Friday, March 22, 2013
Crisis Pregnancy Centers Are ALL THAT And a Bag of Toddler Cookies Too!
Many of the visitors to this page are people whom I have never met. Some of you do know me personally and already know that I volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center (aka "cpc").
I am sharing today about my "typical" day at the cpc.
If you don't live in the United States, then maybe you aren't very familiar with what crisis pregnancy centers do or what a volunteer faces. This is just my experience and many other volunteers may face different things.
"Typically", my schedule is every other week and I go in on Thursday afternoons and stay until closing in the evening. That's what I call the baseline and have stuck to that schedule over the past 8 years. I would love very much to go "officially" once a week but other things going on in my life have prevented going "official" on that. However, even though I am there every other week, I find myself there sometimes on my "off" weeks either filling in or helping with projects or the regular training classes for new lay counselors.
As with any non-profit, there are events like the Walk for Life, the banquet and our Baby Bottle Campaigns.
For those who are not familiar with the Baby Bottle campaign, we have hundreds of plastic baby bottles that are distributed to the many participating churches and groups who support us. The participants fill these bottles with coins, dollars and/or checks. We often do this three times a year revolving around Mother's Day, Father's Day and the date that the Roe vs. Wade decision was released (but the pro-life world claims that day as Sanctity of Life Day). It is just one of many ways we are able to keep the costs of keeping the lights on and some of the other operations going.
Our particular establishment is centrally located in the town. We are down the street from a Planned Parenthood. They are not allowed to do surgical abortions but they do refer to the local abortionists here in town and they perform the chemical abortions. I do pray for them but it's often in the form of praying for their permanent shutdown. I want their workers to become born again and work for saving the lives of the defenseless. We aren't a large place but God's business gets done and He is SO GOOD to us!!! We also have the joy of having a mobile ultrasound unit that parks a few times a week at many locations. We also have it for community events and it has been instrumental in changing women's minds for life. It's a beautiful gift and solution that God gave us when the Enemy sought to go after us a few years ago.
We are thankful for the many volunteers and the donations that we receive. One of the many things we do is to give pregnant moms free items such as baby clothes, maternity clothes, baby food, formula and diapers. We often get donations of car seats, cribs, strollers and swings. Of course, we need to distribute this fairly so there is a system to how much we can give to each mom or family but again, it is all free.
Another free service the cpc offers is the pregnancy test. Any female can make an appointment or walk in off the street and receive a free pregnancy test. There is even a chance to retest if necessary. We are very upfront on the phone and in person that we are not an abortion facility and we don't refer for abortions nor do we distribute birth control. It's all about TRUTH.
We also have a lot of information and resources to send pregnant moms out to the different agencies that exist in town. We want the women and girls to know that they are not alone and that there are many places that will give them aid. Oftentimes, they have no idea what is available to them and they are given no hope by friends and family when they meet a crisis pregnancy.
"Typical" is in "quotes" as you can see. It's either busy or it's not. The lobby will be quiet or it will be buzzing and filled with crying children! If we see a lot of clipboards all set with clients, we know we will be hopping. I give a LOT of credit to the ladies who work at the front desk. They have to be multi-taskers here and I am not one of them.
When it's time for me to go meet with a client, I do my best to take a few minutes to pray before I go to the lobby and guide her to the meeting room. My prayer is all about having her see God and feel His love in that room. I ask God to just use me to speak truth lovingly and boldly to her so she may hear the Gospel clearly. I pray for her salvation and that He would decrease me in that room. I struggle with my own personal ambition and believe me, I do NOT want the glory for what He does in those rooms. That flesh of mine is strong and I am constantly warring with it.
There are some butterflies sometimes when I meet a new client. There's an anticipation of how the session will go but I love it. One never knows what kind of person we will see. Will she be scared or nervous? Will she be irritated from waiting in the lobby? Will she be full of joy and kindness? Will she already be a Christian? Sometimes we get women who are married, happy, Christian and all they need is just a free test. Those are pretty straightforward and we celebrate the joys of a new blessing in her life.
I do like meeting the girls and women and sometimes we hear and see some pretty sad cases. I just want to love on them. Sometimes they have never been treated very well anywhere else and so it's wonderful to be given the chance to show them the love of Jesus Christ. They sometimes can't believe a place exists where they will be listened to and that someone will actually CARE what they have experienced. It's not to say that all of the clients I have met have been sweet and kind. Sometimes we have some rough moments with the clients and that's where the rubber meets the road on loving them. When I say I want to show them the love and I am at war with my own flesh, it's that reminder that I can't love them in my own strength. It takes seeing them through the eyes of Jesus and loving them in HIS strength and HIS love. I have sometimes had moments of failing miserably but I give this up to Him and say, "Okay, Lord, let me start over and do this YOUR way".
