“I think a part of my love for what we do in Women of Vision has been my own personal story,” says Lora Williams, a business owner, nurse, public speaker, and published author. “Being a part of Women of Vision has cultivated me a lot in my purpose.”
Lora recalls growing up poor in a dysfunctional and abusive home, and feeling God calling her to follow Him when she was only 16. So she packed up and moved to Texas, leaving behind her home in Lafayette, Louisiana, her family, and her comfort zone.
“At the time, I was a high school dropout. I came to Texas with a call from God to do something different,” she says. “It was one of the best decisions that I made, so I never turned back after that.”
Settling in San Marcos, Texas, Lora found Job Corps, and it changed her life. After receiving her GED and Nursing Assistant certificate, she continued to pour herself into nursing school to obtain her Registered Nurse license and Theology degree. She went on to lead an assisted living and memory care facility.
Lora met her husband, Cedric, early on, and the couple married at a young age. Today they have two daughters. Like Lora, Cedric learned his trade — HVAC — at Job Corps. They both share a gratitude for the certification programs that enabled them to build good careers and provide for their family. In 2020, they started their own career school to equip others to transform their own lives — a dream they had held for many years. Lora also created a platform to help career school owners move their programs online when COVID-19 hit.
Paving a way for others
“Coming from a poor family … we truly understand how important it is to have a skill,” Lora says. “Everyday people are not making ends meet. They’re not financially secure.”
Lora and Cedric’s school initially offered a CNA program, and then added an HVAC program. Partnering with other organizations, the school provides scholarships to women receiving services from a local shelter, and supports at-risk youth supported by Chicktime — a Christian women’s organization committed to caring for girls who have been trafficked or abused.
“That’s our heart … to serve in whatever capacity that we can,” Lora says.
It’s this heart to serve that first drew Lora to Women of Vision when she was invited to attend a conference in Washington, D.C. She remembers experiencing a connection she hadn’t felt before.
“You can feel the love of God and that we’re all in this room learning, and our hearts are broken about the poor, and we’re from all different socioeconomic statuses and backgrounds,” she says. “That’s a God thing.”
At first, Lora was hesitant to join. Her daughters were young and she was already heavily involved elsewhere. In fact, she’d been the founder of the Chicktime chapter in Austin. Yet despite these other commitments, Lora felt her heart being pulled to Women of Vision, and she began praying about the possibility of starting a chapter with another woman, Cathy White. When they shared with each other that God had put Esther 4:14 on both of their hearts, they had to act “for such a time as this.”
“We knew He was saying, ‘You need to step up. I’m calling you to do this.’ So that’s what honestly did it,” Lora says.
Called to serve
Lora and Cathy co-founded the Austin chapter in 2010. Today, the chapter is made up of a diverse group of women. Together they study the Word, learn about global needs, and fundraise for projects God lays on their hearts. Lora attributes their longevity and success to their complete dependence on the Lord. “One of the things I do appreciate [is that] we don’t move without asking God what He wants us to do,” she says. “Every year, we meet, fast, and pray.”
Lora sees Women of Vision as providing a way to live out her faith and her purpose among like-hearted women. “When we serve the poor, we’re actually doing the work that God has asked us to do,” she says. “So many Scriptures [point] us to God’s heart and helping those who are poor. I think everybody in the world wants to know ‘why am I here?’ and Women of Vision answers that.”
Lora finds fulfillment knowing her work with Women of Vision is helping children and families around the world. The Austin chapter has supported numerous projects over the years, from child protection efforts to Hope for Honduras, a project aimed at addressing the root causes of migration from Honduras like violence, poverty, and lack of clean water and sanitation.
One community, in particular, holds a special place in her heart — Matete, Kenya. Over the past decade, she’s traveled there on four Vision Trips to visit her sponsored child, Dinah, and to see the work her chapter has helped accomplish. She is grateful for the opportunity to see the development work and meet the people personally.
“To visit and have these touch points,” Lora says, “for women, I think that’s what makes our hearts sing. To be able to put our hands on things and see the fruit of it.”
A blessing of change
Lora recalls being struck by the changes she witnessed in Matete from her first visit in 2012 to her most recent in 2017: new school buildings, increased access to clean water, and, most striking of all, healthy relationships between husbands and wives that were now following the Lord — a stark contrast to the way things had been before.
“Thinking about the very first time to now,” she says, “I could see the tangible difference in the community.” Lora describes it as “eye-opening, just to see the power of God and see the power of transformation.”
The transformation Lora witnessed continues to inspire her.
“It definitely breathes into who I am as a person,” Lora says. “And I have that experience to look back on, over and over.”
“I see the fruit of it not only spiritually, but in my life,” she says. “What I see and what I’ve experienced in World Vision and the different opportunities that I’ve had — it definitely spills over into every other thing in my life. It has opened my eyes a little bit more [to] the power of what God wants us to do here on earth. It’s not just a financial investment. I see — and saw — the tangible power of our dollars being at work.”
For Lora, Women of Vision has been a life-giving blessing — a place where she can follow God’s call to serve, surrounded by rich fellowship with other women seeking to live like Jesus.
“It has added people to my life, a sense of community I probably wouldn’t have been able to cultivate anywhere [else] regardless of going to church,” she explains. “We have a different focus, we have a heart for the poor, and we have a heart to do what God wants us to do.”