Walking the Novi Sad streets, Molly Hoepfner and Betty McDowell pass row after row of square, grey buildings—standing monuments that remain 20 years after the breakup of Communist Yugoslavia.
Yet, even amid the seemingly unvaried landscape of drab, graffiti-covered structures that line the busy streets of Serbia’s second-largest city, an occasional flash of color bursts through a new, freshly painted edifice.
Little by little, life is returning to Serbia.
On behalf of Heartbeat International, Molly and Betty were there to see to it that even as life returns, the long-forgotten value of human dignity and life would truly take root.
Molly and Betty led a four-day volunteer training conference Oct. 4-7, hosted by Serbian pregnancy help organization executive director Vesna Radeka, who is one of more than 300 non-U.S. Heartbeat affiliates.
The conference included training on The LOVE Approach™ and Talking About Abortion™, two of Heartbeat’s signature programs, and welcomed a total of 50 attendees from five nations that were part of Yugoslavia as recent as the early 1990s—Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Slovenia and Croatia.
“They got The LOVE Approach, they really got it,” Betty, Heartbeat’s director of ministry services, said. “Vesna had written scenarios that fit the culture, and that was really exciting. It was exciting to see The LOVE Approach really translate, and to see that it works in any language, any setting. It’s truly ‘Love in every language.’”
The conference is believed to be the first of its kind in the region, which has undergone constant political upheaval and deadly clashes between ethnic groups throughout the last century.
The fledgling growth of unity in the Eastern European pro-life movement was one of the highlights for the Heartbeat mini-envoy, particularly considering the deep entrenchment of the culture of death in the post-Communist region.
“We kept promoting the message that, ‘We’re better together,’” Molly, Heartbeat’s international coordinator said. “They really embraced that, even though that’s not how they tend to think.”
With a population of just over 7 million, Serbia reports an average 23,000 abortions every year. However, unofficial data, reported by The Southeastern European Times, estimates the annual average at 150,000 abortions—twice the number of live births—giving Serbia the highest abortion rate in Europe.
As Molly related, one woman who attended the conference said her mother had undergone 10 abortions after giving birth to her older brother and before giving birth to her, which was a tragically common story among the conference’s attendees.
“I’ve read about survivor’s guilt, but to see it so blatant and prevalent in that room was just so painful,” Betty said.
“This is generational,” Molly said. “Woman after woman after woman at this conference—whose average age was 35-40, stood up and said that they were either an unwanted child or that they grew up with abortion as a way of life.”
Abortion on-demand was legalized in its current form in Yugoslavia in 1977, but has been prevalent in the culture since just after World War II, when abortion was legalized in cases citing socio-medical grounds.
The conference’s attendees, many of whom are actively involved in bringing the sanctity of life message to their local public school systems, welcomed further training on how to speak the message of life into culture that has systematically devalued human life for several decades.
In addition to training related to The LOVE Approach and Talking About Abortion, another Heartbeat resource, the Sexual Integrity™ Program, played a major role in the conference training.
“These women are really stepping out in faith because it’s still so opposite of what their culture is saying,” Molly said. “They’re really going into uncharted waters because they’re in the infancy of pregnancy help centers even though their culture is much more entrenched in death than ours was by the time these centers began.”
by Rindy Brooks, Heartbeats of Licking County, Newark, Ohio
Our staff retreat in late July focused around 2 Timothy 4:1 – 8 and the need to fulfill our ministry. It is the last recorded letter of Paul as he knew his time of departure was near and he needed to share certain things with Timothy as he passed the torch of ministry.
The study was so timely and personal for us. We had just lost the “Paul” of our pregnancy center. A special lady named Merridy Hoover. She is the reason I and so many are here at Heartbeats of Licking County today. She rescued the center from demise in 1989 and built a solid foundation of faith that we firmly stand on today. Her vision and servant leadership even serves you in Heartbeat affiliates around the world every day.
The prototype for the manual “Talking About Abortion” was written by her – she called it the “10-Point Health and Safety Check List”. She tested it, we trained and used it in our center and found out this “women-centered” approach worked to engage abortion-minded women on the phone to help and care for them. So she called Heartbeat's president, Peggy Hartshorn, and told her this method was working and that it needed to be published by Heartbeat International and distributed.
It was published and still is distributed by Heartbeat. Option Line actually uses this format 24/7 to reach women in crisis. The list of impactful projects Merridy shepherded could continue, but more insightful is to share how she lived up to the end to encourage us to carry on the torch of ministry.
A greeting card came to the center a week after her funeral. It was from her.