Sometimes I get to take a client into our area where the baby clothes are and help them get some baby clothes (or maybe they need the maternity clothes). They are usually very thankful for the items we give them and some do not want to overstep asking for too much. There are those who do start asking for more than their share but we just explain that there are others who deserve to receive items too. Sometimes they bring their other children and I often I get the sweet opportunity to hold a baby or a toddler while the mom finds her baby items. By the way, all of these items are donated by the different groups, churches, and individuals. It is the generosity out of this love of Jesus that we are able to give these women and their families these resources. We make sure that only the clean and gently-used clothing are offered. Cribs and other furniture items have to be complete with all parts included. NO JUNK!
It's a joy to be with my other sisters-in-Christ who are the other volunteers. If we don't have too many clients or the clients just don't show up for their appointments, we get a chance to fellowship. If the volunteers are new to the cpc or they are new to that particular time and day, it's fun to get to know them better. Sometimes these are the only times we see each other so it feels like a reunion of a long-lost loved one! The other volunteers are from other churches and some are there to do the peer counseling and others are there to sort baby clothes, assist with mailings and projects. Some have been through the 25+ training and some have not. The training is for those who want to peer counsel, but sometimes we ALL help with the tasks in some way or other.
My husband knows when I get home whether it has been a day where I saw many happy moms or whether I dealt with a mom who is considering an abortion. He only needs to see my face or hear my answer of "it was rough today" to have a general idea what took place. He is involved there too but he is more involved with training new counselors. My husband is awesome by the way. He has supported me from the beginning and when I first started there, he made sure that dinner was on the table when I came home in the evening (I was on a different day and time then). He has been involved with many events like the Walk for Life and he is generous in heart for many aspects of this ministry.
Yes, there are those days that are just rough. The women are full of fear and anger at what they are facing and are sometimes taking it out on the volunteers. We just do our best to give her all the information at hand and to encourage her to have an ultrasound. We have to pay attention to her circumstances of her surroundings. Maybe she is being pressured. Is she being trafficked? Will she be able to withstand the pressure of her family, friends, maybe even her employer once she leaves our cpc? We just let them know that even though they make the final decision, we are there for them no matter what. We want them to know they can come back to us and we'll still love them.
Every once in awhile, I get to chaperone with one of the clients in an ultrasound. We have super awesome, well-trained nurses who conduct these ultrasounds. They are excited to show the girls and women their babies and depending on gestational age of the babies, we can see some pretty cool things. It's exciting when the babies are able to be seen moving about or they are waving or sucking their thumbs. All-of-a-sudden, it just hits home that that little baby is REAL and the mom realizes "Oh my...that's MY baby". We have seen a total softening of the face and misty eyes at the very recognition that this baby IS a miracle sent by God. She is given a pair of handmade baby booties and prenatal information. Those are further concrete messages that someone cares to help her. We have learned that it's about over 90% of a changed mind from abortion to life when the father sees the image (although he has no legal say in this decision). It's more around 80% for women to change their minds after they see their babies on ultrasound.
It is a time of celebration when a client changes her mind to keep her baby. There have been cases where we thought the girl went through with the abortion only to find out she didn't and she comes back to show us her baby. Sometimes we know and sometimes we don't. When they leave, we just have to entrust her in God's hands. If we can stay in contact with her, we can help her in different ways through her pregnancy. We also have male advisors to minister to her boyfriend or husband. That's always great too, when the boyfriend and husband are supportive and we want to make sure they know they can talk to a solidly Christian man to encourage him in those roles as protector, leader, (hopefully future) husband and father.
A woman who has changed her mind will receive a layette of baby clothes, baby blankets, toys and other baby items. If she knows what the sex of the baby is, we give her a layette of blue or pink and if not, we have layettes in green and yellow. It is very helpful to her.
Overall, the ministry exists to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The baby clothes, diapers and pregnancy tests are secondary. We want all the people who visit our pregnancy help center to hear the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ. We want for them to hear they can have eternal life. We have seen some glorious things happen as a result of Jesus transforming the lives of our clients and sometimes even their families.
There are many of these centers for pregnant women across our nation. They all run them fairly similarly but regionally, they have unusual circumstances they have to face. A big city like New York or Los Angeles will be facing a lot of inner-city activity and problems like theft and vandalism. Some of those places have 5-10 abortion businesses on one street or neighborhood alone.
I am always interested in other places nationally but also internationally. Do you have a pregnancy resource center in your city? Does it operate in many of the same ways we do? If you have anything to share, please feel free to share. If there are questions about crisis pregnancy centers (aka pregnancy resource centers), please ask. Pray to God how you can contribute to a local center or how your church can participate in helping this community asset. As I have expressed before, pray for these places for their protection and for the staff and volunteers. Pray for the buildings, the resources and for the clients who visit the cpc's. If you have one in your city, ask if you can have a tour of it and ask what kinds of needs they have. Sometimes we need plastic bags for the baby clothes and diapers! Ask if they need help with cleaning their carpets. If you are handy in fixing things, ask if they need any repairs or any other concerns handled. They are often operating on a shoe-string budget (remember that cpc's don't receive millions of dollars that Planned Parenthood bilks out of taxpayers). They may have those areas covered but it's always nice to have back-up! How will God have you join?
1 Corinthians 12:12-31
For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into] one Spirit.For in fact the body is not one member but many.
If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.