By Ida Smith
As Christians, it is easy to say we are against abortion. But is that enough? Is our task as the church over once a life is born? We can look at statistics and say, “We saved X number of babies from abortion last year.” Yet how many of those babies are neglected, abused, or living in poverty? How many mothers are trying their best but are struggling and overwhelmed?
There is more to saving a life than just preventing abortion. That life grows, and both the child and parents, or in some cases grandparents, need help, support, and encouragement. James 1:27 reminds us that, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”
Reaching the Entire Family
An unplanned pregnancy can be an overwhelming and frightening situation, especially for young people who lack the resources and skills to raise a child. Plans for college, careers, and independence are threatened. For many young people, especially those outside of the church, abortion is the only solution they have ever heard.
Those wandering in the shadowland of despair and uncertainty need counsel in making wise decisions. They need to know what their options are and where to access help when needed.
When thinking of abortion, we often consider only the mother. But Susanne Maynes, Counseling Director of the Life Choices Clinic in Lewiston, Idaho, said 22 percent of their clients are dads or soon-to-be dads looking for direction.
The decision not to abort comes with a myriad of new decisions, tasks, and skills that young parents often lack. They may need prenatal classes, counseling, nutritional guidance, baby clothes, and education on parenting, finances, relationships, and other life skills. Those who choose to place a child for adoption need help developing an adoption plan.
The announcement by a son or daughter about to have a child that he or she possibly can’t care for can be upsetting for pro-life parents as well. Suddenly these soon-to-be grandparents must put aside plans for an empty nest and future retirement as they step up to help with or take over the job of parenting these precious little ones.
Grandparents who step in to raise these children generally operate on a lower energy level—rarely getting time alone as a couple, especially for a weekend, said Kathy Anderson who has raised her grandson for the past nine years. Often parenting-grandparents feel alone—they have different needs and concerns than both people their own age as well as younger parents with similar aged kids. The kids also have a unique set of struggles often expressed through their behavior. These grandparents need encouragement and understanding.
Connecting with Those in Need
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2006 an estimated 49 percent of pregnancies were unplanned. In 2009, over 22 percent of unplanned pregnancies ended in abortion.
The number of women and families in need is great. So are the ways we can help. Yet many singles and couples facing an unplanned pregnancy won’t venture inside a church. If they do, we need to make them feel welcome and reach out to them with open hearts and open hands. Get to know them, show love, develop relationships, offer help—but don’t force it. Be there for them—but don’t make them a project.
If people considering abortion aren’t seeking help from the church, how can we help?
Fortunately there are roughly 2,500 pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) in the United States. These centers focus on education and transformation of lives through long-term involvement, reaching past a baby’s birth. Many, like the Life Choices Clinic, are also medical clinics that offer early, limited ultrasounds.
These para-church organizations are the link between believers and those in need. Through the involvement of the corporate church and individual believers joined with pregnancy resource centers, we can effectively change many lives for today and eternity.
Churches can educate their congregations on the work these organizations do and their need for prayer, volunteers, and support. A great way to do this is by inviting the director or spokesperson from a local pregnancy resource center to speak.
Church members working with pregnancy resource centers can accomplish together what neither can do alone. There are a myriad of ways we can support the pro-life cause.
The most important is prayer. Prayer is vital to change the hearts of a young couple and guide them to choose life. Through prayer, God can help parents see their need for parenting skills. Prayer also demolishes spiritual barriers and opens people’s hearts to a personal relationship with God. Having a team of faithful, committed prayer warriors paves the way for God to move in people’s lives.
PRCs also need hands-on volunteers. There are a variety of volunteer opportunities depending upon a volunteer’s skills and level of comfort. Some areas of need include office tasks, teaching classes, praying with clients, and mentoring. One-on-one mentors have many opportunities to evangelize and guide families into making wise choices, be it in child rearing, finances, or relationships.
Many PRCs offer limited medical help. These clinics need nurse volunteers to perform ultrasounds. “It is so helpful to have volunteers to see some of the young women,” Maynes said.
Most centers have training to prepare volunteers for a variety of situations. These volunteers have opportunities to connect with people who would never enter a church. Maynes began as a volunteer and still remembers the people she met. She feels the three hours a week she spent volunteering was very rewarding.
Many pregnancy resource centers flounder without the support of local churches. Your church’s commitment to partner financially with a local PRC secures its ability to continue ministering. Maynes, who has worked for the past six years to educate and help women, admits that not-for-profit PRCs can’t afford to minister effectively if the money isn’t coming in.
Churches, small groups, and individuals can also help with top-of-the-line advertising. When the Life Choices Clinic received funds for billboards and movie ads shown in local theaters, they were able to reach more women seriously considering abortion.
Volunteering your resources can be as in-depth as helping with monthly financial needs or as simple as donating new and gently used baby clothes and supplies. These latter items help ease the burdens some families face and open the door for the gospel.
In Titus 2, Paul admonishes those who are older to set good examples and for the older women especially to teach the younger women how to love their husbands and children. Similarly, in 1 Peter 5, elders are admonished to willingly shepherd and set examples. Imagine the strength of families and children if young mothers and fathers had godly women and men helping and setting examples of how to be spouses and parents.
How much of a difference can a PRC ministry make? The answer is: a huge difference. Yet it only begins with saving the life of an unborn child. Maynes noted that with an all-encompassing approach to meeting the needs of these families, they see several people a year accept Christ as their Savior. She has seen some clients who were exploring various religions and spirituality turn to seek God. One dad had left his wife and came in to the Life Choices Clinic with his girlfriend. Over time, after learning biblical principles, he chose to start working on his marriage.
“The results aren’t always evident right away, but sometimes clients return to the clinic and share the positive impact made in their lives,” said Maynes.
As believers, we have an awesome opportunity to make a difference—not only today but for the future. Let’s dig in for the long haul, knowing that, at birth, the battle for a child’s life and soul has only just begun.
Ida Smith is a freelance writer in Lewiston, Idaho.
Valuing the Undervalued
Here are a few practical ideas to show love to those who may not experience it often.
Pregnant women who are on their own: throw showers, provide companionship at doctor’s appointments, and show an openness to ask questions and offer advice.
Moms and dads who don’t have a lot of support: babysit, listen, cook dinner, help around the house, and brave the chaos of toddlers just to hang out with their parents.
Foster children: give time and attention specifically to them, help them connect with other kids their age, listen to their thoughts and ideas, tutor them on skills they’ve missed in school, do crafts together, and celebrate their birthdays and accomplishments.
Children and adults who are handicapped: don’t hesitate to give them your attention, offer help but celebrate independence, and consider their needs when planning activities.
Women who are recovering physically and spiritually from abortion: listen, pray with them, walk alongside them through the process of confession and forgiveness, and welcome both sharing and privacy.