"These sewing machines have been sitting under our house for more than a year, Honey. When will I ever find time to look at them?" I felt sorry for my busy husband. He had enough maintenance on his agenda to cram every day full to overflowing. I wondered what I might do to help.

No harm in trying, I thought. So I sat down at the first one, threaded it up and tried sewing. I honestly can't remember now, three years down the track, whether that first one worked straight away. There were 25 or 30 to be "looked at." Some had frozen with rust and were too old to be worth saving. The treadle bases could be de-rusted though, and new timber tops could replace the battered and weary old ones.

As I worked my way through checking those machines, it was thrilling to find quite a number working. Those that weren't took longer. I prayed, I tried, I experimented, prayed, asked advice from my busy husband between mouthfuls of lunch, and occasionally he had a moment to spare to show me a different tactic to try. He is so practical and I am interested to learn.

The 21 school machines are all working well now. For a while, I was dazed to think that God had fixed all those machines, and let me help Him. This reminded me of childhood days when I'd beg to help my father chop the wood for our wood stove.

Fixing the machines had been so enjoyable that I wanted more sewing machines to fix. I located two in the Dorcas house, plus individual machines belonging to staff, then further afield as women around the island of Aore heard whisperings and brought their machines for me to "look at."

Accidentally, I found a shop in Santo where I could buy bobbin cases, spool pins, bobbin-winder rubbers, and other bits and pieces that often are all that stop the machines from working.

More recently, I made the journey to Big Bay on the northern coast of Santo Island. It takes up to five hours to reach some of the villages, and a couple of more hours to walk inland to more remote locations. It seems I have an insatiable thirst to see all sewing machines going. So my friend Jaclyn and I left at six one morning to reach an inland village. I had my little bag of tools and spares with me and hoped--and prayed--the problems wouldn't be too hard to fix.

The very first machine clunked dreadfully. I'd seen my husband adjust certain screws "underneath" on other machines, so I began trying to do the same. All my efforts seemed in vain as I adjusted, tried, adjusted more, tried again, adjusted a different way, more trying. It was getting to be really trying and I was getting nowhere.

Or was I? There is no doubt in my mind that every effort we make to serve the Lord and bless others is not wasted, even if it doesn't bring the expected results immediately. I felt sorry that this machine was not responding and continued working and praying. I knew we had to leave by 2 pm, in order to reach the original village before nightfall. On my last "try," it worked. I was so overwhelmed with God's goodness--and His humour!

Two days later, another machine was brought to me, with exactly the same problem. I well knew I didn't know how to fix it. It would take more trial and error. Although the Lord had made that other machine work, I hadn't really grasped the manner in which it had been accomplished. I determined to take more notice as I prayed and tried with this machine. It too was working before the morning was gone and I made it clear in each case that the Lord had fixed the machine, not me.

On the next day, at the next village, I found three more machines, all with the same problem. How could this particular problem happen to so many machines? I'd not come across such a problem before. With each new effort, the time spent grew less, and at last I began to understand the slight adjustment necessary to get maximum performance.

For God is the one who gives seed to the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will give you many opportunities to do good, and he will produce a great harvest of generosity in you. 2 Corinthians 9:10. Jill Macgillivray, with her husband, Alastair, works as a church volunteer in Vanuatu.