Help & hope for young moms
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--She stands over the sink, gripping the counter as she steadies her knees. The churning in her stomach begins to subside. A splash of cold water helps wash away the tears. She reaches over and grabs the tiny stick showing a dark pink line. Engulfed in a cloud of fear and anxiety she asks herself: What do I do now?
Each year in the United States nearly 1 million teenage women (10 percent of all women ages 15-19) become pregnant. Many Southern Baptist churches are discovering this is a perfect time to come alongside young women to offer help for their needs and offer hope in Jesus Christ. Here's how.
First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, launched a Pregnancy Help Center for young mothers in the community. The church supports the center financially and with volunteers. Two of the volunteers are church members John and Teena Sikes. John currently serves on the board of directors and for the last year Teena has volunteered as a client advocate.
A client advocate is the initial person a young mom-to-be connects with when visiting the center. The advocate directs her to the services she needs and also looks for openings to share the Gospel. While Teena now loves this interaction, her commitment to help was something that didn't come easy.
"For years I left it up to others to share the Gospel with these young women. I told God I would serve in other ways," Teena recalls. "It was very arrogant of me to think that way, to tell God what I would or wouldn't do.
"But after reading 'The Purpose-Drive Life' by Rick Warren, I realized I could follow God in this. Yes, I did need to ask for help -- for accountability and counsel from peers -- but this was something I could do."
While the Sikes family had been supporting the center through their church, their connection on a personal level became a greater blessing.
"Being there to love these young women -- not judge them -- makes all the difference," Teena says. "Because of the love I can provide, they're more open to hearing about a relationship with Christ.
"Through this, God has shown me that I'm just an instrument. This is not something I can do on my own. I never know what I'll face each day when I volunteer. But God helps me to help them."
While Teena is able to share Christ one-on-one, other volunteers are attempting to reach teen mothers with the Good News of Jesus in a worship setting.
"At our center, we recently started holding a one-hour service on Sunday mornings. One of the volunteers plays music and a pastor from a local church gives a message," Paula Odom, director of the Dallas-area Mid Cities Pregnancy Center. "We also have a discipleship program for those who accept Christ. We're hoping to help these young parents grow and connect to a local church."
BIBLE-BASED PARENTING CLASSES
Church services designed for teen parents are just one way to reach a group of young mothers with the Gospel. Biblically based parenting classes are another.
"At the Pregnancy Help Center here in Lake Jackson, Texas, volunteers -- including many from our local Southern Baptist churches -- provide a program called HOPE which stands for Help Offered in a Pregnancy Experience," director Jackie Fuller says.
On Tuesday nights from 5 to 8 p.m. nine classes are available to expectant mothers and fathers, such as meal planning (they prepare a full-course meal for everyone in attendance), crafts, newborn care and Bible study. Many teen mothers attend.
"After participants complete all three phases over 12 weeks, we hold a graduation with cake and punch," Fuller says. "They receive a baby bathtub filled with new baby items and a car seat for perfect attendance."
Crestview Baptist Church in Georgetown, Texas, is another church that supports young moms by providing help and contributions to the local pregnancy care center. One way is through diaper drives, Pastor Dan Woolridge says.
A church hosts a drive by asking members of the congregation to pick up packages of diapers and deliver them to the church. Others, such as Harvest Baptist Church in Kalispell, Mont., organize "drops" at local businesses. Members take turns standing at a table outside the business, encouraging shoppers to pick up a package of diapers with their purchases.
Harvest Baptist teamed up with the local Christian Motorcycle Association group and collected nearly 300 packages of diapers for local moms.
Many churches support the Center for Pregnancy in Friendswood, Texas, including nine Southern Baptist congregations in the area. Director LaVerne Tankersley says one great way these congregations help young mothers is through baby showers, often scheduled to coincide with Mother's Day or Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, which this year is Jan. 15.
"A baby shower also can be held any time our pregnancy closets get slim and we find ourselves in need of baby items," Tankersley says. "We simply inform our contact people that we have a need." Each supporting church has a contact person responsible for organizing a baby shower within her church. She chooses a date for the shower then determines a drop-off point and sets up a crib or playpen to receive donations.
"On a smaller scale, a Sunday School class may sponsor a luncheon where each person brings a baby gift," Tankersley says. "One Bible study class actually held a baby shower with a cake and everyone wrapped their gifts. Another class I know chooses a Sunday each quarter and everyone brings a baby gift."
Turning Point Pregnancy Resource Center (TPPRC) started in January 2000 as a ministry of First Baptist Church of Mira Mesa in San Diego. In May 2001, TPPRC incorporated and became an independent organization, though its ties to the church have remained strong.
To raise support for the center, the church promotes fundraisers, welcomes center speakers for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday and joins in the local Walk for Life. Nearly 10 percent of the center's annual budget comes from the church. Other local churches, including East Clairemont Baptist, give financially as well.
The budget is used to support young women through pregnancy tests, a 24-hour hotline, pregnancy counseling, abstinence education and post-abortion healing counseling.
"Financial support for these programs is important since most pregnancy centers don't receive federal funding," says Jackie Marcum, president of the TPPRC board and the center's liaison to First Baptist Mira Mesa. "Receiving government grants would restrict our ability to share Christ with our clients."
And that's the main desire of all these churches –- to meet the needs of young mothers whether it be with a little time, a little money or a few diapers in order to share the love of Christ.
NEED FOR HOPE
More than 2,500 evangelical pregnancy care centers function as an arm of the local church and demonstrate the compassion and truth of Jesus Christ in practical ways to families and individuals with pregnancy-related needs.
"New centers are opening every day, but the need is so great," says Elaine Ham, pregnancy care centers associate with the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.
"In the United States, one out of four pregnancies end in abortion,” Ham says. “Pregnancy care centers offer alternatives to abortion for women in unplanned and unwanted pregnancies."
For information on opening a pregnancy care center or to learn how your church can connect with a center, visit www.namb.net/pregnancy or call 1-800-962-0851.
"We provide training manuals and will walk churches through the process of opening a new center," Ham says. "If there is an existing evangelical center in their community, churches should consider supporting that local center."
Reprinted from On Mission magazine of the North American Mission Board. Tricia Goyer is a writer living in Kalispell, Mont.