Knit one, purl one, serve One


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, October 13th. You’re listening to WORLD Radio and we are so glad to have you along today. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: Knitting.

Besides its practical purpose, studies show the craft can have therapeutic value. But that’s old news for a group of friends in Virginia.

EICHER: They call themselves God’s Girls Knitters, and the work of their hands has blessed recipients all over the world. Senior Correspondent Kim Henderson has their story.

KIM HENDERSON, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Members of God’s Girls Knitters have been getting together once a week for 11 years. They’re a tight-knit group, but they let me inside their circle—for a little while.

SAUNDERS: This is Elaine, Pat, Janice… 

Leader Susan Saunders owns the cozy basement where they gather on Friday mornings. At one end, a free-standing heater counters the cool of a show stopping Appalachian autumn. 

AUDIO: [CHIMES AND CHATTER]

Five faithfuls have come today, but during a time for prayer requests before they begin, they mention absentees like Bess, who’s away on a motorcycle trip. And Patsy, whose husband had a stroke.

Then they pull out their knitting needles and go to town. 

DELONG: This is a cable stitch…

Before retirement, the women were teachers, an innkeeper, an x-ray technologist. These days, they’re in a new line of work—the hats, booties, and blankets business. Every piece gets donated. 

DELONG: I don’t like to say knit for charity. We knit for love. 

That’s Janice DeLong. She and the other ladies have knitted thousands of items for foster kids, veterans, dialysis patients, even the Lakota Indians. Member Nancy Waggener puts their efforts in Biblical perspective. 

WAGGENER: We’re just encouraging each other not to be weary in well-doing. 

Plastic laundry baskets lining one wall are filled with items ready to be delivered to grateful non-profits. And while quality is important, here it’s quantity that really matters. Still, Nancy and Janice point out that each item is custom work. 

WAGGENER: I wouldn’t want to just do plain stockinette roll brim hats from here to kingdom come. What makes it interesting and challenging is what are you going to do with it to make each one a little bit different from the other one? 

DELONG: Whatever we knit, it’s going to fit somebody. So if the baby shoes turn out really small, there will be a premie somewhere that will fit those shoes. And if the gloves turn out really large, somewhere there’s a man they’re going to fit.  

Some knitting projects are quick and easy, like the hundreds of cotton washcloths they send on mission trips to Honduras. But completed baby blankets? Well, they represent a lot more time. The soft white one laid across Janice’s lap is about half done. When it’s finished, it will go to the Blue Ridge Pregnancy Center, to a mom who chose life. 

Susan Campbell serves as executive director of the center. She loves to get deliveries from God’s Girls Knitters. 

CAMPBELL: Last year we had 180 lives saved, and more than 50 percent of those clients received a handmade gift from this wonderful group.

The knitters also send hats to an orphanage in Nepal. Member Elaine Nice smiles when asked what it’s like to know something she’s made graces a tiny head in Asia. 

NICE: It’s exciting to think that you’re able to help somebody that far away, and it doesn’t matter if you don’t ever meet them. Hopefully we will meet them in heaven, because this is a ministry that leads children to the Lord. 

But Friday mornings aren’t all work. Cranberry muffins wait in the wings as a tea kettle boils.  

SAUNDERS: Earl Grey, Constant Comment (one of the oldest teas going) and toasted coconut? Whoa. Yeah. 

Lively conversation is a given, too. 

SAUNDERS: We talk about books, we talk about the word of the day, we talk about Lyme disease… 

But Susan says one subject is off limits.

SAUNDERS: Politics… 

Their fellowship has extended into a spin-off group in nearby Forest, Virginia. Pat Chauncey recalls how her 7-year-old grandson, Spencer, even got involved with their work.   

CHAUNCEY: I suggested to him one day, “You know, why don’t you go through your cars, and maybe the little boys in Honduras, because we give their moms washcloths, and we’ll give them a car. Well, he just loved that… 

She says Spencer donated a bag full of toys to the Honduran effort. 

CHAUNCEY: The next trip they came back with pictures of the little boys getting cars. So he’s got that hanging up in his bedroom. 

Since God’s Girls Knitters formed in 2009, some 33 ladies have joined. An outline of one of each member’s hands, cut from construction paper, is part of a scrapbook. It helps them remember friends like Brenda, who died in 2018. The group made hats to donate on what would have been her birthday.

SAUNDERS: We had her daughter come here, and the gal from Allow the Children came. And we donated—I don’t know how many—bunches, bunches. So that was in her memory, yeah. 

When I visited, God’s Girls Knitters was marking two occasions—their 11th anniversary and their last time to formally meet. No more Friday morning gatherings. Susan says it’s like in Ecclesiastes, an end to an important season in their lives. They’ll continue to knit items individually for organizations, and the craft and its ability to bless others will go on. 

WAGGENER: Knitting crosses generations for us. My mother taught me to knit. These were women who were true workers at home. 

Nancy says when she’s knitting, she can’t help but think of her mother. And the God’s Girls group. And the need to pass on skills to others. 

WAGGENER: And so being able to find young people who are interested in learning these crafts is, it’s a bit of a stretch. I’m always looking for the younger girls at church who are showing an interest in these kinds of things.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kim Henderson in Lynchburg, Virginia.


NICK EICHER: One last reminder to reserve your seat to hear Kim tomorrow.

If you’re in or nearby Jackson, Mississippi, Kim Henderson is speaking tomorrow afternoon at First Presbyterian Church. 

The theme is “Journalism is Never Neutral.” It’s open to the public, but seating is limited, so you’ll need to RSVP. Details at worldandeverything.org/reception.


(Photo/Kim Henderson) 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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