Hand of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center is a place that changed the direction of my life, forever. I was a junior in high school, 17 years of age, when I found myself in the bathroom starring down at a positive pregnancy test. I couldn’t believe it, I took another test, and then another, all positive. I was very shaken, to the core, with no idea what to do next. My boyfriend was extremely supportive from the very beginning, but we were still teenagers with no clue of what raising a child might look like. That is when a friend told us about Hand of Hope Pregnancy Resource Center. Hand of Hope is a place where mothers of unexpected pregnancies receive counseling, guidance, and help with providing supplies for the baby. The most important aspect of the Pregnancy Center wasn’t all of the things that I just listed though, it was the fact that these volunteers shared with every woman, or couple, that they encountered the gospel of Christ. When I first walked into Hand of Hope I expected to be judged for the position that I found myself in, but instead I was embraced, and loved. Little did I know then, how much walking into those doors would still be impacting my life four years later.
As my boyfriend and I attended Hand of Hope the volunteer counselors taught us what to expect with our new baby, how to parent biblically, they counseled us in our relationship with each other, and they shared the gospel with us. My boyfriend and I were both already saved (though clearly living in sin at the time), so they helped us sort through the guilt and shame that came from our sin while reassuring us that our child was not a punishment, but a blessing. Ultimately they taught us how to seek God in every aspect of our lives. They walked with me and Chris (my boyfriend) every step of the way through my pregnancy and even after I had our daughter. They showed us the love of Christ at a time when we felt so far from God and his plan for our lives.
In 2014 Chris and I were married at the courthouse in our hometown. In part, because we knew from our counseling at Hand of Hope, that the right thing to do was to get married and provide a stable home for our little girl. We loved each other dearly, and through Christ we were able to be a Godly example of love to our child. I began to pray that God would lead me to where he wanted me to be, and I felt a continuous tug on my heart to return to the pregnancy center, but this time to give back. So I set up a meeting with the director, Tonya, and we caught up on what had been going on in my life and what I felt God was calling me to do. It was then that I shared with her that I wanted to go to school and become a pregnancy center counselor.
Tonya then shared with me that Hand of Hope was an affiliate of Care Net (the largest evangelical pregnancy network in the U.S.). Each year Care Net partners with Regent University to offer one four year scholarship to Regent to a former client of a pregnancy center (out of 1,200 pregnancy centers). Tonya suggested that I apply for this scholarship so that I could be at a Christian university, which was my dream, but very unaffordable with a toddler at home. I was so excited to hear this, and slightly relieved that I could possibly receive help paying for school. At the time I kind of put the idea in the back of my mind and moved on.
My husband and I then began praying that God would bless us with another child. Around my 20th birthday, in 2014, we found out that we were expecting! We were beyond excited at the little blessing we had received and could not wait to welcome this baby into the world. I was about nine weeks pregnant when it began, the sickness, weakness, and I just knew something wasn’t right. We rushed to the doctor to make sure everything was okay, and as she touched that cold gel to my belly, I was terrified as to what we were about to find out. I just knew that she wouldn’t be able to find the heartbeat, and I was prepared for my heart to break in two. Then I heard a loud, thump, thump, thump, thump, and the nurse, “Looks like we have a very strong heartbeat here.” My face flushed with relief. That wasn’t the end of it though. The doctor informed us that I was at risk for miscarriage and I needed to take it easy. Later that night as I laid my two year old to bed, I was greeted with what I feared was coming. Just one gush and a run to the bathroom, and I was holding my nine week baby, looking right into his eyes. There are simply no words to describe the grief and then sudden peace that I felt. My baby was with Jesus now, though I wanted him with me, he was with Jesus.
On the way to the hospital that night I told my husband, “You know God did this for a reason, and I think that he just made it very clear to me what he wants me to do.” In the midst of the horror and grief I was feeling, all I could think about were the moms who are post abortive. The hurt and pain they must feel has to be overwhelming. I knew that through this experience God was preparing my heart to enter into the pregnancy center ministry, to be able to reach not just expectant mothers but post-abortive mothers as well. God broke my heart in order to wake me up to the reality of abortion and the enemy we are fighting.
I was then determined to go to school and do what God was telling me to do. I began speaking for Hand of Hope at fundraising events, and volunteering at any event that I could. Tonya helped me to prepare my scholarship submission for Regent, and I began praying desperately that God would see me through this. If I would be able to attend a Christian university, it would be because God provided it. In August 2015, just one week after what would have been my due date for my second baby, Tonya called me in to her office telling me that she wanted me to shoot a video for a fundraising banquet. We began videoing while she asked me a few questions about why Hand of Hope was important to me. At the end of the video she asks me the question, “What would you say if I told you that you won the Care Net scholarship?” It took a minute for me to soak in what she had just asked me, and then, “Are you serious?” seemed to be the only words that would come out of mouth. My face turned a bright pink, and my heart was pounding. “I am so serious, you won the scholarship!” Tonya said. Wow, what a blessing! I was in such shock. God surely has a way of redeeming our sorrowful moments and days. He takes our deepest hurts and pains and uses them for his glory! Care Net flew me out to California to receive the scholarship at the National Pregnancy Center Conference, where I was able to sit in on training sessions and meet some of the major Pro-Life leaders in the country. God blessed me immensely through this entire experience.
This was just the beginning of this new chapter in my life. After winning the scholarship, I began speaking at churches and sharing my testimony of choosing life and receiving help from Hand of Hope. I was able to share with others God’s grace and mercy in my life. Through my child, God gave my husband and myself a second chance at life. I’ve received so many kind words, and prayers as I have begun my school and as I embrace this journey. Sharing my testimony with others truly blesses me more than people may realize. I feel honored that God chose a sinner like me to pour blessings upon and use as a voice for life in the Pro-Life movement.
Last year I was invited to speak at Hand of Hope’s annual fundraising banquet to share my testimony with over a thousand people in attendance! Not only that, but I would also be opening for the famous quarterback, Tim Tebow’s mother, Pam. Pam became known for being Pro-Life after her Pro-Life football ad aired during a super bowl half time show several years ago. She now goes around to pregnancy resource center banquets sharing her story of choosing life for Tim, despite doctor’s advice to abort. I felt like I was dreaming, to have the chance to not only share my testimony, but to share it while opening for someone like Pam was a true blessing. She was the absolute sweetest lady I have ever met, and her words were so inspiring. After the banquet she came to me and said, “I will never forget you or your family.” I thought to myself ME? I will never forget this opportunity and getting to meet such an amazing woman.
Sometimes I sit back and think that without my daughter, and without being directed to Hand of Hope four years ago, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I wouldn’t be the person that I am today, and I don’t even know if God would have been able to get a hold of my heart the way he has. I wouldn’t be writing this paper right now, and I would not have had any of these amazing opportunities. It makes my heart well up with joy. The goodness, and the faithfulness of God when we choose life, and through all of our experiences we choose it abundantly. You can see his goodness in every journey I have been on since walking into the doors of Hand of Hope. Before my daughter I was headed down a very bad path in life, but her life has given me new life in Christ. It changed the entire direction that my life was headed in and for that I could not be more thankful.