By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
CUMBERLAND, Md.—It’s a little like Build-a-Bear but with a greater goal in mind.
The effort requires cutting out patterns, sewing the shapes together, adding fiber stuffing, yarn hair, and painted eyes and noses to what would become beautiful dolls.
But these homemade dolls, made in both genders, are different. They have two faces, a “sleeping” face and an “awake” face both of which are designed to tell a story.
But it’s not just any story. These dolls intentionally are made to tell the story of the gospel.
The “sleeping” face on the doll represents a person before accepting Jesus. The “awake” face on the doll shows how Jesus opens one’s eyes to God’s Truth. But it doesn’t stop there.
A special adornment, in this case, a necklace, also tells the gospel story. The necklaces use six brightly colored beads to represent the plan of salvation: a black bead symbolizes sin, a red bead symbolizes Christ’s blood, a white bead symbolizes purity, a blue bead symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus, a green bead symbolizes new life, and a yellow bead symbolizes heaven.
As volunteers make each doll, they pray over the eventual recipients, asking God to make the story of His love come alive to them.
The “Dolls on Mission” originated at Berea First Church and has been made available through the Woman’s Missionary Union.
Jan Bishop, through the WMU, reports that the “Dolls on Mission” ministry at Berea First began at the Ridgecrest Conference Center when a missionary asked, “Does anyone know what this is?” She held up what looked like a hat adorned with cornhusks and a feather.
“This is what the little girls in Mali play with for baby dolls,” the missionary shared.
Burdened by the image of the makeshift doll, members from the church designed and made about 100 dolls and sent them to Mali through missionaries.
The ministry has now grown to a church-wide missions project in which people of all ages, male and female, make dolls to send on missions trips sponsored by the church to a variety of countries. The project has extended beyond First Berea to other churches that have also made dolls and sent them on missions trips.
This summer, volunteers from Second Church in Cumberland, Md., joined in the effort. They made, along with help from prisoners at the Western Maryland Correctional Institute, over 130 dolls to share.
Abby Brakeall, a member at Second, shared some of these “Witness” dolls at the Allegany and Garrett County fairs in the Western Association’s Baby Comfort stations this summer.
Kenny Heath, director of missions for the Western Association, had a vision for the dolls to be given to young mothers who frequented the comfort station to change their babies’ diapers in the safe and private area.
Though attendance was down for both fairs—one because of the extreme heat, and the other because of pouring rain—Brakeall was able to share over 30 dolls with fair attendees.
In Garrett County, the rain “was kind of a good thing,” she said, because the “porch”-type area at the comfort station gave attendees a place to get out of the rain. “This allowed those who normally didn’t want to come to the station to come,” noted Brakeall, who has been a part of the comfort ministry for the past eight years.
“When people saw the dolls, they thought we were selling them,” she said, adding that participants were delighted to learn they were free.
She focused the gospel presentation toward the parents whom, she said, “were always thrilled with it.”
Even the little boys were “tickled” to get the little boy dolls, too, Brakeall said, adding, though all were thankful for the dolls, there hasn’t been a response to the gospel—yet!
“But who knows, maybe next year!” she cheered.
To download patterns and helpful tips for making the dolls, visit online at www.wmu.com.