by Betty McDowell, LSW, LASVice President of Ministry Services, Heartbeat International
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.
Did you ever stop and think of Andy, Brenda, Jose, Bobby, and Gene around the Christmas season?
But they have helped me celebrate the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” for many decades now. (I’m old.)
Who are they? If I add Bing and Burl you might’ve guessed sooner. Each of these are artists who have gone before us using their singing talents to release Christmas tunes that went on to become holiday classics and treasured songs for generations now. While these artists have faded in familiarity to the new generations, they are consistent contributors to the loop of the soundtrack of the Christmas season.
That’s what happens. The generation before sows into the next generation and the ones to come.
As Heartbeat International is finishing our 49th year and eagerly anticipating celebrating our 50th – our year of Jubilee, if you will – I’m reminded of those that have gone before us. Those whose “songs” we sing still today even without knowing the one who sang it first. Or if they didn’t sing it first, they found a way to sing so many would know… and remember.
At Heartbeat those names would include John, Lore, Esther, and Paula. Peggy, our current Board Chairperson and the 1st President of Heartbeat, sang with our founders for a time. Sister Paula still sings the pregnancy help song of compassion and courage today. Each “sang” of their vision for a network of pregnancy help that loved moms into life-saving decisions. One of Peggy’s best-known and widely used, among the pregnancy help community, “songs” is the LOVE Approach.
Perhaps you can think of names from your own organization’s earlier years that helped write the original melody that everyone on your team sings today. Others have joined in over the years to make the song richer and fuller. Like the Christmas tunes on our playlist today include Mariah and Michael who introduce new arrangements and even new songs that celebrate the very same season. With our own new faces and new songs we become a symphony of servants performing a concert of the Christ-child!
Even as our song selection grows, new voices rise to sing with us today. All singing with the same purpose that the manger reminds us of every year. That the precious Gift of Life is given to all of us for a greater purpose than that one moment realizes.
Take heart in joining the chorus this Christmas and throughout the year.
May God bless you and send you a happy new year.
In case you were wondering, the songs I was referencing are below.
Andy Williams, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”
Brenda Lee, “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”
Jose Feliciano, “Feliz Navidad”
Bobby Helms, “Jingle Bell Rock”
Gene Autry, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
Bing Crosby, “White Christmas”
Burl Ives, “Holly Jolly Christmas”
Mariah Carey, “All I Want for Christmas”
Michael Bublé, “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”
by Nafisa Kennedy, Director of Option LineHeartbeat International
It takes a special kind of person to work on a pregnancy helpline. One has to be compassionate and caring to the desperate women calling in who feel very scared and alone, all the while being strong enough to handle prank calls and angry activists.
Working for a 24/7 pregnancy helpline is a very rewarding job, however, it is not for everybody. Some learn quickly that—while they love the mission—they are not equipped for this specific task. Those who are called to it envelop a unique set of personality traits that help them speak truth and life to each call. These are the heroes that impact more lives than they ever know this side of heaven. And that brings me to Dawn.
Dawn Truesdale. The name itself conjures memories to me that date back almost 15 years. She was one of the first women of Option Line I ever met, and one of the most memorable!
To understand Dawn, in a way, you must understand Option Line. Around the clock, our staff speak with and help people dealing with intensely personal and challenging circumstances. Some of those circumstances would be absolutely shocking to the outside world—like the new mom I spoke with about 10 years ago who didn’t know she was pregnant and had just given birth in her bathroom.
Dawn explained to me how you lose your filter for normal when you start working at Option Line—a fact I later learned by experience. Though a consultant may hear something very unusual, it no longer comes as a surprise to those who’ve worked here for a few years.
Hannah, one of our Option Line crew, put it well when she said, “Dawn never failed to be honest and blunt, and I think that is part of what made her such a good consultant. She also had such good humor and was not caught by surprise”
Dawn was faithful to Option Line. She worked on the phones from the very day of Option Line’s birth. Her work was so important to her, and she never gave up—though I’m sure at times she wanted to. She always said “I’m a fixture around here!” And she wasn’t wrong. She never skipped a beat—even during seasons of personal difficulty, she persevered in her work and even worked extra shifts to make sure the lines were open 24/7. She had the humility to receive criticism with an open mind and was always looking for ways to be a better servant to the women who contact us.
And that is why with her unexpected passing, we choose to celebrate the lessons she taught us.
Dawn was an Option Line consultant for 17 years. She knew what she was doing and she would always take advantage of extra opportunities for training and collaboration with her peers.
