St Elisabeth's Convent is not only a place for prayer, but also one of service to God and the people, something that people in the modern world often underestimate.
For years, men and women with problem backgrounds have been finding refuge at our farmsteads. The patients of the psychoneurological long-term care facilities for children and adults have been coming here for spiritual guidance, and the frail and the infirm in need of home-based care have been benefiting from the visiting nurse service offered by our Sisters of mercy.
The art studio "Blessed Heaven" is a relatively new charitable undertaking of Saint Elisabeth Convent. It has been active for two years under the direction of Nun Anfisa, helping current and former patients of the national mental hospital reintegrate into society, develop their creative capabilities, and most importantly, find Christ.
This piece details the works, projects, accomplishments and plans of this newly created studio.
Perhaps one of the greatest fears of a mental health patient is losing their job and not being able to find an alternative occupation in their profession after discharge.
The fear is particularly strong among doctors, teachers, accountants, students and members of other professions connected with stress. The Sisters of Mercy realised the extent of the need as they visited the patients in their wards. As a result, the Blessed Skies studio came into existence in 2019 and became the first project of its kind in Belarus.
The studio first met on the feast day of the icon of the Mother of God "Blessed Heaven", and was named in its honour. Everyone in the studio views the Mother of God as their intercessor in heaven and reads an Akathist to the Holy Theotokos every day. It was also not coincidental for the studio to locate itself on the attic floor of the church of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. Saint John of Shanghai helped the sick and suffering throughout his life: he cared for the sick of the body and the mind, orphans and prisoners, and assisted a large number of charities. These good works have continued beyond his lifetime by his prayers, and people in need are getting help in a church that bears his name.
At present, the studio offers assisted employment to 15 people, and some are still considering joining.
The studio exists to offer former patients assisted employment opportunities to facilitate their return to the job market. Its clients have not been formally diagnosed with a disability but still find it difficult to compete for jobs. Many are suffering from the side effects of medications, others lack the confidence to go job hunting. Here, they find unconditional acceptance, love and a creative atmosphere that leads many to a new life in Christ. A spirited atmosphere, daily prayer and conversations about God all contribute to this.
Adjusting to life after the clinic can be a long and onerous process that sometimes takes years. But as the studio's experience shows, prayer and spirituality can make it faster and easier. God brings healing to those who have faith in Him, and many have been able to use their newly recovered skills to find work outside the studio.
But even when they do, they continue to stay in touch with Nun Anfisa and their peers. They come to celebrate their holidays and special occasions, socialise and offer their help.
The Lord brings together people with versatile talents to discover and reveal their unique capabilities. Nun Anfisa always finds a way to inspire each person, make them comfortable and assign them a task they will enjoy and be capable of doing.
As a result, the workshop has developed a variety of capabilities. Today, its product range includes:
- cotton vintage-style dolls
- interior floral decorations
- mason panels and sculptures
- woollen felted articles
- handmade greeting cards
- knitted brooches
- textile eco-toys
- gift packaging for holidays and special occasions.
Icon of the Mother of God of Kazan on wood
Handmade wooden candlestick
Plaster and cotton wool dolls have been sold at exhibitions in Germany, England, and France, and they are still popular on Pinterest.
Boy and girl textile dolls from eco-friendly materials
Last year, the studio helped decorate the interior of a restaurant in Minsk. That way, we spread the word about the studio and created beautiful compositions from dried flowers and wicker lamps.
An interior floral composition
Cotton vintage-style dolls, another popular product. In the studio's first year, many feared there would be few buyers for the studio's products. But by the providence of God, a philanthropist brought all of the dolls and gifts on Christmas. Beyond the money, it was a powerful inspiration to continue. Over the years, the cotton dolls have changed profoundly, by becoming more sophisticated in artwork, design and detail.
It takes a whole team to make a toy. Some make a wire carcass, while others wrap cotton wool and glue threads around it. Some paint the doll's face, or make its clothing. The details are tailored individually, so no one doll is the same as the other.
The crown of the whole process is always beautiful packaging.
An example of a doll with fine and unique detail
A doll in colourful packaging made at the studio
The studio continues to expand and progress by improving product quality, increasing its product range and exploring new creative ideas. Everyone contributes their talent and often suggests a new product. All share the pleasure and excitement of making beautiful things and serving God and the people.
You can support Mother Anfisa, her art therapy studio, and the staff who are rebuilding their lives by clicking on the button below. Thank you very much for your contribution.
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