Neylan McBaine shares with us some background on a new interviewee at the MWP.
“I can never forget how much I want to get married,” a 30-something friend told me recently after returning from an exotic trip half way around the world those of us with spouses and dependents can only dream of. “I was standing on top of a mountain looking at the most beautiful sight I’d ever seen and all I could think about was how I’d rather be home with a husband and kids! I’m sick of being reminded that I should be pursuing marriage when it’s the one thing I can never forget.” What I love about Liz Shropshire, this week’s interviewee at the Mormon Women Project, is that she has crafted a life that is only possible because of her singlehood: Liz divides her time between Kosovo, Uganda and Northern Ireland, distributing pennywhistles and harmonicas to former child soldiers and refugees and teaching music of peace. She has touched for good over 10,000 children. Service on such a dramatic scale could never be possible if she were trying simultaneously to run a home.
Our interview with Liz is a tribute to the many single women among our people who make a deliberate effort to take advantage of their singlehood, instead of being hampered by it. I have been asked if I think that by celebrating the accomplishments of single women, the Mormon Women Project is tacitly encouraging Mormon women to avoid marriage. I do not think so. I think, as my friend said, no one needs to remind our women of the importance of marriage. We all need to be reminded, though, of how many diverse ways there are to live with an eye towards Zion.
While I was most touched by Liz as an example of an astonishingly productive, fulfilled single woman, the interview producer, Annette Bay Pimentel was drawn to Liz for somewhat different reasons. Annette explains:
“Soon after our family moved to Sarajevo in 2002, we heard about Liz Shropshire, one of the few other non-military Mormons in this war-torn region. Liz was in Kosovo and had embarked upon a charmingly quixotic venture to heal children suffering from the ravages of war by teaching them to play the pennywhistle. Since then, she has done exactly that. She founded a scrappy, bootstrap NGO that is run entirely by local Kosovars, most of them unpaid, volunteer teenagers. She has also set up new programs in two more war-torn countries.
Liz brims with joy even on the phone. She laughs easily and speaks passionately about children and war. Her faith clearly animates her work but she has purposely and doggedly made her foundation non-religious, her way of negotiating life in a Muslim community healing from Christian aggression.
Since our interview, I’ve found myself mulling the relationship among prudence, wealth, and charity. Liz did not create her NGO with a large inheritance to spend or with the security of a dot-com buy-out bank balance. She was a poorly-paid schoolteacher when she started and has since then given up the security of even that paycheck. When I have felt unequipped to help solve the worlds’ ills, I’ve often been consoled by King Benjamin’s words: “I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give” (Mosiah 4:24). Yet Liz’s story makes me wonder why I so often feel I don’t have. She has created an abundant life.”