Vilma Sagebin had an up-close and personal view of Big Ocean’s beginnings through her daughter and our founder, Carolina Allen. Carolina had returned from attending a funeral in Hawaii where an experience made her conclude she must do something about the current negative trends and their influence on the rising generation. She told Vilma she felt driven to start a non-profit organization for like-minded maternal feminists—women of all ages with desires to stand for faith, family and motherhood. Vilma recalls, “It spoke directly to my heart … and had power to resonate with every woman in the world regardless of her faith, color, or race.” Nevertheless, it was a daunting task. “This was bigger than us, more than we could hope to do.”
Vilma, being a woman of great faith, immediately prayed. She asked God to either give them strength and tools to accomplish the task or to wipe it from their minds. The first tenet of Big Ocean Women, “We believe in God and are women of faith,” is the foundation of her life and gives her a perspective of hope. Because of this faith tradition in their family, she was not overly surprised at Carolina’s vision and goal.
Vilma describes her own faith journey:
Although I belonged to the same Christian denomination as my parents since I was a young girl, I wanted to belong to a church that teaches faith and the importance of families. One day, a high school friend told me about her religion. After listening to the message of two young missionaries, whose teachings about the gospel seemed very familiar, I knew I found what I was seeking. My faith, which at the time was an insignificant little seed, began to grow as I read the scriptures for the first time. My faith in God and Jesus Christ has become a strong foundation in all aspects of my life. This church’s teachings regarding families and their importance touch me deeply. We learn that families matter, and we put our families and the families of those around us at the center of our concern. I have learned that every major decision we make is based on the effect it will have on a family to qualify for life with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I married Fabio, a young man of the same faith, and together we had six children who grew up learning the fundamental values of our beliefs.
As she shared in her board message last July, it was this faith that helped her forgive and rekindle her love for her mother who had left her and her sister in the care of their father when she was 6 years old. In the last months of their mom’s life, they chose to care for her and mend their broken hearts. She also explained how she was blessed by this choice.
Often our minds believe that we forgive the people who hurt us when we no longer remember them. I realized that indifference is only a denial of forgiveness because the wound continues to exist under the scar. When we decide to be part of the person’s life again and break the barrier of indifference is when the real healing happens. In the few months that we spent with my mother before she passed away, we got to really know the person who gave us life; we created memories that were both painful and happy and even funny. We better understood that love is strengthened by daily acts of service and sacrifice. This experience helped me become a better wife, mother and grandmother.
Because of what she learned through this experience, she and Fabio decided to leave their comfortable circumstances in Missouri–where she had also helped to form a Big Ocean cottage–and relocate close to their children and grandchildren to create memories: sad, happy, interesting, and funny.
She says that, without a doubt, the most satisfying life goal she has accomplished is building her family. “Each one of my children and grandchildren have become worthy, loving, amazing men and women, rooted in the values and culture of our faith; each one seeking to make a difference in this world.”
Vilma exhibits her faith by her works of love and charity. She serves as a member of the board of directors for Big Ocean Women with a specific responsibility for the cottage groups throughout the world—local groups of women who meet in person or virtually. She finds great satisfaction in working with our global sisters to find generative solutions for their particular circumstances. They are encouraged to develop their own plans and strategies and then given modest donations to implement their ideas. One such cottage is the newly formed cottage in Ecuador. Read more here about their work.
Ann Takasaki, another board member and friend, shared a story of Vilma’s willingness to act in faith even when it was not what she desired. Vilma and Fabio had immigrated to the United States with their oldest children. They struggled as they encountered the challenges of this hard life. Fabio was studying architecture at the University of Utah, serving as the leader of their church congregation, and delivering newspapers in the mornings. As all these family pressures escalated, Vilma prayed to know what to do. She received the answer that she should go to work. She counts this as one of the most difficult decisions of her life; this was against everything in her heart. She went forward and qualified for a job as a flight attendant for international flights, using the three languages she speaks. The children grew as they learned to step up and take responsibility and they were all blessed because she had the courage to accept the answer she received.
Ann describes this woman of faith: “Vilma has special spiritual gifts and literally calls down heaven to the room when she prays. She is one of the most spiritual people I know.”
How can we use Vilma’s example to discover and share our gifts of faith?