by Matthew Doane, Esq.Staff Attorney, Heartbeat International
One of my favorite bible verses on children and parenting comes from Psalm 127:3-5, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” While thoughts of quivers full of arrows and enemies at the gate pull at my J.R.R. Tolkien-reading heart, verse 3 begins with a declaration that children are a reward from God, a heritage from Him.
While the word heritage can have many meanings, in this context “heritage” can be translated to the Hebrew word of “nachala,” which can mean “assigned by God.” Thus, not only are children gifts from above, but God has specifically assigned us, of all the men in the world, to be our child’s father. What an awesome, yet humbling realization.
As the sole person in the entire world that God has ordained to father and raise our particular children, how do we fulfill this awesome and daunting responsibility? Who better to look to as an example than Joseph, the husband of Mary and the person God selected to serve as Jesus’ stepfather during His time on Earth? While Joseph is never quoted in the bible and appears only briefly in the Gospel narrative, there are lessons to be learned from this important person in Jesus’ life during His time on Earth:
Joseph is described as a “just” man in Matthew 1:19 who is unwilling to put Mary to shame when he learns that she is with child. We are told throughout scripture that justness, or righteousness, is one of the chief attributes of God. As men and fathers, we should imitate Joseph, who imitates God, and do our best to live a righteous life.
As Joseph is considering divorcing Mary quietly, an angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream and instructs him to not be afraid in taking Mary as his wife and that Jesus would “save his people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke, “he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” Joseph followed the Lord’s instruction and was faithful to his God throughout the few instances he is mentioned in the bible. While we may not have an angel of the Lord appear to us, as fathers we too should follow the Lord’s instructions left in scripture on how to be Godly fathers to our children and “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4b.
One of our principal duties as fathers is to protect our children. After the wise men departed from their visit to the child Jesus, another angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and warned him that Herod was out to destroy Jesus. The angel instructed Joseph to flee with Jesus and Mary to Egypt for their safety. When he awoke, Joseph immediately took Jesus and Mary to Egypt under the cover of night. Since Jesus, the Son of God, was also truly human during His time on Earth, He needed the parental care and protection of His adopted earthly father. We too must provide for and protect our children.
The Gospels refer to Jesus as a carpenter, a trade he likely learned from Joseph. The King of all Kings, the Lord of Lords, was entrusted to a carpenter. We don’t have to be powerful, wealthy kings to be good, godly fathers to our children (which is good, right?). God has assigned them to us for His reasons, and our job is to be an earthly reflection of His fatherly love to them.
Fathers, we are blessed because our quivers are full! Let us celebrate this and God’s assignment of His children to us this Father’s Day.
by Cindi Boston-Bilotta, Vice President of Mission AdvancementHeartbeat International
As Casey* exited the elevator, it was clear she was in crisis. Her tear-stained face and sad eyes told the story. Casey was a senior in college and pursuing her goal to graduate in a few months but was diverted by the sickness hitting her body due to an unexpected pregnancy. She felt the harsh reality that life was different, and she could never fully return to what she once knew.
Casey entered Planned Parenthood to confirm her pregnancy and learn more about her choices. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do, but their name indicated they could walk her through this dicey situation. As she entered the clinic, a receptionist, facing a copier and sighing with disdain, finally turned around to face Casey. Through tears, Casey indicated she thought she was pregnant. With an eye-roll and another sigh, the receptionist handed her a card and said, “this will fix everything, honey.”
She handed Casey a referral to a clinic that performed abortions. They thought abortion was her only option. It would be a calculated decision to terminate, but the sting of the word “abortion” didn’t settle well. She wanted a life of accomplishment but wondered if success could include motherhood, as well. But she had no idea where to go for more information.
From her car, a Google search revealed a local pregnancy center that offered “options.” That sounded more like what she needed – she wasn’t sure about anything, but she knew she needed to consider more than one choice.
