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Posts Tagged ‘Jeannie Dortch’

By Jeannie Dortch. Photos courtesy of Paul Bickford, Ried Stelly and Mark Williams.

Callout-BLOG-kohx2In September 2013 Jim Somerville explained KOHx2, FBC’s second yearlong mission trip: “How much more possible it would be to bring the Kingdom if FBC partnered with other people, other churches, and other agencies and institutions. Everything is easier when you have a little help.”

SKEINS

SKEINS knitted wares

A little help is what made this story grow into one worth telling!

In December 2012 I heard Ann Curry from the TODAY Show tell everyone listening to the morning broadcast to perform 26 acts of kindness in memory of the children and teachers killed in Sandy Hook, CT. I had promised FBC’s SKEINS ministry (Sewers, Knitters, Embroiderers involved in Needlework for Service) that I would knit hats for children in South Africa, but had not made good on my pledge. It was that number 26 that gave me the goal and end point I needed to begin.

playground

Playground built by money raised
through special offerings

It wasn’t long before I met Mark and Sara Williams, CBF (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship) missionaries to South Africa, who were visiting Richmond, and gave them my first four feeble attempts. Then I learned about more ties between FBC members and the Williamses. June Burton was raising money to dig a well for the villagers in the community where Sara and Mark work. Debbie Boykin and Candi Brown were leading mission trips to that community, and Candi was spearheading a campaign to raise money to build a playground there.

I wanted to draw attention to these good causes, too. When the Fine Arts Team sought artists to display their work in the annual Arts and Crafts Show, I wondered if my hats, each unique, were considered show worthy? With a few phone calls, I discovered they were. And with a few more calls, I gathered more SKEINS knitters to contribute their work as well. These hats gave opportunities to share with the show’s attendees about the other FBC ties to South Africa. Gwen and Truman Smith, Sara Williams’ parents, answered questions about Sara and Mark’s work. June Burton provided flyers on “Digging Wells for Eli,” the project she named in honor of the Williams’ son. And a signup sheet for the first mission trip, led by Candi, was available.

Pratt Stelly-250px

Pratt Stelly on mission in Tibet

Pratt Stelly stopped at our Arts and Crafts Show booth and later wrote on Jim’s blog, referring to participation in FBC’s year-long mission trip as riding on a metaphorical bus that stops for passengers to disembark and help those in need: “At the Arts and Crafts Fair I was drawn to the darling baby hats from the SKEINS group. I was given a pattern right there on the spot, and stopped to buy yarn on my way home from church! I knit 10 hats before I left for China …. And this is where I got off the “bus.” While I want to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Richmond, Virginia, I feel like we should also bring the Kingdom of Heaven wherever we are in the world. I took my hats to Tibet in hopes of finding an orphanage, but could not find one that took babies. I decided to give the hats to needy people I passed on the street. … While we did not speak the same language, we shared the feeling of love for one another, and that is what it is all about. I will continue to knit and give hats wherever I am.”

Marian Robinson, another new knitter, says: “I saw the preemie hat … at the Arts and Crafts Fair. I was especially interested in the unusual design pattern. Jeannie sent me the directions. I was thrilled and excited to be part of this mission. I started immediately along with my cousin Kathy who was visiting from Massachusetts.

Mark Larson and kids

Mark Larson on mission in South Africa

We knitted a dozen hats in time for Mark Larson to take with him to South Africa in October. The task was a simple one, but the satisfaction received was more than I could have ever imagined.”

And finally, from Linn Kreckman, founder of SKEINS: “After listening to Gwen Smith speak at Missions Friends in September, Evan, my 6-year-old grandson, wanted to find time with me to knit for ‘the children who don’t have a mommy to keep them warm.’ His hat was a labor of love, full of beginning knitter’s holes, but one that was knit from the start to share.”

South African kids

FBC mission team members sharing hats
with SAF community

It is amazing how so much more can be accomplished when the work is joyfully and willingly shared. Math is not my strong suit, but KOHx2 may just be the easiest multiplication problem I ever worked!

Editor’s note: The goal for “Digging Wells for Eli” is $7,000 for one well. At the time of this writing, almost $6,000 has been raised and digging began November 11, 2013. For more information, contact June Burton.
For information on SKEINS, contact Linn Kreckman.
Jeannie Dortch just finished her 26th hat and plans to continue knitting.

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Story and photos by Jeannie Dortch.

FBC’s work with Essex Village began in 2010 when FBC member Sandra Millican began tutoring Than Sein, a Burmese refugee (see It takes two to tutor). When Than and his family moved to Essex Village, he started attending Laburnum Elementary where Sandra continued to help him. As other New Americans, originally from Bhutan, moved to Essex Village, more doors opened and FBC’s ministry there grew.

Essex Village afterschool programThe first time I arrived at Essex Village to tutor at-risk children in the newly-formed afterschool program, I noticed that one of the other tutors was wheelchair-bound with no use of her legs and not much of her arms or hands.

I was mesmerized with her command of the children. She radiated joy, sweetness, care, and knowledge, and the children responded to her with respect and obedience. This volunteer, I learned, is Teresa Jackson, a Title 1 math assistant at Laburnum Elementary. She volunteers in Essex Village’s afterschool program as part of the non-profit Seeds of Promise Outreach Ministries, Inc., started by Ernestine Dockery-Roy, recently retired assistant principal at Laburnum Elementary. With the godly leadership of these two women, the tutoring space has been transformed into a place where children can find safe refuge and feel love’s warmth.

calloutGetting to know Teresa better is something I was determined to do to learn what motivates her to work in such a mentally and physically demanding job. Visiting with her at Laburnum Elementary reinforced the concept that humans are only limited by their thoughts. Teresa whizzed through the corridors in her motorized wheelchair and explained her philosophy of teaching. “I’m not handicapped. I’m disabled, meaning I’m not necessarily able to work like you do, but I am able to get the job done. It may take me a little longer, but the results are the same. I love children and I want to see them succeed, and that can be done in or out of a wheelchair.”

Essex Village has a population of more than 500 children, all living below the poverty level (less than $17,500 for a single parent with two or more children). According to Steve Blanchard, FBC’s Minister of Compassion, “The needs are great, but our partnership with Essex Village is showing promise as a blessing to those who live there, but even more so to the people of FBC.”

Teresa sums it up, “I love to see children brighten up by what they learn. Many of the students in our program come from abusive families, and I want them to know they have teachers who care about them. Some of the kids say, ‘I can’t try no more.’ I tell them, ‘Think can, not can’t. I don’t use the word can’t. Look at me! If I can, you can. I don’t pity you, nor do I want to. I am motivated by you. I want you to find something that motivates you so you too will experience God’s blessing in your lives.’”

Essex Village afterschool programEditor’s note: Seeds of Promise will provide a summer camp from July 8th-August 1st, Monday-Thursday, 9:00-1:00, for elementary school children in Essex Village. The camp will include arts and crafts, outdoor activities, and lunch. In the fall of 2013 a nine week afterschool tutoring session will be held. For information on how to contribute to these opportunities contact Jeannie Dortch or Sandra Millican.

Find a list of ongoing Essex Village Projects at http://fbcrichmond.org/KOH2RVA/projects.htm.

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