Anita Carman is Inspiring Women
by Laura Leathers
Obstacles! There isn’t a person in the world that hasn’t faced them. It is the seemingly insurmountable obstacles which tend to stop us dead in our tracks and give us the hardest time. Is it here that our plans and dreams tend to die or do they just begin?
A messenger of hope is born
Anita Grace Lie Carman, founder and president of Inspire Women in Houston, Texas., who was born in Hong Kong when it was a British Colony, knows firsthand about facing all kinds of obstacles. In her book, When Dreams Won’t Die, The Autobiography and Birth Story of Inspire Women, Anita writes, “…God allowed the suffering of the real world to enter my private world so that He could one day send me out in His name with the message of hope found only in Jesus Christ.”
A childhood of fear
Growing up in the sixties when there were communist uprisings in her city, Anita’s nights were shaken with riots and the sound of mobs and tear gas exploding in the distance. In the morning, in her pristine white uniform, she ran as fast as she could past the gate of her mission school. There was violence in her neighborhood. Innocent children were abused, a close friend was raped. When she walked past a puddle of blood on the street covered with newspaper, she heard someone had lost hope and jumped from a building. “There were days,” she recalls, “when I felt life was backing me up against a wall and that the fear of life would destroy me.”
When dreams won’t die
In the midst of all of this, God was preparing Anita for a unique ministry to women from all backgrounds. It began with the dream her mother had for her children to live in America. It also began through Anita’s childhood prayer in the heat of the riots, “God, if you can see me, if you can find me among the millions in my city, please help me reach the free land of America.” The dream was realized in the summer of 1974, as Anita, 17, and her older sister packed everything they owned into four suitcases and boarded a plane for America. But it was not without heartache.
Five months before their mother’s dream was realized for her daughters, she took her own life. Anita arrived in the U.S. feeling like an emotional orphan. “Even when all hope for fulfillment of a dream is gone,” Anita wrote, “our heart secretly longs for the dream that refuses to be buried. How do you live with the events that robbed you of your childhood, your health, and your loved ones? How do you restore the years the locusts have eaten?”
God’s plan begins
“It can’t be done” is not a statement you will ever hear from Anita. Instead you will find prayer, perseverance, passion, praise, promises, and God’s power. These words are the pillars of Inspire Women, a ministry which God started through Anita to “inspire women to connect their lives to God’s purpose and to fund scholarships to train God’s servant leaders to serve in missions and ministry.” God used Anita to establish the Inspire Women’s organization in May of 2003. All of Anita’s past was just preparation for the future God had in store for her. God allowed the pain to stretch her heart to have more compassion so she would be able to walk alongside and give hope to women who are beaten down by life like she was. God wanted her to give women God’s Word so they could discover His purpose in their lives – “a purpose that no human or event could ever rob from them.” This is Anita’s heartbeat, her passion, and her mission.
The dream unfolds
Training and educating women spiritually is at the heart of Inspire Women. Anita’s education excelled just as her mother had hoped. She attended and graduated from the University of Mississippi, finishing a four year program in two years, at the age of 19. Next, she earned her M.B.A. from the State University of New York. From there she headed for her first management consulting job in Washington D.C. and later held a job with Exxon in New Jersey. It was here she met her husband Bob Carman. While climbing the corporate ladder of a top management consulting firm, she first sensed God redirecting her life. Bob was relocated to Houston, Texas. Anita said, “When I arrived in Houston, I thought, ‘I’ve lost everything I built in corporate America. God was thinking, ‘Now the story can begin, The Founder of Inspire Women has arrived in Houston, Texas!’”
Inspire Women is born
After graduating top of her class from Dallas Theological Seminary , God showed Anita the need in women to be inspired to live God’s dreams and to have the funds to be trained in the programs that will best prepare them for their calling. In May of 2003, Anita established a ministry which had zero in the bank, no office space or infrastructure but had a clear vision from God to inspire His daughters across ethnicities, denominations, and economic levels for maximum missions and ministry. To date, Inspire Women resides in over 2,000 square feet of donated space, reaches nearly 15,000 women, has funded over 200 scholarships, and invested over one million dollars to empower God’s servant leaders to step into their divine appointments.
Just Between Us is delighted to have the privilege and honor to introduce you to Anita and God’s amazing calling on her life.
JBU: When did you accept Christ as your Savior?
Anita: I don’t recall a specific day, but it was when I was in the elementary mission school. From an early age I was deeply moved by God’s sacrifice of His son, Jesus, and always wanted more of God. I remember going to chapel every day and at age 10 talking to God, longing to have more of Him, but not knowing then that God reveals Himself to me in His Word.
