By Tricia Goyer
The young woman sits in a chair, waiting for her turn in the
counseling room. Her creased eyebrows, fidgety hands and the fact she's biting
her lower lip hint at anxiety knotted in her gut. The woman thinks she needs
one answer-to discover if she's pregnant. But the pregnancy care worker
realizes this one answer is just the tip of the ice berg. If the test is
negative, the woman needs a change of heart and lifestyle so she's not sitting
in the same chair again next month. Of course, if the test is positive, some of
her needs will grow with her expanding abdomen. Other needs are hidden even
from her-residing in the mind and heart. After all, women don't walk into the
Center neutral; they arrive with preconceived values and opinions.
"Every woman walks through the door with the need for the answer to one
basic question, "Am I pregnant?" But the savvy Pregnancy Care Center (PCC)
worker knows this woman has many other needs…more, in fact, than she may
While many people think of Pregnancy Care Centers (PCCs) as places where
women go for free pregnancy tests, diapers and parenting classes, PCC workers
understand that even more than these tangible items, every woman is looking for
assurance and acceptance, love and hope.
From Worry to Assurance
A positive pregnancy test can jumble a woman's mind with worries. Worries about
her relationships, school or job, finances and her future.
Caring PCC workers are trained to understand a woman's emotions. Often women
believe: If I have this child, I'm going to lose myself completely. And to a
confused and overwhelmed woman, deciding to have an abortion comes down to
choosing her life (emotionally and situationally) over the child's.
"Initially, as a woman walks through the doors of the Pregnancy Care Center
just being accepted is a great assurance," says Elaine Ham, Pregnancy Care
Ministries Associate at the North American Mission Board. "Not only do we
accept her, we understand her worries, putting her in touch with practical
solutions, such as community agencies that can help meet her financial,
physical and medical needs."
In essence, Pregnancy Care Centers give a young woman assurance by helping
her make a plan for her pregnancy and her baby. This can include making an
adoption plan or choosing to parent. Having the assurance things can turn out
okay helps a woman realize life as she knows it will change, but she doesn't
have to sacrifice herself-and all she values-in the process.
"It's our goal to make sure a woman who is facing an unplanned
pregnancy is actively involved in making a decision that is best for her and
her child," Elaine says. "So many times young women feel that during an
unplanned pregnancy, their lives are at the whim of other people. We help plan
where they go from here, putting some order back in their world."
One way PCC workers help a woman find order is to encourage her to
strengthen healthy relationships-whether with parents, friends, a church family
or perhaps with volunteers at the PCC.
"If the father of the baby is on drugs or is in jail, we address that with
her," says Donna Perry, Executive Director of the Pregnancy Resource Center of
Gwinnett, Georgia. "We ask, 'Are the decisions you're making going to get you
where you want to be in the future?' We ask questions to help the young woman
evaluate how her decisions will affect her child. Mostly we encourage her to
decipher and strengthen what is healthy."
In the end, though, few of these outward changes stick until deeper heart
changes are made. And that's where hope comes in.
From Fear to Hope
Every PCC worker has been drawn to this ministry for a reason. Some have faced
unplanned pregnancies themselves. Others have had abortions. But most have
faced some type of situation in their past when they've felt overwhelmed, alone
and fearful. Remembering these past experiences helps PCC workers tune in to
where the woman is, envision where she can be and then lovingly come alongside
One reason a woman finds herself in the midst of an unplanned pregnancy is
her need for love. Unfortunately it's what she's been looking for in all the
wrong places. A young woman who comes to a Pregnancy Care Center is often
surprised by the love she experiences there, focused not only on the child . .
. but also on her.
"One of the basic things we've come to understand is to love them both,"
says Donna. "For so many years, centers were focused on saving babies, which is
important, but I can't hold, feed and clothe an unborn baby. The only person I
can hold and minister to is the mama. If I don't reach out with love and
compassion to her, I lose all chances at helping that baby. God sent that
baby's mother to me, and she's the one He wants me to minister to."
The Gwinnett Center north of Atlanta ministers in numerous ways, through
abstinence education in schools, free pregnancy tests, group classes, Bible
studies and free ultrasounds.
"We don't love them and leave them," says Donna. "That's not Christ-like. We
ask a woman to do this very hard thing, to give this child life, and we work
hard to support her efforts."
This isn't an easy task. PCC workers have to earn the right to enter the
lives of these women. When entering the counseling room, counselors have to lay
aside all they desire to accomplish such as a woman's positive decisions; her
redeemed sex life; her salvation, baptism and dedication. Instead, for this
time, they must simply focus on being her friend, allowing God to work.
"You can see it in her eyes when she senses the caring, non-judgmental
love," says Elaine. "She won't open up until she trusts you, and she won't
accept truth unless you bond. But as a counselor pours out her love, instead of
looking down, the woman will meet the counselor in the eyes. And depending on
the results of the pregnancy test, it's then you can talk about her real
"We do ask about the woman's spiritual values during our need's assessment,"
adds Donna. "Then we come back to that and share Christ with her before the
appointment is over. We also always end every appointment by asking, 'Is it
okay for me to pray with you?' "
Another outreach of the Gwinnett center is the Hope Program, where women
learn parenting skills. Through the woman's efforts, she can "earn" physical
items such as diapers, clothing and other items. Of course, these women aren't
just placed in front of a video and left alone. Instead, each young woman who
attends this program has a mentor who spends time with her.
"It's so important they spend time with a person," says Donna. "Someone who
asks, 'How are you doing?' and takes time to listen and to show care and
concern. The material assistance received is important, but the emotional and
spiritual support is so much more so."
Of course, the connection between the woman and the counselor shouldn't end
there. It's during this emotionally overwhelming time of facing an unplanned
pregnancy that a young woman often feels lonely and welcomes gestures of love.
With permission, counselors continue to foster the relationship by extending
care and concern beyond the doors of the center by inviting her to church,
taking her out to lunch or modeling Christ in numerous ways.
Elaine Ham remembers one young woman she met who had a huge tattoo of a
spider covering the back of her neck and was dressed provocatively. During a
counseling session, Elaine discovered she was five to six months pregnant and
worked in a bar. After they discussed some ways to meet the young woman's
physical needs, Elaine asked if she attended church. The young woman said she'd
attended a couple of times when she was little. Elaine took this opportunity to
share the gospel.
"Afterward, I asked her, 'Is accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior
something you're interested in doing?' She told me it was, but she wanted to do
it that night at home so she'd be more comfortable," Elaine recalls. "Around
10:15 that night the phone rang. I answered it and a voice said, 'I did it. I
prayed the prayer and started talking to God.' I was thrilled."
After that, the relationship continued and the young woman soon started
attending church. A year later she was enrolled in college to be a nurse, had
joined a Southern Baptist church and was teaching the singles' class.
It's stories like these that excite those who daily give their effort, their
time and their heart to reach women facing unplanned pregnancies. And in the
end it all comes down to one thing, offering a worried young woman the hope and
love of Christ.
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