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Sewing With a Purpose

Sewing ministry meets needs of rescued women in the Dominican Republic.

When Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) alumna and current administrative assistant Mary Beadles traveled to the Dominican Republic for a short-term missions trip, she didn't expect a sewing ministry to be born.

In the spring of 2014, Beadles and her husband, SAGU women's basketball coach Arlon Beadles, led student athletes as they served at Lily House, a shelter for women rescued from prostitution in the city of Juan Dolio. 

While sharing a meal at Lily House, Beadles overheard a conversation among the shelter's administrators concerning the need to teach the women a trade to support themselves.

Without a marketable skill to show for their time at Lily House, Beadles learned, the government could shut down the home and send the women, many of whom are mothers, back onto the streets. To complicate matters, the children at the shelter lacked required school uniforms.

Seeing these challenges as opportunities, Beadles offered to teach the women to sew.

"I've sewn for years," Beadles says, "and the Lord put it into my heart to come back to Lily House."

The opportunity to return came in November 2014. Beadles paid her way back to the Dominican Republic using profits from the sale of a line of purses she sews for her first business called IYQ Purses.  

Beadles contacted Jessica Chapman, a friend of a member of the SAGU women's basketball team, to travel with her and provide child care at the shelter. 

Although the two had never met before their trip, they connected as a ministry team.

"Mary was like a second mom," says Chapman, who spent time with the more than 20 children and saw their needs firsthand. "If the kids did have something to wear, it was usually limited to one or two outfits."

While Chapman led the children in activities with Christ-centered themes, Beadles taught the women how to sew shirts, pants, and skirts.

Although the two worked well as a team, their weeklong missions trip didn't go without challenges.

"The thread would break and jam in their bulky industrial sewing machines, and the terminology I used didn't always translate clearly," Beadles says. "But the women loved the whole process."

Toward the end of the trip, Beadles showed the women one of her purses.

"They kept asking me, 'What's the pattern for the purses?' and I would laugh and say, 'Where's your uniform?' " Beadles recalls. After seeing the women's desire to learn -- one particularly eager student ran past her peers waving a completed pair of pants -- Beadles taught them to sew the purses.

Just as Beadles and Chapman served in complementary roles during their trip, the women at Lily House have used their new skill to meet their overlapping needs. In addition to sewing a number of school uniforms, they have begun selling the handmade purses in a small boutique connected to the shelter.

Having developed relationships with the women, Beadles says her work is not done.

"Their gratitude drove me to tears," she says, "and my desire is to go back and do more uniforms."


Austin Jacobs

Austin Jacobs is the Assemblies of God World Missions Unreached People Groups specialist. A research enthusiast, avid reader, and marathon runner, Austin holds a master of arts in Religious Studies from Missouri State University and completed his thesis on memorial responses to the Boston Marathon bombing. He and his wife, Hillary, serve in various ministry roles at Solid Rock Church in Springfield, Missouri.