VINTON–In January 2015, Jo Lynn Seifert participated in a Health Fair at Mill Creek Baptist Church in Fincastle. That’s where she was introduced to the Prayer Blanket Ministry. The ministry started at Mill Creek after one of the blankets was given to members whose son was experiencing a health crisis. Seifert brought the idea back to her church, Lynn Haven Baptist, and presented it to their women’s group, Manuel Baptist Women. They launched the program with a donation of $125 for supplies.
“Prayer” blanket is not just a name, it’s an action. Crafters literally pray over the blankets as they make them, take them to Sunday School classes and Bible study groups to be prayed over; hang them in the church vestibule to be prayed over by passersby, and then deliver them to the recipient with prayer.
“When someone hears of a crisis in someone’s life, whether friend or stranger, saved or unsaved, a blanket is made for them and prayed over as they make it,” said Seifert, who has become the Prayer Blanket Manager at LHBC.
There are about 20 active members of the Prayer Blanket Ministry who shop for supplies, cut the No-Sew Fleece fabric, match the two sides, and then cut and knot the fringe, which is what holds the blanket together. There is no tying or stitching.
Their workshops meet an average of five times a month, some on Sunday nights, some on weekday mornings. Usually there are about five to seven members who aren’t all available at once usually, but come as they can to participate in creating the blankets.
“Often we make a blanket that fits the person’s personality or interests,” said Seifert. “Also some are made to keep on hand for emergency situations and then prayed over before delivery. Another way the blankets are prayed over is during a church service when someone brings a prayer request before the congregation. It’s passed around with people laying their hands on it as they pray.”
The Prayer Blankets are delivered in a beautiful gift bag with a “Heart” gift card that says: “This prayer blanket has been prayed over just for you. Each knot was tied with love and a special prayer to comfort you. May God watch over you and keep you warm as you cuddle in the strength of His arms.”
They try as much as possible to have each blanket and Prayer Card delivered by someone who has a personal connection to the recipient.
“Both are tangible, effective ways for LHBC to share our love and Jesus’s love and be a continual reminder they are valued and remembered,” added Seifert. “Prayer Blankets help prevent many from feeling they have “fallen through the cracks.”
Seifert said in addition to making blankets for those who are ill or otherwise experiencing a life crisis, they also make blankets for couples who may be elderly, become more isolated from society, and begin to feel forgotten and “not part of things.”
One recent beneficiary of the Prayer Blanket Ministry thanked them with a card which read, “To spend your time and share your talent for me in my time of need is such a blessing. It means so very much to me. I look at it in awe. I can see the many hearts of love that helped make it.” They receive many thank you’s with similar sentiments.
Seifert says, “it’s hard to tell who is more blessed, the people who receive the blankets or the ones who make the blankets. It’s very rewarding.”
The ministry has a significant impact beyond just the recipient of the blanket to their friends and families and to those who pray for them as part of the mission.
By the time the blankets leave Lynn Haven, they have usually been prayed over by an assortment of individuals in addition to classes and study groups. This is meant to be an inclusive ministry to remind everyone of the power of and need for prayer.
Youth Pastor Jason Roth built a display rack for the blankets which is located in the Welcome Center where anyone who passes through will be reminded to lift those in crisis up in prayer and to be mindful of their ongoing situations.
“We try to get everyone in all age groups involved in prayer,” said Seifert. “Prayer is the main thing.”
Church members who don’t take part in sewing the blankets can also participate in the ministry with donations and with their prayers.
“The blankets are easy and fun to make, but most of all meaningful,” said Seifert.
Since the Prayer Blanket Ministry started in March of this year, 51 blankets have been made and delivered with more in the works. Seifert says there is a growing list of people for whom blankets have been requested.
“God has truly blessed the ministry, so much so I have a hard time keeping up with it sometimes,” said Seifert. “Truly the Prayer Blanket Ministry of LHBC is a community outreach. Many of the blankets have gone to people not in our church.”
She is grateful for the many dedicated volunteers who help make the blankets, especially Connie Kendrick and Donna Woolwine “who have been wonderful helping me with some of the detailed work like shopping and more.”
The youth and children of the church have also been able to participate in the ministry, especially when the blanket recipient is a child or student. The ASPECT student ministries and the GA’s (Girls in Action) have been involved so far. Lynn Haven has a growing youth program and is currently in the midst of construction of a new Youth Center.
Seifert says the blanket ministry program keeps spreading–the Women’s Group from Life Church in Daleville visited to learn how to make Prayer Blankets recently.
The goal of the Prayer Blanket Ministry is to “reach out to people in the LHBC family and in the community who are in crisis situations, and to encourage and uplift people by praying for God’s intervention on their behalf.”
“2015 has been an exciting journey of faith with God supplying every need as we go,” said Seifert.”We can’t wait to see what God has in store in 2016.”