By Gwen Sisson
As Lisa Stewart describes it, her life came into focus in April 2005 “in the blink of an eye.”
It was in 2005 that Stewart was facing surgery and options for breast cancer. It was scary, but she had the love of friends and family and the knowledge that God has his own ways and plans.
Stewart believes in the power of prayer. And as a member of First Baptist Church of Eupora during this uncertain time in her health, she asked to have an anointing prayer service held just before surgery.
“I remember asking Bro. Bill Stewart if the men of the church could anoint me, and you know Bro. Stewart said yes,” Stewart said.
So the Sunday night arrived. After regular evening worship service, Bro. Stewart asked the congregation to sit back down. He began telling the congregation about the anointing prayer service and asked Stewart to come forward.
“One of his first statements was, ‘As you may, or may not, know Lisa will have a mastectomy on Tuesday of this week,’’ Stewart said. “It was all I could do to put one foot in front of the other and continue the walk down the aisle to him. I had not said the word (mastectomy) out loud and I couldn’t believe he was telling this private issue. In the blink of an eye, I remembered I had given him permission. So I picked up my step and faced my church.”
She sat down at the front of the church. Bill Stewart Jr. began to sing “I Bowed on My Knees.” After the song, members of the FBC Eupora Prayer Shawl Ministry came down the aisle.
“I had to catch my breath because they were bringing me the most beautiful cotton candy pink and white prayer shawl you have ever seen,” Stewart said. “You see, up to this point, the shawls I had seen were darker in color and appeared, to me, to be more somber. I was so excited because I thought the colors were because I was young!”
After the anointing was concluded, Stewart traveled home.
“I felt surrounded by love and encouragement from my church I felt a peace I had not felt in several days,” Stewart said. “Then, in the blink of an eye, I almost had to pull over because I realized pink is the color of breast cancer awareness. That was the reason for the color of the shawl — not my age!”
Stewart said whatever the color, the prayer shawl was a tangible object that that reminds you of everyone praying for you.
“It is comforting and reassuring,” Stewart said. “I had with me my church. My loving church was praying for me, supporting me and lifting me up in his name! But I still tell myself (that it was pink because of) my age!
And on Feb. 5 of this year, Stewart “loaned” her prayer shawl to her sister Janet Hubbard to give her strength as she began her own breast cancer battle.
Gloria Mason, a former member of FBC Eupora and cancer survivor, said the prayer shawl was and still is a reminder of all the prayers that were lifted up for her during her illness.
“The story of the footprints in the sand took on a special meaning to me during my illness,” Mason said. “I literally felt carried by all the prayers. The church’s prayer shawl ministry is special to those on the receiving end.”
The Prayer Shawl Ministry at FBC Eupora began in February 2005 and during that time, the group has dedicated and presented over 116 prayer shawls. They also stitch blankets that are presented to parents at new baby dedications in the church. And for the past two years, the ministry has crocheted over 100 children’s scarves for the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.
Beth Duncan, member of the FBC Eupora Prayer Shawl Ministry, said the group meets once a month to crochet and knit shawls and scarves for church members and friends who are dealing with serious medical issues.
“We attach a cross to each prayer shawl and as each shawl is stitched, prayers are offered on behalf of the person who will receive the shawl,” Duncan said. “When each shawl is completed, we pray over the shawl as a group, dedicating it to God and ask for healing and blessings for the recipient. It is our hope that each shawl is a tangible reminder of God’s love, compassion, and tender care to the person who receives it.”
In addition to Duncan, Prayer Shawl Ministry members include Ann Sneed, Dixie Wray, Gerry Hood, Bonita Martin, Etoile Herrod and Joann Cohen.
The ministry’s first prayer shawl was dedicated and presented to Doris Johnson.
The group is always looking for new members, regardless of the skill level. The group will teach new members how to crochet or knit. Homebound residents are encouraged to get in touch with the group if they would like to participate. Donations of yarn are always needed.
For more information about the Prayer Shawl Ministry or if you would like to leave the name of someone who needs the gift of a prayer shawl, please contact the church office at 258-3491. For more information about FBC Eupora, go to www.fbceupora.com.