by Christa Brown BSN, RN, Medical Specialist/APR Coordinator
Clients we serve are often in the midst of making relationship, pregnancy, sexual, career, health, and a variety of other major life choices. We are given the honor and privilege of assisting them in this process. We want the best outcomes for the women and men we are called to serve. But how do we successfully assist them navigate these life-altering decisions when sometimes there is no clear right or wrong? How do we allow them to choose without imposing our will on them? How do we help them succeed?
Often we see the situations they face in only black and white, good and bad. But the choices they are making might not always be answered that way. And the backgrounds of clients, the present circumstances and their future goals in life are all different. The better thought process might be, “what is the wise thing to do?”
Many clients have had some conditional love such as, “If you make the decision I want you to, I’ll care about you”, but very little unconditional love. Friends and family with other agendas can create doubt in the patient's choices. Even a very positive decision can feel completely wrong and clients might waiver either for a moment or for an extended length of time. As they struggle to get footing, it’s important we are not yet another voice causing them confusion. Pushing the decision we want might cause clients to agree in the moment, but it will likely not remain a long-term decision.
The big question becomes –
“In light of past experience, current circumstances, future hopes & dreams, what’s the wise thing to do?”
Looking at past experiences can bring clarity to current decisions. But it can be easy to be deceived into thinking that doing the same thing will achieve different results. We all believe we can manage outcomes. We tell ourselves, “I know last time didn’t go well, but this time is different.” Decisions made in the past have created the realities of today.
It’s also important to look at current circumstances to understand how they are affecting decisions. It’s not uncommon to want the easier way or immediate satisfaction. It’s just human nature to avoid thinking of the many outcomes that one decision might bring.
And thirdly, the vision for tomorrow can guide today’s decisions. It’s important for clients to see clearly their hopes and dreams and understand how today’s decisions affect them. It’s almost always a bad idea to trade something desired now for something wanted in the future. Friends and family might not have the same ambitions, so decisions might not be understood or supported. It’s a good exercise to brainstorm those hopes and dreams and even write them down, so they can remain in focus.
Here are some steps that can be used to help process decisions:
As these decisions are processed, clients might not be consistent. When the trajectory has been set for quite some time and suddenly a different plan is made, the line sometimes doesn’t stay straight. Clients sometimes take two steps forward and three steps back. But then a few more steps. It’s important that we show our pride in them for each accomplishment. We might be the only ones cheering them on. But it’s equally important to let them know they can always be honest about those steps backwards. We cannot help them if they never return. Even if they make decisions they know we might not agree with, clients need ongoing support offered without judgment and condemnation. That can be the most difficult part of working in a center - maybe one of the hardest things we will ever do. But it’s what God calls us to, and it’s what will make the difference – loving them unconditionally.
Assisting clients to navigate very complicated waters can be both challenging and rewarding. With education and support, most clients are well capable of making good, healthy decisions. We can be the voice of support and love that helps them make the best choices possible. One good move forward today can affect all of the future.
“Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.” Psalms 107:43 NKJV
Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic ([Rev. ed.].). New York: Free Press.
Covey, S. (2014). The 7 habits of highly effective teens: The ultimate teenage success guide. New York, N.Y.: Simon & Schuster.
The LOVE Approach https://www.heartbeatservices.org/resources/resources-by-topic/volunteer-training/the-love-approach-3rd-edition-training-manual
Stanley, A. (2014). Ask It. The Question That Will Revolutionize How You Make Decisions. Danvers, MA: Multnomah Books.
by Jay Hobbs, Director of Marketing & Communications
By now, it’s no mystery: If you don’t reach clients or donors online, you’ll have limited hopes of carrying out your life-saving mission.
What’s a little more mysterious, however, is exactly how to meet your clients and donors online. Is Facebook enough? How about Twitter? Instagram? Website banner ads?
Like any other technological shift, moving your reach online is an ongoing process, filled with unexpected twists and turns—and probably a lot more trial and error than we’d all like to admit. And so much of your online success depends on putting simple (and often cost-free!) tools to work in the most efficient way possible.
