VIENNA, Va. – A Microsoft executive, inspired by her Christian faith to help build a school and rescue center with World Vision for girls escaping female genital mutilation – encouraged Christian women on Monday at a conference to use their passion to serve God.
Speaking at World Vision's "Women of Vision National Conference," Microsoft Vice President Margo Day told those in the audience that God can take their experiences and their abilities and make a difference in the lives of people around the world and to help spread the Gospel.
In her personal experience, God was able to use her influence in the business world to make a difference in the drought-ravaged country of Pokot, Kenya.
"Being in Microsoft … I know lots of people, I know lots of people in business," she said.
In partnering with World Vision Kenya, Day said, "People are sharing the word of what I'm doing, which is sparking interest with people to want to learn more."
That interest allowed her to get others involved in God's work in the African country and also to share her Christian faith with a Philadelphia businessman.
The experience began when Day began contemplating her future with Microsoft in the spring of 2009. In seeking God's will, she realized, "I had stepped away from my child-like faith."
Day said she felt the desire to do something for God but did not know what she could do. Although she worked for a top technology company, Day said she is not a millionaire. However, God used the biblical story in Matthew 14 of Jesus feeding a multitude with nothing more than five loaves and two fishes to inspire her to act.
She said that God's voice told her, "Five loaves and two fishes: what you have is enough."
That thought alone led her to travel to Kenya in September 2009 and witness the toll drought and famine were having on the village of Pokot. She also learned how village girls were escaping their families to avoid female genital mutilation.
The World Health Organization described FGM as the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia. The procedure often causes severe bleeding and urination problems, as well as potential childbirth complications. FGM is internationally recognized as a violation of the human rights of girls and women around the world.
Kenyan girls who have undergone FGM at the age of 6, 7 or 8 are later married off by their parents at age 12 or 13 in order to get a dowry of between 50 to 60 heads of cattle, Day described.
In Pokot, a local mission partnered with a local World Vision water project to house 35 girls escaping FGM. However, Day said there was no secondary school for the girls to attend and little job opportunities for the girls once they reached adolescence.
The experience fueled her to help build a school. After returning the United States, Day told World Vision officials, "Guys, I'm not going to let this one go." Thirty days later, World Vision Kenya drew up plans for a $366,000 school facility.
Day's personal donation of $150,000, plus the donations of her Microsoft colleagues, funded the start of the project. A local Women of Vision chapter helped raise the money needed to complete the project.
Women of Vision is a volunteer ministry of World Vision that equips women to use their resources to advocate for children around the world.
Four years later, the four-block St. Elizabeth Girls Secondary School houses about 124 girls escaping FGM. The school features dormitories for students and teachers, as well as biology, chemistry and computer labs.
The local World Vision water project has also been completed. It provides the school as well as the surrounding community with fresh, clean water.
"It's causing this transformation in this community," Day noted.
She reported that the rate of FGM in Pokot has dropped from almost 100 percent to 20 percent.
It has also created opportunities for Day to share God and the Great Commission with those in the business world.
When she shares her experience with her co-workers, "All of a sudden all of these people were going 'I want to help, can I help?'" she recounted.
"To be able to offer them the opportunity initially to take this desire that they have but don't see a role for whatsoever [in their life], and offer them an opportunity to come in and be part of something greater," Day said, has been a humbling experience.
"It's as cool as the work itself," she shared.
It has also allowed her to share her faith with people she never thought she would be able to reach.
At a business dinner with the executive of one of Microsoft's partner businesses in Pennsylvania, Day said she was able to tell the Bible story of the five loaves and two fishes. "It was great to have a kingdom-based conversation with this business guy," she said.
Day is now working with World Vision Kenya to build five to six schools combined with clean water projects. She is also working to start projects in Bangladesh and Cambodia.
Day has called for supporters to fast and prayer about the sex trade in Bangladesh. "The very moral fabric of this country is in tatters," she said.