Stitching together a future in Peru
BMS World Mission workers in the Amazon had a dream to teach the women in their neighbourhood how to sew. The problem was, they couldn’t sew themselves! Cue: Maggie Robertson
Four Christians, two weeks, one destination. What can a church team from Perth achieve in the Peruvian Amazon?
God in it from the beginning
Maggie had wanted to go on a BMS World Mission Insight Team for years, but circumstances had always prevented her from fulfilling this dream.
“I was widowed when my children were still at school and university so I had to work to get them through,” she says. “And then my elderly father came to live with me, and I needed to be there for him.”
But in 2015, an opportunity arose. Maggie’s church, Perth Baptist Church, decided to send a team to Peru to visit their partner worker and former church member Sarah McArthur. With no idea of Maggie’s career as a textiles teacher, Sarah told Maggie about her desire to teach the women in her community to sew.
It was meant to be – Maggie was the woman for the job.
The Perth Insight Team – which was made up of Maggie, former BMS mission workers Ken and Maureen Russell (the current BMS Chair of Trustees), and Jenna Dunlop – experienced huge generosity from their church, their friends… and even from their immunisation nurses! With some of the money donated, they were able to buy three sewing machines when they arrived in Peru.
The machines were swiftly set up in the Nauta Integral Mission Training Centre, where BMS mission workers Sarah and Laura-Lee Lovering work, and the lessons began.
While Insight Teams are primarily about immersing yourself in another culture, being inspired by the mission of God overseas, and learning from the World Church, this team had the opportunity to share a skill that will have a lasting impact, too.
“One of the most worthwhile and fulfilling things I have ever done”
Sarah told Maggie that around six women would like to learn to sew bags. Twelve women showed up! Thankfully, Maggie was well prepared: she had drawn up patterns for two bags in advance, made samples at different stages of production, and got the instructions translated into Spanish.
The lessons were a big success.
“One lady and her daughter just made one bag, and if you looked at it you would think it didn’t look that great from a sewing point of view,” says Maggie. “The mum was illiterate and the daughter had learning difficulties.
“They were so proud of this bag that they made, it was such an achievement for them. The daughter had been absolutely terrified at the beginning of the fortnight to use the machine.”
The women enjoyed the lessons so much, they wouldn’t go home – despite working in almost 50 degree heat! It was all hands on deck, with Sarah translating, Maggie teaching, Maureen and Jenna running between the different women to offer help, and Ken on hand as the elected photographer.
By the time the Insight Team left Peru, most of the ladies had made two bags, and some were moving on to repair their family’s clothes and even make some shorts for their children.
Leaving a legacy
The sewing lessons are now continuing, being run by BMS workers Laura and Sarah and the BMS Action Team. Maggie has heard that some of the women have already clubbed together to buy material to make little frilly pants to go over nappies that they are selling in the market.
When she first dreamed of being part of an Insight Team, Maggie could never have imagined the impact her sewing skills could have in a training centre in the jungle.
“Having taught for most of my career, I might have helped one or two people learn to sew – but for these people, it’s going to make a difference to their actual lives. With the amount of poverty there, if they can make stuff to sell in the market, that extra income would help. It’s given them an extra skill and some self-esteem.
“I think that is what is so rewarding, that it is continuing.”
The experience of a lifetime
Visiting BMS work in Peru was a powerful experience for the members of the Perth Baptist Church Insight Team, and a great chance for the whole church to become even more engaged with BMS work in Nauta.
“I honestly believe it is one of the most worthwhile and fulfilling things I have ever done,” says Maggie. “You realise just what Sarah and Laura and others have gone out to full-time, because they want to serve God. Seeing the incredible job they are doing is just amazing.
“And we couldn’t have done it without the help, support and prayers of the church and others. It confirmed that we are all one body and we all have parts to play.”
Peru Action Team
Maggie’s sewing project is now being run by BMS workers Laura and Sarah and the Peru Action Team. As well as helping to run the sewing lessons, the Action Team has been busy leading a holiday club, looking after the children of the pastors at the training centre, and immersing themselves in Peruvian culture. You can find out about their adventures in the Amazon by reading their blog.
Action Teams deadline approaching!
Do you know anyone from your church aged between 18 and 23 who is looking for a life-changing adventure with God? Action Teams is for them! The deadline for applications is 26 February, so why not tell them about our Christian gap year today?
This article first appeared on the website of BMS World Mission and is used with permission.