That’s why a group of my fellow Heartbeat International co-workers and I are looking forward to seeing you at our in-depth day, Putting Your Mission on the Map at this year’s Annual Conference April 18 in Chicago.
Running projects like Option Line, Extend Web Services, Pregnancy Help News and the Heartbeat International websites and social media outreach efforts, our team is constantly learning what it takes to be successful online—and we can’t wait to pass along our most recent findings at the Conference.
Together, we’ll hit five specific areas of online reach throughout the day. From getting the most of out Social Media—which you can learn more about here—to harnessing the power of the Web through Local Search, pay-per-click advertising and a SEM-optimized website presence, you’ll walk out with a clear-headed vision of reaching clients and donors in an online world.
Don’t miss out on this exclusive chance to roll up your sleeves and hammer out your online marketing strategy with our team. You can book your space here—but don’t hesitate, because spaces are filling up as we speak!
See you in Chicago!
Tiffany and her son, Jonathen, in 2016.
by Carrie Beliles, International Program Specialist
Last week, I received a Facebook message in the middle of the night. Most Facebook messages in the middle of the night are no big deal, but for me, this specific message was.
Why? Because God knew this message was exactly what I needed to hear at that specific moment.
I needed to wake up, to be shaken out of where I was mentally and reminded of a principle God taught me four years ago.
It is not about me. It is all about Him.
Let’s go back to four years ago, when I found myself the newly appointed executive director of a pregnancy help center in Germany. While I didn’t speak German, the center actually served a unique, English-speaking clientele. Our abortion-vulnerable clients consisted entirely of women connected to the largest U.S. military base outside of the United States.
And, I took on this role by accident. No kidding, by “accident.” Totally under-qualified, I had never worked in the pro-life world. I’d never been trained or even so much as volunteered at a pregnancy center.
I did however, have a background in the fight against human trafficking, where I worked directly with victims, so I understood there are hurting people all over the world who needed to be shown compassion. My only real qualification was God had been teaching me to love others and meet them where they were.
More importantly, I was also hurting. Having just walked through a recent trial in my own life, my marriage had weathered several years as a military wife, complete with constant separations that are part of the job description. Add to that, I was pregnant with my fourth of now five children.
Because of these—what I considered—disqualifying factors, I assumed I wasn’t ready to minister to others. After all, shouldn’t I fix myself first, then move on to help others? That’s how I was thinking, but of course, I was wrong.
Learning to Handle the “Tough Questions”
As the newly installed executive director, my board sent me to the 2012 Heartbeat International Annual Conference in Los Angeles, hopeful that a one-week training would help start me on the right foot.
In a city famous for its movie stars, dreams and miracles, I was slightly overwhelmed with the actual size of the conference. Heartbeat, I learned, is an international organization uniting over 2,000 affiliates working toward a common life-saving goal. Just walking the halls and meeting others who were doing this amazing work all over the world was an inspiration.
Though I was encouraged, I felt out of my league. Every one else at the conference seemed to be a much better director, board member or volunteer than I could hope to be. All week long, I kept thinking they all must know what they are doing. It was a humbling experience, to say the least.
The last day of conference, I attended a session titled “Answering Tough Calls” with Bri Laycock, the director of Heartbeat’s 24-7 pregnancy helpline, Option Line. Having served with Option Line since shortly after its formation in 2003, Bri was confident and it seemed she was able to answer everything thrown her way. She was professional, ready and prepared—everything I felt I wasn’t.
At the end of the workshop, there was a Q-and-A session. An attendee raised her hand and posed a situation she recently faced. I sat back and listened, thinking, “I have no clue what I would do in that situation.”
The client, it turned out, was pregnant in the midst of a marriage that was falling apart due to infidelity. Multiple families were involved, and the baby this woman was carrying would be of a different race from the client’s husband and her other children. There was no hiding the breech of trust.
