For Emily Nerland, quilts mean more than warmth. They are a sign of love. When she was recovering from breast cancer, a friend gave her a quilt, a gift that meant more to her than anything else she received.
And for the last seven years, Nerland has shared the gift of quilts with her friends at Trinity Lutheran Church, Moorhead, Minn. She provides fabric squares to her congregation's quilting group, which donates its works to Lutheran World Relief.
Each Christmas, and for other special occasions throughout the year, Nerland gives cards to loved ones with a special message about Jesus and a note saying a section of quilt top has been given in their honor. She also attaches swatches of the fabrics so the receivers can envision their pieces as the quilt makes its way to a needy family somewhere in the world.
Nerland got the idea for her unusual gifts after watching the Emmy-winning TV special The Quilt: Hope from the Heartland, which was reported by her friend Kevin Wallevand.
"Quilts are so important," she said. "For me, it gave a lot of comfort. For some families it keeps them warm."
Nerland is always on the lookout for fabric that matches a person's personality. The quilting group, she said, appreciates having new fabric to use instead of old blankets or sheets.
Though she hadn't planned to make the quilt-square donations an ongoing contribution, the reaction she received inspired her to continue.
"I was surprised at how much people enjoy the gift," she said. "It's really blossomed since the first year. But I love doing it."
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers