by Betty McDowell, LSW, LASVice President of Ministry Services, Heartbeat International
Mary Anna Russo LaRosa (pictured on the right with her two oldest sons, Frank and Al) could not have imagined how the decision she made 100 years ago in 1921, at the age of 25, to sail from Italy to Ellis Island, NY would shape generations to come.
My grandmother Mary was born in 1896 in Caltanissta Province to Liberio and Concetta Russo and was married off at the age of 13 to my grandfather, Alfonso, who was 13 years her senior. My understanding is that life was very difficult for this young woman as poverty, war, and hopelessness surrounded and invaded her life. Alfonso, my grandfather, headed to the United States in 1914 leaving behind his young wife and two small boys. He left to start a new life in the land of opportunity. The seven years apart proved to be very difficult for Mary and her two young sons as they lived without support from family and suffered hardship upon hardship. As a single, vulnerable mother, Mary became a victim of rape which resulted in a pregnancy and the birth of a son. The shame of rape, the pressure to hide this shame, and the anger of my grandfather (who was informed of the rape and birth of a child through a letter sent to him in the US) resulted in Mary placing her son in the care of another. Mary and her two other sons had to say goodbye to this child, never to see him again.
I have tried to imagine what it must have been like to kiss a baby goodbye, board a ship headed to a land with a language unknown to me and sail the ocean with two young children in the hopes of making my way to a husband not seen in seven years. The anguish, the grief, the fear she must have experienced fills me with compassion for a grandmother I never had the privilege to meet. Mary passed away before I was born but I have cherished the grandmother memories of my older siblings and cousins.
After arriving in the United States and making her way to Cleveland, Ohio, Mary and Alfonso went on to have three more children, my father being one of them. I have been told stories of what a sweet, kind, faith-filled, loving woman my grandmother was. My father once shared with me that his mother lived with a great sadness, but it was not until my adult life that I became aware of just how deep the sadness and how great the pain was she bore throughout her life.
My brave grandmother left quite a legacy. Due to her faith, love of family, willingness to bear shame, poverty, loss, pain, inequality, and prejudice, she provided for and shaped the lives of her six children and 18 grandchildren. Mary’s life has continued to shape the lives of generations she never met, those of the 26 great grandchildren and those of her great great grandchildren as we share her stories with them.
My cousin shared a precious childhood memory of often seeing my grandmother kneeling and praying. I would love to know what Mary carried deep in her heart of faith and I wonder if she prayed for the future generations of her family. I’m guessing she never thought that 100 years after she boarded a ship to America her story would be told, and her bravery celebrated.
This Mother’s Day my family and I will take a moment to honor the memory of brave moms like my grandmother, Mary Russo LaRosa, and pray for the brave moms of today and their future generations.
Happy Mother’s Day 2021!
by Mary Peterson, Housing SpecialistHeartbeat International
My young nieces are on a chicken kick. They have hatched eggs, studied the various chicken breeds, and dreamt about being chicken farmers. When I catch them on the phone, chirping sounds fill the background. With a little chick cupped in their hands, they rattle on and on about this chicken's unique features, filled with stories of how cute it is now and how many eggs it will lay in the future.
Their love is a testimony to new life and springtime. It is simple and good.
The egg is a symbol of Easter, often found in religious artwork to indicate life springing forth from the darkness of the tomb. That symbolism has spilled over into the egg-dyeing, egg-hunting, and chocolate egg-eating traditions that we associate with Easter.
And in some ways, the egg echos the work of maternity housing. The women we serve often arrive trapped in the darkness of their lives but literally filled with life and possibility. We fuss to create a little corner that is safe and cozy for them; we fluff and fill their space with items to communicate excitement about their presence. We attempt to keep that mom in the warmth of a lived Christian experience and do regular check-ins to see how things are going.
We hope and pray in anticipation that new life will spring forth. We trust that renewal and redemption is possible in her life, just as we seek it in our own life. We accompany her as she awaits the new life that she carries and serve as a model of rejoicing and celebrating in the preciousness of that life.
May your egg traditions help you to remember the joy of life springing forth. May this season of Easter and spring and renewal and possibility have an impact on your life. May people look at the way that you love within your work and be inspired. May our hearts be simple and good!
by Candy Marballi
The Prayer Covenant is a ministry focused on leading children and adults to follow Jesus through the power of prayer. The Prayer Covenant for Women is designed to speak to the hearts of women and encourages them to boldly approach God’s throne in their time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Each line of the prayer is based upon an unshakeable truth and centered on the person and presence of Jesus Christ. Each line of the prayer has a corresponding scripture to encourage and equip the reader with Biblical truths. Scripture enriches our prayer time with Jesus, inviting Him to speak to us.
Whether praying the Prayer Covenant for Women yourself or with a friend, I’m not sure there is a more beautiful expression of showing our love for Jesus and for one another than through prayer. When we pray, we give ourselves fully to Jesus--receiving His love, His compassion, His mercy, His healing and His forgiveness.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6,7) Prayer replaces despair with hope, sorrow with joy. It fills the deepest longing within our hearts--soothes our fears and comforts us even in the darkest valley. Whether a few minutes or hours, prayer is life-giving and fills us with hope because we are in the presence of the greatest hope giver.
Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. (Jeremiah 33:3)
The exact history of April Fools’ Day is a mystery. Tradition includes playing pranks and practical jokes on friends, family, co-workers and others. Even famous personalities and businesses have been known to create outrageous April Fools' hoaxes. I remember back in 1996 when Taco Bell fooled people with the announcement of purchasing the Liberty Bell and renaming it the Taco Bell. Some quickly realized the silliness while others were downright offended until they made the April Fools’ Day connection.
This year April Fool’s Day falls on Thursday of Holy Week. Some may feel uneasy about April Fool’s Day having such a close connection with our precious Holy Days and joyful Easter celebration, but I am at peace as I see a deeper perhaps even prophetic connection.
We currently find ourselves living in a world where “wisdom” from institutions we once held in esteem like the AMA, Universities, Government and even churches now tell us that we who hold to our ancient biblical values and Christian faith are foolish. The war on the value of human life wages as the cultural pressure increases to compromise, comply, and embrace a progressive view which completely goes against the biblical truth, that every person is made in the image of God and holds precious value at each stage of life.
If holding to my convictions regarding the value of the unborn means being counted a fool by the world’s standards, I am more than okay with that and you should be too. After all we are in good company. The disciples must have looked like fools to the Romans – and even many Jews – when the Chief Priests and others were clearly turning against Jesus. Shouldn’t they have seen the writing on the wall? Judas certainly seemed to think so. Christ himself was considered a fool. He was mocked, condemned, tortured, and hated for serving, healing, teaching, saving and loving others.
It seems fitting to me that this year April Fool’s Day falls just before Good Friday. After all, the ultimate April Fool’s hoax was really played on the enemy of our souls. Christ willingly chose to look like a fool when he gave His life for ours. The enemy thought he had won. The enemy thought himself wise and rejoiced for three days when Christ died and was buried.
BUT then…Christ arose and won the victory.
I do have hope that a time of revival is coming, a time when people will awaken from their stupor and follow God with their whole hearts loving what He loves and hating what He hates. Until that times comes, when I find myself troubled by the “wisdom of this world” I comfort myself with this scripture.
“Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a ‘fool’ so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’ and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.’ So then, no more boasting about men!” (1 Cor 3:18-21)
From all of us at Heartbeat International we wish you the wisdom of God and the joy of a Happy Easter.
by Kim Hayes
What is true? What does love require? Will I trust God? These are the questions which guide my life and shape the narrative.
Narrative identity theory postulates that individuals form an identity by integrating their life experiences into an internalized evolving story which gives you a sense of unity and purpose in life. In essence, it integrates your view of the past, present and future and acts to guide your thoughts, goals and direction in life.
In his book, We Will Not Be Silenced, Erwin W. Lutzer responds to the cultural assault on the church. This has resulted in many churches submitting to the culture in many areas, especially in regard to sexuality and even weakening our stance on the sanctity of life. The cultural narrative has had a devastating effect.
Re-shaping the narrative is worth the effort to win back the lost. The church must take the lead in clarifying who God says we are and what His Word teaches accurately. When we rewrite or soften the message to make it work along with what is going on in the current culture, we are doing great harm to the kingdom and damaging our ability to bring light into the darkness and help people understand what is at stake for eternity.
Jesus commanded us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves—following this directive we can speak powerful truths to individuals. This requires educating ourselves from reliable sources, focusing on what is truly essential and then forming a narrative built on Biblical wisdom to guide our own lives and encourage others.
We all need a standard to follow, to act as a compass as we navigate through life. A compass is a great metaphor because of its consistency in guiding individuals who have learned how to use it to determine direction. But in the great divide in our nation, we need to realize we are not all using the same compass.
Radical Secularists are utilizing a compass that is focused on false principles if not outright lies. So we will compare two compasses as an exercise to lay out the major differences between Radical Secularists and Christians to hopefully draw us toward more effective strategies for the future.