I was overwhelmed just picturing the scenario. The consensus approach from the class, and from Bri, was, “Keep her on the phone, keep the connection open, and take it one day at a time.” I remember thinking how glad I was to not be dealing with that situation.
Two weeks later. Tiffany called the hotline.
I had just closed up the center, picked up my daughter from kindergarten and was on the autobahn heading home after a long day when the phone rang.
One Day at a Time
Tiffany’s first question was whether we perform abortions and, if so, when could she make the earliest appointment. As I listened, mother-to-mother to someone desperate with fear, I offered to meet up and talk. When someone, like Tiffany, needs to talk, they just need someone to listen. I could do that.
A mother of three young boys, a married family friend had taken advantage of Tiffany while her husband was deployed in the Middle East. Now, she was pregnant. My heart sank as I realized I knew the wife whose husband was the father of Tiffany’s baby.
My thoughts went back to that session at the Heartbeat International Annual Conference. I’d only been back a couple of weeks, so the conversation—and that fleeting sense of relief that, at least I wasn’t dealing with this situation—was still fresh in my mind.
I asked myself, “What would Bri do in this situation? How would she handle this ‘Tough Question?” How on earth could I help to “fix” this?
That’s when Bri’s answer at the workshop crystalized in my mind: Keep her on the phone. Keep the connection open. Take it one day at a time.
As I got to know Tiffany and listened to her story, God began to teach me to take one step at a time, one day at a time. I wasn’t going to “fix” Tiffany’s situation. There was no formula. There were very few words of wisdom I could offer.
I only had the love of Christ, which I have seen and experienced in my own life, and which I could draw upon to share with someone who was hurting, alone and scared. Extending love was all Tiffany needed at that moment. Looking back, I’m sure that, had I tried to impart counseling methods or a fixed scenario, I may have missed an opportunity to actually love her.
The Miracle of Love
This life of love starts right where we are. I didn’t have years of training or relevant experience; it was a core principle that came to light in the “Tough Questions” workshop that set me on course. Stay on the line. Keep the connection open. Take it a day at a time.
Often, we count ourselves out even before we give ourselves the chance to see how God works through us. Whether it’s our perceived gap in our qualifications, preparation or “life-togetherness,” we need to remember that it’s God who works through us, and He’s the one who qualifies the unqualified.
Hitting my Facebook message folder four years after we first met, Tiffany’s note jarred me out of the same thought pattern to which I—and I’m guessing, you—tend to default.
Tiffany is now a homeschooling mother of five young boys. She’s going back to school to pursue a degree in crisis counseling. She reached out to let me know that, because of the way God worked through our relationship, she wants to do the same for others.
What a powerful reminder of the God who supplies our every need “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” I know He has supplied mine. What a blessing to know He’s done the same for Tiffany.
You can read Tiffany’s story here.
As a Heartbeat International affiliate, your pregnancy help organization is automatically listed on Heartbeat's Option Line® (1-800-712-HELP), a 24-7 pregnancy helpline that answers over 1,100 calls, emails, text messages and live chats every day in English and Spanish, sending callers to local help organizations like yours. Our job is to help you care for her.
Here are a few of the ways we do that.
Every contact Heartbeat’s Option Line® makes costs about $4.25. We refer an average of 42 contacts a year to each of our more than 2,700 listed pregnancy help organizations. That’s a value of $178.50 per year for your organization alone!
On OptionLine.org, a client can search for a center near her. Each month in the past year, an average of over 200 searches on OptionLine.org have turned up your center. Our top-10 centers all averaged over 7,000 views in the last year, bringing women in desperate need of help face-to-face with your center’s information.
Does your center struggle to cover the phones overnight? Option Line is your answer for overnight help. You can also forward your calls to Option Line when you can't cover a shift. Rather than hearing a recording, a woman will speak to a real human being, who will answer her initial questions and connect her to help right in her area—that is, you!
Bonus! When you take advantage—at no cost—of Option Line’s Appointment Scheduling, a consultant can schedule an appointment at your center right on the spot. Click here to learn more.
