Somewhere in the world this Christmas, 50 needy children will receive a most precious and heartfelt gift. Boys and girls will open their own personal Operation Christmas Child shoebox to find, among other gifts inside, a doll knit together with love by Houston’s First member Kathy Pritchett.
Seven years ago, Kathy and her husband Ben, Minister of Education at Houston’s First, went on a mission trip that made such an impression on them that they decided it would be one of many more such trips they would take in the future. Before being able to travel again, however, it would be necessary for 57-year-old Kathy to undergo knee replacement surgery.
Ben and Kathy never anticipated that complications from surgery would not only prevent her from going on another mission trip, but would also rob her of mobility and 75 percent of her hearing. After a series of falls, an infection that refused to heal, and a second surgery to remove and replace the knee, Kathy’s lengthy stay in a rehabilitation center allowed her to return home. But life would not be as it once was. Kathy’s battle with infection would cause her to be confined to bed for the majority of each and every day.
Though Kathy’s physical parameters may have been restricted, her ability to make a difference in the lives of others has not. One day last fall while the Pritchetts’ granddaughter Lauren was visiting, Kathy watched the 11-year-old knitting on a loom while they talked. Seeing Lauren at work reminded Kathy of ‘Comfort Dolls’ she had seen displayed for a charitable event earlier that summer. After watching a few YouTube videos, and with Ben’s help gathering supplies, Kathy taught herself to knit dolls to give to needy children. “Knitting on a loom is something I can do while lying in bed,” Kathy explained. “I can reach out to children who don’t have things to play with.”
The Pritchetts spent several years packing boxes for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child, but shopping to fill entire boxes was no longer an option after Kathy’s surgeries. When she learned that Samaritan’s Purse takes individual items to include in the boxes, she knew how she could help.
Dolls of various nationalities wearing brightly colored clothing, hats or bows are the result of Kathy’s tireless work. In spite of having arthritis in her hands, she was able to produce 50 unique dolls over the span of just a couple of months. “I wanted each child to have something special that’s one of a kind,” she said.
Kathy’s passion for children’s ministry began in the Pritchetts’ hometown of Memphis, where they grew up and fell in love as high school sweethearts in the church youth group. As Ben’s full-time ministry took them to Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas, Kathy also volunteered or served on staff in preschool or children’s ministry at various churches where the couple had been called.
Children’s ministry is a passion, but artistry also runs deep in Kathy’s heart and hands. Sewing and ceramics were artistic endeavors she once enjoyed, and while employed at a college she did graphic design work.
As Kathy and Ben can testify, the course life can take is often painful and not always easily understood. But whatever the direction, God receives glory for a willing spirit and a desire to meet the needs of others.
Kathy plans to begin next year’s Operation Christmas Child project very soon, and has a goal to create 100 dolls for Samaritan’s Purse. Another organization recently approached her about making 50 dolls to send to children in Kenya. There are always more needs present than hands to fill them, but Kathy finds joy in doing her part. “It’s a way I can touch people without actually being there,” she said.
Homebound members of Houston’s First are engaged in a variety of ministries that make a difference in the lives of those around them: writing greeting cards, sending notes of encouragement, crocheting baby bonnets for new mothers, and even leading Bible studies in their Continual Care facilities. Contact Dau Ayub ( Dau.Ayub@HoustonsFirst.org, 713.957.6766) in Pastoral Care to learn more about encouraging the homebound in ministry or becoming part of “Taking Church to our Flock,” an initiative to include the homebound in church life.