A few years ago, Unity minister Helen Wilcox-Evwaraye and a friend were riding along the streets of Lagos in Nigeria when a strange man forced himself into their cab. Almost immediately, Helen began to recite the “Prayer for Protection” in silence. After what seemed like an eternity, the man’s hands began to shake uncontrollably; he shouted for the driver to stop and fled from the taxi.
Helen and her friend arrived safely at their destination, and although they were unsure of what had transpired, one thing became certain to Helen—beholding the Christ within others can work miracles.
She still holds fast to this belief today. “In our part of the world, belief in the supernatural and psychic powers is prevalent,” said Helen, who serves as Unity’s liaison between Africa and the United States. “But that incident reminded us that there is power in us. We can be that presence of light, love, peace and neutrality, regardless of what is transpiring around us.”
This truth was not always evident to Helen, who grew up a fourth-generation Christian in a country with a mixture of Islam, Christianity and traditional African religions. “My parents were practicing Christians, and they read Unity books and magazines, including Daily Word®, as far back as the 1940s and ’50s, so I always had some understanding of Unity principles,” Helen said. “But when I became an undergraduate, I began to question Christianity. One day I asked my mother, ‘Why did we allow this foreign religion to replace our traditional religion?’ She explained to me that I chose to be born into a Christian family. She also advised me to conduct my own research into the matter, and trust God to provide the answers that would satisfy me.”
Helen heeded her mother’s advice. She prayed, contemplated, meditated, studied the Bible and read books such as Lessons in Truth, a Unity Books spiritual staple by H. Emilie Cady. “That book by Dr. Cady was it for me … all of my questions were answered. I was in awe as I realized there were people who called themselves Christians, and who believed the way I did. From that moment on, I knew I had found my spiritual family. I felt supported in experiencing and expressing my full potential, and that was transformative. Truth is simple,” said Helen.
In 1992, Helen traveled to Unity Village to take part in her first retreat. Not only did she share her experience with others upon her return to her homeland, but she set about organizing a similar retreat in Nigeria. “Twelve people attended our first spiritual retreat in Nigeria. It was a wonderful experience. Everyone was changed,” said Helen.
The next year, Helen again organized the retreat in Nigeria. The number of attendees doubled. Encouraged by the retreat’s success, she found a bigger venue at a local university. The retreats attracted people across tribal, religious, language and cultural barriers. “We all came together in unity for spiritual renewal and found practical tools for joyous, harmonious and abundant living,” she explained.
Helen was a Board member of Unity Movement Nigeria in the 1980s, and later Unity Church Nigeria in 1995. The work was ceaseless, but she can only describe her journey as “incredible” and something that still gives her goose bumps to this day. Challenges do not exist in her mind, only opportunities and solutions.
She described one such example. “I did a workshop in 1998. It was an introduction to a transformative prosperity program. Four of the participants opted to try out the program. Each one raised $45, which was a huge commitment back then. The amount was significant because salaries were very low, and logistically, it was hard to send money overseas. I was an associate professor then. My salary was not quite equal to $200 a month in U.S. dollars. The minimum wage in Nigeria was less than $1 per hour. But we did it! The accomplishment was tremendous but was not surprising. It was God working in and through us.”
There are more than 50 Unity churches in Nigeria, as well as a Silent Unity® affiliate, which was established in 1997. The Unity School of Religious Studies (now called the Unity National Institute) continues to gain strength as well. The spiritual retreat has grown to embrace all the churches and centers. It takes place twice a year in conjunction with the harvests.
In 2000 the establishment of the Unity Worldwide Ministries’ Building Bridges program with Unity of Dayton (Ohio) helped Helen and churches in Nigeria establish and strengthen ties with Unity ministries in the United States. “Building Bridges is a mutually beneficial sister relationship,” she said.
Now a professor at Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio, Helen is still invaluable in fostering this close-knit relationship between the sister churches. She helps ensure that money from Nigerian constituents safely reaches the United States, churches have ample supplies, and Unity books arrive unscathed to her home country.
In short, she remains committed to teaching universal Truth and transforming lives.
On September 13, 2012, Helen’s homeland will again join in Unity World Day of Prayer. In Port Harcourt, the day will be observed for a full 24 hours, beginning with breakfast at the centers at 7 a.m., round-the-clock prayer, singing, dancing and meditation until 7 a.m. the next day. “We are committed to World Day of Prayer. We held the first World Day of Prayer in 1994 and continue to participate,” Helen explained. “How can we not? We want to hold on to the light as our founders (Charles and Myrtle Fillmore) did, for we are the Light, an expression of the living God. There is a freedom in Unity that is encouraging and allows us to feel at liberty to co-create and support people as they grow spiritually and fulfill their potential. That is what Unity does.”
Editors' Note: In an earlier version of the Global Visionaries article incorrect information was provided concerning Unity of Nigeria's history. This was our error and not information shared by Rev. Helen herself. We apologize, and the error has been corrected. For more information about our international affiliates and centers, visit Unity Around the World.