Casey visited the pregnancy center, and her despair turned to joy as she saw the positive pregnancy test, discovered more about parenting and adoption, and viewed the dancing baby in her womb. That moment in time was forever seared in her mind because she instantly found the joy of motherhood. What was once a burden was becoming treasured. She left the center all smiles as she celebrated the gift of a new life within her body. Now, she knew she could do it.
The pregnancy center team, who used the LOVE Approach – Listen & Learn, Open Options, Bring Vision & Value, and Extend & Empower – gave Casey comfort and safety as she explored the possibilities.
The moments of motherhood look different for each pregnant mom. When the pregnancy is unexpected, courage must grow just like it did with the mothers who were pregnant at the time of Pharaoh – they had to rely on the “midwives” who were fighting for those babies' lives.
Like the mother of Moses, some moms must find the courage to create a safe passage for their sons or daughters.
Like Mary, the mother of Jesus, some must say yes to motherhood when it can threaten their lives if they carry their children.
The moment motherhood arrives is designed to be filled with celebration. But the difficulties of life can delay the celebration. Using the LOVE Approach with expectant moms who must navigate difficult decisions opens an opportunity for them to make choices that bring their hearts alive. It awakens the natural, God-birthed maternal instinct of moms across the globe. We celebrate moms everywhere this week, including moments when courageous moms say yes to life during unexpected pregnancies.
by Brooke Myrick BSN, RN, LAS
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
John 15:9-11 ESV
As Nurses within the pregnancy help setting, often we are blessed with experiences that fill us with abundant happiness and thankfulness. In comparison, we can also find ourselves experiencing feelings of utter sadness that can bring us to our knees. The service offered to women and families within the pregnancy help role is a unique service, unimaginable and unrelatable to many, unless they are also united in the same service. Many times, the nursing care offered is concerning a life-or-death decision. As love, care and support are shared, to reach and rescue as many lives as possible, there are times when the woman’s decisions may not be as we had earnestly prayed and hoped. In addition, the conversations had, and relationships built, each distinctly demands an immense amount of physical, emotional, and spiritual support from the nurse. Appointment after appointment, nurses proceed to offer all we can, with all that we have, as we pray for God to guide our words and actions, in efforts to save lives today and for eternity future.
Despite circumstances, how can your joy be made full and complete?
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…
1 Peter 1:8
The joy described in 1 Peter is an inexpressible joy. A joy unable to be given an explanation. This joy is independent of circumstantial surroundings, adversity, and attacks. It is a constant joy independent of the current life challenges. This joy is a byproduct of the love given us by remaining in Him, as referenced in John 15.
In Hebrews 12:2 we read that Jesus endured the cross, for the joy set before him, to become our Savior and sit at the right hand of God. He can identify with our struggles. With every act of service offered and with every sacrifice made, may you also be filled with joy.
With the utmost gratitude, we thank you for your endless hours of acts of service to those entering your pregnancy help center doors. Thank you for your continued prayers for the families you serve and their situations long after their care at your center is complete. You care. You care deeply for those you serve, and this is worthy of commending and admirable.
Your service does not go unnoticed and is making a difference, one life at a time, every single day.
This Nurses Week we are praying you remain in the love of our Father, that his joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.
by Jennifer Wright, Editor/Writer
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent observed by many Christians. Over the 40 days leading up to Holy Week and the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday, many Christians follow the example of Jesus spending time in fasting and prayer in the desert for 40 days from Matthew chapter 4.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
Matthew 4:1-3 (NABRE)
I have to admit, Lent is by far my favorite season in the Church. I’m reminded of Jesus’ humanity that he shares with us, I take the opportunity to forgo something good to strengthen my resolve in denying temptation, and, my favorite part, the music is stunningly beautiful. Singing in my Church’s choir since I was about eight years old, I’ve done a lot of music, but nothing compares to the hauntingly beautiful ancient pieces of Lent and Holy Week. Just the words “Were You There?” can draw a tear as I imagine being present for the crucifixion.
But that’s not what I’m writing to share about today.