The true compass, the Essential Narratives of Christ followers, primarily operates on the principle of LOVE. When life takes us to the deepest darkest places where confusion and discouragement can crush us, leaving us to question God and His goodness, love is the only answer. His answer to our confusion and discouragement is a cross.
To empower and guide our clients in crisis, we also have TRUTH as a primary point on the compass. Whatever negative, misleading or outright false thought seeks to dictate our decisions, we need to bring it into the light of truth.
Our compass leading us to Christ also offers HOPE and FAITH. You may have heard the statement, “You can choose to be a victim or a victor.” We all have witnessed people who have thrown off and rejected victimhood as an identity and chosen to allow hope and faith to find the way forward.
These are the four primary points of the compass. In between are additional points. Biblical wisdom, trust, grace and forgiveness, and, finally, obedience all play key roles in guiding us as well.
We need to be prepared both with the essentials to solidify our own narrative identity and to guide others. 1 Peter 3:15 admonishes us: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Kim Hayes is a writer for Pregnancy Help News. She has been a teacher, author, speaker and facilitator for marriage and family issues and married for over 35 years to Jeff, with four grown children. Kim's counseling experience included 21 years as a volunteer consultant and trainer at Pregnancy Decision Health Centers. She was the athletic director of Columbus Crusaders Youth Sports ministry for 15 years. Kim has written several books, including the latest release, Prodigal Rewind: The Grateful Son. She is presenting Essential Narratives as a part of the 2021 Heartbeat International Virtual Conference.
“And last of all, as if to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.” I Cor. 15:8
The Apostle Paul was known for his ability to connect his faith to disparate groups, from fellow Jews to Greeks in Athens, to political leaders. Paul could “make the case” for Jesus and His resurrection like almost no one else. He wrote much of what we call The New Testament.
In short, Paul was a force to be reckoned with.
Was Paul a great theologian? Sure. Heck, he invented theology, for the most part. Was Paul a terrific apologist? There was probably no one better, except for Jesus of course.
But if we get to the core of who Paul was, we find he was quite simple. Because when it came to theology or apologetics, Paul stuck with one tactic, using it again and again. We might say that when it came to sharing his faith, Paul was mostly a one-note wonder.
His crafty strategy? Telling his story. We find this in I Corinthians 15, where he lays the foundation of the Good News, that Jesus “died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.” Simple stuff. But there’s more.
Paul goes on to speak of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to Peter, the twelve disciples, another 500 people, James, all the apostles, then . . . “as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”
Paul told his story. In fact, Paul’s story of Jesus appearing in front of him was Paul’s connection to the resurrection he speaks of so often.
We see the same in Acts 22, where Paul spoke in front of the Jewish council, beginning with his story of his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 22:1-21). Later, in front of Agrippa in Acts 26, Paul shares the same story.
Certainly, Paul did much more than tell his story. But in so many of his encounters and letters, he refers back to this one story as the foundation upon which he builds his defense of the One he followed, Jesus.
We can do the same. When we have opportunity to talk about our faith, we don’t have to know every verse or defend against every argument. All we need is our story. Because just like Paul, our story is more than enough to show someone Jesus is real.
The next time we sense the need to talk about our faith, let’s start with our story. Because for many, our story will be more than enough to open the door for a valuable, faith-filled conversation.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
by Tamara “Tammy” Hall, M.ED
Tamara Hall will be presenting a workshop on this topic at the 2021 Heartbeat International Annual Conference in Columbus, OH. Click here to learn more about all Conference options.
“STOP, DROP AND ROLL” If ever we are on fire, these words of warning are so engraved in our subconscious that our survival instincts will spring into action, sending us rolling to the ground. The three simple words, although rarely needed and arguably dramatic, are indeed life-saving techniques.
I find it an irony of adulthood that the childhood commands, “stop, drop and roll” have morphed into oft used, although ineffective, tools for those facing personal, financial and spiritual trials. Overwhelmed and under-appreciated, many workers and volunteers emotionally revert to an updated version of the childhood directives:
Stop communicating out of fear of offending anyone, even those we love.
Drop out of activities we previously enjoyed and responsibilities we previously embraced.
Roll into a figurative fetal position of fear and inaction.
And yes, these behaviors might temporarily smother the flames but they will not extinguish the fire. 2020 with its polarizing political rhetoric and the COVID pandemic exacerbated our stress levels like athletes binging on steroids.
