(Written for my 20th Century History Class)
These memoirs were read aloud at the UNICEF Prestigious Humanitarian Awards ceremony in recognition of the work of Dr. Stephen Bridget for successfully developing a vaccination against dengue fever and Mrs. Amy Loraine Bridget-Wood for her refugees aid program.
Thank you very much for this honor. We are delight to accept this award, but we must also recognize the one who allows us to love and serve the hurting world, Jesus Christ. Without his support and strength, none of this could ever have been accomplished.
I suppose I should thank the poor economy of the early twenty-first century for allowing me to meet my husband. When I graduated from Taylor University with degrees in sociology and social studies education in 2009, the job market was a mess and I couldn’t find a job. I remembered a program that I had learned of my junior year to teach English in Honduras for ten months. Dr. Stephen Bridget was doing research on tropical diseases in the same city as the school where I was teaching. He would frequently come to the school to play soccer with the students, and by the end of that year we were in love. I returned to Indiana to take a job teaching social studies at a private school in Indianapolis while Stephen finished up his research and transferred to the research center at IUPUI. We were married at the end of 2010, when I was 24 and he was 29.
We knew from the start that we wanted to have a big family and that we wanted to adopt internationally. I had lived in Russia for a while and learned of the plight of the orphans there, so our first daughter, Dasha, came to us from Russia in 2012 when she was two. I stopped teaching full time after that and gave birth to our first son, Benjamin, in the spring of 2014. Stephen was doing very well in his medical career at this point and we thought we would stay in Indianapolis for a few more years; two world events, however, changed our plans.
The first was the opening of Cuba. Since the death of Fidel Castro, the same year I graduated from college, US-Cuban relations had been greatly improving. Desiring better economic relations with the United States, the Cubans agreed to let in American economic advisors as early as 2012. Within two years, not only had commerce improved, tourism was making the country very wealthy and Havana became a hotbed for medical research. My husband was very interested in the work being done there and we traveled to Havana in the fall of 2014 for three months. During this time I picked up on learning Spanish from where I had left off in Honduras. Although we enjoyed our time there, we returned to the States and moved to Chicago. At the time my parents had finally returned to the US after almost twenty years of living internationally. In between moving to Chicago, taking care of Dasha and Ben, and giving birth to Loraine in 2016, I managed to take some classes on International Development from the University of Chicago. Although I never managed to earn my master’s like I had hoped, the knowledge I learned from this was essential for what was to come next. In 2017, my husband was invited to be a part of a Havana-based research team that would eventually be successful in creating the dengue fever vaccine. We moved immediately.
The second world event to impact our lives was the civil wars taking place in Venezuela and Bolivia. Since leftists Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales both amended their laws to remain in power after their terms had ended, civil unrest was present in the two countries. In 2012, a key Venezuela opposition leader was assassinated, followed by a three-month bloodbath across the nation. The war in Bolivia soon followed. Interestingly, this became the first conflict that the US was involved in through humanitarian aid alone. After the situation in the Middle East settled down enough for us to complete an exit strategy, the US public would not have tolerated a war unjustified in their minds. Still, thousands of refugees poured from these two countries attempting to go farther north, and many of them landed in Cuba. Even after five years, the situation was still desperate. Along with a fellow Taylor alum, who is Bolivian-American, I founded the New Start Network to set up jobs, housing, and a children’s education sponsorship program for the refugees in Cuba. The most important thing to me is being able to love people and to show them the new beginning we receive when we put our trust in the salvation of Jesus Christ. Besides raising my family, this has undoubtedly been the most rewarding work of my life so far.
We lived very happily in Cuba for thirteen years. Although based in Havana, Stephen took many trips to Africa for his research and also worked in a hospital for foreigners. We adopted two girls, Natalia and Cecilia, whose parents were victims of the wars, and I gave birth to twins, Diego and Daniel. In 2030, the research team finally announced to the world that a vaccine against dengue fever had been successful. Our little community first received worldwide attention then that we were not accustomed to. Stephen was very honored to have received so much recognition for his research and we were all so proud of him. His first priority, though, was that the vaccine became available to as many people as possible. We returned to the United States for a short time, but within a year we moved to Manila so that Stephen could oversee the distribution of the vaccine in the Philippines and Asia. I had graduated from a high school in Manila in 2004, so this opportunity was especially exciting for me. We lived there for four years, and then returned to the United States. By this point, four of our children were in or already out of college and we already had two grandchildren.
Now, in 2050, I am happier than I have ever been. We live in Durham, North Carolina, where Stephen teaches at Duke University, and our children are all grown and having children of their own. Stephen and I are active in our church and take as much opportunity to travel as possible. I still travel as a speaker to raise awareness of the displacement of thousands cause by the civil wars in South America. Stephen and I are actually very private people and aren’t accustomed to being in the spotlight, though. We love our family and are happiest when we are all together, although this doesn’t happen much anymore. It seems miraculous that we’ve been able to spend almost every Christmas together so far. We had wanted a large family, but had no idea how the Lord would bless us.
The world has certainly changed much in my lifetime. I had no idea where I would end up when I graduated from college. It seems that the combination of world events, my passions, and the Lord’s leading were behind it all. As I usually end my speeches saying this: be open to love. Following the path forged by loving those less fortunate is not the easiest, by far, but it is certainly the most rewarding and will leave you breathless. Whether you receive recognition or not, love is and will always be the greatest power on earth. Again, thank you for your kindness and consideration. Soli Deo Gloria.