A Cherokee County woman had plans to become a missionary in Africa. After a tragic accident, she became one in her own home.
I met Elya Snow more than 20 years ago. She comes from a large family of seven children. She is 27 now and has grown from a gangly little girl into a young woman who carries herself with a quiet confidence.
Elya likes to hang out with her family and spend time outdoors. These days, she gets to do a lot of the former, less of the latter.
On the night of April 14, 2010, Elya got the news that her 19-year-old brother, Nathaniel, was involved in a head-on collision. Another driver crossed into his lane and hit him. Nathaniel sustained a traumatic brain injury that requires others to care for him.
Elya's mother and father must work to maintain insurance coverage. Her siblings pitch in when they can. The brunt of Nathaniel's care falls to Elya. She brushes his teeth, changes his catheter, keeps him clean. And while most of her peers are starting families or careers, Elya studies up on neurofeedback and ways to prevent bedsores.
Before the accident, she had plans to travel and fulfill her own personal dreams. She was going to get a job teaching in the United States, save her money, then spend a year or two in Uganda.
"When we were about eight," Elya said, "(my twin brother) Ben and I used to plan to go to Africa. We were going to buy a Hummer and be missionaries. He'd be my 'protector' and I'd be the missionary."
She traveled with Marietta's Liberty Church to Uganda in 2004 and 2010. While there, Elya spent every evening sitting with the children, watching them giggle, dance, sing and play under the stars. She heard a clergyman talk about his dream to build an orphanage and school with housing for AIDS widows and children. Taken with the idea, Elya immediately switched her major from special education to early childhood education when she returned home.
“I wanted to be part of that dream,” she said.
Elya hasn't abandoned that dream. She's just postponed it. Right now, there's more pressing missionary work at home.
"My plans have changed," Elya said. "But I think they've changed for the better. I'm finally realizing that my life's not about me."