Lyndsy, who had the privilege of working with Dawn for the last 3 years, says, “Some of my favorite memories are of our in-person staff trainings where you just never knew what would come out of Dawn’s mouth. It kept things light, and fun. But she also knew Option Line like the back of her hand.... always had the answers and always asking questions even after working way longer than most of us! She was a learner, a giver, a friend, and a beautiful person inside and out and will be forever missed!”
Dawn found the humor in everything. In fact, I do not recall ever having a conversation with her where she didn’t laugh or tell a joke. And not only that, she was a quirky, confident, and an open sort of person. She was friendly and outgoing. She treated everyone she met like a true and trusted friend. That was a quality I always admired, and which was a great gift to our team.
Cassandra, who joined the Option Line ranks almost two years ago, says, “Though I did not get the chance of knowing her for years, I was blessed to know her for the time I did. She imprinted on me and my life in so many ways and for that, I will forever be grateful. She was just always so down to earth and never had anything bad to say about anyone…She was the epitome of what Option Line is about and stands for. Always made everyone feel welcome.”
Dawn was extremely sensitive to the struggles of those she spoke with on the phone, and she extended the same kindness to her colleagues. She spoke kindly to others and showed genuine concern for them.
“I will miss waking up for my shift and having [Dawn] say ‘Good morning my sunshine.’ There is so much more to this than just a statement. When I was going through some hard times in my life she would send me little private messages telling me I was special and a strong woman,” recollects Catharine, an Option Line consultant who has worked with Dawn for hundreds of shifts over the years.
Every holiday party or picnic for as long as I knew her, she would show up, and I mean SHOW UP. If there was a theme, she was sure to rock it.
I will always remember her Christmas attire that she wore during the season: special earrings, sleigh bells, and a Christmas sweater. A string of Christmas lights around her neck, her signature elf ears, and always something festive all month long. Sometimes reindeer antlers or a Santa hat too. Joyful. I remember vividly last December hearing lively footsteps coming toward my office - jingle bells ringing with every step, I knew it was Dawn arriving early for our meeting. Sure enough, she was decked out head to toe.
And I will always remember how she loved her boys. She always spoke of them with pride. From their time as young boys learning the basics of life to college graduation, Dawn boasted of her children.
In the early days of Option Line, she would occasionally bring them by the office. She was a devoted and loving wife, and though I haven’t had the privilege of knowing her husband David personally, I know through Dawn’s testimony that they loved each other greatly and had heaps of fun. As I welcomed my own boys to the world, she offered wise advice from her adventures in parenting-of course with her signature humor.
Dawn completed her mission this side of eternity on November 27th, and she is missed greatly by all of us.
In her final self-evaluation (which she submitted the day before her passing), she wrote “I love helping people! Option Line has been a Godsend...”
If I had the opportunity to respond to her comments, I would say, “YOU were a Godsend to Option Line.” We will always love her and remember her contribution to the world through her ministry at Option Line.
Though this is a very painful loss—in fact, I’m still in shock and disbelief—I do smile as I imagine Dawn in her new heavenly home making tons of friends, rocking the coolest earrings heaven has to offer, and receiving a reward for her faithful service.
“. . . that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us; that the world may believe you did send me.” John 17:21
In John 17:21, Jesus is making a huge request of his Father, “that they may all be one.” Jesus is asking for his followers to be unified behind a bold endeavor to reach the world with the good news. At the end of this verse, Jesus gives his reasoning for such a bold prayer: “that the world may believe that you did send me.”
Aha. If we look at this prayer simply, Jesus is asking for a basic, “If God grants X, the result will be Y.” The X is unity, the Y is that belief in God, and in his son, will flourish. Again, quite simple.
Jesus no doubt knew division would be a temptation, and he was right. In the early days of the apostles, we see Paul calling out Peter (Gal. 2:11) for distancing himself from Gentile Christians. Division, right? And in Acts 15, we see Jewish Christians telling the Gentiles to obey the Mosaic Law (Acts 15). More division.
One more example, one which pertains directly to us comes again from Paul, in Phil. 4:2-3. Here, Paul encourages both Euodia and Syntyche—two women who Paul says, “shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel”—to live in harmony. Apparently, two good people had become divided.
And this is the point. Good people—even in our work—can at times lose a bit of focus, leading to division. Often, this is because these people are driven to change things, to make the world better. They might have strong opinions, which is hardly a negative characteristic. Attempting to do good, they charge forward—sometimes not realizing they’ve failed to bring others along by taking the time to explain their thinking or listen to other thoughts and opinions.
