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Antarctica to Africa: Journey to the Dream

by Becky Keife

In March 2012, on a boat somewhere in the Drake Passage between Antarctica and Argentina, Leah Boyd ’01 sat thinking. Thinking about the adorable tuxedoed penguins and breathtaking scenery she just encountered on the icy continent. The broken women adorned in brightly colored sarees she helped the previous year while combating sex trafficking in South Asia. The big glass windows of the Dallas law firm she had called home for five years as a litigator. And the sweeping fields of her family’s Kansas farm, where she spent childhood days beside her dad on his big green tractor—the comfortable rural life to which she hoped to return.

The boat swayed and her answer to the frequent, “So what’s next, Leah?” question swelled to the forefront of her thoughts. “I want to live a life that only makes sense if I’m a follower of Christ,” she told friends. And then she knew. The next leg of this journey would not take her back to Kansas.

Boyd took a deep breath of salty sea air and asked God where He was leading. She concluded that “next” must have these four elements: advocacy, education, assisting the persecuted Church, and helping victims of violent oppression. This formed the making of her “dream job.” Now what?

One week after returning to Dallas, Boyd sat across a conference table from the Rev. Celestin Musekura, Ph.D., founder and president of African Leadership and Reconciliation Ministries (ALARM). What started as a discussion about an upcoming conference for female lawyers in Rwanda marked the beginning of the realization of Boyd’s dream. Musekura’s description of ALARM’s mission—“to empower the African Church to impact the African continent by developing and equipping leaders with skills and tools to nurture and deepen the Christian faith for the transformation and reconciliation of African communities”—and the need to expand ALARM’s training programs for lawyers resonated with her.

By June 2012, Boyd assumed the role of ALARM’s director of justice initiatives, a position created just for her. She was stunned by God’s divine orchestration. “Who gets her dream job without ever really embarking on an official job search? And in this economy? I am so grateful that God opened this door,” said Boyd. While in the U.S., she increases awareness of injustice in east and central Africa, speaking at churches, schools, and professional organizations. Boyd also communicates with ALARM’s African staff to understand their training and resource needs, and then raises the funds and develops the curriculum to help meet those needs.

For example, most Americans do not know that almost 6 million people have died in the Congolese civil war that began in 1996, making it the bloodiest war since World War II. “When it comes to the plights of our African brothers and sisters, it seems most American Christians do not understand that God equipped them to respond to those very needs,” said Boyd. “There is expertise in the Church, among APU alumni; people who have skills to train pastors, lawyers, women, and children.” Boyd spends some of her time in Africa facilitating conferences for lawyers, judges, and other community leaders. These trainings provide unprecedented opportunities for Christian professionals to address injustice and human rights abuses in their own countries while networking with like-minded individuals—to know that others strive for compassion and integrity in the midst of corruption is incredibly encouraging. And when faced with the vast and complex problems that threaten the millions who live in east and central Africa, sometimes Boyd doubted the impact that a simple ALARM conference could really have. Until she learned how God used a conference to save a life.

Just last October, 75 lawyers gathered in a small conference room in Bunia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, to learn about forgiveness, servant leadership, and God’s heart for justice. A police officer in attendance later told the ALARM staff that while walking home from the last session, he met a man with a head wound, carrying a machete. The bleeding man was on his way to kill the man who hurt him. Equipped by the forgiveness and conflict-resolution training he received that very week, the officer implored him to reconsider. “If you kill this man, his family will seek revenge on you, and then your family will seek revenge on his. The cycle will never end,” he said. “When you were in rebellion against God, He forgave you. This man’s sin against you is less than the sin Jesus forgave to save you.” The man accepted the officer’s admonition and took his machete home.

While outcomes are not always this radical, it reminds Boyd to believe in God’s sovereignty and persevere in the work He has laid before her. “At each training session, we’re like the little boy with five loaves and two fish faced with thousands of hungry people. We offer what we have, and God is faithful to multiply it for His purposes,” said Boyd. “It’s humbling to work for ALARM and get to be a small part of God’s goodness.”

Becky Keife is a freelance writer and editor living in Glendora, California. beckykeife@gmail.com

"When it comes to the plights of our African brothers and sisters, it seems most American Christians do not understand that God equipped them to respond to these very needs."
- Leah Boyd '01

Originally published in the Fall '13 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).