As a Heartbeat affiliate, changes can be made to your Option Line listing in real-time so that women searching for you have up-to-date information about your organization at any hour of the day.
Option Line lists pregnancy help organizations affiliated with either Heartbeat International or Care Net. If your organization prefers to not become a Heartbeat affiliate, that's okay! Care Net provides us with a list of their affiliates on a quarterly basis. We update our Option Line database based on that list. Please communicate any changes to your information with Care Net and the changes will be made with the next quarterly update.
Healthy Pregnancy/Healthy Baby Series: Part 1
By Helen Risse RN MSN
If you work with pregnant women, you have a great opportunity to improve birth outcomes. When a new client visits your pregnancy help organization, this may be the only contact you have with her.
What should she be sure to know before she leaves you? Does she know her due date? Will you be telling her based on the first day of her last menstrual period?
It is important to define due date and term pregnancy. Remind your new mother that her due date is really a due time that looks at two weeks before to two weeks after that date as being "term". Many people still think of pregnancy in terms of nine months. Explain that pregnancy is defined as 40 weeks or 10 lunar months.
At the end of 2013, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) redefined the meaning of "term".
Research has noted that the brain of a baby at 35 weeks, 0 days grows in size by two-thirds in the following four weeks.
Research has noted that although the weight of a baby may look normal, babies born before 39 weeks are sleepier babies. These babies do not latch and suckle as well as babies born at 39 weeks 0 days. They have more problems with higher bilirubin levels. These concerns can lead to serious consequences. The choice of an elective delivery date must factor in these findings.
Women should also be taught the signs of preterm labor. Teach women about contractions. Explain what they may feel and describe those symptoms that should put them on alert.
Describe contractions as feeling like:
Describe vaginal discharge or bleeding:
Describe water breaks:
General feeling that something is not right.
What should she do if she thinks she may be having preterm labor? Below are some guidelines you may discuss with your Medical Director to develop a policy/procedure for your center.
If the contractions are coming more than every 15 minutes or 4-6 in an hour, call your doctor.
It is important to stay well hydrated. Dehydration can often cause a woman to experience contractions.Women should know the risks that increase concerns for preterm labor. Women who are at greatest risk for preterm labor are those who have had a previous preterm birth, as well as those who are pregnant with multiples, and those with certain abnormalities of their uterus or cervix.
Other risk factors include smoking, drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs, domestic violence, including physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or lack of support.
Additional risks factors related to her health include infections, including urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted infections, diabetes, high blood pressure, second trimester bleeding from the vagina, being underweight before pregnancy, obesity, and a short time period between pregnancies.
When asked if there is anything that can be done to prevent preterm labor, tell a woman to:
If you have one visit from a pregnant woman and pass on this information, you may contribute to an improved outcome. Every extra day her baby is in a healthy intrauterine environment is positive for the development of her baby, which in turn can be a big help to a new mother.
Spong CY. Defining "Term" Pregnancy: Recommendations From the Defining "Term" Pregnancy Workgroup. JAMA. 2013;309(23):2445-2446. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.62
ACOG Clinical Guidelines: Definition of term pregnancy. Committee Opinion No. 579. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2013;122:1139–40.35Go the Full 40 Campaign tool Kit :http://www.health4mom.org/pregnancy/healthy_pregnancyo
The last weeks of pregnancy count: July 5th, 2012l Kit: http://newsmomsneed.marchofdimes.com/?tag=brain-development
by Michele Chadwick, Director of Operations, ICU Mobile
Heartbeat's Betty McDowell gave an encouraging message in her presentation at the 2014 Heartbeat International Conference, which came down to a single phrase: I see you. The God of the universe acknowledges and recognizes you. You are valid.
At ICU Mobile, our name and mobile ultrasound ministry (ICU, think "I See You") was born out of a call to proactively reach out to help mothers see their babies in the womb, identifying that every life is valid—sometimes for the first time in a mother's heart.
Revealing and affirming life is at the heart of all our ministries, serving a vital, essential role in life-affirming work. When a pregnancy center provides medical ultrasound imaging, its representatives affirm that the act of visibly revealing life is essential to the ability to fully inform a pregnant mother of the life she carries.