I wonder if this is what happened to Euodia and Syntyche. And they weren’t the only two. Remember our friend Paul? He split from Barnabas over a disagreement about Mark’s ability to serve (Acts 15:36-39). Thankfully, we never see the two share sharp words publicly, and later (II Tim. 4:11), we see Paul asking for Mark, the very man he once thought would slow his work.
Jesus saw unity as vital, because he understood that it would be our unity—our “stick togetherness”—which would capture the world’s attention.
Yes, there are times when we must separate ourselves from toxic situations and people. Our friend Paul dealt with this, telling Timothy (I Tim. 1:18-19) that two men, Hymenaeus and Alexander, shipwrecked their own faith to the point that Paul disconnected from both.
But before we divide, let’s ask ourselves, “Is this situation as important as the gospel itself?” If it isn’t, let’s talk through the issue and find unity. While we have differing denominations and beliefs on many issues, this does not mean we can’t remain united.
Because when we are united, belief in Jesus will flourish. Jesus prayed for us, that this will happen. Let’s stay united, and answer his prayer.
by Kirk Walden, Advancement Specialist
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13
by Jennifer Wright, Editor/WriterHeartbeat International
As election results are rolling in slowly and the votes are coming in close, I, like many of us, am on the edge of my seat. Whatever the outcome, we will experience significant impact. We know that pregnancy help, while not explicitly on the national ballot, has a vested interest in election results this year as in every year. Politics takes an interest in us, and as we’ve seen in places like California, Hawaii, and Illinois, that interest can cause a battle that can distract us from the work we do every day. It may take some time to find out how we will have to adapt for the next four years, but I have absolutely every confidence that this movement will continue to do what's needed for clients.
While we absolutely must be aware of the way politics may affect us and our work, I am reminded of Paul’s words in Philippians. “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances…”
Paul writes this letter to the Philippians from jail. That’s right, he tells the budding church in Philippi that he has “learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” from his prison cell. If that doesn’t inspire them to live well whatever might happen, I can’t imagine what would. Of course, we know that Paul had discovered a secret and was sharing it. Christ is the reason he can live well in every circumstance.
But Paul’s words weren’t only for the Philippians. They are for us too. And this election season, I’ve really had to take them to heart.
Many have been sceptical of President Trump from the start, but the administration has undoubtably been friendly toward the pregnancy help movement. We at Heartbeat have had a couple of opportunities at Babies Go to Congress to share the stories of pregnancy center clients on a larger scale because of a friendly team in the White House. Biden and Harris on the other hand, may be particularly challenging for the pregnancy help movement. Harris in particular, has proven willing to force pregnancy centers to act against their core beliefs by providing resources for clients to access abortion. Fortunately, the Supreme Court halted that law in NIFLA v. Becerra, but our friends in California had almost 3 years of uncertainty surrounding that law and how to respond.
And yet, they continued serving. And so we will – regardless of the outcome of this election. Because we have learned in our five (plus) decades of service to live out our call whatever the circumstances just like Paul. We meet with women in crisis. We speak life into them and pray it bears fruit. We provide the love and support every mother needs to make a life-giving choice. We slowly, one heart at a time, renew our communities. And we do it in abundance or in suffering. So whether we end up with friendly or unfriendly occupants in the White House for the next four years, just like Paul, we can say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Oh, and because we continue to share the good news of life, our clients can say the same.
by Danielle White, Esq.General Counsel, Heartbeat International
I would love to say that I was watching live when Amy Coney Barrett delivered her speech accepting President Trump’s nomination for her to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat. But I was not. As a mother of three kids under the age of five, I am pretty sure I was mediating an argument over the Buzz Lightyear toy, or negotiating with my three-year-old how many bites of green beans it takes to be “done,” or maybe I was advocating on behalf of my one-year-old, who just got birthday toys that her siblings are convinced are theirs for the taking.
Mediating, negotiating, advocating – incidentally, three lawyer skills that translate quite well to raising small humans.
Anyway, I was not watching live. But I did not miss it. When my three angels were snuggled up, asleep in their beds, I tuned in to hear what Justice – er, Judge (sorry, Freudian slip) Barrett said. And I listened a couple times.
This nomination means a lot to me. It is not just momentous for the potential shift it represents in the Court, though I would be remiss to gloss over the tremendous impact that a Justice Barrett could have on our nation’s highest Court. As she emphasized in her acceptance speech, Barrett is an originalist in the mold of Justice Scalia. She believes that a judge’s job is to read the law as it is written, and not “legislate from the bench” or stretch the interpretation of the law to make it fit her own policy preferences.
