November 21, 2013
“A ministry that focuses on sharing God’s abundance grace and love to those who are alone, but not fatherless through Christ.”
This mission statement for Love Thru His Grace ministries reflects the heart of its founder, twenty-one-year-old Alexis Freeman. It was through the orphaned children in Nigeria, who have captured her heart, that God revealed His call to her.
The seed for her ministry was planted on her first trip to Nigeria in 2007, when she was fifteen years old. She was part of a ten-day team that included her mother, Sarah Freeman and her grandpa, Denny Freeman. The team evangelized and taught at various churches. Although they never visited orphanages, Alexis gravitated toward the children who played on the outskirts of the church property. During this trip, Alexis contracted a bad case of malaria—so bad that she wondered if she would survive. God’s grace sustained her for the rest of the trip.
Her health trials didn’t stay in Nigeria though. The next year, she was diagnosed with Arnold-Chiari Malformation, or what Alexis calls ”the headache”. The lower part of the brain (cerebellum) protrudes into the spinal area which can cause a variety of nervous system issues especially severe headaches. These headaches can be aggravated by daily activities such as exercising, laughing, and bending over. Alexis had surgery to correct the problem, but she was left struggling with depression and doubt. “But God, what do you want from me?”
After graduating from high school, Alexis, who always had a heart for children, majored in elementary education at Taylor University. After the first semester, she transferred to Hope College, but specialized in special education, desiring to reach those who need the most care and love. She stayed at Hope for 1-1/2 years, but it was getting too expensive. She applied at Michigan State for the 2013-14 school year, but State’s education department couldn’t accept any more applicants. She had to wait until at least January 2014.
God was already arranging her path. This past August, Alexis and a team of ten went to Nigeria to minister at two orphanages. Half of the team members were family from her Grandpa Freeman, mother Sarah, her sister Sommer and her future sister-in laws, Rachel and Karly. The team traveled separately to Chicago O’Hare airport where they would fly together to Nigeria. On the way to O’Hare, Alexis and Karly, both in the same van, got hit by a vehicle. Fortunately, they were able to travel despite the pain.
The first orphanage, in Lakoja, had babies and toddlers, and the second, in Otutulu, had newborns up to eighteen years old. At the first orphanage in Lakoja, Alexis was in too much pain to help paint the orphanage, but was able to help care for a three-month-old baby. This baby captured her heart. The bond between the baby and Alexis was so strong that after she left Nigeria, the nannies named the baby Alexis, as a sign of respect. It was while saying “good-bye” to this baby and the orphanage in Otutulu that Alexis heard God’s call to this country:
I was holding this three-month-old baby and felt this calling from God. He told me not to be sad and not to be frightened, but this was going to be a home. This is where I belong. This is where I am going to make changes, [a] miracle is going to happen. I’m standing there, looking at this baby and not understanding what’s going on in my mind. It’s like someone is taking over. I’ve never felt anything like that before. I left that orphanage speechless; I had no idea what to say.
The team traveled to Otutulu, the orphanage with newborns up to eighteen years old for the remaining days of the trip. Here they helped take care of the babies and infants, and helped with other chores before leaving for the States.
During the flight back, Alexis couldn’t stop crying. Her heart was with the people and the children in Nigeria. She returned to the States not only with a broken heart, but a bacteria that left her dehydrated. She received treatment in the hospital and slowly recovered.
Yet, her heart wasn’t mending as easily as her body. God’s grace was with her as she received confirmation of the call she had heard in Nigeria. She received an email from Daniel Edeh, the head of both Nigerian orphanages. He thanked her for serving as a mother to these children and shared that he felt a connection with her. Alexis welcomed this confirmation, but wondered if his email was out of courtesy. She asked the other members if they had received a similar email—no one else did.
She communicated almost daily with the orphanages through Skype and Facebook which helped her as she struggled to fit in, living in the States. Before depression could settle, God revealed to her that she could help the orphanages from across the ocean. “I gotta do something. I don’t know what, but I can feel it. It’s going to be big, and I feel God in me.”
She became an advocate as she raised awareness, funds, and supplies for the orphanages. And she planned another trip, desiring to deliver the funds and supplies and to receive assurance that she could stay healthy in Nigeria, an important aspect if she were to live there for awhile.
Her Grandpa Freeman (who has visited Nigeria since 2002) volunteered to accompany her in October for a ten-day trip. Alexis wanted to take a great abundance of supplies and funds on this trip. God provided! She received enough donations that she took seventeen totes full of supplies such as toys, diapers, clothes and blankets. She had set a goal of raising $5000 for the orphanage, and the night before the trip, she had raised about $3700. Faithful to His promise of miracles, the next day before they left for the airport, she received more than double that amount.
It was on this third trip that Alexis was able to see what God was calling her to do. She spent more time in the orphanages since only accompanied by her Grandpa. Now, she could witness how much love these children needed, for as orphans they suffer from a feeling of being unloved and unwanted. Many of them are raised in the orphanage from birth because their mothers die during childbirth, especially the ones who have twins. Many times, one of the twins dies too, leaving the surviving twin alone and motherless. Their fathers don’t have the resources to care for the baby, so the baby is taken to the orphanage. (That’s what happened with baby Alexis.)
On this trip, not only did Alexis care of her baby Alexis, but realized what God was calling her to do. She was there to nurture and love these children, letting them know they are unique, precious and loved. They are not fatherless. And she was able to see first-hand the needs of the orphanages. For example, the orphanage in Lokoja has 80-100 babies, but only two dorms, one for the boys and one for the girls. They have no medical building, no well, and no wall. The wall is the most important need because without it, a new well, however valuable and necessary, would make them too vulnerable to invaders.
Although the needs are great, Alexis knows that she serves a great God. She is amazed and touched by how many people have supported her to make the ministry possible. A ministry about “we”, not “I”. She now has a website and is working to get 501C (3) status as she raises funds and supplies. And she is preparing for a four-month trip this coming January and will stay at the Otulutu orphanage.
Looking back on her life, she feels as though everything she had experienced and endured, including the difficult times, are culminating now with her call to Nigeria. She’s amazed how God is using all her experiences, health difficulties, and even the educational setback for His good.
For more information about Alexis’s ministry, please check out her website: LoveThruHisGrace.com.