Threads of a Sister’s Story: Building Bridges of Hope

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“I am inspired by women like Nikole, who recognize they are called to walk alongside others in the mutual goal of seeking justice in the world, not as a do-gooder, or a savior, but as a sister in Christ.”

By Enuma Okoro | Twitter: @TweetEnuma
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I was raised in four countries on three continents.

I am a cradle Catholic whose first memory of God is laced with multi-ethnic faces and visions of a holy Mary. I come from a family where women’s voices are loudly heard at home and in vocations around the globe. No matter how often the world and even the church may try to convince me otherwise, I cannot separate my understanding of God from my recognition of the strength and beauty of women.

It’s amazing really, the way one woman randomly encountering another woman can tell a small snippet of her story and lay a thread down, soft and silent, one more weave of rope for that hanging bridge of hope we all dangle on.

I met Nikole Lim at a speakers gathering last year. We were signed up to share a room at the conference center. Nikole is a young striking Chinese-American woman with a playful and edgy sense of style. I was not surprised to discover Nikole was a photographer and a humanitarian documentary filmmaker. As the days went on, I wasn’t even surprised to discover that she had started Freely in Hope, her own 501(c) faith-based nonprofit committed to addressing issues of poverty, sexual abuse and educational injustice for women in Kenya.

But I was surprised to find out she was only 23 years old.

And I was surprised to find out how open Nikole was to shifting her life steps in order to dance to the rhythm of God’s heartbeat, the rhythm she heard while listening to some snippet of another woman’s story.

Through a mutual friend, Nikole was introduced to Eunice, and learned about this particular Kenyan woman’s strength and resolution to overcome the violence of rape and poverty.  Humbled by Eunice’s story Nikole felt her own life forever altered and said yes to a daunting but convicting call to build a bridge between her world in California and Eunice’s world in Nairobi.

Through Eunice’s story, I was liberated from my own selfishness,” says Nikole. “As God was challenging my heart, I felt called to start an organization to provide spiritual, educational and economic empowerment for girls worldwide. I thought that maybe, God was calling me to be a part of something greater—a part of stories that could change not only my life, but the lives of so many other women who are vulnerable to sexual abuse.”

I am inspired by women like Eunice, who in the face of horror, deep pain and mounting obstacles can courageously and gracefully hold onto the seed of knowledge that she, too, is a child of God with power and purpose.

Eunice believed in herself and in God before meeting Nikole.

I am inspired by women like Nikole, who recognize they are called to walk alongside others in the mutual goal of seeking justice in the world, not as a do-gooder, or a savior, but as a sister in Christ.

“I’ve been a witness to countless images that portray the “third world” as a place of despair,” says Nikole. “For too long, images have been used to capitalize on individuals, families and cultures. Worth has been shattered and dignity broken. My goal as a humanitarian photographer and filmmaker is to not exploit, but to leverage stories that empower, restore and transform.”

I am inspired by women who take time to listen to the still small voice of God, to discern how God would use their own unique hands and heart to foster healing in a broken world.

There are so many contexts and cultures that teach women to be passive and quiet recipients of injustice and varied forms of violence. And there are so many untold stories of women like Nikole and Eunice who do not shy away from challenge and conviction, because they believe that central to their life’s meaning and faith is the call to issue in God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Wherever Jesus went about preaching the kingdom of God and calling onlookers to reconcile themselves to God’s love, he did so hand in hand with changing people’s circumstances to reflect the type of world God envisions for all. The kingdom of God is made manifest wherever creation moves one step closer to physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental healing.

“Our vision is for women worldwide to experience God’s transformative love by living freely in hope.” -Nikole Lim , Founder of  Freely in Hope.

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My dear SheLoves sisters, I’d love to hear:

  • What soft threads of another’s sister’s story have been woven into your own story of hope and purpose?
  • Is there a friend, a sister’s story, that comes to mind that has particularly shaped how you live your life now?
  • Any other thoughts or comments?

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About Enuma

Enuma was born in the United States and raised in Nigeria, Ivory Coast and England. She holds a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University Divinity School where she served as Director for the Center for Theological Writing. She is an author, speaker, spiritual director and continues to lead workshops and retreats on varied topics engaging the literary and visual arts, and spiritual disciplines.

Her spiritual memoir, Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert’s Search for Spiritual Community  (Fresh Air Books, 2010) was a winning finalist in the 2010 USA Best Books Award and received the 2011 National Indie Excellent Book Awards Winning Finalist in “Spirituality and African-American Non-Fiction.” She is co-author with Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove of Common Prayer: Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

Enuma’s new forthcoming book, “Silence,” will be released in Summer/Fall 2012

She also writes an online column at Patheos called “Cornering God” about women’s ways of knowing and engaging the holy. You can find her online at  www.enumaokoro.com

Photo credit: All images of Eunice, by Nikole Lim

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