by Virginia Forste
What do you get when you combine 100 kids, a huge pile of down stuffing, needles, thread, and willing hands? Honestly, at first you get a mess. Looking a little closer, you see a sliver of Heaven on Earth.
Willing Hearts, Busy Hands
The Bears Ministry meets in the parlor of Christ’s Church Mason once a month for two hours. During that time, precut fabric bear skins are stuffed, sewn close, and decorated. Then they await their departure for a hurting heart. The ministry was started twenty years ago by the parents of a cancer patient. They continued making bears to comfort other cancer patients and the ministry gradually grew to include children and adults with various ailments and struggles. The ministry has created almost 25,000 bears in its lifetime so far, averaging 20-40 bears per month.
A member of Christ’s Church, Roman Malloy, was first introduced to the ministry in 2015. She transitioned to a leadership role in 2018. “I have always been very crafty and creative. My mom always sewed, so she taught me. She taught my young daughter Jayda as well.”
“Additionally, I have always had a heart for the older generation. I took over the ministry from JoAn and Rollie Wilson when they moved away. They were very special people and reminded me of an aunt and uncle of mine. They were really great role models who were constantly giving back to others. I lived with my aunt and uncle during my college years and I helped to care for them when they became ill.”
Roman was inspired to bring the ministry to the 2022 MAD Camp. Roman shares, “These are great skills to learn and a great introduction to serving others.” Her twelve-year-old son, Gavin, has been helping with the ministry since he was three years old.
With the help of a few very sweet and skilled ladies, the MAD Campers produced 100 bears this year that went on to comfort foster children via another ministry, Hope’s Closet. Roman reflects, “It’s a little more challenging working with kids. But the blessing is that they don’t insist on things being perfect. How sweet would it be to receive a bear created by a child?”
I served as a guide for a 5th/6th grade MAD camp group this year, and when I asked a number of the kids what their favorite class was, I heard “The Bears” over and over.
The Bigger Picture
The Bear Ministry beautifully depicts God’s purpose for his people.
First, a bear skin is chosen and stuffed. As Christians, we are “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” (Colossians 3:12, NIV). God wants us to be filled with his Word so that we can spread joy and help reach others with the Good News. The apostle Paul instructs us to “be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God” (Philippians 1:11-13, NLT).
Next, the bears are carefully sewn closed. Once we trust in Christ, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. We are assured in the book of Ephesians that, “when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him” (Ephesians 1:13, 14, NLT).
We are not the only ones who are “purchased”—so are the bears! Sponsors keep the Bears Ministry going. A donation of $5 per bear enables the ministry to purchase materials. God’s plans for us are not random and he specifically invites each person to participate in his grand plan of redeeming the world. Often, we do not understand why we are chosen by God. Sometimes, we even try to talk him out of it! Whether we argue with him or not, we are fully loved and chosen for a purpose.
The bears are then decorated with clothes and various accessories so that each one is a unique creation. We can imagine that believers in Jesus are each uniquely “decorated” by their Creator for the people they will reach. Each of us can demonstrate the love of Jesus to those in our particular sphere of influence.
The final step in the bear-making process is critical. The bear must go. Its origin story is now complete, but it must now travel on to its ultimate purpose. The same is true with us. Once we are filled with righteousness and godly wisdom, we must go. We cannot simply remain in the church building, just soaking up teaching like a sponge. God’s purpose for each of us is to love others, starting with the people closest to us and then working outward. God sends us out for the purpose of bringing others to know his love. We call Jesus’ words in Matthew 28 “The Great Commission.” Before Jesus’ ascended into Heaven, he gave marching orders to his disciples (and to us): “Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19, NLT).
The Blessing of Service
After years of hardship and ministry, the apostle Paul reflected, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” (2 Timothy 4:7, NLT). Fighters and runners get sweaty and bruised and exhausted. Christians, too. Service costs something. But we know, based on how much we have been forgiven (an unblemished Son’s worth!) that whatever it costs us, the blessings to others and ourselves far outweigh any sacrifice in order to spread the Good News of Jesus to others!
How can you get involved with the Bear Ministry at Christ’s Church? So glad you asked! First, you can sponsor a bear. Next, you can donate materials. Lastly, you can attend one of the bear assembly meetings at church and create your own bear. There’s a place in this ministry for everyone! The apostle Paul explains the process like this: “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work” (1 Corinthians 3:7, 8, NLT). You make the bears; God will find them a home.
Come make a mess with us. God wants to use you to help serve others. Will you let him?
Virginia Forste is a former elementary education teacher and stay-at-home mom who frequently blogs with other moms at textingthetruth.com.