Last November, Carol Erickson traveled to Kenya to discern how God was calling her to that African country to minister to others. She returned with a vision to serve teen moms who, due to lack of education and employable skills, are destined to a life filled with abuse, violence and poverty.
Carol shared her plan in the January 2012 issue of Pathways: “With God’s help, “she wrote, “I plan on creating a training center that gives teenage moms a chance to learn marketable skills and finish their high school education. While they are working and learning, their children will be cared for in an early childhood center. Hopefully, it will grow into a larger program. The goal is to eventually have a program that is completely Kenyan run. With that, I am working on forming a non-profit here in the U.S. called Imara International. Imara means strength or fortitude.”
Of course, Carol acknowledged, starting a non-profit was an enormous task – one which she had no clue how to begin. She bought and began reading “Non-Profits for Dummies.” That was a start. But it was prayer, she says, that really energized the movement to make Imara a reality. Carol and her prayer partner, Kami Pohl, started praying for God to send people to become committed allies to the ministry.
One by one, people began coming forward each with his or her special talent to contribute to the development of Imara. Soon, Carol had a board of directors for her infant non-profit: Larry Welliver, Kathy Welliver, Barb Kula, Darrell Kula, Kris Epland, Matt Abe, LeAnne Hobbs, Kami Pohl, Lindsay Freeman, Sharon Hegele and Fred Hegele.
“I found myself surrounded by people highly qualified through education and life experience to help me. It wasn’t about what I could do alone in Kenya. I believe it was God’s confirmation that I am on the right path,” said Carol.
“God was clearly at work in connecting me to serve in supporting Imara,” commented Jessica Koster, who is the Imara Treasurer. “I had been praying and seeking the right opportunity to serve others that would best use my spiritual gifts. And when Carol shared her faith story in church earlier this year, I felt God tugging at my heart to reach out to her to see how I could help. The idea of helping young women – mothers like me – break the cycle of poverty for themselves, their families, and their communities sounded both challenging and inspiring. I am honored to serve with so many other faithful and talented people in this mission.”
The support from Messiah has not been limited to those who stepped forward to get the project off the ground. Many others have cheered her on with prayers, in-kind and financial support. The church, with the recommendation of the Mission Team, pledged to sponsor Carol as a missionary representing Messiah. Before her May 30 departure to Kenya, Carol was commissioned.
“It’s not very often that a church will have someone from within the congregation hear such a call and then respond to it. You have been praying for Carol and providing her financial support. On Sunday [May 27], we will come alongside Carol to affirm our readiness to remain with her as she travels to Kenya and begins the important work of empowering young women and their children,” wrote Pastor Steve Richards in his May 25 eNote.
“Throughout this process,” commented Carol, “I always dreamed that I would take my church family with me to Kenya. I am so grateful that this dream has come true and that my ties to Messiah will remain permanent.”
Article written by Carol Hazzard, Messiah United Methodist Church.