Answering the call: Grandmother, seamstress takes up African mission

April 2017 Posted in Community

IMG_4397 (2)By Nancy Jennings

A passion for teaching has always been a part of Judy Stokes’s life purpose. Answering a phone call in January, set the course in motion for her second missionary trip to Africa. She departed on April 2 for a one-year position facilitated through the Rafiki Foundation.

The foundation’s mission is to “help Africans know God and raise their standard of living with excellence and integrity.” Rafiki means “friend” in Swahili.

Since moving to Silverton from Grass Valley, Calif., in November 2014, Stokes, 68, had been dividing her time between running her own business and being a doting live-in grandmother to two young girls. Living with her daughter and son-in-law, she loved the daily interaction. Another married daughter and two more grandchildren live in Portland.

Specializing in bridal dress alterations, her at-home “Judy Stokes Sewing & Design,” had been successful since opening two years ago. She brought 23 years of experience with her from her former seamstress business.

However, in matters of the heart, she felt the stirrings of possibly doing more missionary work. That’s when the phone call came.

While in Kenya, she will help improve the educational programs in place there by assisting teachers expand school curriculum through teacher training.

She will also reach out to widows, teaching them how to adjust to life without their spouses. Imparting sustainable vocational skills is one of her main goals. And, yes, she will share her sewing talents, too. “I know sewing has helped me,” she said.

“As a divorced mother, I can relate to the challenges of being a woman on her own.”

Stokes will also work with orphaned children – and help them understand that it’s OK to have choices. Most children are quick to choose a favorite toy or item. Stokes found out firsthand this wasn’t the case while teaching orphaned students art classes in Nigeria during her first missionary trip.

While setting out various colored chalks and crayons, she asked the children to pick out their favorite colors.

They asked what she meant by “favorite.” They told her they liked them all.

“I began to understand why the word ‘favorite’ wasn’t familiar to them. Suddenly, it dawned on me that they had so little – there were no choices to choose one over another.”

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