by Betty McDowell, LSW, LASVice President of Ministry Services, Heartbeat International
Saying Happy Birthday to an organization may seem a little odd to some of us since we usually save that sentiment for living human beings. However, organizations are very much living breathing organisms. You can see some of the similarities in the chart below.
Source: Olsen, J. (7/22/2017). Your business is a living, breathing, organism: Interesting patterns in business and in nature. Huffington Post. Retrieved from https://tinyurl.com/ybq4tgrf.
So, let us look at our relationship to this living, breathing organization called Heartbeat International.
I was thinking back to something I read many years ago. I do not remember the secular author’s name, but I do remember what he said. As a PhD. relationship expert he was asked, “what is the most important question we should ask ourselves about a person we might want to have a lifelong relationship with?” The expert responded by saying, “is this person kind?”
This seemed so basic to me, I must admit I laughed at how simple his answer was.
The expert went on to say that while being kind demonstrates true consideration and respect for others, it is also evidence of good character. Is this person kind to all? Are they consistently and genuinely kind both in public and in private? He warned that even a narcissist is often publicly kind to lure others into unhealthy relationships. Observing the consistency of kindness is key to answering the question, is this person kind?
I have been blessed to be married to a kind man and can testify that my genuine, meaningful, and lasting relationships are marked by the common denominator of kindness. My dearest relationships are with kind people. Not perfect people, but genuinely kind people.
While being kind is a virtue we can attribute to people, I also think KIND can be attributed to the pregnancy help movement and more specifically to Heartbeat International. Heartbeat is consistently and genuinely kind. Being kind is part of Heartbeat’s past, present, and future.
Heartbeat and our affiliates consistently demonstrate acts of generosity, charity, compassion, and tenderness towards those in need, those who have no voice and who deserve love and respect.
To be kind also means being willing to confront and to speak the truth to a person, an organization, a system, and/or a government. Heartbeat has been and continues to be willing to be a truth-telling voice to leaders, pregnancy help organizations, the public and government. Confronting issues, even within the pregnancy help community, means disagreements, problems and conflicts get addressed and often resolved or at least clarified. Sometimes the kindest act one can do is to confront.
Dr. Hillabrand, one of the founders of Alternatives to Abortion International, now known as Heartbeat International, in his kind way, eloquently addressed Congress 50 years ago with the following words.
Human life, if it is at all important in our time, must be defended across the board. Any arbitrary exceptions, especially when they become legalized, are potentially dangerous to us all. The most terrible pages of history are those which tell of regimes founded on, or at least tolerant of, disregard of the intrinsic values of human life. The most glorious and courageous are those which recite the contrary. No society or civilization, in the better sense, has survived inhuman principles. Adding abortion through government policy or inadvertent permissiveness to the present state of national and international unrest would suggest little optimism for the survival of our society as we have known it.
The same year Dr. Hillabrand gave this speech, he along with Lore Maier and Sr. Paula Vandegaer founded AAI. An OB/GYN at retirement age, a refugee from Nazi Germany, and a young Catholic nun started something KIND. AAI, now Heartbeat International, a KIND - and one of kind - organization.
K – Knowledgeable. Services provided by Heartbeat and their affiliates are knowledge based. Having a growth mindset learning all things about and connected to pregnancy help is a high priority. From fetal development, pre-natal care, community resources, adoption, parenting, marriage, domestic violence, abortion, drug addiction, homelessness, human trafficking, ultrasound, and pregnancy loss – just to name a few. Creating an Academy providing training, in-person, in print or online. An Academy where we can continue to grow in knowledge and understanding, gleaning from professionals in the areas of medicine, mental health, education, and technology. We in turn offer knowledge and services to our clients helping them make life-giving choices for themselves and their children.
I – Innovative. Heartbeat International holds to our values (Commitment of Care and Competence) while developing and implementing new products and processes to better serve the pregnancy help community. Just look at OptionLine answering 1,000 or more contacts a day – continually improving in efficiency and effectiveness. APRN is a continually growing network ready to assist women with abortion pill reversal. Next Level software development allows us to see in real time the trends happening in pregnancy centers. We live in a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous*) which requires innovative and creative thinking to carry out our mission.
*Bennis, W. & Nanus, B. (1987). Leadership skills & strategies: VUCA world. Retrieved from https://www.vucaworld.org/.
N – Nuanced. Our worldwide network celebrates the opportunity to nuance programs and services. We are Heartbeat International, and while we may understand what works in reaching clients in Houston, Texas, we also know it may not work in Johannesburg, South Africa. Subtle or perhaps not so subtle differences in how services are delivered is expected. Heartbeat encourages nuanced services to better reach people in need.
D – Determined. The founders set our course and we continue to be determined to make abortion unwanted today and unthinkable for future generations. We are determined to change the world through LOVE. The LOVE Approach - We listen and learn, open options, give vision and value and extend and empower women to choose life. We are determined to bring hope to those who need it most.
As we gathered for the 2021 Heartbeat Conference to celebrate Heartbeat’s 50th birthday last week, I was reminded once again of our KIND heritage.
May we continue to thrive and grow as we pledge to be KIND - Knowledgeable, Innovative, Nuanced and Determined.
When we come together at gatherings like this, we see who we are, and we are reminded of the bond we share. We become more visible to ourselves and more visible to our world. Heartbeat does not look like we did 10-20-30-40-50 years ago, nor should we. Even months and years from now we will look different than we do today AND we will still be KIND – kind, a most important virtue for a lifelong relationship.