I’ve always been taught that for Lent, a good practice is to focus on three things: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I can’t say I always manage (human as I am), but I do try, and I think taking a season to pay particular attention to these ways to draw closer to Christ is not only healthy, but necessary. And individuals don’t have to do it alone. Here are a couple ideas for your pregnancy help organization to participate in the Lenten season this year. Perhaps something new will carry into the rest of the year, or maybe it will just make the Easter celebration a little sweeter for you and your staff, but I encourage you to participate this Lent either way.
May your Lent be a blessed time for drawing nearer to the Lord. God bless you.
by Jennifer Wright, Editor/WriterHeartbeat International
I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. The timing feels completely arbitrary to me, most resolutions don’t make it past January or February, and somehow, they never seem to impact my life much. While resolutions make January a good time for the fitness industry, the people committing to more exercise often find themselves paying for gym memberships they aren’t using anymore come springtime. I guess such things have left me jaded (even at 30 years old).
Still, humans tend to need these resets. Even without our current arbitrary date to celebrate the changing of one year to the next, we would find some season, day, or festival to observe a new cycle. We always have. And this year, I’m trying something new.
In 2022, my resolution is to cultivate virtue. The Catholic Church has a list of seven heavenly virtues remembered from antiquity as a combination of the four classical cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude) and the three theological virtues (faith, hope, and love/charity). Now, there are other lists that choose virtues to directly combat the seven deadly sins, but this group of seven virtues is what I am committing myself to this year, in fact, I’m specifically working on the four cardinal virtues.
Why? Well, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states that these four virtues are acquired only by human effort (different from the theological virtues which are God-given gifts that inform and give life to all the moral virtues). They are habits of moral good that, when nurtured, let us more easily turn away from temptations to sin. (See CCC 1804 and following for more on the seven virtues.) The beauty of these virtues is that they can – and should – apply almost everywhere. Here are some short descriptions of these virtues and some questions we can ask ourselves to check if we are firmly standing in these habits of moral goodness.
When we talk about prudence, we mean the practice of good judgement. St. Thomas Aquinas describes it as “right reason in action.” Not only does prudence allow us to discern right from wrong, but it can guide us in what is appropriate in any moment. It may not be wrong to confront someone with a difficult truth, but is it prudent to do so at a family dinner?
Justice is the virtue that guides us to make sure that God and others receive what is due them and we assume our responsibilities. Practicing justice ensures that we order things rightly, putting God first. We naturally want to see wrongs righted, but justice can be cruel without mercy, so we must incorporate God’s mercy into our human concept of justice as well. When I practice justice in my relationships, I mostly realize that I’m punishing others unjustly. My husband doesn’t really deserve to be on the receiving end of my fuming when what I’m actually upset about is my own failing.
Sometimes, fortitude is referred to as courage to make it easier to understand, and certainly fortitude should strengthen resolve, help us conquer fear, and encourage us in the face of trials and persecution, but it’s about more than that. Fortitude is about constancy in seeking good.
Without temperance, anything can get out of hand. Practicing temperance allows us to experience life in a balanced way. It’s not wrong to eat, in fact it’s necessary! It becomes sinful to overeat greedily. Good things, if we overindulge, are no longer good. That’s why we need temperance. We ought to temper our practice of justice with mercy, and fortitude and prudence can temper one another to make our choices more and more virtuous.
I still may not be a fan of New Year's resolutions, but I hope that spending this year cultivating virtue will make the world - or at least my world - a better place. I think a resolution like this is one all of us should make, so why not now? And let's be honest, if I need a reset on this resolution, Lent is coming soon! May we all grow in virtue this year at home and in the pregnancy help movement.
Belle sat in the abortion clinic for two hours contemplating her decision before taking the first abortion pill. She was told by the abortion clinic doctor, “that once you take the first pill, there’s no coming back from it.” Eight hours after taking the first abortion pill Belle experienced heartbreaking regret. She searched and found the Abortion Pill Rescue Network (APRN) online and called for help. “I got someone on the phone that was so nice and helpful, also encouraging and positive which is what a woman needs during a time like that.”
