Inna’s Story: The goodness of community represents America’s hope

By Marty Wiggins

Guest Columnist

EDITOR’S NOTE:  “Give Well” is a weekly column written by Dawn Franks of Your Philanthropy, Kyle Penney of the East Texas Communities Foundation and representatives of The Women’s Fund of Smith County.

Sometimes we reach out a world away to help the plight of another person.  And sometimes that person’s life journey leads them across the world straight to our door.  That’s the case of Inna, a young woman from a Central Asian country (formerly under the Soviet Union), who has found new hope and a new life in Tyler.

Inna grew up with her parents and siblings in a home where abuse was common.  Through an arranged marriage, she wed at age 19 after an engagement of only 20 days.  Unfortunately, Inna’s marriage also provided abusive – but that was what she knew family life to be, so it didn’t seem abnormal.  Her husband did have work-related ties to the United States, a country she had always wanted to visit.  In 2006, they traveled to Tyler, when Inna was pregnant with her first child – a daughter.  Another pregnancy and daughter soon followed.

As she adjusted to a new country, Inna was determined to become proficient in English and to work towards a college education.  She struggled to gain confidence and skills, while in a marriage that became more strained.  Through new friends in the U.S., she began to understand that abuse was not acceptable.  In 2013, Inna called 9-1-1, after enduring another beating by her husband, and this time she pressed charges.  Quickly, with help from a friend, she and her daughters found shelter at a local crisis center, where she stayed for two weeks before finding another place to live.

During these uncertain weeks and months, a profound, life-changing transition also occurred for Inna.  She began to feel God’s presence in a new way, as she learned from others about Jesus Christ and became a Christian.  She recalls the powerful awareness of His promise that came to her in a dream:  “I am your God and I (not people) will save you.  When you ask, I will come to you.  Be still . . . I have plans for your life.”

I first met Inna last spring at a small luncheon hosted by The Women’s Fund of Smith County.  This young, vibrant woman was there with a staff member of the Christian Women’s Job Corps of Tyler to describe the impact of its expanded computer education program – a project funded by a 2013 Women’s Fund grant.

As Inna stepped up to speak, she picked up a brochure that included a layout of local agency logos, showing areas of Women’s Fund support.  With that in hand, she beautifully traced her journey to a better life – through the good work of the East Texas Crisis Center . . . to the Literacy Council of Tyler . . . to the Christian Women’s Job Corps . . . to the Bethesda Clinic . . . to PATH.  No one could have scripted a more perfect description of how communities, programs and people can work together to help those in need.

“I always wondered who made these programs happen,” said Inna to her captivated audience of Women’s Fund members and guests.  We, in turn, could only marvel at how she had captured the mission, outreach and true impact of The Women’s Fund of Smith County through her personal story.

Inna now knows that abuse is not acceptable and never the way to solve family problems.  She thanks God that He sent her to the right people in Tyler – women who helped her through the sorrows of crisis and the new joys of education, employment and an apartment of her own.  At Christian Women’s Job Corps, she learned boundaries and saw the sisterhood among women for the first time.

Inna shares her dream that her daughters will be very strong and love America.  “This land did so much for me.  I want them to appreciate it and take all of the opportunities offered,” she says, as she continues her own healing and new life.  She is already teaching her children to give back to the community through efforts such as volunteering for the Salvation Army (serving meals and ringing the Christmas bell) and for PATH.

Through Inna, the members of The Women’s Fund of Smith County receive blessings, too.  Sometimes the world does literally come to you door – and what a blessing it is to experience with Inna the powerful intersection of lives, love and grace.

Marty Wiggins serves as Director of the ETMC Foundation and the 2015 Chair of The Women’s Fund of Smith County.  “Women’s Philanthropy:  Impacting our World” is the theme for the 8th annual Power of the Purse Luncheon, the signature event of The Women’s Fund of Smith County.  Join us on Oct. 27 at 11:30 a.m. for the event, featuring keynote speaker Liz Forkin Bohannon of Sseko Designs.  Visit www.womensfundsc.org for details on this event and Women’s Fund membership.

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