Crio?  Creole?  What?!

Our founders knew that CRIO meant to equip or to empower, but to the rest of the world it had no meaning and may have brought to mind some sort of tomato-free Cajun cuisine.  So, it was quite exciting to hear someone else say it and pronounce it correctly!  Watch the video announcing the Epoch 2013 Awards finalists here in the following article!

Just to be listed among such an incredible group of innovative community developers and world changers is such an honor.  But to be eligible to win a gift that will help us accomplish our mission?  That is unreal.  

Our team is speechless.  Other than Poppa and Nana’s (our founders) grandkids demonstrating how to walk on the red carpet with style, we just sort of laugh.  Are you kidding me that CRIO International is an Epoch finalist?

But there is another side to the hilarity that makes our minds race with the possibilities that the Epoch Awards has opened for us.  

We work and play here in Oklahoma, but our hearts and dreams are always with our friends in Africa.  Our vision is to transform each community in Africa through the venue of the local church.  We do this by empowering and mobilizing local leaders to address the broken systems of underprivileged communities in war-torn regions in Africa.

We engage people in long-term, relational ways that address problems and sustain social and economic solutions.  In short, our friendships with the people of Africa are helping solve problems. 

We partner with the strengths of the people in each community (the true unsung heroes), listen well, and help resource those strengths.  At the same time, we address the needs of each community by providing education, empowering women, and addressing the injustices of poverty, hunger, and disease.

Recently, we received a message from a young woman named Abigail, one of our pastor's daughters in Nigeria.  She wrote,

“It came to our notice during the week that the Senate of Nigeria wants to implement a law of underaged girls getting married to older men. I cried because so many things are going wrong and nothing is being done.  How can a girl of 13 get married? Or even bear children or take care of a home? It’s disastrous. Our girls are being de-humanized, dragged to do things against their will and forced into early marriage.
I met with some of the parents in the community, parents who don’t have money to train their children, send them to school or even feed them.  They are at the mercy of these older men who want to take them as wives on the pretence that their families would be catered for.  The parents we met shed tears and were in pain cause while their underaged daughters are at the risk of being married to older men, they watched helplessly.
We will not fold our hands and look.  We will not watch our girls be taken for granted and trampled upon. We will fight for the girl child and make sure they fulfill their God given destinies.  We want to cater for these ones and make them something in the society and in the process bring them to Jesus.
My organization is in dire need of high school education for these girls because most of them want to go back to school.  We plan to teach them a trade or craft, like bead-making, baking, tailoring, and hair dressing as opportunities for them to produce income.  These young women are eager to learn in all aspects if they have the means. I could see the zeal yet the pain, the enthusiasm yet the sorrow because they feel there is no hope.
I cried because I don’t want these young girls to be sold into prostitution and other forms of negative vice.  We want to help them.  This is a cry for help.  Will you help us?"

Abigail is the founder of http://YoungPearl.org and is plowing a path for girls in her community.  She is a 3rd year microbiology student at a state university in Nigeria.  Her passion is to build the girls of Nigeria and challenge them to be all that God has created them to be--to not be limited by their surroundings, but to create a new reality for themselves and for those that will come behind them.  Her story is a beautiful one and we hope she will receive support from organizations that are advocates for women from around the world.    

Abigail’s vision will need financing.  And this is why winning an Epoch Award would mean so much to us.  It would mean transformation for the lives of many young women in Nigeria that are sold to secure food and shelter for their families.  It would mean getting the message out and connecting people to the broken neighborhoods in Africa and connecting people who can serve and support people like Abigail that have a passion to rescue their generation and announce the rule and reign of Christ.

Thank you, Epoch for enlarging the good.  Thank you for singing about those that are in the shadows and in the margins.  They need your voice.  They need our voice.

And to people like Abigail and the girls in her community, just being named an Epoch finalist could mean their life. 

To find out more about the Epoch Awards and how you can get involved, visit their website at www.epochawards.com