The APRN medical team compassionately helped her through the process. Within hours, she had a prescription for progesterone and was working with a provider doing everything they could to save her baby. Belle had faith that Abortion Pill Reversal would work even though she knew it may not, and it did! A healthy and beautiful baby boy named Rey was born on Oct 11, 2021. “I am so glad and eternally grateful for this website [AbortionPillRescue.com] because it saved my baby’s life and mine.”
Baby Rey will be celebrating his 1st Christmas this year in the arms of his mother.
This is the kind of story we celebrate at every opportunity, and we know you do too. Belle shared her story with us to encourage others in her situation that there is hope. We pray for Belle and Rey, as well as all your clients and patients this year that they may have a joyful holiday season and truly embrace the beauty of life.
Excerpted from The Power of Pregnancy Help, a book telling the story of the first 50 years of Heartbeat International and the pregnancy help movement. The Power of Pregnancy Help is available wherever books are sold.
Each of our three co-founders, Dr. John Hillabrand, Lore Maier, and Sister Paula Vandegaer, brought special gifts to the establishment of AAI, and they incorporated into our work the values, purposes, and principles that characterized not only AAI’s first twenty years, but also have become the foundation for the growth and development of Heartbeat International over the last thirty years. In the previous three chapters we have tried to capture some of their special gifts and the life experiences and expertise that have left clear marks on the pregnancy help movement both then and now.
The name founders carries with it the concept that these first leaders laid down the foundations for the organization they started, Alternative to Abortion International. And today, that organization, now Heartbeat International, is indeed built on those foundations. However, our founders believed, and Heartbeat believes today, that they were building for the entire pregnancy help movement, then and now – not just for those that became or would become official affiliates. Anyone who provided life-affirming pregnancy help was and is welcome, all learn and contribute, all work together to advance the mission of saving and changing lives. So, the foundations were built and are maintained now for the entire pregnancy help movement.
. . .
Always More Than Saving Babies
All three of our co-founders had a view of our work that encompassed more than saving babies. Those who describe the mission of pregnancy help centers as “saving babies” are only describing a part of our founders’ vision and mission and part of the movement’s vision today.
Our founders focused on both mother and baby, and, in fact, on the family and the entire culture. They saw that we were involved in this work to serve women in need and help them so they could save their babies, but also (especially in the work of Sister Paula) that we were in a position to help women understand their true womanhood. Dr. John and Lore’s writings and talks also show that they viewed an attack on the sanctity of human life in the womb as an attack on society as a whole and on all humanity that would have profound ramifications. Lore tried to warn of the effect of abortion not only on women themselves and the family, but also on the perpetrators (the abortionists), and even on those who merely stood by and observed (the general public).
The first logo that was chosen for AAI, used in the very first communications in early 1972, was called “Hearts of Gold.” It is not a baby, nor is it a mother and child. The logo features two larger gold hearts (with some lines and markings, the result of life’s scars, experience, maturity, and wisdom) surrounding a tiny, unmarked, pure golden heart that represents the innocent human child. The logo shows that we need to protect, shelter, and nurture that child, born and unborn. The hearts of gold represent the family as God intended it. With the family relationships disrupted and in need of healing, the larger, sheltering hearts could be those of us in this movement protecting the child. Heartbeat’s logo has changed to the “Heart of the Future,” but Heartbeat International still features our “Hearts of Gold” on our premier Legacy Award since God’s plan for the family is still at the heart of our mission. One of the amazing things about the early AAI Academies (Conferences) was the diversity of expertise represented in the “Faculty” or conference presenters. To help the emerging centers with program development were marriage and family experts, psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, doctors and nurses (with expertise on pregnancy and maternity care, fetal development, labor and delivery, nursing, sexually transmitted diseases, infertility and more), early childhood education experts, researchers, social workers, mothers, fathers, and more.
Programs developing then within the first centers (despite the early term EPS or Emergency Pregnancy Services) and first maternity homes were focused not just on the crisis intervention need for women coming in for a pregnancy test, but on parenting and family unification. For the “negative test client,” programs were developing to help her understand the risks of sexual intimacy outside of marriage. Centers were developing referral networks in their own community and finding like-minded potential partners who could amplify these messages – for example, in schools and in the culture at large.
