August 31, 2013 11:49:42 PM
Jan Swoope - firstname.lastname@example.org
In February, the Women on Mission group of Murrah's Chapel Baptist Church in Columbus launched a drive to collect new and gently-used purses for use by Thru His Mercy ministry into Mexico. The ladies spread the word to area churches, and the campaign was the topic of a May 19 Lifestyles feature in The Dispatch. Thanks to a generous response to the appeal, about 1,500 handbags -- each packed with a variety of useful items inside -- will soon make their way westward.
Ministry founder Susan Kirk, of San Juan, Texas, is currently in Columbus with a large trailer and van to pick up the purses her nonprofit, 501(c)(3) ministry will use to spread the gospel and welcome women to "tea parties."
Kirk travels to neighborhood churches in cities such as Matamoros and Reynosa, Mexico, several times each month to conduct Bible studies and the parties, which have proven effective in drawing women in the border town communities together for fellowship and spiritual development.
Women attending tea parties receive a Bible and prizes for participation. One of those is a purse with modest surprises inside -- lotions, make-up, combs, washcloths, hair accessories, soaps, costume jewelry, small (non-battery) children's toys and similar donated items.
"It makes the study of God's word fun and exciting for all involved," said Kirk. Some of the women receiving bags arrive carrying plastic sacks instead of a purse. Some have never had a pocketbook before.
"I'm just really happy and feel so blessed by the people here who donated purses or items to go in them," Kirk said Tuesday. "And it's not just churches who donated, it's a body of believers," she added, smiling.
The bags, in fact, have been given by individuals, businesses, bridge and bunko groups and Kappa Delta Sorority at Mississippi State, in addition to a long list of churches. A sampling of contributors includes Center Grove Baptist Church in Maben, the Columbus Orthopaedic Outpatient Clinic, Fairview Baptist Church, First Baptist Church in Columbus and Vernon, Ala., Macon Methodist Church, Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Shaeffer's Chapel, Wesley Foundation and Wesley United Methodist Church.
"I had people calling me from all over, and even if it was one or two purses, every purse is a gift and will go to further the kingdom," said Angie Basson, who spearheaded the drive along with Rhonda Richardson. Both Columbus women are very active members of Murrah's Chapel. "I just wish we could list every person who contributed. We appreciate them all so much and want to say 'thank you.'"
In addition to purses, the ministry welcomes monetary donations to help purchase pallets of toiletry-type items to go in the handbags. About $100 will buy a 4-by-4-by-4-foot pallet of health or skincare-type articles. "Well worth it," said Kirk.
The purses scheduled to leave Columbus on Sept. 8 will be put to direct use.
"I have two tea parties in September in Mexico. About 250 to 300 women are expected at the first, and about 175 at the second one. So that's about 400 purses right there," explained Kirk, who works alongside Mexican pastors. Anyone interested can follow the progress of the handbags at thruhismercy.org. Kirk expects to have photos from each fall event posted by January 2014.
The need for purses is ongoing. To donate handbags or filler items, contact Basson at 662-574-6740. To learn more about Thru His Mercy Inc., go to thruhismercy.org, email Kirk at Susankirk@thruhismercy.org, or call 361-232-9555.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.