By Laura Camby McCaskill
TRAVELERS REST—God can take the smallest things in life and bless them for His glory. A pillowcase probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, a pillowcase is what He has used in one Upstate church, and He has blessed it tremendously.
Through a thriving Pillowcase Ministry, members at Travelers Rest United Methodist Church are working diligently to serve the Lord.
Susan Snipes, the Pillowcase Ministry’s founder, said in fall 2009 she was sitting in Sunday school with her husband when a woman in her early 30s who worked with the Department of Social Services began to share about her work with children. What Snipes learned changed her life.
“When children are removed and go to a foster home, they can’t take anything with them,” Snipes said, noting, “Usually the children leave traumatic situations.”
A retired teacher who loved to sew, Snipes was looking for something meaningful to do. That’s when the idea struck her: what about sending a simple pillowcase with these children?
With that, the Pillowcase Ministry got its start. Starting small, Snipes would sew pillowcases and give them to social workers in Ziploc bags. The social worker would then take the pillowcases along to pick up a child.
In 2010, Snipes’s son suggested putting toiletries and other items for the children in the pillowcases. Snipes loved the idea.
Next, God sent Snipes three more women (Jan Clawson, Patti Pilz and Edie Sampson) who made pillowcases, hats, pocketbooks and treasure bags. In 2011, the Ziploc bags were replaced with drawstring bags. Most recently, the ministry has added a “belongings bag,” as well. The items inside the bags—such as hygiene items, a stuffed animal and a coloring/activity book—are donated by church members.
The age of the children they help has expanded, too. Originally, the Pillowcase Ministry helped children between the ages of 4 to 11, but as the need in the Greenville area grew, the ministry began serving newborns to 3 years of age, as well as expanded their efforts to Pickens, Oconee and now Laurens.
“As a teacher, I had children I taught that were in foster care. They don’t tell you a lot, and you don’t always know their background. My heart went out to them,” Snipes said. “I felt like God was making everything work together for me, nudging me to do this. It would be so tough to be in that situation, (and) we wanted to comfort them for a little bit and help them transition from place to place.”
But, she said, they could not have had such an impact without the support and participation of the full church.
“It was a group effort.”
Travelers Rest pastor the Rev. Jonathan Tompkins has seen the ministry evolve over the past five years since he has been there.
“They saw a need and helped,” Tompkins said. “It really is a ministry that helps the least and most vulnerable in our community and I love it.”
Tompkins said his role in the ministry is simply support. “I announce it and push it. I’m its greatest cheerleader.”
He feels confident the ministry will continue to work behind the scenes and care for children, letting them know there’s someone out there that cares for them and loves them.
“It’s a great behind-the-scenes ministry that does the work of Jesus Christ quietly,” Tompkins said. “I see it spawning other outreach ministries in other outreach churches.”