JBU: How do you balance the responsibilities of home life and ministry?
Anita: I allow God to decide what gets on my platter. I don’t have the freedom to do things just because others expect them. I ask God what He thinks and He’s told me I don’t own my time. When I tried to conform to what others were doing I was a mess. Over the years, I have learned to just do what God puts on my platter and not try to fit in or to get others to like me.
JBU: What is the hardest challenge you have had to face in ministry?
Anita: Losing those I counted on as my co-laborers in Christ. When the Lord called home my friends Doris Morris and Marge Caldwell, I lost both my spiritual grandmothers in one year. God taught me that relationships are a blessing, but they can also be only for a season. Ultimately, God is the one who begins and who will finish the dream with us. More than that, Doris and Marge are already standing on the mountaintop and they are cheering me on to keep going.
JBU: Tell us about the woman who has most invested in your life and what are some ways she has come alongside you?
Anita: Carol Logan Byrd listened to every paper I wrote in the seven years I was at Dallas Theological Seminary. When God established Inspire Women, she prayed for God’s favor and protection over my life. While she could not travel with me because of her health, she was only a cell phone away. I would download every detail of every meeting and she provided me feedback and her spiritual discernment. She inspired the saying at Inspire Women that “The best part of the journey is You!” What we will remember in ministry will not be the big projects, but the friends who walked in faith with us. We will remember how we co-labored in the trenches and encouraged each other in the midst of setbacks. Our hearts will be filled to overflowing as we remember what we meant to each other. And we will say, “Wow! That was one of the best times in our lives!”
JBU: What types of women does Inspire Women minister to?
Anita: We draw a high percentage of women from different races, economic levels, and backgrounds - which is one of Inspire Women’s unique callings. They come from over 725 different churches. From our citywide events, we discover those who need financial assistance to be trained to serve at their God given potential in their multi-ethnic communities.
JBU: What is the Biblical basis for this ministry?
Anita: Genesis 1:26-27 says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created Him; male and female He created them.”
The full expression of God in this world can only be revealed when both God’s sons and daughters represent His image. When God’s daughters are suffering from low self-esteem and a lack of understanding of the gifts God has entrusted to them, they hide a song in their hearts that they never sing. God’s kingdom plans suffer when God’s daughters live in fear and lack self-confidence instead of boldly receiving their calling and exercising their gifts to complete God’s vision for a community.
JBU: Do you see Inspire Women taking root in other cities?
Anita: God birthed Inspire Women in Houston, Texas. He has entrusted us with a $7.5 million endowment to ensure a basic level of funding to train the women in our city for generations to come. . Once the endowment is raised for Houston, the vision of Inspire Women will begin to travel. Even before Houston is completed, I see God showing us the need in other cities.
JBU: Where have you seen the women go and serve as a result of fulfilling their calling?
Anita: Women have gone to share God’s Word in villages in Africa. They have gone to prisons and abuse centers. They have shaped ministries for women, children, and youth. They have started nonprofit organizations to assist victims of domestic violence, and minister to women in transition.
JBU: Where do you see Inspire Women five years from now?
Anita: Today, Inspire Women’s focus is on inspiring the masses and empowering women who are stepping into their calling. As God leads believers to leave us assets and property in their estate planning as their way to invest in women across ethnicities, I see our potential as an umbrella organization not only to develop young disciples, but to assist those proven in ministry who need encouragement to get to the next level.
JBU: What words of encouragement would you give to other women as they deal with their past experiences and think that there is no way God can use them, or they can never fulfill the calling God has placed in their life because of obstacles?
Anita: Your suffering and heartaches from the past were never meant to limit you. Instead they can be a catalyst for even greater ministry. You begin to see that God’s heart is broken and He raised you up to experience the pain so you can now go in His name to make the changes He wants to make.
As for obstacles, no human can thwart God’s plan. God is responsible for His own dreams. Therefore, when God has spoken a dream for your life, you don’t have to make it happen; you simply step into what is happening. You are not responsible for the doors that don’t open. If there is something we need for God’s dream for us to come true, He will provide it. Even in our mistakes, God is perfectly able to finish the work He began in us. He is the God who created something out of nothing.
His dreams won’t die
Anita knows what it’s like to build a dream while having no resources or prominent family name that can help. But she also knows what it’s like to have God Almighty by your side and watch the flood waters part and to hear how one word from His mouth silences the most turbulent storms. There are no obstacles for God, His dreams won’t die and it is a true privilege when He invites us to come along for the ride.