Entries for March 2013

Many of us are prone to thinking abortion is something that only happens to unbelievers. If that’s true, why do many self-professed Christians end up at abortion clinics?

  • A young woman calls a pregnancy helpline to inquire about abortion. Even though she claims to be a believer and agrees abortion violates God’s plan, she has concluded it’s what she’s “supposed to do” because she and her boyfriend had taken precautions. For her, adoption would be “too hard.”
  • A “Christian” couple is divided over what to do. The young man says he’ll do whatever it takes to stop his future wife from aborting, even if it means confessing to their parents. She’s reluctant to spoil their “fairy tale” wedding plans. 
  • A teenager obtains a judicial injunction so she can abort without her parents’ consent. They are “wonderful” people, yet she can’t bring herself to tell them she’s pregnant. Her plan is to attend Bible college (one that doesn’t accept unmarried pregnant students) and to turn this “difficult experience” into an opportunity for future ministry with youth. 

All three women sought abortions in Grand Rapids – once known as a “city of churches” – during a three-week span in September of 2007. Our hearts broke over these stories that reveal seemingly rampant sexual sin, an alarming depth of selfishness, and an amazing lack of conscience among people who should know better. 

What’s going on? Or maybe we should ask, what’s not going on? Are church people being taught that although abortion is controversial and “political,” it’s primarily a matter of the heart requiring repentance and forgiveness? Do they know the suffering it causes? Do they appreciate the sanctity of marriage and of human life? Do they understand what sexual sin is? Do they know what to do when they fall?

Life Matters became aware of these cases because there’s another group of Christians at the clinics. “Sidewalk counselors” serve as a last line of defense for the unborn and their mothers. They see cars pull into the parking lot, some with Christian bumper stickers. They pray. They extend the love of Christ and the truth about abortion to any who will listen. They tell them about alternatives to abortion and offer to accompany them to the local PCC. 

Lives have changed as a result. Women have walked away from the clinics with smiles on their faces and hope in their steps. They’ve received emotional and material support for the duration of their pregnancies, and beyond. Babies are alive today who otherwise would not have made it, thanks to the tireless devotion of a few.

Sadly, no one was standing watch outside a Massachusetts clinic the day Laura Hope Smith died on the abortionist’s table. Or if they were, she failed to heed their pleas. Reported to be a “born again” member of a Bible centered church, the 22-year-old had no idea September 13, 2007, would be her last day, and abortion her final act. 

While the highest rate of abortion belongs to women with a non-Christian religious affiliation or no affiliation at all, about 15 percent of those aborting identify themselves as born-again, evangelical, charismatic, or fundamentalist.

Mystified by such statistics and by her daughter’s actions, Laura’s mother Eileen admits she’d “always been pro-life in my heart, but sad to say, that’s where it stayed. I thought abortion was here to stay, the law of the land. I thought if I could just practice my Christian faith -- faithfully going to church, faithfully telling people about the Lord and how God can change their lives -- then I would surely be tackling abortion from that end. I still think that’s somewhat true.” 

It is very true, but as she now says, “Parents should also talk about abortion with their children.” 

One t hing parents can do is model proper attitudes, such as:  

1. Sexual sin is wrong, whether it results in pregnancy or not

2. Life is God's gift no matter how a baby is conceived

3. Unborn babies should not be punished for their parents' sins

They can also convey the preventative messages that we published in an earlier Musing. If Life Matters can help, let us know.

This has been a year of transition, not only for Life Matters Worldwide, but for several of our partner ministries who underwent changes in leadership. Chrissy Aguiar is one of them, recently taking over the executive director reins from Delores Wolterstorff at the Modesto Pregnancy Center in California.

Other new names have appeared on the prayer calendar this year, including:

  • Amy Srebinski at Beacon of Hope PCC in Bay City, MI
  • Michael McCrumb at My Alpha Place in Hastings, MI
  • Jen Lake at Faith Wellness and Pregnancy Center in Cleveland, OH
  • Michelle Hayden at Abiding Care PRC in Medford, WI
  • Nancy Buhrow at Agape PRC in La Crosse, WI

The directorship of a PCC is a challenging job, entailing administering people and facilities, overseeing finances and fundraising, public relations and public speaking, spiritual leadership, training volunteers, etc. Directors -- especially new ones -- need our prayer and encouragement.