Given the seriousness of today’s topic, you may wonder why I added the somewhat humorous sub-title, “Burnout is not a Way to Keep Warm.” The answer is simple: people learn more and retain longer if they are enjoying themselves. Discussing even serious topics with laughter does not minimize the pain of a life out of balance. But like the proverbial spoonful of sugar, laughter does help the medicine go down. And most importantly, it’s biblical: “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs: 17:22).
Trust me friends, you do not want dry bones. It’s a sign of death. You show me a person who has lost their ability to laugh and I’ll show you a person who is on emotional life support.
At the height of the COVID epidemic, pro-life workers, volunteers and leaders were defined by many as “non-essential.” How demoralizing. How demeaning. Those who made, shipped and sold baby products were widely considered essential but the people saving babies were considered as disposable as the babies they were dedicated to saving. Our secular society offered political and financial support to abortion centers (aptly described in John 10:10 as, “The thief who comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”) Meanwhile, the same people declared financial and political warfare on those who protect the very children God knitted together in their mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13). The definition of the pro-life movement as “non-essential” was designed to demoralize the very warriors who stand between life and death for the most vulnerable.
How sad. How crazy. How evil.
We are doing God’s work and we must cling to his promise that He will never fail us. He holds us tightly when we weep, He picks us up when we fail and He rejoices with us every time a precious child breathes his or her first breath.
When the burden of stress and burnout threatens to send your life spinning out of control, remember the new and improved version of Stop! Drop! And Roll!
Stop listening to the attacks of the world. Turn off the turbulent chatter and embrace the peace of a quiet prayer time. “Be Still and Know that I am God” Psalm 46:10.
Drop the unrealistic burden of being all things to all people. Focus on those things that glorify God, restore your family and clarify your calling.
Roll with the punches. God doesn’t promise us an easy life. What God promises us is far more valuable: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest” (Psalm 119:13).
God promises us eternal life. He promises to bring justice in His own way, in His own time. (…and lest we forget... Stop Drop and Roll will be totally ineffective against the fires raging around those who reject God’s mercy and grace.)
If you are a part of the pregnancy help community experiencing a struggle right now, please know this: Your burnout and discouragement are real and understandable. Your life is stretched and pulled like ill-fitting masks at a Zumba class.
Nonetheless, you must not give up or give in. God has called you to this work and he will equip you. One step at a time, one day at a time, one life at a time….you make a difference.
Tamara is an award-winning newspaper columnist, radio host and speaker. She has presented in 49 states and 8 Canadian provinces. She was a speaker for the Family Research Council DC Briefing and emceed for President Bush and President Trump when they visited Montana. Tamara authored the gift book, Motherhood: A Noble Calling. This book, beautifully Illustrated by Alora Foreman, is empowering women to embrace the miracle of Motherhood.
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.
In fact, the Heartbeat International Annual Conference alone, has grown far beyond what our founders could have imagined. Who would have guessed 50 years ago that we would be hosting simultaneous events in person and online in 2021 to accommodate as many attendees around the world as possible?
And that’s just once a year. Heartbeat Academy has grown so much more. Throughout the year, over 7,000 active students participate in more than 350 webinars (live and recorded), online courses, and distance-learning opportunities. Even when we aren’t live in person (though those trainings continue!) there are thousands of hours of training online for pregnancy help volunteers, staff, and leadership working to provide excellent assistance to those who feel alone and hopeless in an unexpected pregnancy.
Our founders also had vision for a Worldwide Directory Desk Reference (which you may have received recently as a Heartbeat affiliate) to make the help we offer easier to find. This resource is a collection of all existing pregnancy help services which allows for connecting those looking for help and those looking to help with alternatives to abortion. The first directory published in 1971 compiled nearly 200 entries. In 2021 the Worldwide Directory contains over 6,800 entries and contains the most complete list of pregnancy help providers in existence today. The Directory also exists online.
Another way our founders wanted to help connect women to the assistance we provide was a “call center” where women could find help 24/7. While some call centers existed before then, that dream became a nationwide reality in 2003 when Option Line was established. Since that first answered call, we have reached over 4 million men and women looking for answers in an unexpected pregnancy. This was the vision of our founders and continues to be our joy as we connect men and women looking for help to you, the pregnancy help community, now with more than our founders could have imagined using not only a 1-800 number, but text, email, a website and more.
So much has happened since our early days back in 1971. We now are the home of the Abortion Pill Rescue Network as well as the go to on-line training source for nurses and sonographers learning about ultrasound. Heartbeat also established the Life Affirming Specialist designation to encourage and recognize the efforts of those serving in the pregnancy help community. Again, we can only imagine the joy our founders would have seeing how God blessed their efforts in the past 50 years.