To this living breathing organization called Heartbeat International I say, Happy 50th Birthday.
by Julie Stepp, Affiliation CoordinatorHeartbeat International
There’s something about 50-year anniversaries that always intrigues me. For one thing, I always seem to be ending up at these half-century landmarks whenever they happen. Whether it’s at my university, in my country of choice for an extensive study abroad, or during the timing of my first full-time job, I find myself celebrating 50 years of something… over and over. I’m starting to wonder, “Does God have something to tell me through all this? Are 50-year anniversaries significant to Him, and if they are, why?”
I started studying where the number 50 shows up in the Bible to search for clues. The first factoid I found was that “Pentecost” means “50” and was a feast that happened 50 days after the Passover celebration of freedom from Egypt. This feast of Pentecost was also called the Feast of Firstfruits and celebrated the harvest God had provided for the people. So evidently “50” was related to freedom, celebration, and abundance in that case. The number “50” also came up in situations involving armies (like a group of 50 soldiers) or measurements (such as “make this area of the temple 50 by 50”). But what really caught my attention was the significance of the Year of Jubilee, which happened every 50 years for the children of Israel and was an entire year of releasing slaves to their families, forgiving debts owed to debtors, and restoring land to its rightful owners. I felt I’d hit the proverbial jackpot. Here was an example in the Bible of a year-long celebration of a 50-year anniversary that God Himself ordained. Maybe here was the answer to my questions about “the year of the 50.”
Let’s take a look together at what God had to say to the children of Israel about this “jubilee year” in Leviticus 25.
First, God told them that every 50th year would be a year of rest – rest for the farmland and the vineyards. This directly followed another year of no crop-planting, as every seven years God commanded a Sabbath rest too. With the 50th year coming right after the 49th, the Israelites were eating what they had planted over 2 years ago. God promised to take care of them through this time and provide for all their needs through their previous harvest. When I read this, I immediately thought about how 2020 was a similar year of rest in many ways. Businesses were closed for several weeks, social events were cancelled or moved “to the comfort of your home.” We didn’t have the option to “plant” our normal seeds in the hearts of our donors and supporters. The pregnancy help movement largely had to depend upon past interactions and strong current supporters to get through this season, and God provided. (Interestingly enough, while we’re celebrating Heartbeat’s 50th birthday in 2021, the fiftieth year of Heartbeat International was 2020. Remember that a child’s first year occurs before their first birthday, and so on and so forth, so 2020 really did match up with our 50th year!)
Then God told His people to “proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants” (v. 10). Slaves were freed and sent back to their hometowns, people who had sold their houses and land were welcome to return to their heritage (very important in those days), and many people got to experience freedom and release. It made me think of the fact that the pregnancy help community does exist to see an end to abortion in our lifetime, but in that existence, we encounter so much more than “the abortion problem.” We see broken families, wounded hearts, drug addiction, physical abuse, and sexual webs woven so tragically you wonder if their effects can ever be un-done. But Jesus came to give us “the year of the fifty.” He came to give not only us, but also our clients, a way out, a way to return to their homeland and repair the broken cities that have been devastated for generations. His power is real, and it works. What we do through pregnancy help inspires people to go back to their families – the places they learned their brokenness – and restore them back to healthy communities.
Last but not least, God promised the Israelites in verse 21, “I will command my blessing on you in the sixth year, so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years,” speaking of His abundant provision to sustain His people through their 2-year season of rest. Because the provision of the 48th year was so great, God’s people survived and thrived until they could reap the harvest of the 51st year. We’re in that season of rest and provision, friends. The seeds you have sown in previous years are still alive in the hearts God destined for them to be placed in. And not only are those seeds planted in the hearts of your donors, but also in the hearts of your clients. You are a two-sided ministry. Don’t doubt that God will bring to fruition what He planted through you in what seems like the distant past. His seeds have a purpose, and He will accomplish what He has set out to do. Don’t worry about “letting the fields rest.” God saw ahead, and He has commanded His blessing on you.
Just a few more thoughts. As a twenty-something celebrating all these 50-year marks, I’ve realized that it’s so sacred to witness a 50th anniversary. Think about when a couple celebrates their 50th anniversary. It’s such a special celebration because they likely won’t get to celebrate another 50-year mark – their 100th anniversary. Many times, different generations are looking at the same fifty mark and only get to see that fifty mark once. In the same way, a 50th birthday for an organization is a moment that all share together. I get to celebrate what others gone before me have prayed for, wept over, and offered their lives in service to. Heartbeat International, and the pregnancy help movement in general, takes skills, viewpoints, and experience levels from various generations to bring true healing and help to our communities. We are a cross-generational movement, and our 50th birthday is a moment in time that captures our passion together. May this “year of the fifty” be a year of rest, release from bondage, abundant provision, and multi-generational celebration.
by Nafisa Kennedy, Director of Option Line
Earlier this month, Option Line celebrated their eighteenth birthday! It's exciting to think that some of the first callers to Option Line could be parents of children who may be graduating high school this year.
Just like over 18 years a child develops into a young adult, Option Line has changed a lot over the years in some amazing ways.
When I arrived at Option Line nearly fifteen years ago, we were a developing, yet still relatively small operation. We were answering calls and emails 24/7, but had just started taking on AIM Instant Messenger during 3 shifts per week. We had a paper schedule posted on the bulletin board each week. Nobody worked remotely-consultants would often come to work at 9pm in their pajamas so they could get in bed as soon as they returned home at 2:30 in the morning.
2021 is a special year for Heartbeat as we announce our 50th birthday. So many things come to mind as we reflect on the original founders’ hearts to offer continuous learning for those serving in the pregnancy help community. While we originally called each annual conference “Academy” we are sure our founders could not have imagined all that is being accomplished today whether in person, online, or in print.
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