Today, if you attend a Heartbeat International Conference or any other gathering of pregnancy help organizations around the world, you will find the same. We are about much more than saving babies. Our foundation stones are motherhood, fatherhood, healthy families, and a pro-family culture.
by Beth Diemert, LAS, Director of Affiliate Services
In the account of 1 Thessalonians, Paul is writing to the church at Thessalonica, that is experiencing great suffering and persecution. Fellow citizens, who reject the church and believer’s faith, are bringing it down hard by seizing property, stopping their livelihood, mocking them, beating them, and even putting some to death. Paul is desperate to be in communication with them, to know how they are doing, because of his great love for them & wanting to care for them.
He writes his letter to drive home two main points. First, that suffering is part of the Christian life. In Chapter 3, writing in the Greek language, he uses the word trials, literally translated as “pressure.” He acknowledges they are under it – big time.
But what Paul doesn’t express is surprise. He instead conveys that this is to be expected. In fact, we see throughout the New Testament multiple statements, many from Jesus himself, that persecution and pressure will exist until his return (John 16:33, Matt 24:9). We can attest to this as we consider our current day culture!
Paul’s second point comes in Chapter 5. It’s one of those “therefore” statements. In other words… in light of all this reality and truth, here’s what you need to do. “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (5:11). He acknowledges that these believers are on course with this practice, and yet he takes the time to pen it in his letter, indicating a high value - to be there for each other and encourage one another.
God created us to need each other. It is not a weakness; it is our design. When Adam was in the garden and both saw and named every living creature, it made him highly aware of his “alone” factor. This is expressed in the text as “no suitable companion found” or from Adam’s perspective, “there’s no one like me” (Gen 2:18-20).
Keep in mind that Adam at this point is without sin, in perfect relationship with a perfect God, and in a perfect paradise! Yet he feels a need for relationship with a fellow human. God creates Eve and meets this need. All these years later, it hasn’t changed. We thrive when we live according to our design. It’s all about relationship!
So, as we take an inventory of the current state of the union we must exist in, and our own personal leadership calling, let me encourage you, like Paul, to unlock this foundational tenant of our faith – to find & give encouragement!
We have the incredible privilege of being in a network of thousands of pregnancy help organizations, filled with thousands of believers who share our passion. It should be our high priority within our community to encourage others at every opportunity and be humbled to receive encouragement back. This can be done in practices within our own organizations, in our networking circles, in our closed Facebook groups, wherever we have the opportunity to interact with each other. We need to do away with competition and criticism, and speak Life, model Life, exude Life, as a great means of encouragement! (This is why at Heartbeat we believe we are better together, and the greatest answer to abortion is another person!)
We also need to utilize the living Word of God to find encouragement for ourselves and to share spoken truth with those who need encouragement (Heb 4:12 NLT). The scriptures are full of truth about our Identity (who we are) and Inheritance (what we possess.) By way of encouragement, let me leave you with this thought from Graham Cooke on both, and the amazing truth they reveal.
Every piece of your identity carries with it its own favor, its own permission, its own provision, its own anointing. When you step through that doorway of favor and permission, you are actually reaching for your true identity as a son or daughter of the Most High. You are accepting that inheritance and standing on new ground. Identity is who you are in God regardless of circumstances. It doesn’t matter what is against you. It only matters Who is for you.
He is for you! We CAN rise above our circumstances! Be encouraged!
By Kirk Walden
“But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” – Luke 10:29
While doing research for my next book, I was reminded again of the story of baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, the first African American baseball player of the modern era.
What does this have to do with all of us in the pregnancy help community? More than I imagined.
First, the facts: Brooklyn Dodgers President Branch Rickey signed Robinson to a minor league contract in the fall of 1945. Robinson would play one season (the 1946 season) with the Dodgers' minor league club, the Montreal Royals. Then, Robinson would make his major league debut in April of 1947.