Going mobile medically brings this vital life-imaging service to mothers outside of the center. At ICU Mobile, we believe that at the heart of an accomplished mobile medical clinic, as in the pregnancy center, is a commitment to offer services with faith, wisdom, and experience as our guide. We are committed to standing strongly on the strategic operating principle of extending the reach of our services for women into the –community—in the community of others.
A mobile medical clinic, when operating well, is a tool with the capability of joining a community together under the umbrella of life, drawing pregnancy resource centers together with the church and other community and organizational resources, in support of each other in the service of women.
Key factors that help encourage this united front include neutral branding, a process to provide a full continuum of care for the client, operating from each other's strengths through shared service models, and encouraging good stewardship through shared resources.
Pregnancy help expert Kirk Walden, in his book, "The Wall" (and who also presented at the Heartbeat Conference!) makes the case for uniting the community to serve women. He asks the question, "What happens if we're the first choice?" The "we" in this question is key. The "we" is all of us working together to be a mother's first choice. A mobile medical clinic can be the "vehicle" (no pun intended) for building this unity.
Mobile operations in joining others together can become one of the most effective ways to reach abortion-minded women. Mobile services provide an effective way to expand your reach without having to build a satellite office, expand internally, or require more space, and it allows a center the flexibility to move to locations to adjust to demographic changes and population shifts.
Further, going mobile avoids the issue of no-show appointments at your center, as well as helping to balance the number of clients seeking social support services and those seeking medical services. Going mobile alleviates the expense of renovation or expansion of services in your center, while providing opportunities to build network supports with other pregnancy help organizations in the community surrounding the center.
Each of these considerations factor into the thought process of going mobile in a community.
When considering the possibility of adding a mobile medical clinic, it is first important—as with adding any medical service—to recognize the seriousness of the endeavor and requires the highest level of commitment to a professional quality medical experience for the client, as it is visible and the first contact with a mother.
Equally important for an organization to note is that going mobile is a unique approach that influences how a center operates, affecting the procedural processes that are needed to accommodate a moving center. A board, leaders, staff, and the connected community must pray and seek wisdom and recognition of the call to serve in this mission capacity.
We recommend you seek others who already operate a mobile medical clinic to learn about effective methods of operation, strategies that work, and the significance of working together in community to serve. It is God who builds these mobile communities, so it will be God who lays the possibility and provides the opportunity for success.
As Kirk Walden asked at the Heartbeat Conference, "What can we do to join hands?" Mobile done in community with others will join hands, and as we are blessed to say at ICU Mobile, it joins hands for little feet.Here are some practical questions and steps toward adding mobile services:
Bingo! C’mon, you know the game. As the letters and numbers are called, you mark them on your grid until you have five in a row horizontally, vertically or even diagonally.
Here’s a variation you can enjoy with your leadership team.
Instead of B-I-N-G-O letters and numbers, we’re going to use common things you’ve seen on bumpers!
Get your 5 x 5 grid ready. To use ours, click here. Better yet, make your own grid. Across the top, give each of the five columns a heading: 1) fish symbol, 2) family stickers (stick figures with mom, dad, assorted kids, etc.), 3) Christian school, 4) church or denomination, and 5) minivan or SUV. (Okay, minivan is not a sticker but it is attached to the bumper and simply screams middle class, family values.)
Now down the side, head the rows with five common words found on life-minded bumper stickers. Start with “life or pro-life,” then “baby,” next “heart” (either as a word or a symbol), “unborn,” and finish with “vote.” (Note on vote: an especially “right-wing,” pro-life political candidate could qualify here. Never mind if that same candidate was on the ballot three elections ago.)
There’s one last detail. In the center, just like the “free” spot in regular BINGO marked with a star, you get a free spot corresponding with “minivan” and “heart.” Include that and you only need four more to win the game!
