A Simple Thing a Sister Church Can Do (The Rifa Revisited)

A while back, I wrote a story about the rifa (raffle).  You can find that story here:  The Rifa.

On Sunday, we went to church in our sister community.  I had called up the assistant pastor the night before to see if it would be OK to have a little raffle after church.  "Why not?" he said.  During the drive past volcanoes and sugar cane, I wrote out the numbers from 1 to 30 on little scraps of recycled pink paper, and then made another set on little scraps of white paper.

When we got to church, the evangelist who helps out looked inside my big plastic bag.  "We're going to do a rifa," I told her.  She ran to get a little basket for the numbers, and carefully lined it with a recycled piece of aluminum foil so the numbers wouldn't fall out.  "I will take care of giving people their numbers," she said.  As people trickled in, they got their numbers.  During one of the songs, the evangelist snuck over and handed my husband a little cylindrical container made from cardboard and wrapping paper.  This was for the other set of numbers.

After the final blessing, the evangelist checked to be sure everyone had a number.  Only the preschoolers and babies would not have a chance to win.  I stood up front and explained that we had received gifts of thread, needles, buttons and trim - all kinds of little odds and ends for sewing.   These had been given by grandmothers who had extra things or could no longer sew.  A while back, I had divided all of it up into 26 little zipper bags.  Since there were 4 numbers left in the foil basket, we happily realized everyone could win!

My husband called the numbers.  The first number chosen got the first pick of little bags.  One by one we cheered and clapped for the winners.   About halfway through the numbers, my husband tripped on his tongue and called out "dies y nieve" which instead of "19" meant "ten and snow!"  Poor guy took a lot of teasing that he was predicting the weather and we were waiting for the snow to fall.

Men and women, boys and girls all carefully examined their winnings.  Don Miguel was super happy with his bag of goodies, which included blue thread, blue buttons and blue trim.
"Will you sew something blue?" I asked.
"Yes, indeed I will!" he laughed.
Sometimes the men get overlooked when it comes to sewing, but many or maybe even most of them really can sew.

A little girl in a frilly pink and white dress turned around after she got her bag.
"Can you sew?" she asked me.
"Yes I can," I said.
"I can too!" she chirped back.

The last one to get a bag was the assistant pastor.  His number had been called much earlier but he was not paying attention.  Everyone gave him a hard time about that.  The last bag contained some lovely orange thread.

An older teen guy showed me his bag.  He told me he can sew, and I showed him that he had a spool of darning thread for his socks.  He was pretty happy about that.  A little later he came to me holding a small tool.  "What is this for?" he wondered.  It was a rotary marking tool.  Explaining how to use that to mark fabric was a trick!

Earlier in the week, I was talking with a pastor about fabric.  The women in the Salvadoran Lutheran Church are currently sewing cloth bags which will hold the washable female hygiene kits which will soon be distributed during the Mission of Healing Family Wellness Fairs. The women in our community are using some fabric they had stashed away in a suitcase in the church.

It seems like since the beginning of our sistering relationship in El Salvador, we have been bringing fabric.  Fabric for the sewing cooperative, fabric for the church, fabric for little sewing school in the church, fabric for women who can work from their homes, fabric tied in bundles for a little raffle and fabric that gets stashed away in the church for a moment when it is needed.  We are not the only ones who do this, so I was surprised when the pastor said her church never has fabric and their sister church never brings any.  She suggested I write a blog story about fabric, and encourage sister churches to bring it.

Fabric is plentiful, and easily packs around anything else one might be carrying to El Salvador.  Lutheran churches throughout the United States are pretty well known for their quilting groups, and these groups are wonderful at soliciting donations of fabric.  Very often within these donations, there are fabrics such as knits, certain prints, lace, silky or satiny fabrics, eyelets, and more.  These fabrics are wonderful for sewing in El Salvador.  Felt fabric is also great for preschool and Sunday School use.  Sewing notions - especially buttons, metric tape measures, needles and thread are practical gifts.  Graph paper, and pencils are also very helpful for sewing students who are learning to design their own clothes and make their own patterns.

When it comes to fabric, like everything else in a sister church setting, it is important to give it to church and community projects.  Even when US groups follow this rule, if the local Salvadoran church is tasked with distributing the fabric among a women's group or using the fabric for the common good, there can be jealousies that develop.  This is where the occasional raffle comes in.  At least in our community, a fun prize-for-everyone raffle after church or during Bible Study helps to alleviate feelings of being left out.  AND, sewing notions and fabric are VERY practical and appreciated gifts.

If you have not customarily brought gifts for sewing to El Salvador, it might be worth asking your sister church ministry team if they would be interested in receiving gifts of fabric.  Just remember, wool and heavy drapery fabric are not useful in El Salvador.

Happy Raffle Winner

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  1. I simply love your writting style, always refreshing at a glance!


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