• Kit Evans-Ford, one of the Wesleyan Investive Tom Locke Award winners for 2022, started an organization to employ female survivors of sexual violence.
• Wesleyan Investive, formerly the United Methodist Development Fund, is a 50-year-old national nonprofit that invests in innovative spiritual leadership.
• Locke Award recipients receive $50,000 to grow their leadership and innovative potential.
Kit Evans-Ford, founder of Argrow’s House of Healing and Hope, is one of four diverse, spiritual leaders who will receive a 2022 Tom Locke Innovative Leader Award from the Wesleyan Investive in a virtual ceremony May 22.
Argrow’s House, named for Evans-Ford’s grandmother, started in 2017 in Davenport, Iowa. The social enterprise makes bath and body products and employs women survivors of violence. Argrow’s House also provide free services for survivors of abuse.
“This work is not easy. It is a lifetime commitment that takes a lot of energy and personal resources,” Evans-Ford said. “To be blessed by this award is very affirming and lets me know this work is not in vain.”
Evans-Ford grew up in Mebane, North Carolina, and most of the women in her family were active in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. However, it took many years before her mother and grandmother were able to become a local elder and local deacon. Her mother wasn’t ordained as a local elder until her 50s and her grandmother became a local deacon only a few months before she passed away at age 70.
She said that seeing her grandmother preach her first sermon in a wheelchair was a powerful image: “It showed me what that commitment to Christ is like even in difficult circumstances.”
Evans-Ford also witnessed abuse in her family.
“My grandmother married at the age of 14. My grandfather was 27 years old and had issues with alcoholism. There was the reality of abuse in the marriage,” she said. “I grew up seeing that, so at a young age I got involved with violence prevention organizations.”
On her path to working for nonviolence, she joined the Peace Corps, where she became a survivor of an “extremely violent” sexual assault.
“Most of my ministry was evolving in the midst of my own healing,” she said. “Argrow’s House was actually my senior paper in seminary.”
While still working in the Peace Corps she was also testifying in the trial of the man who assaulted her. The man, who she said was a serial rapist, was convicted and sentenced to 46 years in prison.
“Doing this work and understanding what would be helpful for trauma survivors took a deeper meaning for me because I was having to understand what would help me survive,” she said.
Evans-Ford has been a trainer and activist for 14 years in the area of nonviolence education.
She is adjunct professor in the department of theology at St. Ambrose University and is action outreach organizer for Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service. She has organized thousands of peace actions around the world.
Evans-Ford is also the author of “101 Testimonies of Hope: Life Stories to Encourage Your Faith in God,” and “A Children’s Book on Bishop Richard Allen: A Nonviolent Journey.” Allen founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
She wants to provide more housing for women survivors and grow her social enterprise.
“The United Methodist Church has been very much connected to my journey,” she said. “It was The United Methodist Church, through a grant from the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, that gave me the funds to buy our first bucket of coconut oil,” she said, laughing.
“I love The United Methodist Church, who has supported me in every step of my ministry.”
Gilbert is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn.News media contact: Julie Dwyer at [email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests
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