Small Church Sets a Big Goal - Sewing 1601 School Bags for African Children

October 05, 2014

Click here to view a photo album from a Wednesday night sewing session

Click here to see the video interview with Pastor La Tonya Calderon

Brenda Core and friends have been doing a lot of sewing lately.

Her church, Farmers Chapel UMC, located south of Indianola Iowa, might have less than 50 members but that doesn’t stop them from setting some pretty big goals. They decided to sew 1601 school bags for children in Nigeria as their churches Thanksgiving InGathering project.

Right around last year’s InGathering time; Pastor La Tonya Calderon received what she calls “a blessing bug” about sewing school bags. She did a little research and discovered that the most bags any church in Iowa had donated in one year were 1600. So she set their goal at 1601, somewhat doubting that they could reach it until she got reassurance from Brenda. “Oh, we can do it!” was Brenda’s response.

“Our goal of 1601 bags was not made to accomplish breaking another churches record, but instead to stand on the faith of the ministry that was done before us and to see what God could do,” explained Pastor Calderon.

Amazingly they have not purchased any material. Everything, including over 800 yards of fabric has been donated. Brenda says she has made bags out of almost any kind of fabric including curtains, tablecloths, shirts, jeans and grass seed bags. She has tried to sew close to 100 bags per week sometimes getting up at 4 a.m. if God calls her to.

A group of volunteers meet at 5:30 pm on Wednesday evenings to cut, sew and iron the bags. The whole membership has gotten involved donating, cutting, and ironing the fabric. They also bring meals so the volunteers can keep sewing. The Sunday school children have been able to pitch in too. They put out an offering and were able to raise enough money to purchase school supplies such as crayons, paper, pencils, pencil sharpeners, and scissors to fill 102 of the bags.

Brenda Core has a special place in her heart for this project having experienced firsthand the needs of children when she traveled to Africa in 2013. She feels blessed and motivated knowing these bags will touch the lives of those in need. Reaching this goal has added a little stress on all of them but Brenda is so inspired and excited she actually set a new goal to sew 2014 bags for the year 2014!

Pastor Calderon wants other churches to know that they should do whatever God has placed there for them to do. “It has just been a Godsend for us to be part of the work that God is doing.”  She said that their motivation does not come from meeting a specific number but it comes from being a part of God’s work, blessing people and the joy of it. She calls it being in the “blessing business.”

The Thanksgiving InGathering project has done more than just fill a need for impoverished children in Africa; it has given Farmers Chapel a greater sense of how God is working in their lives. They are seeing what God can do through them, not by their power, but through God’s power. Pastor Calderon said, “This project has brought a new vision to the church and we are just starting to live in to it. It is Loving Bigger, Loving Deeper and Loving More. Having this new vision has brought a lot of excitement too, knowing now what we can accomplish through Christ.”

Communications Team members Liz Winders, Content Manager, wrote the story from an interview with Pastor Calderon that video recorded and edited by Dr. Arthur McClanahan, Director of Communications.