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Cover story: Rowan-crafted quilts going to new women’s ministry

SPENCER — Doris Schroen knows she can count on her quilting friends when there’s a need, and this certainly seemed to qualify.

God always seems to play a part, too.

“When there’s a project to do, we do it,” says Doris, a resident of Spencer.

Doris and five of her friends — Joan Ray, Joy Gerock, Gayle Wilson, Kristy Burleyson and Jerrie Neale Peeler — made or secured a total of 14 quilts, one for each of the initial beds at Bethel Colony of Mercy’s new women’s ministry.

The grand opening is May 11. Doris and Ed Schroen are delivering the quilts this weekend.

The women’s ministry will follow the model established by Bethel Colony of Mercy’s men’s ministry, which aims to free them from the bondage of drug and alcohol addiction through the teachings of Jesus Christ.

“This is just awesome to provide something for women who are suffering from addiction,” Doris says.

The women’s campus will be located in a hilly, rustic setting, about 30 minutes from the men’s campus in Lenoir in Caldwell County.

Bethel Colony of Mercy bought 142 acres in this spot, which took in a vacated Methodist summer camp that included five cabins. Many  church and missions groups have helped get the property ready, along with volunteer students from the men’s program.

Two of the cabins — named Rahab’s Redemption and Esther’s Empowerment — have been restored. Thanks to the women from Rowan County, each of the beds in the cabin will have a quilt — a comforting item that maybe feels a bit like home.

Doris has affixed each quilt with a scripture verse and the name of the person who made or donated it.

There are string, pastel flower, blue print, scrappy white charm, double wedding ring, green print, bright stripe, pink charm, multi-strip pastel and black-and-bright quilts.

All were long-armed quilted on Burleyson’s programmable machine, which has, yes, a long arm. The women call it “Lucy Jane.” Ed Schroen calls it the right tool for the right job.

Long-arm quilting saves a lot of time because it sews together the front and back and the batting inside. The women delivered their handiwork to the Schroens’ house, or the couple picked up the quilting they had done.

Ed and Dorris then took everything to Burleyson for the final step, the long-arm quilting.

String quilts are when scraps of material are sewn together into blocks. Those blocks are then sewn together in a full quilt.

Doris thinks God played a role with each quilt in providing the materials the women needed. She nods her head toward a blue print quilt — one of eight she made.

“It kind of leaped out at me, this blue one right here,” Doris says.

The same kind of thing happened with Burleyson’s black-and-bright quilt. Doris says Burleyson had the black scraps of material for years, and they just seemed to speak to her for this project.

Ed says Bethel Colony of Mercy can trace its roots back to some men at First Presbyterian Church in Salisbury. They financed the initial endeavor and hired Jim and Eva Claffee as the nonprofit group’s first directors in 1948.

“I don’t even know if First Presbyterian has any knowledge of that,” Ed says.

Bethel Colony of Mercy is a nondenominational, Christian ministry that since 1948 has provided help for thousands of men struggling with addiction.

“We call ourselves a transformation program,” Ed says, “because the people are transformed through the Lord.”

The organization’s motto is “Victory through Christ.”

Ed has an intimate knowledge of Bethel Colony of Mercy’s work, having served on its board for 23 years — from 1995 to 2018 — and being board chairman for about nine of those years.

He first learned of Bethel Colony of Mercy while talking with a woman in Sunday school at First Baptist Church in Salisbury. Her son had gone there for his addiction problem.

Soon Ed and Doris were packing care bags for men in the program. They provided underwear, socks, toothpaste and combs.

“I started getting a heart for the place,” says Ed, who spent much of his working career in the insurance and benefits industry. “I kept feeling I want to do more than this.”

It wasn’t long until Ed was serving on the Bethel Colony board.

Many times over the years, people who knew Ed was a board member would ask why there wasn’t a ministry for women dealing with addition.

Ed says there was plenty of prayerful consideration and God’s hand in finally expanding into the women’s ministry. As with other things in Bethel Colony of Mercy’s history, Ed says, “We only voted when God provided money and materials. We don’t get ahead of ourselves.”

For entry into the program, men at Bethel Colony of Mercy must pay only $250 and provide results from blood tests for HIV and tuberculosis. “We can’t handle either of those,” Ed says.

If they are approved, the men — of their own free will — must arrive drug-free and sober (at least 48 hours) and commit to a 66-day residential program. They are fed and housed.

Ed provides a typical daily schedule of what the residential women will face between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. It includes meals, class work, one-on-one counseling, tape sessions, doing laundry, cleaning the cabins, having breaks, tackling homework assignments that encourage spiritual growth and taking whatever medications they have been prescribed.

Each evening will be different.

Monday nights are individual work nights at the cabins; Tuesday, group nights in the classroom; Wednesday, worship night; Thursday, other activities at varying locations on campus; Friday, movie night in the classroom; and Saturday, a free night.

On Sundays, residents will go to morning and evening church services.

The quilting women from Rowan County represent several churches. Ray attends First Baptist in Salisbury; Burleyson, Neel Road Baptist; Peeler, Old Country Baptist; and Gerock, Wilson and the Schroens, Trading Ford Baptist.

Each year, Bethel Colony of Mercy has a big homecoming for men who successfully went through the program and overcame their addictions. This past fall was one of the first years Ed decided not to attend.

It turns out the 2018 homecoming came to him, in a way. During a Sunday service at Trading Ford Baptist, a side door opened and the whole Bethel Colony of Mercy board walked in to honor Ed’s long service.

They also presented him with a large plaque in appreciation of his 23 years on the board. Ed keeps that on display at his house.

It was a pleasant surprise. The quilts will be, too.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mark.wineka@salisburypost.com.

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