Since the constitution never utters the word “abortion” or the “privacy” notion on which our abortion cases are founded, a judge with an originalist judicial philosophy is certainly a cause for hope for the only group of persons in this nation who are systematically deprived of their most basic right - simply to be alive. Judge Barrett has the potential to make a serious impact on the way cases are decided.
Yet, there is something personal about this nomination. To me, Judge Barrett represents something deeper, an affirmation of an idea around which I have, at least to some extent, built my life: that women can be both great moms and extraordinarily successful in their careers and other endeavors. That women need not choose between their children and their aspirations. That motherhood is anything but a waste of women’s talents and need not be an impediment to her success, but actually a complement.
My life as a mom of small kids and as General Counsel for Heartbeat has meant many things! Several years ago, I traveled to Washington DC to attend a Supreme Court oral argument in a case for which I was privileged to submit an amicus brief. The very next day, I was home, rocking my sweet daughter to sleep and snuggling her close. These days, especially in the era of COVID, it is not unusual for me to attend Zoom meetings with a toddler on my lap and the Five Little Ducks video on my spare screen to keep her quiet.
It is not always easy – sometimes I am up long after the kids go to bed, working to put the finishing touches on a contract or trying to get my email down to a dull roar.
But it is so worth it, and I am not alone! One does not have to look far (in the pro-life movement in particular) to see tons of rock star moms who stand alongside mothers whose situations may be challenging, offering support, encouragement, and resources. Or advocating for other babies while taking care of her own.
And we watch in bewilderment as the pro-abortion side, the group that claims to be all about women’s empowerment, proclaims that women “need” abortion so that they can be successful in life. This is the least empowering message. We watch in frustration while the media refers to abortion as “women’s rights,” ignoring the fact that the majority of pro-lifers are, in fact, women. But most of all, we watch in sadness when prominent members of our culture proclaim that they had abortions so that they could be successful.
The pregnancy help movement in particular is the mission field that works to support those in challenging pregnancy situations, because we know that women’s futures don’t end where their babies’ lives begin.
And for me, the change on our nation’s highest Court from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Amy Coney Barrett is a tangible example of that. Barrett was not wrong when she credited the late Justice Ginsburg for her contributions to improving the lives of women in this country. But her legacy will be forever stained by her belief that women’s success depended on the right to end the lives of their unborn children. She only got it partially right: Success for women, but at the cost of motherhood.
As the first Supreme Court justice ever to serve while her children are still school-aged, ACB represents those of us who refuse to believe we must pit our children against our careers. Success and motherhood. That’s progress.
So take heart, Amy. There is a caravan of minivan moms who are inspired by your achievements and empowered to embrace the challenges that working motherhood presents – and all, as you so poignantly remarked, without any reasonable amount of sleep.
Image: The moment was captured in a screen grab by Marina Medvin
Join Heartbeat International in signing a letter of support and praying for Judge Amy Coney Barrett as her confirmation hearings draw near.
Introduction by Jor-El Godsey, PresidentHeartbeat International
The pandemic revealed something we already knew, pregnancy help is an essential service even in the face of severe community upheaval. Serving in the heart of one of those communities facing major upheaval, is First Image in Portland, Oregon. For the better part of four decades now this Heartbeat affiliate has been a harbor of life-saving ministry and lighthouse impacting the culture with Kingdom love.
In this particular season, the leadership team of First Image, led by Rev. Larry Gadbaugh, penned a worthy call to their team – staff, board, and supporters – in how to respond to the present challenge:
The upheaval in our culture sparked by the police killing of George Floyd has ignited a movement around racial justice in our country and within the church in our city. The realities that have sparked this movement are not new, and at First Image, we have made some intentional efforts to learn and grow in this area over the years.
Before the current movement began, some of our leadership team had been building relationships with black Christian leaders in our city. We serve a diverse population, and we have known that in order to love our clients well, we need to understand their experiences, perspectives, and unique challenges. So, as a predominantly white organization in a predominantly white area of the country, we’ve asked these leaders what we don’t know. And we’re listening.
We’ve been reading recommended books, participating in listening sessions, and are continuing to build authentic relationships. As we engage, we see that we have more work to do.
In our strategic planning process earlier this year, we identified “fostering diversity” as a key element in long-term health and vitality, both to reflect the diverse vision of the kingdom of God, and to better represent and serve our clients. Fostering diversity sounds nice, but the reality is that we have work to do in order to make First Image a place where we can have true unity in diversity. We believe that Jesus Christ is reconciling all things to himself and calls us to join in the ministry of reconciliation (1 Cor. 15). The work of true reconciliation is deep and it is hard, because it requires us to believe that there is something that’s broken, which needs restoration.
