Sew to Save: A Florida Church’s Mask-Making Ministry
By Emily Kearney
In a time of quarantine and stay-at-home orders, it is such an encouragement to know that God is not hiding himself nor does he only exist within our traditional forms of worship. There are still worship songs being sung, there are still messages of hope being preached, and there are still people who are being obedient to the calling of the Holy Spirit: people like Victoria Justiniano.
Victoria is a pastor of Ministerio Internacional Restauración y Vida, which, in English, means “International Ministry of Restoration and Life.” The church rents a space from an English-speaking church, and has been meeting together for almost three years in Spring Hill, Florida. The name of the church is the vision that the church aspires to be—a place where broken people can find restoration and new life through God’s love.
The idea for a new ministry came to Pastor Victoria during quarantine. “I remember that one morning I was in my living room and I was doing my devotion, and I felt in my spirit, very heavily, that I wanted to do something. I wanted to make masks.” Despite this calling, Victoria was hesitant on how to go about making masks because she did not know how to sew. Two days later a member of the congregation named Tonita, who is a seamstress, called Victoria and said that she believed God had called the church to start a mask-making ministry. That one phone call led to the outreach titled “Poser para Salvar,” which means “Sew to Save.”
As of May 2, there have been over six hundred masks made through this ministry. Each mask has three layers: an outer layer, a filter in the middle, and a softer layer to lay across the face. The women choose all kinds of fabric to make the masks attractive for men, women, and children. After the initial batches of masks were made, Victoria felt burdened to make masks for healthcare workers in hospitals and nursing homes. Victoria knew that because healthcare workers were working on the front lines, they could not wear just any masks. “We have to do something better. As I was praying, I knew that this is God’s project. He is the one in charge.” Victoria was able to find special polypropylene non-woven cloth, the anti-bacterial filter that healthcare workers would need.
The hard work of building and maintaining the ministry has been in the hands of some very special women: Paulita Francis, Luz Mendez, Tonita Herring, Alice Kennedy, Jasmin Padilla, Lilian Cardona, Tere Guardado and, of course, Victoria. It started at first with Pastor Victoria receiving e-mails or phone calls about people in need. It then turned into Victoria placing a bench on her front porch with bags of masks that people could walk by and pick up. With the mass of requests that started coming in, the church itself now ships masks to those in need.
“How many are we going to do? As long as we find materials that we need, we’re going to keep on sewing.” Even in difficult times, Victoria’s encouragement is for all churches to continue living out the gospel in whatever forms they can:
“Keep doing God’s work and don’t stop because community work is what we are called to be doing so people know that Jesus is alive, and he is at work.”
Emily Kearney is an Anderson University alumna who grew up in the Dayspring Church of God (Cincinnati, Ohio). Today the former Church of God Ministries communication intern is a middle school English teacher at Cincinnati Christian Schools. Along with teaching and writing, she loves to spend time with her husband Derek.
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.