As you engage with Heartbeat International, you participate in a network whose vision is to advance pregnancy help worldwide. You are making a difference for life as you become equipped with the most up-to-date, sector-specific resources available. Thank you!
We have much to celebrate in 2021. Not only do we at Heartbeat celebrate our 50th birthday and the reality of the vision of our founders, but we also celebrate you. We look forward to the next 50 years as we together carry out a vision where abortion is unwanted today and unthinkable for future generations.
Thank you for working and growing with us and please know we are here to serve you, just like we have been for 50 years. There’s more to discover every day here at Heartbeat International!
by Andrea Trudden, Communications and Marketing DirectorHeartbeat International
As you open your doors and greet your first client, take heart in knowing that you may be the one source of light she encounters today. We know the battles these women face. The challenges they endure. In some cases, the abuse they suffer. And yet, they found you!
You are the whisper in the chaos that lets her know there is still hope! And God guided her to you.
She is a daughter of a mighty God who is above all else. He is greater than any obstacle that she sees and through His strength, she can accomplish much more than she could ever imagine. And you get to share that great news with her.
What a gift you are to her!
What a gift you are to us.
Being called into this movement is a gift. He calls us because we each play an intricate role in advancing a culture of life.
He has blessed each of us with different strengths with an intention. Some people you know, maybe you, have a natural talent to inspire the people around them to give of their time, gifts or talents. Others, an amazing attention to detail that keeps your schedule and your organization running like a well-oiled machine. Still some, the ability to empathize whole-heartedly with each person they encounter, connecting with clients in a meaningful way.
“For the body is not one part, but many.” 1 Corinthians 12:14 (NASB)
By possessing different strengths and using them to work together, we see true change. And through change, we see life!
We may not always understand the skills of those around us, and some people may downright confuse us at times, and yet each and every one of us has a role to play in this great work. Therefore, be encouraged to recognize the strengths of those around you and offer a word of affirmation to them.
We know the impact this has with our clients. How a smile and a word of encouragement can change their mindset in a moment! We know that when people have a feeling of belonging and significance, they are more confident and make positive choices in their lives.
The same is true for our family, friends, and colleagues.
We are each called to bring light into the darkness. Let us help others shine their light brighter as well!
Examples of Words of Affirmation
by Betty McDowell, Vice President of Ministry ServicesHeartbeat International
This morning I found myself singing O Holy Night. I know, who wakes up singing a Christmas carol about night, right?
I kept going back to the line:
“A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices...”
The weary world...
Weary! Now that is a word in this carol I never really thought much about. A dictionary definition can tell us a lot about weariness.
Weary: physically or mentally exhausted by hard work, exertion, strain, etc.; fatigued; tired.
For many of us that word just seems to best describe our current state of being. Weary from a pandemic, weary from isolation, weary from fear, politics, sickness, suffering and loss.
This has been a weary season. So how can a weary world rejoice?
Looking back to the time of Christ’s birth, I imagine a weary Mary and Joseph journeying to Bethlehem, three weary wisemen following a star, weary shepherds watching their flocks. Perhaps the prophets Simeon and Anna were weary waiting for the Messiah to come. What kept them all going? I suspect it was a “thrill of hope” and hope did not disappoint.
Mary and Joseph welcomed their newborn son Jesus. The wisemen persisted and encountered the newborn King. The shepherds met the Lord their Shepherd and the prophets witnessed the grandest of prophecies fulfilled.
Hope: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.
If your soul is weary, focus on the thrill of hope; hope because our God came to be with us to save us, and hope because He has promised to return setting all things to right. It’s that thrill of hope that we truly celebrate on Christmas and the reason we share the Good News of salvation.
God is with us. God is for us. He knows our need. There will again be a new and glorious morn. In His name all oppression shall cease. A time is coming when all will be restored as God intended.
2020 has me singing this beautiful carol – all three verses – with new perspective.
O Holy Night
O Holy night! The stars are brightly shining It is the night of our dear Savior's birth Long lay the world in sin and error pining 'Til He appears and the soul felt its worth A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn Fall on your knees; O hear the Angel voices! O night divine, O night when Christ was born O night, O Holy night, O night divine! Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming Here come the Wise Men from Orient land The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger In all our trials born to be our friend He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger Behold your King; before Him lowly bend Behold your King; before Him lowly bend Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His Gospel is Peace Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother And in His name, all oppression shall cease Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we Let all within us Praise His Holy name Christ is the Lord; O praise His name forever! His power and glory evermore proclaim His power and glory evermore proclaim
May you have a Merry Christmas and may the thrill of hope renew you in the coming year.
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