by Glenda Williams

GENEVA, Ala., (BNc) — Six ladies in three different parts of the country, who may never meet this side of heaven, all share common goals.

“It’s wonderful. I don’t want to quit. My favorite pasttime is making dresses,” says Lona Cantrell, pictured.

All the ladies are using what they have, not what they wish they had, to make little dresses, or outfits, for the children in the Amerindian villages of Guyana. Lona Cantrell holds the record of the most dresses made thus far.

“I have made over 350,” she said. “I cut out 6-7 at a time and sew 2-3 dresses a day. Every other Wednesday I take in a new batch of dresses and hang them up in the back of the church building for others to see, hoping it will encourage them.”

When asked what sizes she made, she replied, “from newborn to size 14.” She started her mission work of making the little dresses in 2007. She has also sent six dresses to Thailand and 20-24 to Honduras.

Lona is a member of the Earlyville congregation, out from McMinnville, Tenn. The ladies at Earlyville sew every Wednesday. They make teddy bears, stamp a face on them and stuff them. These are then given to the Sheriff’s Department, nursing home, doctors’ offices and dental offices to be given away. On the back of each special gift is a tag stating the item was made by the ladies of the Earlyville church. Along with the little dresses and the teddy bears, the ladies also quilt and give them to newly-married couples in the congregation or people whose homes have burned.

Lona has been married for 42 years to her beloved Charles. They married in November and she was baptized on Christmas eve.

Jerry O. Davidson, missionary to the Amerindians, said at one time he picked up 60 dresses that Lona had made. He says when he goes on his mission trips to Guyana, “the ladies of the church get together after services and match the dresses with children in the village according to size.”

From the hills of Tennessee to the northern part of Alabama, we found Betty Smith, Ernestine Raulston and Faye Arnold, who also make dresses for the children in the villages of Guyana. Their ages range from retirement to the 80’s, and their sentiment is the same. Betty Smith and Ernestine Raulston worship at the Bridgeport, Ala., church.

Betty said, “I’m glad to do it. It was something I could do. I didn’t have to buy any material, and I’m thankful I’m still able to do that much.”

Joni O’Neal, wife of missionary to India and Guyana, John O’Neal, told the ladies of this great need one day in their Bible class. The saying, “It only takes a spark to get a fire burning,” is true. Immediately these ladies knew they could do this. They had material that they had kept for years, and the idea took off.

At the nearby Dorans Cove church, Bridgeport, Ala., Faye Arnold said, “You wouldn’t believe the material I have. I’m gonna try to make some of the little dresses.”

She chose size 1 for her endeavor, and with her love of sewing she made a little dress and has plans to make more. When asked what she thought of the dress she had made, she said, “Just as cute as it can be!”

Not only are the children of Guyana receiving a blessing from the little dresses, but Ernestine Raulston, a retired school teacher, is also teaching her 13-year-old granddaughter how to sew.

Ernestine said, “I enjoy helping someone else. To bring a smile to those children’s faces is great.”

She said the ladies who are sewing are considering setting up an assembly line with the help of more ladies.

Moving on down in the state of Alabama, we find two ladies who wish to remain anonymous. Both are members of the Eastern Shore church, Daphne, Ala. They bought some 99¢ patterns on sale at a local fabric store, and using material they had on hand, their dreams soon became a reality. They have already sent 22 dresses to the children. Each dress has a label in the back that says, “Church of Christ. God loves you and so do we.” Their dresses are from size 3-8. One lady said that she believes their efforts help to break the ice for campaigners who go into the country to teach the gospel.

Frances Davidson, wife of missionary Jerry Davidson, said, “It isn’t like these dresses will be used by one child and then discarded. They are passed down to other children, so several of the children will get to use each dress.”

May the examples of these fine Christians inspire us all to reach out to the less fortunate, using our talents to the glory of God.

Lord, here am I. Send me.

Barbara has been involved in missions for over 25 years, both in the field and in publishing.