Rescued

She came from Niger, a place notorious for child marriage.

Her name is Abayomi which means “she brings me joy”.

She was only 14 when her parents insisted that she got married

Abayomi was filled with horror.  She had heard stories of  girls

as young as seven years  old being sold into marriage.

She didn’t want to get married–yet.  And when she did she

wanted it to be her decision.  She wanted to go to school and

study to be a doctor.   Her pleas fell on deaf ears.

 

A year passed and she was set to marry a man twice her age.

She had a wedding dress and the dreaded day was approaching.

There seemed to be no hope.  She thought of running away but where

could she go?  She couldn’t stay here.   She  thought of the horrible stories

she heard of young girls losing their lives when their parents married  them

of because they were having children when they were too young.  She didn’t

want to end up like them.  She didn’t want to die in childbirth.

 

No.  I’m going to fight this, she resolved.  She continued to refuse the

arranged marriage until her father cancelled it.  And to her surprise,

he encouraged her to join UNFPA’s Action for Adolescent Girls programme.

When Abayomi went to the programme, she met other girls who had left

school to marry and some were even pregnant.  She was happy that she had

escaped the same fate.  She had her father to thank  for that.  What had made

him  change his mind after he had been so adamant?

 

She learned that he had met a Christian who told him about Jesus.   Curious, she

asked him what he knew about Jesus.  He explained that Jesus would not have

wanted him to force her into doing something against her will.  Then, he gave

the Gospel of John booklet the man had given him.  After everyone else had

gone to bed, she read stayed up to read the Gospel.

 

As Abayomi read how Jesus rescued the woman caught in adultery from

being stoned to death, she realized that she too had been rescued from a

terrible fate.  She felt the tears spill down her cheeks and sliding off the

bed , she knelt on the floor.  “Thank You, Jesus,” she prayed.  She decided right

there and then to give her heart to One who had seen her plight and had come

to her aid.

 

Abayomi continued with her education and is currently in medical school.  She

is also encouraging other girls to say no to child marriage.  And her parents have

changed their views of forced marriage.  They believe that she should have the

right to choose her own husband and to marry when she is ready.

 

Nigerian Girl

Sources:  UNFPA; The Telegraph; BBC

Elizabeth Smart

While I was at the hairdresser, I came across People Magazine with Elizabeth Smart’s wedding featured on the cover.  Elizabeth met her husband, Matthew Gilmour, a Scotland native while doing mission work in Paris.  After one year of courtship, the couple on February 18, 2012 in a private ceremony in the Laie Hawaii Temple.  I looked at her radiant face and was thrilled for her.  She had been through so much.  She deserved all the happiness she got after her horrific ordeal.

At the age of 14, Elizabeth Smart was abducted from her bedroom on June 5, 2002.  She was found nine months later on March 12, 2003, in Sandy, Utah, 18 miles from her home, in the company of Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee. Her abduction and recovery were widely reported and were the subject of a made-for-TV movie and non-fiction book.

On October 1, 2009, Elizabeth relived those months of horror when she testified to being threatened, tied, and raped daily while she was held captive.  Her captor, Mitchell was sentenced to two life-terms in federal prison. 

What I admire about Elizabeth is that she didn’t let this rest at the trial.  She went on to take action–to make a difference.  She went from being a victim to being an activist.  On March 8, 2006, she went to Congress to support Sexual Predator Legislation and the AMBER Alert system, and on July 26, 2006, she spoke after the signing of the Adam Walsh Act. In May 2008, she traveled to Washington, D.C., where she helped present a book, You’re Not Alone, published by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has entries written by her as well as four other recovered young adults. In 2009, Smart commented on the kidnapping of Jaycee Lee Dugard, stressing that dwelling upon the past is unproductive. On October 27, 2009 Elizabeth spoke at the 2009 Women’s Conference in California hosted by Maria Shriver, on overcoming obstacles in life.  On July 7, 2011 it was announced that she would be a commentator for ABC News, mainly focusing on missing persons.

I learned about the Elizabeth Smart Foundation and the story behind its creation.

Too many families experience the nightmare of having a child go missing. I know what it is like to be that child. I know what it is like to think that one false move may lead to not only your own death but the death of family members as well. Nobody can ever blame a child for their actions when they are being threatened, bullied, forced, or coerced into doing something unthinkable. That is why the “Elizabeth Smart Foundation” was created, because what if we could prevent future crimes against children? Wouldn’t it be worth it to do everything to bring home that one child?

Elizabeth is a young woman of action.  She is working to prevent future crimes against children.  Her foundation’s mission is mission to end child victimization.  She doesn’t want families to go through what hers did.  And they were among the lucky ones.  The family of Samantha Runnion was not so lucky.  Samantha was kidnapped outside of her home and driven seventy miles away where she was sexually assaulted, beaten upside the head and asphyxiated.  In memory of this precious little girl, her mother Erin founded The Joyful Child Foundation.  I encourage you to visit their site and learn more about Samantha and what the work the organization is doing to help prevent another family from suffering like the Runnions.  As I read Samantha’s story, I pulled my child onto my lap and held him closely as tears filled my eyes.  We have to do everything possible to protect our children.  Don’t wait to talk to them about personal safety.  Erin Runnion offers these tips for parents.

In March 2011, Elizabeth was one of four women awarded the Diller-von Furstenberg Award.  The award included a $50,000 prize which she announced would be used to create her foundation.

Notes to Women salutes this remarkable young woman who has dedicated her life to preventing crimes from happening to children.

All of the children out there deserve to come home to their parents the way, the way Elizabeth has come back to us, … And I just hope and pray that Congress will quickly pass the Amber alert so those children will have a better chance.

I just had to ask about three times whether it was really true, … Then I just had to give thanks to God that she was found, that he has answered all the prayers.

Elizabeth Smart quotes

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Smart; http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20572162,00.html

http://elizabethsmartfoundation.org/