible reminder of being covered in the prayers of the saints along with the quilt itself.
The Northwest Corps both receives requests and initiates offers to make quilts. The corps offered to make a quilt for General Andre Cox and former President George H. W. Bush (1988-92). Both agreed to receive a quilt.
Over time, the group of women who sew has gotten smaller, so instead of meeting weekly to sew, they do the sewing at home and meet twice a month to sandwich their pieces together on a large table in the corps building. “We piece easy, simple patterns and do as much of the work at home as we can,” Tiffany shared. “When we get together to sandwich the pieces, we can talk as we work and build fellowship. You need at least two women who know how to sew and how to put a quilt together to do this ministry.”
The corps has made quilts for people even before they were born and for those in their 90s, all over the local community and in as many as three different countries. Usually, the quilts are mailed out, so the team doesn’t see the reaction of the recipients. However, Tiffany recalled one emotional event.
“A corps member’s friend requested a blanket for a family member – a little boy with leukemia. When we were nearly finished with it, we invited the family member to come tie a few ties and take the quilt. When the relative saw the quilt, she burst into tears. All the colors of the pattern in the quilt were the colors of a leukemia organization that was helping him. We had no idea, but it was such a great encouragement from God for the family.”
The corps makes quilts, often lap-size, which is helpful for folks to wear while they have dialysis treatments or are staying in the hospital. “We receive a lot of thank you letters, some praise reports of healing, one report that the recipient was buried with it, but always of gratitude for comfort for the family. We don’t just pray for the individual in need, but also the families who care for that person.”
Quilting materials are not always easy for a small corps to afford, but Anzalone reported how support can come in the most unexpected ways. “A local lady who was closing her online quilt shop and moving to Florida called our corps receptionist to find out about making a donation of over 40 bolts of cloth. We picked up the materials and thanked her personally. It was just amazing that she called us directly and not any of the other donation numbers. It was a huge blessing that enabled us to make lots of quilts!”
The corps ministry began four years ago with a team of eight women sewing, but the opportunity for the public to be involved in praying was less. At the time, the quilt was just put out for a few hours to pray. Now, there are three women sewing, but a much larger group gets to pray because the quilt is placed out for about a week in the corps lobby. “There are always people who need prayer. This is such an encouraging ministry,” Tiffany shared. “We’ll keep going until we can no longer do it – and I don’t see that happening.”
For more information about this ministry, check out the extremely clear, straightforward and helpful website of Prayers and Squares at http://www.prayerquilt.org/.
Capt. Maureen Diffley is the USA Southern Territory Program Specialist for Women’s Ministries in Atlanta, GA.