Pass the grid around to all the players. This is best done when you have most of your staff and/or board on hand. Head off to the parking lot of your center with grids and markers. Work as teams for more excitement. Look around. What do you see?
If you‘re like my center you are looking at a flock of minivans and SUVs. No, there’s nothing inherently wrong with minivans and SUV’s, but they are not the type of vehicle our target client audience is buying. The odds are high that there’s a car seat inside. (Minivans or SUV’s that were new on the lot in the past 48 months give you a bonus mark!)
When you find a fish symbol and “I vote pro-life,” mark your card twice! You’ll probably see family stickers and “Baby on Board” for another mark. Look a little more. The first one to find five in a row shouts “B-I-N-G-O”!
Do your clients walk through or by these cars to get to the door of your center? If so, what are these bumper stickers telling them in advance? Are they getting a picture of who you are and what your center is about that will slant their answers during intake? Will they be more inclined to tell you what they think you want to hear or what is really on their heart? Or will such positions so obviously opposite their own thoughts even turn them away?
Bumper Sticker Bingo, real or imagined, shows that interaction with clients begins even in the parking lot of our pregnancy help center. Not only is it important for your reception area and counseling rooms to be warm and inviting to even the most abortion-minded, so should the exterior of your center.
One way to help staff cooperate with image building is to print up your own center’s bumper sticker and make them available to staff and supporters. You can then encourage staff to use your bumper sticker instead of the ones that could turn off potential clients.
It might be quite surprising to you, but one of MTV’s most popular shows is one that can be used to help the young women walking into our centers. Considering that much of what MTV produces doesn’t fit very well with the Christian values in the pregnancy help movement, MTV’s hit show 16 & Pregnant is one that shows the authentic challenges and drama associated with teen pregnancy. Through a documentary-style format, MTV deserves credit for bringing to light the physical, social, and emotional difficulties of having a child as a teenager.
As the show is wildly popular and seen by literally millions of young people each week, it’s a great connection point for pregnancy center staff and volunteers to talk the language of the clients walking in our doors. We at Bethany Christian Services have had the opportunity to work with MTV on several episodes of 16 & Pregnant and another spin-off show on MTV called Teen Moms. While the shows don’t directly advocate a specific pro-life or pro-choice perspective, each episode shows young women choosing life through either parenting or adoption.
During the first season of 16 & Pregnant, the season’s final episode was “Catelynn.” The episode followed 16-year-olds Catelynn and Tyler from Michigan as they worked with Bethany Christian Services to make an adoption plan with a Christian adoptive couple from North Carolina. The episode shows the raw challenges of Catelynn and Tyler growing up in very difficult broken families and not having much support from their parents. Catelynn and Tyler display the maturity of wanting a better life for their daughter than they could provide and end up following through with the adoption. The emotion and tears during the show will make you want to have a box of tissues by your side when watching it!
Some pregnancy centers have been contacted by MTV when they’re casting for future episodes and looking for pregnant teens. While it’s important to be cautious, if you have a young client who’s confident, well spoken, and interested in sharing her pregnant journey with the world, she can be a great witness to the world through the show. MTV has been professional and respectful of the expertise that we bring about the adoption process. While the filming process can include long, grueling days, the reward of sharing a positive view of caring for young women through their pregnancy with such a large audience is tremendous.
For just two dollars each at Bethany’s online store (http://store.bethany.org), you can order copies of Catelynn and Tyler’s Adoption Journey DVD which shows 12 minutes of highlights from the “Catelynn” episode. This 12-minute DVD has several short chapters showing clips of the show including Catelynn and Tyler choosing an adoptive family, talking with a Bethany pregnancy counselor, literally placing their daughter into the arms of an adoptive family, and visiting their daughter and adoptive family a year later. These clips are a wonderful way to show young women that adoption is a real possibility. Catelynn and Tyler’s witness on MTV may lead a client to say, like many others, “If Catelynn can do it, so can I.”
You can also order the full Season 1 series of six episodes for $5.
