As I'm sitting in the Frankfurt airport waiting to board my final connecting flight to Nigeria, I'm marveling at the direction my life has taken. Three years ago (2014) I was on a brief "get out of Dodge" with my husband in Breckenridge, Colorado. Little did I know then that our spontaneous getaway would profoundly change the trajectory of my life.
I had needed a part-time job a few years before. I was hired by a small non-profit to research the challenging conditions facing women and children globally. As I read article after article, my heart began to weep – How could this be happening in the world? I had lived an incredibly isolated life. What I read shook me to the core.
In April 2014, news broke about the kidnapping of almost 300 schoolgirls by Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist group in Nigeria. International disbelief and outrage followed. I remember reading the story and immediately felt the horror facing these girls. Though I have prayed most of my life, my focus had always been on "me, myself and I." After hearing the report, I found myself compelled to pray for the girls and for anyone who might help them. I followed the story in the weeks to come. Nine of the girls managed to escape from the Boko Haram camp. As with all news stories, after a few days, another world ‘crises' dominated the news cycle. For me, I continued to pray for those girls and other victims of terrorism.
The last week of September 2014, my husband and I were riding back to our Breckenridge hotel on a shuttle filled with internationals. They were attending a Leadership Summit sponsored by the U.S. State Department. The group had been invited by the U.S. Embassies in their respective countries for their work improving the lives of the poor and marginalized. Each person on the shuttle made an introduction. The last woman said, "My name is Doris. I am from Nigeria. Did you hear about the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls?" I nodded yes. "Did you know some escaped?" I nodded yes again. Then Doris said, "I take care of them." With those words, my world turned upside down. I was sharing a bus ride with the ‘unnamed" person for whom I had prayed since the abductions!
We briefly talked for a few more minutes. Doris gave me her business card, and we stepped off the shuttle. Over the next few months, Doris and I regularly corresponded by email and marveled at our Providential meeting in the mountains of Colorado.
In March 2015, Doris attended a speaking engagement in New York and afterward came to visit me in Colorado. I had a spontaneous gathering of friends where Doris shared her story of the Chibok girls and the severe humanitarian crisis unfolding in her country. Profoundly impacted, many of the women got inspired to enlighten others and organized several opportunities for Doris to speak. Eyes and minds opened to the terror and its impact, and that we can make a difference.
After Doris returned to Nigeria, a group of women, many whom didn't even know one another, began meeting every other week to discuss ways they could help make a positive difference in the Nigerian crisis. This rag-tag group had no clear strategy but felt compelled to do "something" for the suffering, oppressed and victimized in Nigeria. Each woman felt ‘called' to help. Over the years others joined and offered their time and talent in whatever capacity is needed at the time.
Voices4Nigeria continues to be a dedicated all-volunteer organization. Being a witness to the daily struggles, victimization, and desperate humanitarian needs of the Nigerian people reminds us of how blessed we are and the importance of blessing others who need our help. We now view the many things we formerly took for granted with a sense of gratitude and appreciation. To date, Voices4Nigeria securely delivered over $1.5 million of medical and relief aid directly to those in need, in less than two years. Doris and her nonprofit organization, Gabasawa.org, have faithfully documented every detail of the humanitarian relief transportation and delivery. Our Nigerian partners courageously and boldly travel to areas of high need and risk to distribute aid to those who often believe the rest of the world has forgotten them.
So, as I ready myself to board the plane to Nigeria, I am awed, humbled and amazed to see how a small group of women (and now several men) can make a significant difference in the lives of people suffering on the other side of the world. Voices4Nigeria is ever grateful to be a blessing to others while continuously being blessed in return.
You too can make a difference. Please support our work in Nigeria by volunteering, donating, or by making their voices heard.