by Ellen Foell, International Program SpecialistHeartbeat International
I recently returned from a trip to Johannesburg, South Africa, site of the 2019 Africa Cares for Life conference on "Bold Thinking, Courageous Steps." Africa Cares for Life currently has 73 member life affirming organizations stretching from Capetown at the southern tip to Pretoria in the north. With over 70 participants present at the conference, I had the incredible blessing to see how God is moving in a different country with a different historical context.
The conference had a mix of black and white South Africans. There were five nations represented. I heard English, Afrikaans, and a variety of other ethnic languages being spoken (South Africa has 34 languages with 11 official languages). But everyone at the conference was there to reach out with the Gospel of Life, to renew their communities and to rescue women, families and babies.
I had the privilege to present a keynote on Conscious Cultural Competence and three workshops on spiritual refreshment as well as mission focus.
Africa Cares for Life came into being through the faithful work of Gail Schreiner, 20 years ago. ACFL and Heartbeat have been in a formal joint affiliation partnership since 2008, a partnership which benefits and expands the reach of both organizations. Daniele Gradwell has attended several Heartbeat International annual conferences and has reciprocated with invitations to Heartbeat staff to participate at the ACFL conference.
In 2018, Africa Cares for Life significantly increased its reach and impact. In 2018 alone, they were able to provide 4,110 consulting hours, equip 600 volunteers, and provide for more than 85,000 women and men who received pregnancy help and support.
This is just a glimpse of what we can do together! Thank you for continuing to share the Gospel of Life where you are and remember that around the world, people just like you are doing this work as well. And praise God for that!
This past August, Africa Cares for Life (ACFL) held its 13th Annual Conference in Illovo Beach, South Africa, welcoming 60 pregnancy help center directors, board members, staff and volunteers from around the nation to better equip themselves to serve women and families.
The theme, “Salt and Light,” highlighted the role of pregnancy help centers as individual lighthouses for their regions, providing clients with a place of hope and guidance by shining in the dark places.
While at the conference, attendees took part in praise and worship, networking with co-laborers in the life-saving mission and personal prayer ministry opportunities. The event incorporated keynote speakers and workshops with topics including:
Here are just a few examples of the feedback ACFL received from attendees:
“This was an opportunity to grow, be refreshed, network and refuel.”
“I loved how God used the speakers to meet my needs—especially spiritually.”
“I am writing to you with such an overwhelmingly grateful heart - to you guys for creating this truly wonderful conference … in this one God has really been dealing with me personally and highlighting a few things that I as a person should work on to become a better child of God and ultimately a better leader for my centre. So thank you (once again) for being obedient to God when He called you to this ministry.”
“[The conference] reminded us that we are not fighting this battle on our own.”
“[I] came away from those sessions feeling rejuvenated.”
In order to pour into the lives of others, pregnancy help center staff must themselves be filled to the brim. Whether through a speaker, workshop or simply spending quality time with others in the pregnancy help community, in-person gatherings like ACFL’s are specifically geared to “fill” pregnancy help workers to get back to the mission with a renewed sense of vision and purpose.
In Fishhoek, South Africa, "Marc and Veronica" hold their newly adopted baby girl and praise God that, after six long years of waiting, He has answered their prayers.
Cradling their daughter, "Jenna", in their arms at the site where she was left by her birth mother, the beaming parents know firsthand the value of the work Baby Safe International is doing.
For Marc and Veronica, the thought of Jenna’s probable fate without Baby Safe’s life-saving innovation is unimaginable. At just a day old, Jenna would likely have been a victim of infanticide—infant exposure—had it not been for the availability of Baby Safe’s deposit box, which empowers desperate mothers with a real choice to preserve the life of their baby.
In South Africa, “baby dumping,” as it is called, is an increasingly common occurrence in both rural and urban areas. Some babies are found in plastic bags in rubbish heaps, others in storm drains, abandoned fields, ditches, alleys, or even in rural homemade toilets.
Some of these children are found, thankfully, alive, while others are found dead—upwards of 500 in the Western Cape of South Africa in 2010 alone—and still more are never found. This sad fact tells us that baby dumping is, by its very nature, widely unreported.
Baby Safe, a nonprofit Heartbeat International affiliate, specifically targets this injustice in its region, just outside of Cape Town, by producing and distributing “baby safes,” where mothers can leave their babies anonymously as a real alternative to the horror of infanticide.
The box has a variety of safety features to insure that proper care will be given to the baby who is left by his or her mother. When a baby’s weight is detected inside the safe, a team of dedicated staff are immediately notified, while a safety backup system assures the baby will be promptly rescued by Baby Safe volunteers.
Through the production and distribution of these boxes, Baby Safe is carefully building a network that enables desperate mothers to choose life for their babies. This network is spreading throughout South Africa, and has broken through the northeastern border to Swaziland.
While its visible efforts are focused on providing an alternative to infanticide for desperate mothers, Baby Safe’s long-term vision is to connect with at-risk women before they reach the point of dumping their babies, with holistic direction that includes Bible studies, parenting classes, nutrition education, and even exercise and dance classes.
To learn more about Baby Safe, and to find out how you can help, visit TheBabySafe.org.
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