Pat Upchurch is President of H.E.L.P. (Helping, Educating/Exhorting & Loving People), based in St. Louis, Missouri.
by Pat Upchurch, H.E.L.P. (Helping, Educating/Exhorting & Loving People)
Do you feel called to serve urban communities? To urban minority people groups? Are you planting a pregnancy center in an urban area? Already serving there? I exhort you with this, from Isaiah 58:12 – “Those from among you shall build the old waste places; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.”
Statistically, African American and Hispanic females have 59 percent of all abortions (while making up only 25 percent of the population). In addition, over 60 percent of Planned Parenthood facilities are in cities with a higher black population than the rest of the state. Planned Parenthood also targets low-income and women of color.
With these facts, it is without a doubt we need to be in these regions, to reach and help those who are targeted. Many are abortion vulnerable/minded, lack sufficient resources, have unhealthy relational structures, and need a relationship with Christ. Jesus himself left a pattern for us in ministry. He could have done anything and every thing to get the “Word” (Himself) to us, but instead He chose to come where we were….”And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14).
It is imperative that we are equipped to serve and minister to people in these urban areas. We must start by understanding the environment and culture of these communities. Stress, for example, while not unique to urban life, is certainly magnified by it. Urban city-dwellers must wrestle with special stressors of stimulus overload, constant change, crowding, noise, pollution, unpredictable transportation, cultural differences, homelessness, drug infestation, crime, gangs, etc. Every day requires constant processing and adjustment.
Equally crucial is understanding urbanites’ mindset and view on relationships, authority, possessions, God, etc. For example, those in poverty see the present as most important. They make decisions in light of the moment, often based on their feelings or need for survival. Their worldview is often limited by their immediate neighborhood. It has been said people living in heavily urban areas fundamentally live their everyday lives within a six square-block radius.
As Christians who desire to bring about positive change in urban areas, our approach must reflect not only our client and cultural training, but our overarching awareness of the unconditional love of God for people created in His image. This sensitivity focuses on strengths, those of both the community and its residents.We have the wonderful privilege to serve, help, and win so many to Christ! Urban communities are ripe mission fields, and opportunities for us to grow in our faith and discipleship.
The better we understand, the better we serve.
H.E.L.P. (Helping, Educating/Exhorting & Loving People) serves pregnancy centers, organizations and churches involved in urban ministry.
By Mary Peterson, Housing Consultant
Ever tossed a coin into the air, caught it, and cupped it on the back of your hand to see if it's "heads" or "tails?"
It's a classic way of making simple decisions. The two sides of the coin are unique, each with distinguishing marks, but together, they make one coin.
In the context of our maternity homes, we face a wide variety of challenging situations. We know we must always respond in love, that's a given. But just as there are two sides to a coin, there are two sides to the love we live out in our homes: tough and unconditional.
Rather than the random response of a coin toss, though, we get to choose which side of the “love coin” to apply in any given situation.
Tough love is the love of coaches, teachers, and mentors. It’s the love that says, "I know there’s more in you, and I want you to challenge you to make the most of it." It’s the love of accountability and direct feedback.
Tough love involves rules, structures, and consequences. It’s the type of love God expresses when He prunes and judges, when He commands us how to live, and when He allows consequences to unfold.
Unconditional love is the love of friends and family. It’s the love that says, "No matter what, I am going to love you." It’s the love of second chances, leniency, and forgiveness. Unconditional love involves overlooking things said in anger, or giving the benefit of the doubt when another isn't at their best.
Unconditional love is expressed in those special moments when a mother gazes at her child. Mercy and forgiveness are expressions of the unconditional nature of God’s love.
As a people defined by love, we are not called to become merely hard-nosed rule-enforcers nor feeble doormats. Love is not an either-or proposition. Love requires the both-and virtue of fierce tenderness, unconditional-yet-expectant.
We are called to live out both dimensions of love— tough and unconditional—in the context of relationship as we face daily life in our maternity homes. But we need the Holy Spirit’s help to know when and how to rightly apply love in each situation, and so we pray:
Come Holy Spirit! Make us more capable of perfect love!
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