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.
by Carrie Beliles, International Relations Specialist
Kristijan Aufiero is a breath of fresh air and quickly becoming one of the most powerful communicators and effective organizers for the pro-life movement in Europe. Based out of Heidelberg, the pro-life organization he leads is called Pro Femina ("For the Woman") and has been in existence since 1986.
However, it has grown exponentially under Kristijan's leaderhip in the last five years. It was named Pro Femina in response to the Planned Parenthood affiliate in Germany which is called Pro Familia ("For the Family"). Aufiero says "If they are for the family, then we are for the woman!"
An affiliate of Heartbeat International, Pro Femina is an uncompromising grassroots organization that now runs 320 baby bottle drives at churches across Germany with grassroots volunteers and collected 15,000 bottles last year. They grew this drive from only 28 baby bottle drives in 2010.
Mr. Aufiero's excellence in google analytics and fundraising has caused the organization to grow tremendously through its own organic fundraising, and its websites draw in German speakers in Germany, Austria, and Swizterland and elsewhere around the world who type in keywords related to abortion and unplanned pregnancy. When German speakers type in these terms, Pro Femina's subtle but excellent website is often first or second on the google hits. They receive 30,000 views a month on their webpage from German speakers, 360,000 approximately per year and growing.
This website leads abortion-vulnerable women to often chat about these issues in a forum, and email or speak on the phone with one of the 16 full-time, professionally trained, pro-life counselors based out of the Pro Femina Heidelberg office. They also see clients face-to-face in that office, although since they counsel clients across Germany and the German-speaking world, the phone is their primary method of communication. They counseled 2,200 women last year alone.
Since they are growing by leaps and bounds, they are expanding by opening a new pregnancy help center this September in Munich, one of the largest cities in Germany, and also where Aufiero was born and raised by Italian and Croatian parents.
As a German with Italian and Croatian parents, Aufiero is particularly well-suited to speaking to this issue to Europeans of all kinds. An unapologetic pro-lifer, his counselors do not provide the documentation that would enables their clients to go to obtain abortion in Germany.
In Germany, counseling before an abortion is still mandatory and has been ever since abortion was formally legalized in the first trimester in 1991 when Germany was reunified. Prior to 1991, abortion had technically been illegal for all trimesters, although a doctor's note that the woman was undergoing undue stress or psychological problems from the pregnancy would allow a woman to receive an abortion in the first trimester. When West Germany reunified with East Germany in 1991, East Germany had typically liberal Soviet bloc laws on abortion and the current framework was a compromise between the two systems.
Aufiero's counselors do not provide this document of counseling to their clients because they feel they would then be participating in or facilitating in an abortion and thus participants in this act.
When my husband, Ben, and I visited Aufiero in his Heidelberg office this April, he explained that he feared that the laws in Germany were moving toward an even more pro-choice and anti-life position in the near future. But he also affirmed that they would keep fighting for every unborn child's life in the meantime.
A devout Catholic, Aufiero's organization has both Catholic and Protestant employees and is a wonderful example of Catholics and Protestants working together in the name of Christ to end abortion.
Tweet this! Pro Femina is an example of Catholics and Protestants working together in the name of Christ to end abortion.
Aufiero has also created a wonderful communication method for spreading the positive message of life. He calls it "German words" and it consists of postcards printed by Pro Femina which have pictures of beautiful little newborns in entertaining outfits with catchy, positive messages of children on them such as "World Cup Champions 2034," "The Future Chancellor of Germany 2067," and other cute messages that highlight that children are the future and must be preserved and appreciated.
This is all the more important in a country such as Germany where the birth rate is 1.3 children per woman, well below replacement rate.
Over a million of these pithy postcards have been mailed throughout Germany by supporters of the organization - and others who just find them charming. In so doing, the pro-life message has been spread throughout Germany without spending a cent. Supporters buy these postcards for small donations and use them as stationery for their messages. It is a brilliant, low-cost method of propagating the pro-life message that has quickly become well-known throughout the English-speaking world and needs to be utilized in other languages and countries.
We are confident Aufiero will soon be crafting new and better ways of communicating the pro-life message.
Aufiero is willing to use the newest technologies and strategies to mold a pro-life message that will shape the next generation in Europe, a place without many strong pro-life voices and where most pro-life messages are marginalized and labeled extreme. Aufiero is a leader and Pro Femina is an organization that is growing and needs our support to answer the problems of abortion in Germany and Europe in the 21st Century.
Heartbeat International welcomes Carrie Beliles as our new part-time International Program Specialist. Carrie will now be the primary liaison and consultant for Heartbeat'sInternational Program outreach.
Originally from the U.S.A., Carrie's travels and interests have taken her far and wide. From running a pregnancy help center in Rammstein, Germany to advocating against sex-trafficking in Asia, Carrie's passion for life-affirming ministry is evident. She has 5 kids (all under the age of 8) and now makes her home in Virginia with her husband, Ben.
Carrie joins the Ministry Services Team and takes over the role from Molly Hoepfner, who will now be more focused as Heartbeat's Event Planner, especially our Annual Conference.
We are so excited to have Carrie on the team that we decided to do a quick interview so you could get to know her too.
Did you hear the one about the lawyer who traveled overseas and taught a bunch of U.S. military families how to better serve women facing unexpected pregnancies?
