Everyday Heroes…

Most people enjoy reading or hearing stories about heroes. Their stories inspire us, motivate us, and give us a reason to dream of doing the impossible–even if just for a moment. Because of that, we’re drawn to the tales of inspiring figures throughout history, and we’re intrigued as we watch stories of legendary heroes light up the silver screen. But recently, I’ve noticed that while it is easier to spot them in history books or movies, there are actually modern-day heroes all around us if we take just a moment to notice them. They are ordinary people making an extraordinary impact on the hearts and lives of others. So this blog is dedicated to just a handful of everyday heroes (in no particular order) I’m proud to know.

Rich Figer:

One day last fall, Rich was asked at the last minute to take an unscheduled business trip. While on the airplane, another passenger accidentally hit him over the head while retrieving luggage. What was intended to be a routine trip to the doctor to rule out a concussion turned out to reveal a mass in his brain. After a series of appointments, the worst possible prognosis was confirmed: a brain tumor, very likely malignant. Rich is 35, has a 2.5 year old daughter named Giovanna and a lovely wife named Erin.  I’ve been overwhelmed by his courage and positive attitude in spite of the uncertainty. He has made a decision that he is going to focus on the positive, and has resolved to use his voice and story to help others. His first project involved campaigning for the Prayers from Maria  Foundation, to raise funds for the research of Glioma brain tumors (the most deadly child brain tumors). He organized a group of ~50 people to run the Cleveland  Marathon (watch the video interview of Rich on the news!) and raised $10,000—1/10th of a full research grant! No one would have blamed Rich for keeping to himself after his diagnosis, but instead he gave generously of himself.

By the way—the Cleveland marathon is over but Rich tells me he is planning for a Half Ironman fundraiser in September—where does he get his energy? Oh yeah—his resolve for helping others and living strong. P.S. You can still donate at any time to Prayers from Maria Foundation. 🙂

Rich Figer—a hero because of his courage and because he is using his voice to make a difference for people he doesn’t even know.

Enric Sifa: 

He was four years old in 1994 when the brutal genocide in Rwanda unfolded. Tragically, his father and other family members lost their lives in that conflict. Fearful, he fled to the forest to hide. Hungry and scared, he and his brother later made their way to the Red Cross tent where they found their mother. But soon, they were victims of land-grabbing, so were forced to the streets. In an act of retaliation after Enric’s mother went to the courts to fight for her land, a set of thugs attacked her..and later, she passed away. At 5 years old, Enric was forced to live on the streets. He had seen things no child should ever have to see. He did nothing to deserve this—he was simply a victim of the darkness and evil that infects our broken world. But as he shares in his ~2 minute testimony, he experienced God’s love, healing and provision. He now is a blossoming (and quite talented!) singer and songwriter. He is not a hero to me merely because I am sad about the suffering he has endured in his life. He is a hero because when I met him, I was inspired by the JOY and LIGHT he exudes in spite of it. If you watch his testimony, I guarantee you will be inspired to seek hope in any circumstance, joy through all pain and a kind of faith that is enduring.  

Enric is now in 11th grade in Portland, Oregon on an academic scholarship and is hoping to save up so he can stay in the US and attend college. If you love music and if his story tugs at your heart, I encourage you to trade in your latte money for the week and buy his CD.  His music is performed from a place of love and faith that will cause your heart to overflow with joy.

Enric Sifa–a hero to me because of his courage and infectiously bold faith.

Greg Urquhart & the Karisimbi Business Partners Families:

Imagine if God asked you RIGHT NOW to resign from your prestigious job at a fortune 500 company and move to a developing country with your spouse and three young children. Would you do it? Imagine being tempted with VP-level opportunities within days of making your decision to resign, but declining in faith because you knew God was calling you to leave. Imaging selling your house at a loss and moving to a place that, while poor, is ironically ~3X the cost of living as in the US. Imagine living among the poor, not being able to speak the language and knowing only the other 2 courageous families that decided to join you on your new adventure. Imagine working every day practically for free with one goal in mind: to use your skills to help end poverty in Rwanda. Imagine not knowing how you are going to make ends meet unless God moves and others decide to generously step up and enable your work to continue. Imagine that dangerous encounters and mysterious illnesses are the norm. Would you go? My good friend Greg Urquhart did just that—and he is much too humble to tell you his complete story, which is why I’m telling you now. He and all three families involved in the Karisimbi Business Partners venture are modern-day heroes because they died to themselves to serve others. It has been challenging for them during their first ~8 months in Africa, but they continue to be great examples of the kind of selflessness, generosity and faith that God calls us to.  