In 1945, there was no written rule against signing black players. It was just "understood" that whites and blacks would be segregated. Blacks would play in the Negro Leagues, whites in the Major and Minor League systems.
As a Christian however, Rickey knew this could not stand. He had to do something. He had witnessed blatant racism in his college days at the turn of the century and had vowed he would do something about it.
Branch Rickey didn't petition Congress. He didn't even argue with owners around the Major Leagues. Instead, knowing there would be major blowback, he vetted a number of possible players and settled on Robinson, signing him to a contract. He reached one person. That's it.
Rickey and Robinson agreed that no matter how many players or fans taunted him, Robinson would not retaliate--for three years. If a pitcher threw at his head, Robinson would do nothing. If a player spiked him on the base paths there would be no response from Robinson.
This experiment worked. In 1947, Robinson was Rookie of the Year and led the Dodgers to the World Series.
Remember, baseball was "America's Pastime" in the 40s. The NFL, now king of sports in the USA, was nothing but an afterthought compared to mighty baseball. For instance, in the 1947 World Series against the Yankees, all seven games were totally sold out and every game was on both radio and TV (even then!).
In contrast, the NFL's championship game was viewed by just 30,000 fans in a half-empty Comiskey Park in Chicago, with only a radio audience.
With baseball so popular at that time, everyone knew Jackie Robinson. They watched his every move and as the season and subsequent seasons took place, Americans became comfortable with integration in this country's most popular entertainment venue, baseball.
You want to know what took place after Rickey and Robinson made the courageous decision to integrate baseball?
One year later, President Truman integrated the military.
Seven years later, the US Supreme Court ruled in Brown v Board of Education, integrating public schools.
10 years later, President Eisenhower enforced the Supreme Court's ruling by sending the military into Arkansas to integrate Central High School.
Coincidence? No. Americans had seen with their own eyes that a black ball player was--in reality--no different than a white ball player. Segregationist arguments were blown up through one decision and one player. Soon, the political and judicial leaders followed... Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson.
In the Pregnancy Help Community, our role is to get on the ground and help that one person, as Rickey did when he opened the door for one person--Jackie Robinson--to play baseball. Rickey was loving his neighbor, believing that color should not separate one from playing the game he loves on the biggest stage.
You know what we do? We reach one person, then we reach another. The world is taking notice. Slowly, but surely, we're seeing a shift in opinions on life as more and more see that an unexpected pregnancy is not the end of the world.
We are changing the culture. Want proof?
I just received a summary of Heartbeat International's Amicus Brief for the U.S. Supreme Court as the justices consider the Mississippi case, Dobbs v Jackon Women's Health Organization.
In the brief, Danielle White, Heartbeat's legal counsel, makes an amazing case for what our work on the ground has accomplished to change the dynamic since the Court handed down its Casey decision in 1992.
Just like Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson, we've tilled this ground so that our arguments now have tried and true results, proving abortion is no longer "needed," as Casey implied.
If you want real encouragement then, read Danielle's brief here. Pages 10-16 in the PDF file give us the summary. It's well worth your time.
Oh, by the way, if you're wondering whether Danielle White's brief will carry any weight, keep in mind that in the vital NIFLA v Becerra case a couple of years ago, one brief was referred to by the justices in oral arguments. It came from... Danielle White.
Be encouraged. Let's stay the course and love the neighbors who enter our doors each day.
I’ve been a part of the pregnancy help movement for 27 years. 20 years of that was spent starting and running a pregnancy center in Missouri. Being in this ministry, I’ve had the joy of holding babies who almost didn’t make it, and the sorrow of not knowing if others had. Now, in my role at Heartbeat as the Vice President of Mission Advancement, I get to describe the miracles of life that you are a part of.
I love this ministry. I love seeing and sharing with folks who want to support Heartbeat and the Abortion Pill Rescue® Network.
We have a lot to celebrate in our work. We get to rescue moms and babies from the travesty of abortion. We help mothers find a way to save and support their babies. We make sure families have the support they need to grow holier, happier, and healthier.
What’s not to love about our work?
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