Three years ago, it was an answer to prayer that led Ginna Vickory to the St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church Prayer Shawl Guild in Portland, Ore. Now, it’s the gift of prayer that has led her to merge this ministry with the work of Five Talents.
A prayer shawl is hand-crocheted using a pattern of three to symbolize the Holy Trinity. As members crochet the shawls, they pray for the recipients with the desire that each shawl is a blend of prayers, talents, gifts and grace. It is a tangible way for them to show God’s love to all of his people.
Vickory has been a Five Talents prayer partner for about six months. During that time, she received many prayer requests and noted several individuals that she thought should receive shawls. This summer, she connected with Five Talents’ prayer coordinator to make the match – sending one of the prayer shawls to East Africa for Esther Nakamatte, the new manager of Five Talents Uganda, and in September, she sent one to Mei Cen, the executive director of GERHATI in Indonesia. The prayer shawl guild hopes to share their gifts with others in the Five Talents family in the future.
“I was interested in the prayers that were being sent out and thought that my interest in Five Talents was a good match,” she said. “Five Talents allows people to maintain their dignity and to take care of themselves. No one likes hand outs. And, the money continues to be given out as loans are paid back.”
Vickory is all too familiar with the desire to be productive in a dignified manner. In 2001, she suffered a severe head injury after falling from a horse. For her, this accident has resulted in difficulty processing large amounts of stimulation, focusing her eyes, reading and coping with noise. But, because crocheting is a neutral activity, it doesn't require Vickory to focus her eyes – she only has to use the muscle memory in her fingers.
Vickory recalls her first prayer shawl meeting at St. Gabriel's: “A dear woman was trying to teach me to knit, she said. I heard her words, I saw her hands, I saw my hands, but my fingers refused to move. I cried in the car after the meeting. Then, I went to the local yarn shop, bought a crocheting book and slowly trained my hands to follow the directions.”
To date, the St. Gabriel’s prayer shawl guild, which has 30 members, has given out more than 200 shawls. Recipients have been individuals who are ill, have recently lost a loved one, or are heading into war. The guild has also given shawls to celebrate graduations and to honor new mothers.
“Often, I produce the most shawls on the weeks when I am unable to ‘be productive’ doing ordinary things,” Vickory said. “I think God has a great sense of humor. Before my accident, I doubt if I would have taken the time to learn how to knit and crochet. Now, it is all an adventure combining textures, colors and patterns.”
Vickory estimates that she personally makes two to four prayer shawls a month, investing about 15 hours of her time in each one.
“I see prayer shawls as an opportunity to give someone a hug,” Vickory said. “The person doesn't need to talk, or explain anything. It is just there, warm and soft, whenever he or she needs it.”