If you have a heart for Africa, or if you just admire what these three families have sacrificed to help those in need, I encourage you to pray for them and follow their journey. Also, consider spending one date night or family dinner at home this month, and instead support the families of Karisimbi Business Partners with a small donation, so their work in Africa can continue. (yes Microsoftees, you can get the match!)

Greg Urquhart & the families of Karisimbi Business Partners– heroes because their faith and sacrifice is changing lives.  

IJM Investigators & Field Office Staff:

Ok—I have the easy job—I work in headquarters. I recently had the opportunity to spend time with a few IJM investigators and other staff members, who shared stories about what it is like to work on the front lines in the fight against modern-day slavery, sex trafficking and violent oppression of the poor. For security reasons, I cannot tell you much, but I can tell you that they come face-to-face with a kind of evil in their jobs that I hope to never encounter. They are courageous—putting their lives on the line to rescue children, women and men from unimaginably dark places. They are tenacious—they sit for days at a time in police stations and government offices when required and fight legal battles that sometimes go on for years because they won’t settle for anything less than justice for individuals whose freedom was stolen from them.

IJM Investigators and field office team members–heroes to me because they persist and risk their lives for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Judy Blythe:

Judy is my mom. Ok…cliché at first blush, but check out this story.  She made being a single parent with three toddlers look easy. It wasn’t, but I wouldn’t have known because she loved us well and sacrificed greatly for us. No matter how tough it might have been, she never let us see her sadness or struggles. Each morning while she got ready for work, she managed to make us breakfast and pack our lunches for school (and I was one of the only kids in 12th grade that still had a packed lunch!) She got us off to school and then headed to work. After school, she was ALWAYS cheering on the sideline of our field hockey, softball, and lacrosse games…swim meets, bowling league, band concerts, hand-bell choir practice at church…you name it, she was there.  But her day wasn’t over then—she made us an awesome dinner, got us ready for bed and kissed us goodnight. That was when she prepped her lesson plans for her students at the nursery school—that is, IF she wasn’t singing to one of us after a nightmare or sitting by my bedside when one of my migraines hit. There wasn’t time for dating or much else—it was all about her girls. And she always told us we could do anything—be anything we set our minds to. Later, she ended up getting a second job to make sure we were well provided for. And to top it off, she always got along famously with my dad and encouraged us to have nothing but a positive relationship with him, despite their divorce.

My mom–a hero because she gave so much of herself for her girls and because she is a reminder that all of us have opportunities to love well in our lives each day…right where we are.

Margo Day:

I met Margo at Microsoft—she is an executive there. Margo is involved in many noteworthy philanthropic efforts, but I’m most moved by her recent imitative (in partnership with World Vision and other in the northwest) to build a secondary school in the Marich Pass area of northern Kenya.  This project was inspired by her visit to Kenya, where she met a group of 35 young girls who had fled their homes in order to avoid early marriage and Female Genital Mutilation. Margo’s project is designed to (a) build the secondary school and dormitory facilities and (b) provide a secondary education for the 35 girls in the Morphus Rescue Center (providing full tuition, uniforms, books, school supplies for these girls). The girls in the center range from 9-13 yrs old and will receive  a secondary-level education that will help empower their future. The school will serve the broader community as well, and up to 160 girls during any given school year, once fully up and functional. I’ll post more information here when the Facebook page for Margo’s project goes live. But how cool is that? She lives in Seattle and is using her resources to help children on the other side of the world!

Margo Day. A hero to me because she loves without boundaries and makes me think of Luke 12:48.

In closing…

These people inspire me—they are just examples of the many amazing people I have met so far on this journey of life—people that remind me about the kind of person I want to be. Thinking about them brings a smile to my face, but also makes me wonder “Whose hero am I?” Quite convicting—it’s time for me to get to work. Who are you a hero to?


~ by amylucia on June 13, 2010.

2 Responses to “Everyday Heroes…”

  1. too too kind Lucia!

  2. sounds like you are surrounded by amazing people sister. of course, mom tops my every day heroes list too. though you are much too humble to acknowledge it, you are an every day hero too. you gave up your lucrative and successful career, your friends, and your life in seattle to move across the country and start all over again for something you believed in passionately – helping others and using all of your talent and skills to help end human trafficking. you are one of my hereos sister. keep fighting the good fight. i love you.

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