When the Missionary Becomes the Student

By: Laurel S. (2015 Team Member)

Let me start by saying that i am in no way, shape, or form qualified to call myself a missionary. At most, i am a highly relational person who was eager to travel halfway around the world in hopes of meeting & encouraging other women in their faith, perhaps in life in general. Because lets be honest, once in a while, we all need a little encouragement from a friend. Yes, that's what i would call myself, a friend.

And while i am not a missionary, i am a person who likes to think i know a thing or two. Today… i learned something new. On the surface I learned how to sew in a very (to us) archaic way, but ultimately i learned so much more.

As i watched Irene sew i was enamored with her and how her machine worked. I too have a sewing machine at home, but with that comes the luxury of electricity, a luxury not afforded Irene. I like to consider myself a person who sews, but truth be told i merely dabble. After watching these ladies at their machines today, that notion was confirmed: I am a dabbler. What i do is merely push fabric through a machine that literally does ALL the work for me. What these ladies do is a combination of hard work and art!

I decided as a “person who sews” (notice i don’t even call myself a seamstress as that implies i have made clothing) I would try my hand at her machine… Honestly how hard could it be, right?

First lesson I learned: Sharing. While Irene was beyond eager to share her machine with me, I am embarrassed to say that i am far more possessive with my possessions. What if it breaks… as if i don’t have the means to fix or replace it.

As I sat down at her machine, certain i would master this quickly, i realized that was not going to be the case. Enter lesson #2: Humility. While I may be able to push fabric through my machine, this my friends, was a whole new beast. It required a mental game i did not possess. Thinking and coordinating both of my feet as well as both of my hands proved to be a greater challenge than i had anticipated. I could either move the wheel and push the fabric through, or I could move my feet, but trying to incorporate all those factors simultaneously left me frustrated and ready to quit. Confident that the universal sign for quitting- throwing my hands up in disgust & frustration- was captured multiple times on camera.

Lesson 3: Perseverance. A lesson learned in a most unexpected place: Sweet Irene. She was beyond determined for me to learn how to work her sewing machine. And while I was more than content to quit and let her finish the project, she wasn't having it. Every time the thread came out of the needle, which was only every time i attempted, and we had to start over, she SO graciously re-thread it and encouraged me to persist. She refused to let me quit until i had achieved my goal of learning to sew.

And the best part, Lesson #4: The Pay Off. I am convinced once i got the hang of it, there was far more rejoicing from all of the girls than even I let out. In that moment I realized the joy i had in learning, paled in comparison to the joy Irene felt in teaching me. In the end i am grateful for her determination for me to not quit, as I would have robbed her of that very joy.