Ask Reverend Marva J. Edwards what inspires her and you’ll get a prompt reply: “People. I love people. I’ve always been a people person.” It comes as no surprise, then, that this Woman of Achievement’s life work is found in service and ministry to others.
Marva was born in Terre Haute, Ind., one of eight children of Forest and Mary Sallie Trice. She has traveled throughout most of the United States and has spent time in Japan, Guam and Canada. She moved to Vancouver in 1977. Her educational journey has included classes at Clark College and Concordia University in Portland, Ore., where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in theology. She studied with the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion church to complete the leadership training certificate, which led to her current position as pastor of New Life African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in Vancouver.
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She describes herself as being “like that rock in the corner” – somewhere for people to go when they don’t know what else to do. “People feel a sense of ease coming to me,” said Marva. “There is often a cry for help. Mainly I listen and show empathy and compassion – and I don’t judge them, because we all make mistakes. I try to treat people as I’d want to be treated.”
That sense of ease – and a clear calling to serving others – has guided Marva to a variety of opportunities. She has served as board chair of Christian education in the AMEZ Church; organized and began the New Life AMEZ Church; served as chief operating officer for the African American Rites of Passage cultural immersion program; served in multiple leadership roles for the Vancouver branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); and has worked with domestic violence perpetrators and volunteered with the YWCA’s hate incidents/hate crimes group.
“Marva Edwards is an energetic, dedicated, educated, compassionate and caring person,” wrote her nominator. “All of [her] lifetime achievements are because of the goals she set for herself. Her parents taught her ‘to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ This has enabled her to move forward in her life no matter what obstacles she has to cross.”
One challenge that has touched her life in a number of ways is cancer. While raising Marva and her siblings, Marva’s mother, Mary, also cared for Marva’s cousin after her mother (Mary’s sister) died. After Marva’s mother died of breast cancer, Marva’s older niece, Louise Allen, stepped in to care for Marva and her sister.
Today, Marva herself is a 10-year breast cancer survivor who, her nominator notes, encouraged her own two sons as she herself went through cancer treatment. Following her family’s example, Marva has also mentored others whose lives have been impacted by cancer – among them, a young man named Ted whose mother died of cancer, and Darice, a woman with whom she spent three weeks at a cancer treatment center. “My greatest accomplishments have been in raising my two sons, my grandsons, many nieces and nephews, and youth throughout the Vancouver and Portland area,” said Marva. “I’m ‘Ma’ and ‘Grandma’ to many other children who know about the rock in the corner that they can lean on when in need.”
“It moves me deeply to see the smiles on others’ faces,” said Marva. “People ask me how I can do these things – even going so far as to give away my coat and clothes to help others. And I can honestly say ‘but it was nothing.’ It gives me comfort to help others.”