My name is Loren Bayless and I have the privilege of being part of a wonderful group of women that call ourselves Stitch Mission. Stitch Mission was named and really birthed by a woman of Jewish faith who always had it on her heart to teach women or men in prison to knit. She shared this dream with me at one of our weekly knitting sessions and Stitch Mission was born.
We have been knitting once a month at the Riverside House since September and it is amazing the lives that have been touched. We knit, pray, share a life experience or testimony and generally lift each other up. I can’t talk about Riverside House without telling the story of *Sarah, one of the clients at Riverside.
I first met Sarah on a Spa Day that Potential Church hosted on a mission Saturday. We found out that she was in the last few months of a 14-year sentence for drug trafficking. We were all touched by the testimony she shared that day and the difference that knowing God had made in her life. She promised to attend the upcoming knitting class and she did.
Sarah never missed a class and melted all of our hearts with her kindness and quick wit. We were all impressed by the progress she made in the short amount of time she was at the Riverside House. Her integration into the “real world” after such a long incarceration was nothing short of a miracle and amazing. In October, we celebrated her 42nd birthday—her first birthday party in 14 years—and in November we celebrated with her and two other women who left Riverside to begin their parole.
I have stayed in touch with Sarah weekly and hope to always be an elevator person in her life. She is living in Louisiana, has a good job and will begin college classes in January. Her goal is to work with families who have a loved one serving time in an effort to keep the family together and in touch during the period of incarceration. She is nervous about being able to reach her goals but has told me she knows that God will give her what she needs and the words to say. Her other quote, every time I speak with her is that “God is good.”
The goal of Stitch Mission is to “knit lives together one stitch at a time.” Sometimes I am not sure whose lives are being knitted together, theirs or ours. It is not an easy sell to get women who live in Broward County to drive to Miami, in rush hour on a Tuesday evening to teach knitting. However, there are five committed knitters from Raging Wool, the local knitting store and five committed women from Potential Church who can’t wait to go to Riverside House every month. When someone new joins the group they all have the same story on the drive home.
Their words are that they can’t believe the positive energy at the House and that they can’t adequately put into words how fabulous and uplifting the experience was for them. I now have women begging to go.
I am grateful to Danny Trippi who first listened to my Stitch Mission dream and put me in touch with Odalys because he felt that writing cards to inmates at Everglades might be a good place for me to start serving. I am also thankful for Odalys who put Esther and me together. It was Esther who had the Riverside House connection that made it all possible. Without them and Potential Church, I would not have met Amibili and Jamie who have become a daily part of my life and cornerstones of our group.
So as you can see, God has knit and woven these individuals, the church, and Riverside House into my heart and my life and I have been blessed beyond belief. I hope that we can continue to share our craft, our hearts and our God with these women. As Sarah reminds me weekly, “God is Good” and to that, my response is, “Yes he is!”
*Name has been changed to protect the identity of the individual.