FIVE HOURS EAST
Our Faith, Like Margaret’s
are days when my faith, my belief in a creator who loves and guides me,
wanes. I don’t like to admit this but I am endowed, so it seems, with a
more than adequate dose of skepticism and doubt about many things
spiritual. From Margaret, however, I have just drunk a cup of pure,
nourishing water on the journey of faith.
Nigeria works with Home Makers by giving a small ($5,000) annual grant.
Margaret Ahmed is the energy, the organizing, creative and visionary
force behind Home Makers. She leads this small initiative staffed
solely by volunteers to teach rural women skills that will help them
start and successfully run small businesses.
founded Home Makers after observing the plight of so many women who
want to help provide for their families but have little education or
tangible opportunities to do so. Home Makers trains women one Saturday
a month throughout nine states in Nigeria.
and her volunteers teach women how to make bread, doughnuts, laundry
soap, hair and body creams, along with how to tie and dye fabric and
fashion bead jewelry. Women who exhibit skill, commitment and
trustworthiness are given small loans. More than 90 percent are repaid.
Home Makers teaches women the basics in bookkeeping and holds seminars
on other issues facing women who raise families and operate small
businesses at the same time. Home Makers works.
attend the trainings about once a year, and I love seeing the look of
total concentration as women learn to mix simple ingredients for body
cream or hearing their astonished exclamations when Margaret opens the
simple steel drum oven to reveal beautifully browned, steaming bread.
Margaret writes impact stories as part of her regular progress reports,
and they are filled with testimonies of real women who moved from
desperation and poverty to hope as they improved the lives of their
families by these small businesses.
report making a $20-30 a month profit. While not much by our standards,
this extra income makes a huge difference in the kind of food mothers
can afford to buy and in the quality of schools their children can
But unknown to many, Margaret
sacrifices to serve with Home Makers. A skilled, educated woman who has
proven herself in successful businesses, she does not take a steady
salary from individual donations that, along with the extra trainings
she conducts for church groups all over Nigeria, keep Home Makers
afloat. Recently, donations have decreased, evidence of the economic
crisis taking root in Nigeria too.
a major church denomination has been wooing Margaret to take a
full-time position with them to develop and run their brand new Women’s
Skills Training Center. To do so would mean a steady salary. The job
looked like a perfect fit for Margaret, except that it would clearly
distract her from her already full-time work of running Home Makers and
ministering to the rural women whom she believes need her most.
shared this job offer at a recent advisory committee meeting which I
attended. You could tell she was struggling with the offer, stating
that "All work is God’s work, right?"
that meeting I impulsively wrote Margaret an e-mail. I shared my
respect for her and how she and her husband have chosen a very
trusting, simple lifestyle so that they could serve Christ.
asked her though, what she honestly heard God was calling her do. I was
troubled that the work of Home Makers, so valuable, would not continue
if Margaret’s focus and energy were taken by the demands of full-time
work with a major church organization. But as I pounded out this email,
I had nothing tangible to offer Margaret. In these economic times, MCC
could not increase their grant to Home Makers.
few days later Margaret replied, stating that she knew God wanted her
to move forward with training and encouraging rural women and that she
had decided to trust God (again) with her life. However, she noted, she
had no money to pay for their daughter’s school fees, but that she
would trust God about that too.
Well, I felt
awful. I had encouraged Margaret to go deep and sort out what God was
saying to her, but I had had no idea that the sacrifice might be her
own daughters’ education. My immediate impulse was to send her personal
money, but I refrained, knowing this can be problematic in its own way.
had to sit with my discomfort and frustration not just with my relative
wealth but living in an oil-rich country so neglectful of its citizens.
Those with integrity and service born out of love for God often
struggle while corruption means others line their pockets and deny
Nigerians basic services and rights.
during the next several weeks I received several cell phone texts or
emails from Margaret. "I am in Nassarawa State doing a training for 48
women. I have a peace and joy (about my decision). Greet your family."
an e-mail: "My girls are back to school and our house is stocked with
enough food to last a year." Women attending her workshops had donated
the food and given her a love offering allowing her to return her girls
in school. A little later Margaret came in to thank me for writing that
email of concern. I was speechless. What Margaret taught me deserves
far greater gratitude.
struggling and scared, Margaret still trusted the call of God for her
life. She chose to stay the course; she knows at a deep level it is
clearly marked for her. She is quietly continuing her unique calling
with dignity and joy. She trusts God to provide the food on her table,
the rent, her daughters’ school fees. She trusts God for everything and
she believes in abundance flowing - that somehow there will always be
enough to go ‘round.
I think of Margaret now on
days when I wonder why I am in Nigeria and how it is that God called me
here. Or when my writing seems dull and useless. Or when the office
tasks seem chaotic and unfocused. Or when I worry about our future
after MCC or road risks or another violent crisis being triggered.
with other friends, both here and in North America, who share their
gut-wrenching concerns right along with their deep belief that the
Spirit of Life leads and loves them, Margaret helps keep me on
course. She helps me trust that—even while sometimes and necessarily
questioning and doubting—I am doing what I am uniquely asked to do,
right here, right now.
Jos, Nigeria, serves as co-representative of Mennonite Central
Committee Nigeria and, along with spouse Mark, as parent of Valerie and