Mormon Women Project: Liz Shropshire

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.”

Comments

  1. Wow! Amazing work — thanks for highlighting this. She sounds like a true good Samaritan.

  2. PBS did a film about Jane Austen called “Miss Austen Regrets.” I don’t know how much of it was based in fact, but there is one point when a former beau says to her that he loved her, and would have never kept her from writing. (She had already published Pride and Prejudice at this point.) No, she agreed, but LIFE would have. Babies, home, social stratification, etc. etc.

    The world has millions of mothers, but there was only one Jane Austen. How much poorer the world would be without her brief blaze of glory while she lived. There is only one Liz Shropshire. I think the point is to do the very best we can with the circumstance we have. There are so many ways to give up our lives in the service of others. Sister Shropshire is an awesome example of somebody who truly lives for others. I’m a mom and I certainly can’t say that about myself. She inspires me to be better.

  3. Mark Brown says:

    Thanks Neylan.

    Thank you, sister Shropshire.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    I just read the interview. Outstanding.

  5. TaterTot says:

    I have been following the Mormon Women Project for some time now, and I really enjoyed reading this interview. What a remarkable woman.

  6. We had Liz out to speak to music students at BYU last year. She’s an inspiring woman whose enthusiasm is magnified by her humility. Truly inspiring. And she runs an incredibly tight ship with her organization. She knows where every penny goes. And the teenagers that she trains to run things day-to-day are incredible.

    Somebody should nominate her for a McArther or something.

  7. WOW! thanks for sharing this… whenever I read about a person really living an impossible dream it’s so inspiring.

  8. de Pizan says:

    “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.”
    Seriously? That’s revolting.
    I love the MWP and this is a beautiful addition to it.

  9. Linda Sheldon says:

    Wish I could find something… :(

  10. Linda Sheldon says:

    Wish I could find something… :(

  11. Linda Sheldon says:

    That is really terrific about Liz though. :)

  12. Debbie Stanford says:

    Liz is a college buddy of mine and she has always been amazing. She is my hero. Her life defines “wearing yourself out in the service of the Lord.” I am very fortunate that she is my friend.

    Love you, Liz

  13. Joanna Brooks says:

    I’m proud to have been Liz’s friend since the 1990s. To learn more about her work, please visit Shropshirefoundation.org. Thanks for featuring her, Neylan.

  14. Thanks so much for all of your kind words. Honestly, I have the best life that I could possibly have for me. I am so grateful that Heavenly Father continues to allow me to do this work. It has been a true blessing to me. If you’d like to get involved, please contact us at our website.

  15. Barbara Hatch says:

    I read about Liz in the Ensign a few years ago, and was so inspired I contacted the Ensign to get in touch with her. Since then I have brought her to Alberta Canada a few times on fund raising tours, to a teacher’s conference, and my husband and I have committed to help her annually for as long as we possibly can.

    As a mother of seven, I have often thought I would jump into a situation much like Liz, but that obviously my calling lies at home. But the fact is that there are two things that enable Liz to do what she does: her singleness, and the support of others who cannot GO and do, but who can help HER go and do. I love living vicariously through my beautiful friend, and for the example her life of service is for my children!

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