“Well, I see we are going to the same convention.”
I turned to see an orthodox Jewish man in the seat next to me wearing a yarmulka and a prayer shawl under his coat. In my lap was a quilting magazine which had obviously captured his attention. We were both on a plane bound for Portland, Oregon and the International Quilt Market, a wholesale trade show.
It was one of my first forays outside the circle of church conferences that although while spanned the world seemed all too closed off from real people. Years ago I had realized one day that as a pastor’s wife, the only non-Christian I saw each month was the hairdresser or perhaps the checker at the grocery store. My life was imprisoned in a circle of people who for the most part seemed afraid of “THEM” out there.
But now, twenty some odd years later, at the age of fifty-three, I had lost a measure of concern about what people thought and had decided to follow a rising flow of interest in a new hobby and help my friend, Alice, with her booth at the quilt market. This “mistake” landed me next to a man who was curious about things in my life. For the next three hours we talked about loving God, finding common ground in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the characters we both loved so well from the scriptures.
I cleverly disguised myself as a normal person, and purposely didn’t tell him I was a minister. This led to a delightful conversation that rose above religious walls. He was deeply sincere and zealous for the Law, so I gave him my banana so he could keep kosher on the flight and still have something to eat. Three times he said to me incredulously, "I’ve never met anyone like you before.” Finally, as we landed, he asked, “What do you do?” “I’m a Christian minister.”
“I thought so!” he replied .
While I didn’t “pray the prayer” with him, I somehow knew that God had used me to turn the hands of his spiritual clock a few minutes further toward the moment when he would.
At the quilt market I met my friend, Alice, who seemed severely lacking in encouragement. Danna Kay, my sister, and I helped Alice with her booth, and I found myself speaking authoritatively to passersby about quilting, something I knew next to nothing about. What I did know about was writing books.
Finally, my frustration with Alice’s undiscovered creative genius got to me. I took her by the arm and “dragged” her to the booth of a nationally known craft book publisher. She came away with the promise of a contract and her face beaming. I was having a ball. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were working with normal people.
Three weeks later, Jill Austin came to our church and prophesied that I would have an entrepreneur’s anointing to link people in and outside the church and that it would have something to do with quilting.
Within days I found myself networking people from four nations in and outside the church to sew and to teach sewing to the poor, and I’m having fun. Wherever I’ve shared about my vision to “stitch for the nations” closet sewing and quilting professionals have come to me wanting to help.
I’ve scaled the prison walls now and am in contact with real people, some who even swear and a have need for Jesus, and He’s touching them. I’m seeing the River touch the Dead Sea and the “leaven of the kingdom” beginning to work.
And I’m not the only one. This issue is filled with testimonies and articles by business leaders and others who have found the joy of giving away the blessing in the marketplace. As we approach this holiday season, maybe you will be inspired to give to those around you the greatest gift you have to give, your friendship with the God who is crazy about them.
Originally Published September/October 2003 Editor Melinda Fish