THE RELIEF SALE

Editor’s Note: Following is a page from my spiritual journal.

A Favorite Relief Sale quilt.A Favorite Relief Sale quilt.

A Favorite Relief Sale quilt.

Murmurs echoed in the huge pole barn Friday evening as I savored hundreds of quilts. Like rugs draped over an enormous wooden drying rack, quilts of all sizes, colors and patterns hung on an overhead wood structure, waiting to be examined. Saturday, they would be sold with an auctioneer’s gavel.

Held in my Goshen, Indiana hometown, the fourth Saturday of September, the annual Men-nonite Relief Sale fund-raiser sold out local hotels–probably due to the quilt sale.

Supported by churches in the Michigan/Indiana area, the 2016 Sale’s auction booklet listed 255 donated wall-hangings, comforters, afghans and quilts of all sizes.

Speaking in hushed tones, the men and women crept along rows of hanging quilts admiring and examining handiwork cover-ed with clear plastic. Most attendees held small pencils and wrote notes in a small green book like the one I held.

green_book

It listed the design of each piece and who had donated it. Even though I had no plan to bid on a quilt the next day, I snapped pictures of two I especially liked.

Finished viewing the hangings, I followed my nose to fresh-made apple fritters and stood in line. The warm apple rings were lightly battered and fried before being rolled in powdered sugar. Nibbling one, I ambled to the grassy field where my car waited.

Saturday morning, I entered the quilt barn before the 8:00 sale start. As I watched, Amish couples took down the hanging quilts, removed the plastic covers and folded each quilt, laying it in order on a long table.

Once the auction began, beside the large stage, several more volunteers set up the handmade pieces on a standing double-bed-size display board.

Meanwhile, three auction-helpers wearing neon-green shirts signaled bids to a man with a microphone who called them out. The green-shirted men walked back and forth in front of banks of folding chairs. The setup reminded me of the basketball floor at our gym before my high school graduation.

Behind the sale barn’s folding chairs, I perched on the bottom row of temporary bleachers which stood about ten seats high. Watching the auction team work, I wondered, Is Loren Beechy one of the green men?

My friend, Muffin, a reader and Goshen library-worker, had mentioned Loren’s book. The local Amish school-teacher /auctioneer, had published Chasing the Amish Dream. I had bought it and journeyed with him through his adventures.

I studied the scene. Bidders waved black numbers, and green-shirted helpers called and waved the bid to the auctioneer on the stage. Holding the mic, the bespectacled man chanted,

“100? … 100! Who’ll make it 125? … 125? … 125? …”

Nodding at a helper, his chant took a rising inflection.

“125! Who’ll make it 150?”

Each helper watched his section like a stalking cat focused on tall grass alert for creature movement.

The mic-holder paused. “Do ya’ have it, Loren?”

One of the green men waved and nodded.

He must be Loren Beechy!

Mesmerized at seeing the author, I didn’t notice a petite woman I knew from church when she walked up. I startled as she sat down beside me. “Oh! Hi, Joy!” I nodded to her open green book. “Are you buying a quilt?”

Her full ermine pageboy framed her face as she gently shook her head. “No.”

I raised my eyebrows in question. “You are making notes ….”

“Oh.” She glanced at her book. “I’m keeping track of what each quilt sells for. I am also curious what mine is worth.”

My eyes opened wide. I had seen her stitching on a quilt during the monthly church workday. “You donated a quilt here?”

Joy shook her head. “No. A wall hanging.”

Still struck with awe, I repeated, “…Wall hanging….”

She went on, “I pieced it. But another woman machine- quilted it in spirals.”

 

Pieced and apliquéd, machine quilted wall hanging

Joy’s “Circles VII”
Pieced and appliquéd, machine quilted

Sitting with a new friend and surrounded by quilts in a serene place, I felt peace. Bearded Amish men and white-bonneted women as well as Mennonite men and women wearing no hair covering or various types of white or black ones –demonstrated a depth of volunteer commitment I seldom experienced. Breathing in the ambiance, I experienced what it means to be “the hands of God.”

Whether donating, setting up, selling, feeding or cleaning up, everyone on the serving side of the sale was a giver of time, talent and/or treasure!

The heart of God was visible for all to see and experience.

I am blessed.

Frances Fritzie

Frances Fritzie

Editor adds, “Facebook’s ‘Michiana Mennonite Relief Sale’ has a photo of Loren as the auction caller and good pictures of the sale area.”

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