When newlyweds Steve and Arlene Richardson arrived in Southeast Asia, they were full of hopes and dreams of befriending their neighbors and sharing the gospel in a Muslim-majority country of nearly 175 million and very few believers.
From learning a new language to making a home in a crowded city neighborhood, the cultural barriers seemed enormous. The Richardsons were often overwhelmed with the economic needs of their new neighbors, as they observed their friends struggling to provide for their families in the face of crushing poverty. Even greater were the spiritual strongholds that held them in the grip of religious tradition.
How could they even begin to help?
The unexpected answer came in the form of a cardboard box of quilts from North Carolina and a tiny village woman who became a treasured member of the family. Arlene, who had never sewed a quilt in her life, launched a business venture that brought Muslim and Christian employees under one roof, designing, cutting and sewing quilts for beds 7,000 miles away in America.
Threads recounts the Richardsons' journey—the sorrow, joy and unbelievable answers to prayer that sustained them in their labors and drew their family into a story that only God could write.
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About the Author
Table of Contents
Special Delivery 15
New Beginnings 27
Trials & Treasures 43
The Little Village Woman 57
Life Lessons 69
Important Decisions 77
The Pages of Your Life 85
An Arranged Marriage 95
Time for a Wedding 107
From Scraps to Quilts 117
Quilt of Tears 133
Doctor's Orders 151
A Modern-Day Boaz 161
Business as Blessing 177
A Broken Nose 191
Dolls to Reach an Island 203
Letting Go 217
Today and Beyond 229
About the Author 235
What People are Saying About This
Arlene Richardson does us a favor by reminding us in her book, Threads, that it is possible to bring people from diverse viewpoints and religious perspectives together for a common good. Writing from the perspective that God might use her efforts to make a difference in the lives of unreached peoples, Arlene takes a step of faith and launches HeartCraft ... and the impact is powerful. Read this book expecting God to use you, too, even when you least expect it.
— Bob Creson, President/CEO
Wycliffe Bible Translators USA
Threads tells the inspiring tale of one woman’s adventure that became the genesis for business as missions. Arlene Richardson’s story is one of faith, innovation and love that continues to impact lives around the world.
— Ken Burenga, Former President & Chief Operating Officer
Dow Jones & Company
In a world of unreached people groups and growing hostility to a Christian witness, marketplace ministries are becoming more and more relevant in making the gospel accessible to the nations. Threads is the intriguing account of a young missionary who launched a grassroots business enterprise long before it was recognized as a valid methodology. The reader will be inspired to read how God worked through cross-cultural adjustments and personal challenges to reach the hearts of the people. Not only did the gospel take root through this innovative vision, it continues to flourish, as does the business.
— Jerry Rankin, President Emeritus
International Mission Board, Southern Baptist Cconvention
In her new book, Threads, Arlene Richardson beautifully captures the creativity and challenge involved in the cross-cultural missionary enterprise. In her down-to-earth, conversational style, Arlene relates the thrilling story of a quilt-making venture that has grown into a business enterprise which has provided employment and spiritual hope to thousands of people in the developing world. Set against the backdrop of a larger effort to reach the as yet unreached, it is a poignant story filled with adventure and color. Threads comes from Arlene’s heart and is squarely aimed at our hearts. Reading it enlarged my vision for the unreached and heightened my passion for the work of Christ in the world.
— Dr. Jim Stevens, Senior Pastor
Christ Community Church, West Chester, Pennsylvania
What a blessing! Threads is the thrilling story of what God can do when ordinary people follow him in obedience and trust to venture not only into new contexts and relationships, but into new and innovative undertakings for which they feel totally inadequate except for God’s faithful and directing presence with them … and of the incredible ripple impact that such a venture can have in bringing together people continents apart to advance God’s purposes among the least-reached peoples of the world.
— Gary R. Corwin
Missiologist, serving with the International Office of SIM
Associate Editor, Evangelical Missions Quarterly
More than a great God-story of a unique international business adventure among Muslims that required vision, entrepreneurship, persistence, partnership and prayer, this page-turner also breaks new ground. Of the current top 25 books on Business as Mission (BAM), all are authored by males! What a welcome addition, and contribution Arlene Richardson makes to this growing body of literature with her engaging book, Threads.
— Tom Steffen
Cook School of Intercultural Studies, Biola University. Co-author with Steve Rundle of Great Commission Companies
Threads is a modern-day version of the loaves and fishes miracle. Arlene Richardson tells her amazing journey of watching God turn some old, forgotten scraps of fabric into an industry that blesses the nations. May our Lord weave a tapestry composed of thousands of similar businesses focused on the world’s unreached that produce eternal results for the Kingdom of God.
— Debby Jones, speaker & author
Lady in Waiting: Becoming God’s Best While Waiting for Mr. Right
Threads is a powerful autobiographical account of the life and work of the “Quilt Lady,” Arlene Richardson, and her family’s decade of life, work, business and ministry in Southeast Asia. Readers be warned: this is a real page-turner. Block some time for this one. You won’t want to leave it until you are finished. Much more than a superb BAM (Business as Mission) case study, this is the story of a faith journey to share the transforming truth of Jesus Christ with a persecuted people who had never embraced the gospel. It is packed with life’s lessons and God’s blessings—prayer, faith, grace, obedience, miracles, sacrifice, suffering, and more. Thanks, Arlene, for this one. My students will love it!
— Mike Barnett, Ph.D., Dean, College of Intercultural Studies
Columbia International University
This is a must read for anyone thinking about doing cross cultural ministry among unreached people groups. Arlene Richardson tells her spellbinding story of how God surprised her, by using the business she founded to bless others and start a movement of people becoming followers of Jesus. You will laugh, cry and shout for joy as you relive this exciting story of obedience and victory!”
— Durwood Snead, Director of globalX
North Point Community Church, Alpharetta, Georgia
Easy to read, intriguing and a fresh look at the reality of one woman’s steps of faith to make an eternal difference. This is a must read for any woman who seeks to be a Proverbs 31 woman and make her life count for Christ.
— Bob Sjogren
Threads will keep you reading like a gripping novel. This is the true-life experience of a young missionary wife seeking to follow God’s desire to meet the physical and spiritual needs of an unreached Muslim people group. The resulting successful ministry presents a strong case study usable as a text in intercultural studies. Threads incidentally demonstrates the outworking of the core values of Pioneers.
— Dr. Edwin L. (Jack) Frizen, Jr.
Mission Consultant, Pioneers