We tearfully opened it together at the retreat and what we received from her was our charge. A miracle to us from God, it was the perfect object lesson to illustrate these verses. Merridy “Our Paul” had retired 12 years prior but her prayers and encouragement were steadfast, especially to me, her “Timothy”. I have ably served 12 years as Executive Director and yet for the first time, I felt strangely on my own. And now, in her own hand, written 2 months prior to her passing she says to me, to the staff, and now to you in ministry every day:
“To my beloved sisters and brothers in Christ, His work in you is so beautiful- keep shining with the light of His presence! Keep shining. I am so proud of you all. God’s hand is on your ministry and service to Him.
Love and Blessings, Merridy.”
So let us remember to encourage and teach those “Timothys” in our midst. To clearly charge them and remind them of the suffering and sacrifice in serving Jesus and yet the gladness and joy found in fulfilling our work received from the Lord. I want to be able to pass the torch of ministry and say as in 2 Tim 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Until then, we must carry our torches high and keep shining.
(Staff Retreat material part of Beth Moore’s 3-part DVD series with listening guide “Fulfill Your Ministry!” available from Living Proof Ministries)
Heartbeat International has developed a professional designation for those working in Life-Affirming Ministries. Having the Life-Affirming Specialist (LAS) designation will provide you with credibility when working with clients. Its purpose is to show that you have studied and are aware of the latest research and findings surrounding life affirming information and training.
A Life Affirming Specialist (LAS) has up-to-date training on information surrounding pregnancy, abortion, abortion recovery, client programs, sexual integrity and other related life affirming issues.
You can receive and maintain your LAS designation through the application process, signing the LAS agreement, and fulfilling the on-going continuing education requirements.
LAS is a professional designation developed specifically for those serving faithfully in the pregnancy help movement. The LAS designation indicates that the holder has participated in on-going training on the latest information surrounding pregnancy, abortion, abortion recovery, client programs, sexual integrity and related, life-affirming issues.
The LAS designation behind your name provides you with professional credibility when working with clients. The designation shows that you have studied and are aware of the latest research and findings surrounding life-affirming information and training. Example: Sarah Smith, LAS
Heartbeat International has developed this professional designation for people working in life-affirming ministries.
Those eligible must have completed the requirements as stated by Heartbeat International.
The initial $99.00 fee is paid upon application. A Designation Certificate of Completion is mailed to those who meet the qualifications. The bi-annual membership remains in effect for two years from the original date of earned designation. The bi-annual renewal fee is $99.00.
Apply to become a Life Affirming Specialist today or renew your Life Affirming Specialist designation now!
Enter Academy | Upcoming Webinars | Featured Courses | Live Virtual Classes
Heartbeat International Academy offers life-affirming leaders, staff members, volunteers, and supporters with access to online webinars and courses on a wide variety of topics. In the Academy, you'll find trainings on our core foundational materials, as well as on topics on everything from the history of abortion in the United States to fundraising basics, and from prenatal diagnostic tests to implementing STI testing in your center.
Essentially, with Academy we hope to offer a one stop shop where pregnancy help leaders can access sector specific training that will help them and their organizations continue to serve their clients and communities with excellence. We recognize the difficulty of trying to research where to go get training on raising funds, leading organizations, serving clients, while simultaneously doing all of those things so our goal is to come alongside you to make it a bit easier. With our new learning plans feature, it’s even easier to identify what you need to know about any given topic and locate those trainings and resources that you need to raise funds, lead your organization, serve clients, etc.
What’s in the Academy?
It doesn’t take much effort in today’s age to find a piece of information or training video online, but what sets Academy apart is our training goes beyond social work, christian counseling, nursing education, instead offering training and information through a Christian worldview specific to our pregnancy help community. With the expertise that we tap into through our faculty we’re able to provide sector specific trainings which means we’re not just training nurses in the physics and technical stuff on ultrasound, but training nurses to perform ultrasound in a pregnancy help organization as part of the process of building a relationship with that client. Not just the latest information chemical abortion, but how best to respond to clients in this shortened window of opportunity. Now with our learning plan feature added in, even if you don’t know where to start, and don’t know what you don’t know you have a built-in guidance system of sorts to help make sure you find the right training for you.
Where does training happen?
When Heartbeat Academy was first launched, we focused on building the online piece, that was what we were missing, but we’ve been working really hard over the last 9 months to bring those virtual and in-person worlds together so that now by completing the surveys offered onsite you can receive credit for the training you’re doing in person with Heartbeat as well as online, recorded all in one place in the Academy. So for example, the individuals who attend the Heartbeat International Annual Conference or attend Pregnancy Help Institute not only receive LAS credit, but also now have progress in their related learning paths to keep track of what they’ve learned so far and other areas to be aware of or look to for future training.
Have you noticed?
