Oh, we helped a little--"You girls can sew on your own buttons and make your buttonholes"--this when Mum was making our new shirts for school uniforms. How we hurried with our chores, for it was fun to watch how Mother controlled that treadle machine so it did just what she wanted it to. We were always wanting to "have a go" and our patience developed as we waited until Mum was finished.
We learned sewing at school and Mother encouraged the interest-- but when second-hand sold quality clothing at a fraction of normal prices, the interest in sewing lay dormant for a time.
But all that changed when we came to Vanuatu. At Aore, I became friends with a woman who owned a sewing machine but had not learned to sew for her family. The Lord prodded my thoughts. "You've learned to sew. You know more than this woman. Why don't you help her?"
I made the offer, thinking it wouldn't be too hard to make some small garment for her children. But Marie's first request was for a shirt for herself. I didn't have any patterns, so how could I help? I found a shirt that fitted her and made a pattern from it, then together we cut and sewed the shirt.
But I'd omitted to cut a shaped facing for the front lapels, so the finishing touches took me awhile. I felt ashamed that I'd missed out such important details of shirt making. I finished it off myself, thinking Marie would lose all interest in learning to sew if that's how much I could help her.
But hardly had I handed over the "fixed" shirt when she produced a second piece of fabric and asked me to help her make a dress. So now I didn't feel quite so bad. Perhaps I could improve with practice--and we completed the dress satisfactorily.
Next, Ruth asked me to sew a Pathfinder skirt for her daughter. "Mi sori tumas. Mi neva mekem wan olsem" (I'm sorry. I've never made one) was my first reply and I thought that might be the end of that idea.
But soon afterward, my daughter came to me with the same request: "Mum, can you make my uniform please?" My daughter had joined Pathfinders and needed a skirt. So I set to work. My daughter wore the uniform so I guess it turned out OK. Now I had enough confidence and offered to make the skirt for Ruth's daughter.
Since then I've made dozens, also trousers with zips, even sashes and Pathfinder caps! I praise God and thank Him for my dear mother, now 93, who has sewed many miles of seams and hems on clothing for mission fields.
But as I continued to receive more orders for sewing, I was well aware of a statement made by Ellen White in The Ministry of Healing: "And, as they learn, let them impart their knowledge. . . . Whatever his calling, he is to be both a learner and a teacher as long as life shall last. Thus he may advance continually, making God his trust, clinging to Him who is infinite in wisdom" (page 402).
It made good sense to me and having put it into practice, I now encourage all the women who want to sew to share what they have learned, so their skills will improve as mine have done.
It is a constant source of joy to me when my friends share the skills I have shared with them, so my humble efforts at home or out in the villages are multiplied by God. My mistakes are great learning experiences and I enjoy sharing my difficulties with my Best Friend, who has helped me at every step and continues to do so.
We are telling you about what we ourselves have actually seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:3.
Jill Macgillivray, with her husband, Alastair, works as a church volunteer in Vanuatu.
This story is used with permission from Signs Publishing Company. More of these stories can be found in these collections: Ordinary People—Extraordinary God, Ordinary People—Faithful God, and Ordinary People—Generous God