Meet Emily Voorhies, President of Tirzah International. She and her husband Sam currently live in Colorado, and they have three grown children. Emily (pictured here with Peace Nihorimbere, Tirzah’s Regional Leader for Central Africa) is passionate about promoting the spiritual and physical well-being of women around the world. This week, she chatted with us about that passion and the mission behind the ministry she founded.
4word: Can you give us a quick bio? How did you first become involved in full-time ministry?
Emily: My education at Wheaton Graduate School provided me with great exposure to Christian leaders from around the world. God used that time to plant the seed for my involvement in full-time ministry. Sam and I actually met at Wheaton College and moved to Kenya four months after we married.
Originally, we thought we would go to Africa for a year, but we eventually lived 12 years on the continent. After living in Sweden, Kenya and Zimbabwe, we finally relocated to Colorado. My involvement in what God is doing through women began after I returned from Africa. Moving to Colorado, I met others who were focused on encouraging God’s work through women.
4word: How did you become involved with Tirzah International?
Emily: Since I had never been directly involved with women in ministry, I was surprised when God opened this door for me. First, I served as Executive Director of Women of Global Action (WOGA), a network of women committed to prayer, evangelism and holistic ministry, focusing on women and their children. This network was nurtured for 10 years under the ministry of Global Action.
In February 2011, I spun off the ministry as Tirzah International. As we grew and expanded, we realized the need to focus our full time, energy and resources on supporting and encouraging what God is doing through women around the world.
4word: So why the name “Tirzah?” What’s the focus of the new ministry?
Emily: The powerful story of God Himself advocating for Tirzah and her four sisters to inherit property (Numbers 27:1-7) is an inspiring one for all women, and it represents who we are as a movement. This is why we chose Tirzah for our new name.
Tirzah’s mission is to educate and connect women to impact their world with God’s love by addressing key issues facing women and children. Our vision is to see a world where women and girls flourish as they fulfill the potential with which God created them.
4word: There’s a quote on your website that says, “When women move forward, the world moves with them.” Can you explain what that means?
Emily: Significant data shows that when women benefit from education, training, investment and/or opportunities, their families, communities and nations also benefit. This African proverb reflects what many African communities have experienced when an investment is made in the female population.
4word: What are some of the obstacles you see to women “flourish[ing] as they fulfill the potential with which God created them?”
Emily: There are many obstacles, including culture, families and sometimes even churches. In many, if not most, regions of the world, women are still considered to be second-, third-, or fourth-class citizens, not worth educating or investing in.
4word: What is Tirzah International doing to help break down those obstacles?
Emily: Through our network, we are addressing these obstacles at every level – policy, legal and practical. We are training women leaders in what God’s word says about how He values women, and they are training others. Understanding our value and worth in Christ, regardless of what our cultures say about us, is very liberating for women and girls. We are also providing practical support to invest in women and girls – scholarships for girls to stay in school, micro-enterprise training and loans for women to be self-sustaining, etc.
4word: Are there ways that our readers can get involved?
Emily: We have local chapters in Los Angeles, Colorado Springs, Houston and Tampa Bay. If you live in these areas, please get involved. If you don’t live in one of those areas, you can still help! Simply become informed about issues facing women around the world and challenge your friends and spheres of influence to do the same. So many people are not aware of the plight of women and girls in today’s world. Finally, you can also join us for a short-term trip to visit some of the women we work with around the world. These are listed on our website: www.tirzah.org.
Do you agree with Emily that “when women move forward, the world moves with them?” Why/why not? Have you noticed this to be true in your own workplace, church, neighborhood, etc.?