With each webinar in the Heartbeat Academy, we now include an affiliate bonus registration for another member of your staff! Each registration gives you access to the live presentation for yourself AND an access for 1 additional person from your affiliated organization to access the recording through Heartbeat Academy! That recording access includes all the benefits of the webinar, including any CEUs offered. Just register for yourself, and when the recording becomes available, you'll have the opportunity to enroll your additional staff member. That's one more reason to affiliate with Heartbeat International today!
March 22, 2023 at 12pm ET
Presented by Jor-El Godsey, Heartbeat President, and Tracie Shellhouse, Vice President of Ministry Services
The Pregnancy Help Organization Salary Survey helps you compare your compensation plan for key employees to other, similar organizations. In this free webinar, Heartbeat President Jor-El Godsey and Vice President Tracie Shellhouse will explain how this information can be used within your center to evaluate appropriate salary ranges within your unique organization.
March 28, 2023 at 12pm ET
Presented by Meg Carnahan, Senior Director of Women's Services with Elizabeth's New Life Center
When in ministry we often hear people discuss burnout and compassion fatigue as a major concern for themselves and their staff. In this workshop we will look at how healthy boundaries can practically assist in burnout prevention by looking directly to scripture and the example of Jesus's ministry to guide us.
March 29, 2023 at 12pm ET
Presented by Valerie Harkins, Director, Maternity Housing Coalition
This webinar walks new and experienced maternity homes through the step by step process of conducting an effective community needs assessment. Applicable for use with new homes and organizations as well as program expansion.
And remember, you can always access our recorded webinar archives by clicking here.
Use the links below to explore the different ways you can use the Academy to enhance the knowledge and skills of you and your organization.
The Pregnancy Help Institute has provided thousands of pregnancy help leaders with professional training over the years. Over time, this training has been adding key elements vital to the pregnancy help movement as services expand.
And this year is no different. Our 2023 Pregnancy Help Institute will be July 24-28 in Columbus, OH.
We realize you've been to conferences before, but the Pregnancy Help Institute is different. Organized under three intensive tracks (New Director, Development, and Leadership), the Pregnancy Help Institute integrates executive-level instruction in a small-group environment, where you'll have the unparalleled opportunity to process information and strategies with experts and fellow front-line pregnancy help leaders. (Looking for ultrasound training? Click here!)
While 2023 prices have not yet been determined, the 2022 pricing is available below for your budgeting convenience. These numbers should only be used as an estimate for this year's Pregnancy Help Institute. Finalized pricing and registration will be available in the Spring.
I cannot imagine a more fitting training to kick off this new position. I left challenged, inspired, feeling connected to others in the movement. I am humbled and blessed.
If you have less than three years of experience in directing a life-affirming pregnancy center, medical clinic, maternity home, or nonprofit adoption agency, the New Director training is perfect for you. When you combine the wisdom gained from this training with your calling from the Lord, you are truly prepared to navigate effectively, avoid the pitfalls, and increase your effectiveness as a leader. Facilitated by Heartbeat International staff with years of experience in pregnancy help leadership, you'll be in good hands.
Designed for Directors with less than 3 years’ experience leading a pregnancy help organization.
This year, for the first time ever, we're hosting a specialized housing cohort within the New Director Track. While maternity housing leaders have always been welcome in all tracks, this year, we're taking the opportunity to provide specific training with a housing perspective for those with less than three years of experience directing a maternity home.
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I am new to this field and have come away feeling equipped to make suggestions and push back on old systems and events that are less effective. I am excited to foster relationships with our supporters and to see where these relationships take us.
Advancing development through a more robust understanding of the nature and ministry of development is at the heart of this track. Anyone with responsibility for donor development and fundraising will benefit from this advanced training. Seasoned pregnancy help leaders will join Kirk Walden to provide a foundation and training that goes beyond elementary event planning.
Designed for those whose role includes donor development within a pregnancy help organization.
The leadership track went beyond expectations. For the first time in a long time, I was challenged in the area of strategic thinking, and I learned a lot that I will carry with me through life as a ministry leader, mother, and wife.
Created for seasoned leaders, the Leadership track contains concepts developed by Built to Lead, an executive coaching program that has trained CEO’s, presidents, and ministry leaders nationwide. Here, you will learn proven techniques on how to lead effectively both at work and in your personal life and practice those methods throughout the week. Alumni are welcome to return for this track at any point for more training and refreshment!
Designed for seasoned leaders who want to invest in their ministry through leadership development.
All Training Tracks will have prerequisite work that must be completed prior to attending the Pregnancy Help Institute. The list of prerequisites will be included in your registration confirmation
Pregnancy Help Institute training qualifies for the Life Affirming Specialist (LAS) designation.
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