Fair enough, there’s not much promise for a joke in that question, but you have to admit, the latest Heartbeat International international training does sound a bit peculiar when you first hear about it.
The story took place October 25, when Ellen Foell, Heartbeat’s legal counsel, taught a day-long session of The LOVE Approach™ to a group of 28 staff, volunteers, and potential volunteers at Heartbeat Crisis Pregnancy Center in Ramstein, Germany.
The center, under the direction of Carrie Beliles, primarily serves U.S. military personnel and their families stationed at Ramstein Air Base, home of the 86th Airlift Wing and headquarters of U.S. Air Forces Europe.
“It was the first time teaching this material, so I really didn’t quite know what to expect,” Foell, who has been with Heartbeat International since 2012, said. “God really put two things on my heart that I tried to express to the group: The first was to encourage them to embrace their unique, God-given giftedness, and the second was to allow themselves to be released to really exercise that giftedness as they sought to serve women coming to the center.”
“It really was great to watch this group wrestle through how to apply The LOVE Approach to the real situations involving real human beings they are dealing with every day.”
While the majority of attendees were Americans connected to the military community in Ramstein, one participant came from another part of Germany with the hope to launch a pregnancy help organization in another part of Germany.
According to Heartbeat International’s Worldwide Directory, there are currently 114 pregnancy help organizations in Germany, although Heartbeat Crisis Pregnancy Center is the only Heartbeat International affiliate.
“These servants learned how to handle a great tool, and that was encouraging to see,” Foell said. “I was really impressed by the cross-section of ages and generations, and thrilled to see the seeds of more pregnancy help organizations being planted in Germany.”
Foell was joined by Heartbeat International Vice President Jor-El Godsey, who keynoted the center’s annual banquet and facilitated a meeting with European pro-life leaders during a three-day span Oct. 24-26 in Ramstein.
by Carrie Beliles
When the annual Berlin March for Life was held last year, my husband, Ben, our four children, our friend Breanne, and I drove the seven hours from where we are stationed with the United States Air Force (Ramstein Air Base), near Kaiserslautern, to downtown Berlin.
On Friday night, we attended a pre-march meeting, with leaders from the pro-life movement here in Germany, as well the Netherlands and members of European Dignity Watch, a pro-life NGO working with the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.
European Dignity Watch is a small, dedicated group of people who do what they do because it is right—not because it’s popular or a good career move—and some of them have been involved in the movement for years.
We encouraged them by relating what we are doing with our center, where I serve as executive director. We primarily minister to American military personnel and dependents, but we also serve locals and foreigners living in Germany who are without access to everything they need to raise their children. Unfortunately, we are one of the only pregnancy help centers in Germany.
The meeting concluded with a prayer, as well as laying out the final details for the next day’s march.
Unlike pro-life marches in the States, the March is extremely intense in Berlin. The counter-protesters were chanting things like, "If Mary would've had an abortion you wouldn't be bothering us now," and, "If you had been aborted we wouldn't be bothered.”
Before we started to march, the organizers asked us to remain quiet, and not to dignify the protesters with a response. The counter-protesters came equipped with whistles, which they constantly blew to try and distract us from hearing the speakers at the beginning of the march.
They continued to try and drown out our singing or speaking with shrill whistles as the march got underway.
The Berlin riot police were out in force, and seemed prepared to put down any real disturbance by the counter-protestors. As we marched along, a burly German priest told us to move into the center of the marching crowd to keep our children safe. Noticeably, there were no other children marching. Our four little children got quite a few smiles, and had a few pictures taken throughout the day.
The organizers handed out large wooden crosses at the beginning of the march, and our 4-year-old, Faith, carried one as she rode in the stroller down the streets of Berlin.
The walk led us along some of the most historically significant sites in world history. We began in front of the Reichstag, which was burned in late January, 1933, serving as the pretext for Hitler’s declaring of martial law. The Reichstag was later restored, and now serves as Germany’s capitol building.
Following the Reichstag, we were almost immediately in front of the Brandenburg Gate, through which Napoleon marched when he conquered Berlin in 1806, and in front of which, President Ronald Reagan said those immortal words to Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
We followed the line marked in the road almost the entire distance where the Berlin Wall had stood from 1961 until 1989, dividing East and West Germany. We marched on past Potsdamer Platz, once divided by the Wall, but where East now meets West in Europe, and turned left onto Leipziger Strasse, heading back east.
We then passed the building that had served as headquarters for the Luftwaffe during World War II and later was the executive building for the East German government.
The dividing lines are much more stark here than in the United States. People here don’t have time for platitudes and half-truths. The sides are as clearly delineated between good and evil as they have ever been in Berlin.
What is also clear here in Berlin, as the whistles of the counter-protestors and the humming of Amazing Grace fade into memory, is that history does change, movements do matter, and nothing stays the same forever.
Just contemplate the tide of history in this place over the last 70 years. What an encouragement to realize that we may one day place abortion on the trash heap of history, along with so many oppressive regimes of the not-too-distant past.
Meanwhile, the killing continues. As must the praying.
Carrie Beliles serves as executive director for Heartbeat Crisis Pregnancy Center at Ramstein Air Base in western Germany.
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