Meet Holli. She’s been teaching sewing classes for the past couple years and has built friendships with many women in that process. Here’s why Holli got involved and how it has changed her.
My mom taught me to sew clothes when I was about 10, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t start sewing for personal enjoyment until I was about 23 (after grad school) and discovered quilting. When I started teaching sewing to high schoolers in spring of 2019, I discovered that I was able to teach people to sew and that I enjoyed it. I became a volunteer for Arrive in fall of 2019.
How did you feel about/view refugees prior to getting involved with Arrive Ministries? And what led you get involved?
11 years ago when I moved to the St Cloud area, I never imagined I’d be volunteering as a sewing teacher to refugee-background women. I grew up in a small homogeneous town in Iowa. It was a wonderful upbringing, but it didn’t offer me many opportunities to be around people of various cultures and backgrounds. I hadn’t been overseas for travel or missions work. I didn’t have many friends outside of my Christian circles at school, church, Bible studies, etc. To be honest, even thinking about refugees wasn’t something I did. I knew “they” existed, but refugees, their situations, their knowledge of Jesus, or lack thereof, was really of no consequence to me.
God has been slowly changing my heart. The key component to becoming involved as an Arrive volunteer has been a continual prayer that my heart would be moldable and responsive to the things of God’s heart, and from there God has worked circumstances to guide me onto this path: I was invited to teach a class at my kids’ school where I learned that I liked to teach sewing; when my youngest child went to school, I had time to volunteer.
I heard a pastor teach on the wedding at Cana where all Jesus asked was for obedience of the servants to bring water for him to then perform his miracle. I read of a Bible Study leader’s desire to see the people in that study serving in their communities, not merely being satisfied to serve in their churches and Christian circles. My church brought in a leader in domestic mission work to Muslim-background people in an effort to teach and encourage us to be engaged with those people in our community.
I became aware of the issues in our own community- specifically division amongst people groups that presented as fear, resentment, hostility, blame, lack of interaction, etc. Although I knew that I had no way to solve the problems around me, I could be a part of the solution in small ways, my way of being obedient to “bring water” one relationship at a time.
How have your views changed since getting involved?
I will be honest and say that I was very nervous to get involved, and I almost didn’t. When Samantha first sent me the sewing curriculum that had a page of English words translated into Somali, I was ready to say “No, this isn’t for me. I don’t do languages.” I felt the fear of radical Islam and didn’t want to invite any potential of that into my existence. I heard story after story of people who have had, or had heard of, difficult interactions with “others”. And sometimes, quite frankly, I am intimidated by people who are different than me. I was looking at the problems, not the people; generalizations, not individuals; temporal realities, not God’s invitation to the nations to become citizens of His kingdom. But I knew that this was what God was leading me to do, so I committed to helping teach a sewing class.
I would pray my way into each class with my heart racing, only to leave 2 hours later with a smile on my face. I discovered that language wasn’t as big of a hurdle as I thought it would be. I found delight in getting to know someone from a different background and world view, to hear their story and learn about their culture. I realized that I had a lot in common with my students! I rejoiced when I was able to have a good conversation. I celebrated with my students when they proudly finished their sewing project. I realized that I was learning to become more flexible. I found deep joy and praised God when a student told me that the two hours of her sewing class were the best hours of her week. I have made friendships that I treasure. And I have found a renewed desire to be a part of God’s work in bringing people from all nations to Himself.
How would you encourage others who are nervous about taking a step in getting involved?
If you are considering taking a step to get involved, pray for a moldable and responsive heart that is obedient to God’s call on your life. Realize that you will likely feel unprepared and unequipped; stepping outside of our comfort zone is bound to make you feel this way. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn along the way and discover how God is sustaining you in the process. Read books about how God is moving in the world – how He is drawing people to Himself and working in and through His Body. Regardless what your stance is on U.S. immigration policy, we cannot overlook the people at our doorstep who are created in His image and have maybe never had the opportunity to hear Good News. It excites me to think that God is moving here in St. Cloud and that I am given the opportunity to be a part of it. Maybe you are, too?
Be willing to bring the water. It might seem like you can only offer something small and unimportant, but God is able to do what He wills through an obedient servant with a seemingly insignificant contribution.