Six-year sojourn – Seamstress sells all to move to Nigeria |

Six-year sojourn – Seamstress sells all to move to Nigeria

“How do you leave a perfect life?”

That is the question Grass Valley resident Judy Stokes is asking herself as she prepares for a six-year volunteer commitment to an AIDS victim support organization in Nigeria.

Some of the preparations are easy. Stokes has begun liberating herself from attachment to material possessions. She has eliminated variety in clothing and shoe wear. She has simplified her diet and has begun taking shorter showers. Stokes is also selling and giving away her possessions, including the sale of her home and a business she has worked hard to build.

“I had to get my heart in the right place to be able to go with nothing,” she said. Stokes did admit to bringing one luxury item – a white antique lace tablecloth.

With a departure date set for mid-November, Stokes is almost ready to begin work at the Rafiki Foundation, an organization dedicated to assisting those, primarily orphans, who have been victimized by AIDS.

The group’s goal is to provide a safe and nurturing space for victims and allow them to benefit from the education and socialization of a created community, which mimics traditional village-style living. The Christian organization has built “Rafiki Villages” in several countries throughout Africa and recruits long-term missionaries who have some kind of teachable skill.

Stokes said she first learned about the foundation more than six years ago and her interest was instantly piqued. In the way so many people do, Stokes said she put off the inevitable journey by always coming up with what she calls “yeah-but” excuses. “Yeah I would love to go, but what about saving for retirement?” is one example, she said.

The decision to go ultimately came when Stokes was in the middle of a typical “yeah-but” scenario, she said. She was on her way to taking care of her future security and making a solid and practical real estate investment in Colusa.

In the car on the way there, Stokes said she realized “taking care of myself was an empty pit.” A lesson from scripture about not being able to serve two masters also forced her to recognize that what she was doing did not coincide with where she wanted to be.

Stokes never made it to Colusa to buy the property. She called the real estate agent and told her, “I have to go to Africa instead.”

She said the confirmation she received from the community only cemented her decision.

Stokes will be teaching vocational sewing and craft classes to young women at the Rafiki Village. She will not only be teaching the girls how to create, but how to have pride and dignity about work, as well as valuable marketing tools, inventory skills, and understanding of quality.

“We will be working with what they have locally,” Stokes said.

In preparation, Stokes has been raising money. A Friday evening farewell fund-raiser will feature music, art, and food from Nigeria, and guests will have the opportunity to bid on auction items to help raise money for final expenses.

The event will be from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Friday at Calvary Bible Church Family Center Gymnasium, 11481 Highway 174, Grass Valley.

For more information, contact Judy Stokes at 477-5360.

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