As the president of the Ozarks Pen Masters’ Guild here in Lebanon, Missouri, I always look forward to getting together with my fellow writers. We chattered happily as we set out our summery refreshments: homemade cookies, fruit salad, iced tea, and lemonade. We had invited the members of the community to hear Airyka Edwards speak about her book No Longer Bound, My Voice, My Freedom. While I was excited about the event, I was also a bit apprehensive. As the president, I would be introducing our guest and I prayed that everything would go well for her sake. At first hardly anyone arrived. I had even started removing chairs. But then people began to trickle in. We ended up having over 50 people! (We hurriedly put the chairs back.) Anxious to get started, I quickly introduced Airyka. I sat at the edge of my seat, eager to have her speak. But she had other ideas. She selected Debby Blades to introduce all of our members and had me lead them in reciting our credo about using our talents, great or small, in hopes that they’ll be an inspiration to others.
Airyka even had our secretary, Ruth Amos, open with prayer. I thought all this emphasis on our guild would bore everybody to death. But what a gift she gave us! Her efforts were instrumental in getting us two new members! (They attended our meeting a month later.) I just needed to let go and enjoy!
I cheekily announced, “Now…here’s what you’ve all been waiting for!” I needn't have worried. Airyka had taken the time to make sure everyone was comfortable and felt at home (herself included.) Then Airyka shared a greater gift. How brave she was – opening up about her tragic childhood. In her book, she fearlessly shared how she and her siblings grew up with an alcoholic mother with no food or heat in the house. It was devastating to hear how her tiny newborn brother froze to death when the small children were left alone. That was just one of the heartbreaking situations they had to endure. But the amazing thing is that Airyka not only endured, but overcame through her faith in God. And she became the warm, outgoing individual, talented author, and friend that she is today!