How will we be going about this work at First Image? Here are 4 things we will be practicing during this season and in an ongoing way:
Rooted in the Word of God: We believe that the scriptures are the revelation of God and the grounding of our growth in Jesus. They are also the mirror that helps us to see what we do not see naturally. They leave no stone unturned and call us to the deepest kind of love. The voices we’ll be learning from and engaging with will be rooted in The Word.
Listening: We will continue to build relationships with local Christian leaders of color and we will actively seek to listen and learn from them, to move beyond our own echo chambers. The book and resource recommendations we will be working through together in the coming months are coming directly from those leaders.
Lament: We will not be shy about empathizing with the pain of our neighbors created in the Image of God. The scriptures call us to weep with those who weep, and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). When part of the body tells us it is hurting, we will join it in its pain. As we think about our clients, we understand this intuitively. As our understanding of the experiences of people of color deepens, our lament will deepen as well. We will resist the temptation to harden our hearts in order to merely justify and protect the status quo.
Repentance: Jesus calls us to bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:8). Listening and lamenting are not ends in themselves. They lead us to deeper repentance. Repentance is not just apology, it is going a new way. We will be actively looking for areas in our own hearts and within our organizational culture, practices and policies that need to be reformed in light of the things we continue to learn.
We realize that issues surrounding racism are politically explosive. At First Image, our aim is to go deeper and beyond the political categories to a Kingdom vision that sees and loves the people that God has called us to serve and serve alongside.
We will work to foster an open environment, where we can process together honestly, and where we maintain mutual respect and care for one another.
First Image has been raised up by God as a steward of his transforming grace and truth in Christ. We are embracing his ongoing work of transforming us together to more fully see and serve the diversity of the image of God in our mission, our churches, and our community.
All life-affirming Pregnancy Help Organizations (PHOs) grounded in faith in Christ can insert their organization name in place of First Image’s call for Unity with Diversity.
Recommended reading from Larry Gadbaugh:
by Jor-El Godsey, PresidentHeartbeat International
The Beatitudes, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, are a list of characteristics He calls us to be as well as the spiritual reality of blessings that flow when we fulfill those characteristics. (Matthew 5)
Poor in spirit. Check.
Hunger and thirst for righteousness. Check.
Pure in heart. Check.
I say, “Check,” not because I’ve fully accomplished any of these, but I understand how they are to help me shape my internal person, and my outward effort. I check these as important things to work toward and embrace.
But then I run into the 8th blessing characteristic. Unlike the others, this one does not immediately focus on my inward nature and longing. Instead it invites actions from others. Others who stand against me. In fact, they actually insult and persecute me.
“Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:11a
Wait, what?!? I’m blessed when others insult, revile, mock, lie, and utter all kinds of evil against me falsely? (I’m borrowing from various bible translations to explore what “persecute” fully means.)
Of course these types of things are all very common at the big sports rivalry game each year. But not something I expect when we’re trying to help people choose the Gift of Life and the Giver of Life.
There are many examples in recent years of this very type of mocking, lying, insulting attack against the pregnancy help movement. We’ve documented attacks from NARAL, HBO’s John Oliver, Abortion Access Front (formerly known as Lady Parts Justice League), Texas Handmaids, medical groups, women’s marches, OpenDemocracy, and more.
But the very recent attack against Adirondack Pregnancy Center seem to advance Alinsky-styled tactics at the hands of the Democratic Socialists of America to keep this brand new pregnancy help harbor from even opening their doors. And they attempt to use their Heartbeat International connection to make some grander play. All in an effort to keep local women from having access to a choice besides abortion.
And there it is.
The work of the pregnancy help movement is all about the work of the Holy Spirit in championing the worth of the Gift of Life – for the mom and her baby and the family. It is every bit part of the Great Commandment to love and the Great Commission to go.
This is all for “righteousness’ sake.”
And that is where the blessing comes. When we, members of the pregnancy help movement, are persecuted for fulfilling the call of God to help her choose life, we partake in the blessing of the Cross. Jesus, Himself, was persecuted for righteousness’ sake so that He could conquer the death sentence of sin. And before Him, His prophets were persecuted for even carrying the message of life over death.
Why should we be different? In our way, we speak life to this generation. And they hate us, not unlike those of old hated Jesus (Jn 15:18).
We are blessed to have the gift of being persecuted for His name and His work. It does not make our work perfect, but it does mean our work’s goal is holy. Championing God’s Gift of Life is partnering with Him in a stand against today’s culture of death.
So take heart because the next verse (Matt 5:12) calls us to “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven…”
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