Despite living through the harrowing ordeal of her husband being kidnapped and held for ramson by Nigerian rebels, a major financial crisis that saw her lose everything, an armed robbery and two attempted hijackings, Lorna Greyling (44) still chooses faith over fear. By Allison Cooper
Born in Johannesburg, Lorna and her family have started a new life in Florida in the USA, but it took many leaps of faith to get there. Lorna’s book Kidnapped was rewritten in September 2021, and self-published shortly thereafter. It tells the gut-wrenching true story of her husband Nick’s 10-day ordeal in 2010, during which he fought for his life after being abducted by 55 rebels while on a work assignment as a sound engineer in Nigeria. Lorna was the rebels’ first port of call. They wanted a hefty ransom in exchange for Nick’s life. With each phone call she received, she was painfully aware of the torture and beatings Nick was enduring.
They would cut the call while Nick was screaming in the background: “Please, help me! Help me! They are going to shoot me!” She would then hear gunshots and the call would be ended.
“I was confronted with a choice – to believe the harsh reality in front of me, that my husband could be dead, or the written word of God,” says Lorna. This is when she started to believe that ‘fear is a choice’. “We think we have no control over fear, but God showed me that I had a choice. I could either hold on to the fear that he was dead, or I could have faith and believe that he was still alive. My choice in believing that he was still alive determined my state of mind – it gave me strength and power.”
How did the nightmare end? The answer can only be found in the book, which is available on Amazon. “I don’t share that information publicly. My dream is to reach millions of people through this book. It’s an inspiring story of God’s greatness that can touch and change lives,” says Lorna, who hopes to turn her book into a movie. While one would think surviving this nightmare was bad enough, Lorna and her family have taken many knocks since. “For the next 10 years, we went through one drastic experience after the next.”
These included a burglary at the Melville Wellness Centre and Day Spa that Lorna owned at the time, and two attempted hijackings. When Covid-19 hit, Nick lost his job and Lorna lost her business. A financial crisis followed.
“We lost everything we had worked so hard for over the past 20 years,” says Lorna. After moving into a smaller house and trying to get back on their feet, they were dealt yet another blow when armed robbers struck.
“They took everything we had just bought.” The result was Lorna and one of her daughters had to live with her parents, while her husband and two other daughters moved in with a friend. This ultimately led to her permanent move to the USA in 2021.
A new career at 36
While most beauty queens take to the ramp at a young age, Lorna’s modelling career was only launched when she entered Mrs South Africa in 2014, at the age of 36.
She says she received a ‘message’ from three people, all on the same day, that she should enter the pageant.
“One client phoned me and said she was praying for me when God told her to tell me to enter. I thought it was strange, but I was polite. A similar message came via email and a third person spoke about her incredible journey the previous year – entering Mrs South Africa. “
When I drove home, I prayed and asked for a sign. At that moment, my car radio changed channels – on its own – to a station that was airing an interview with the current Mrs South Africa. It was crazy supernatural. I had to take a look at this new journey, and that’s how I entered the modelling world,” says Lorna. She laughs when she adds: “I didn’t even win!” Her hard work paid off, however, when she was noticed by the organisers of the Mrs Africa pageant.
After being encouraged to enter, she won the title in 2016 and went on to represent Africa in Atlanta, where she was bestowed the Mrs Transcontinental 2017 world title. “It was a great honour to receive such a wonderful title and it gave me a lot of confidence to pursue my dreams. People often think that when you win a beauty title as big as this, doors just open and opportunities come knocking. But that’s not the case.
One has to work hard to push those doors open. I just think having more confidence in yourself enables you to knock a little harder. Then, more doors open. But anyone who perseveres can reach the same success – with or without a ‘crown’,” says Lorna.
Her title enabled her to open non-profit organisation WomenMpower, which raised money to distribute sanitary wear to less fortunate schools and areas.
“I raised these funds through my own youth empowerment programme and made history by becoming the first person in the world to host a youth empowerment programme and pageant on top of one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world – the Magaliesberg Mountains close to Hartbeespoort Dam,” she says.
In 2018, she was invited to go to the New York Film Academy and went back to America for a month. This was followed by her third place win on the world stage, in Las Vegas in 2019, when she represented South Africa in the Mrs Continents pageant. She describes her family’s move to America as ‘pivotal’.
“It forced us to try something new. Now our whole family is here and we are loving it. It’s a wonderful new journey,” says Lorna, who is also an actor (Getroud met Rugby and Rhythm City) and motivational speaker. She now runs her own TV talk show, Women Power (CJC Network).