By Judy Funke (4/17/2016)
My husband, Chris, and I joined FUMC Austin around four years ago. As a member of the Eklektikos Sunday School Class and recently retired, I became involved with ministries for the homeless: Mobile Loaves & Fishes, IHN/Family Promise and Feed My People.
Many months after I began serving once a month at the Feed My People breakfast, my husband and I were shopping at a local fabric store. As coincidence would have it, one of the Feed My People regulars was in the store at the same time and he recognized me. He asked if I could sew and mentioned that he had a few items that needed simple repair – shirts with missing buttons, torn coat pockets, broken backpack straps. I heard the call but needed time to figure out where and when to make that happen.
A few months passed and the meeting with my homeless neighbor slipped to the back of my mind. Then one day while shopping at the grocery store, I met my homeless friend again. He reminded me that he STILL had items that needed repair and showed me the open seam in his backpack.
A few more months passed and one day I realized that the solution was obvious. All I needed to do was take my sewing machine along to the Feed My People breakfast on the fourth Tuesday of each month and simply be available to make minor sewing repairs. I didn’t realize at the time that I am following in the footsteps of the lovely Sandra Green, who served as the Feed My People Sewing Lady before me.
The people I have met during the sewing sessions have greatly enriched my life. We’re building relationships through conversation. I’ve met men who have reading lists at the library that are possibly more extensive than many college graduates. Some of our homeless neighbors learned how to sew from their grandmother or acquired the skill in prison. One gentleman who carried the sewing machine to my car after one of the breakfasts spoke in great detail about the beauty of the state capitol building and the resources that went into its construction.
During each sewing session, due to time constraints, I am usually limited to helping three or four clients. One morning as I realized that I’d only have time to make one more repair, there was some tension between two men about who was next in the queue to be served. Desperate to avoid a conflict, I asked the men if either of them knew how to sew. Luckily one of the men did know how, so I gave him a needle and thread and urged him to make his own repair. Encouraged by the small success of self-help, my husband ordered sewing kits that I make available to our homeless neighbors.
News of the sewing service spread by word of mouth. Recently one of our clients had a tear in his blue jeans. Part of the repair included reinforcing the torn area with an iron on patch. I explained that the repair would be more effective if heat could be applied to the iron on patch. The client said that he has access to an iron at the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) and he seemed to understand how to fuse the patch to the cloth. The next time I sewed at the homeless breakfast, a different client came to me to ask for an iron on patch that he could use to fix his own backpack.
The funny thing is, I’m not a very good seamstress. My sewing skills are basic but adequate. God is patient and He accomplishes much with a willing heart.