Handmade quilts are often made to warm the heart, not just the body. That's what Pastor Renae Calva prays will happen with the 18 quilts a group of volunteers handmade for incarcerated women. Renae says she wants "these women to feel like they've been blanketed in prayer. They've been covered in prayer by people that love them."
The women receiving the quilts are graduates of the Prison Fellowship Academy® at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Shakopee (MCF-Shakopee). The Academy helps participants replace criminal thinking and behaviors with renewed purpose and biblically based life principles.
Renae connected with a local ministry called the Nobility of a Quilt, whose motto is "Hope restored, one woman at a time," to fund and make the quilts. But making 18 quilts—just like restoring hope—is no small feat.
'These women ... they've been blanketed in prayer. They've been covered in prayer by people that love them.'
PIECING TOGETHER BROKENNESS WITH ACADEMY GRADUATES
Angie Roberts, along with Renae, lives in Elk River, Minnesota. She founded the Nobility of a Quilt ministry, which she operates out of her quilting business. Angie partnered with Renae and other volunteers to make the quilts. She explains what goes into each one:
The top is approximately 3 yards, which is about $40 worth of fabric. The backing is 4 yards, plus binding—which is the edging—that's approximately $62. And then batting is approximately 1 3/4 yards, which is $20. So, the total cost, plus the embroidery portion, is about $137 for the quilt.
Each dollar is donated by friends, family, and church members. But quilting also costs time. Depending on your skill level, Angie says, it takes "approximately eight to 10 hours to do one quilt." You can see the investment and care put into each one.
While each quilt is made up of unique fabrics, the quilters say the pattern represents how each of our lives are patchworked together. But at the center of those lives is a good and loving God. That's why each blanket has a heart patch overlaid with Jeremiah 29:11: "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
Renae sees each quilt as a "visual example of how God wants to cover them and how He wants to piece together brokenness into something beautiful." She has been helping piece together brokenness for some time.
Renae sees each quilt as a 'visual example of how God wants to cover them and how He wants to piece together brokenness into something beautiful.'
CARING FOR PRISONERS
After doing marriage ministry for several years, Renae and her husband J. Brian were asked to lead a healthy relationships class through the Prison Fellowship Academy at MCF-Shakopee. The couple has now been leading the class for more than two years.
"It's huge how hungry [the women] are for stuff that no one's ever told them about what love looks like and about what healthy communication looks like," says Renae. "We do a lot on reconciliation and how to repair brokenness in relationships. ... They're really confronting some norms in their lives of dysfunction in how they relate. And they're actually able to heal from that."
She sees the quilts as a natural extension of that healing ministry. To her, providing the women with blankets is a way to "cover them and to care for them."
Renae and the quilters planned to present the quilts to the Academy graduates back in April. Unfortunately, the prison closed to visitors due to health concerns during the pandemic. But Renae and the others are hopeful that they'll be able to hand over their craftwork soon.
In the meantime, Renae says, "We are going to be praying over each quilt and putting together some words of encouragement ... that we feel like go with that quilt for that person."
'We do a lot on reconciliation and how to repair brokenness in relationships. ... They're really confronting some norms in their lives of dysfunction in how they relate. And they're actually able to heal from that.'