By Josie Bingham
Vera Angeles’ kitchen farm table is littered with magazine cut-outs, Open Windows devotionals, photos of flowers, stickers, glitter, glue, craft scissors, adhesives, poems and stamps. The leftover materials end up in her lap. And with the ease of one having done this for years, Angeles cuts, colors and pastes pictures on old cards until they’re shiny and new.
Angeles has a list of recipients—pastors, friends and church planters she believes might be in need of a little biblical encouragement. But none of her cards are custom-made. Instead, she places the cards in a box, randomly chooses the next card and let’s the Lord decide whom the card will go to.
“God picks everything out,” Angeles says. “When I’m working on them, He already knows who will get each one. I simply stand the cards up in a box and go on instinct of which one to stuff in each envelope.”
Angeles acknowledges her method isn’t orthodox.
“The Lord has given me an eye for beauty,” she says. “I start with each card as if it was blank. I can’t afford to buy cards all the time, so I repurpose old ones that people donate to me, or my church. I see their old Christmas, birthday and Easter cards as if they were nothing, and then I try to make them everything.”
She starts in stages.
“I either fix the front first, then the inside,” Angeles says. “Or, I change it up and fix the inside first, then the outside. No matter what, I always go back and put the flowers in. During the process of cutting and pasting and trying to see what goes where, I have to put things in my lap. It’s quite messy.”
Angeles loves making the cards because she says it makes her feel useful.
“Everyone loves to get mail,” says Angeles. “I love that, and I feel useful knowing I’m making things that people will receive unexpectedly. It’s a small way to show people God loves them. So many people have started telling me they love getting them. They’re writing me back on cards that I can use to start the cycle all over again. It goes full circle. I can use everything to share their kindness to another church planter, missionary, pastor or friend.”
Her crafty kindness touches about 300 people a month.
“Several years ago my husband, Jeff, and I began receiving handmade cards from a lady who lives in Louisiana,” says Julie Calloway, Cleveland Send City missionary. “We weren’t exactly sure how she got our address but the cards have continued to come—at least one a month. Overtime, I began noticing in conversations with other church planter wives that they were recipients of Vera’s cards, too. We were blown away at her prayerful support of our ministries so far from her own.”
The Calloways serve as church planting catalysts and Send City missionaries in Cleveland, Ohio. Yet the quintessential American city has been called a city with collectively low self-esteem for years. Forbes magazine calls it one of the “ten most miserable cities in America.”
It was obvious to Angeles that those serving the city could use a handmade card or two.
“I get missionaries addresses from a couple different places,” Angeles says. “My church, Williams Boulevard Baptist Church, gets a devotion book called Open Windows. Inside that devotional are prayer requests and addresses of missionaries all over the world. I also ask for people’s addresses when we’re in conversation. I’m sending cards to two couples in Georgia that way. ”
Angeles said a church planting coordinator for Ohio had written her with the names and addresses of church planting catalysts, missionaries and pastors in Ohio about four years ago.
“She sent me names,” Angeles says. “And now, Ohio gets the most cards of any other place.”
To help, the members of Williams Boulevard Baptist Church in Kenner, Louisiana, serve Angeles’ ministry by providing her with old cards, envelopes and postage whenever they can.
“I don’t know what I’d do without my Christian friends,” says Angeles. “They save their cards and give them to me. They know I collect everything. What I need most, more than anything, is stamps. I spend what I can on them but with so many cards going out, and my health causing me to be homebound most of the time, I can’t run to the post office to buy them. I depend on others, but the Lord is always good and kind. I try to do something good for people, because God does so much good for me.”
The joy Angeles’ cards bring certainly do go full circle.
“We, in Cleveland, are extremely blessed by this card-making prayer warrior!” Calloway says.
Josie Bingham writes for the North American Mission Board.
Published April 11, 2017