We were thrilled to host 420 guests at our March 14 banquet, and heard many positive comments, such as this one:  

“The banquet was great! It is important to get people motivated to take action on things and not just write the check (like we have been doing). The message [by Dave Bereit of 40 Days for Life, shown at right] and rest of the program was a good way to spark the fire for involvement in compassion ministries in our communities and around the world.”

You’ll be pleased to know that the banquet brought in over $77,000 (before expenses). That includes donations that night, as well as pledges and underwriting gifts. More is coming in and we expect the total to reach $80,000. Praise the Lord! This is a great encouragement to our staff and board.

Many also committed to being prayer partners and requested information about Life Matters Worldwide, our special projects, and the upcoming Classic at Pilgrim’s Run on Monday, August 12.

Please mark your calendar for next year’s banquet where we’ll celebrate 30 years of ministry. It's planned for March 13 at Frederik Meijer Gardens. Our featured speaker will be Dr. Joseph Stowell, president of Cornerstone University.

View more banquet photos here.

According to research, most women who obtain abortions attend church rarely or not at all. But, although Protestants are underrepresented in the population of women having abortions, it's troubling to learn that "one in five abortion patients [who report having a religious affiliation] identified themselves as born-again, evangelical, charismatic or fundamentalist."1

All too often, teens from Christian homes wind up at an abortion clinic. They know they've done wrong by having sex before marriage. They don't want to disappoint their parents by admitting the truth. Their reaction is almost as old as time.

After Adam and Eve sinned, their natural inclination was to hide and cover up. From Eden on, sin has driven us away from God and each other. Yet the good news is that the cross of Jesus Christ brings sinners back together and to God.

You'd think redeemed people would know better, but sometimes the messages we send our teens express an utter lack of grace: "Don't bother coming home if you get pregnant!" "I'll disown you if you ever humiliate me that way!" or "You'll be expelled from your Christian school!" . . . as though unwed pregnancy were the unpardonable sin.

Sometimes these are only how teens perceive adults will respond, and not what parents or others have actually said to them. It's appalling to think of the number of babies who have died based on misperceptions like this, or how heartbroken parents are when they find out a grandchild has been killed on this basis.

Let's get one thing straight: sexual sin is wrong whether it results in pregnancy or not; pregnancy is God's gift in spite of sin. Unborn babies should never be punished for the sin of a parent.

Some teens are confused on this point and see ending a pregnancy as a way to avoid admitting sexual sin. Some parents of wayward teenagers believe abortion will save their reputations. 

Pregnancy may be a consequence of sexual sin, but not always. When it does occur, it is an undeniable sign that something is wrong. The message that's too often heeded is this: "Getting rid of the unborn baby gets rid of the problem." 

Abortion does not, however, bring the hoped for freedom, joy, grace, acceptance, love, peace, blessing, and hope that confession of sin provides. No, it only compounds the sin and sorrow.

How can we spare each other the pain? What messages can parents, churches, and Christian schools give teenagers to help them understand both the sinfulness of sex outside marriage and the futility of hiding a resulting pregnancy under the cloak of abortion? How can we encourage confession and pave the way for transformation . . . long before our children face these temptations?

  • Leave doors of communication open: "You can talk to me about anything." 
  • Express a willingness to help in times of trouble: "Whatever happens, we'll get through it together."
  • Be honest and mature about your emotions: "I may feel hurt and get angry when you disappoint me, but I'll never stop loving you."
  • Show mercy to anyone who confesses sin (sexual or otherwise), following Paul's example in 2 Corinthians 2:5-8: "You are forgiven."
  • Demonstrate compassion to families who struggle with their teenagers' unplanned pregnancies: "How can I help?"
  • Celebrate every baby's life, regardless of how he or she was conceived: "Thank you for not choosing abortion!"

Where will a teenager go when she becomes pregnant outside marriage? To her parents or to her friends? To the pregnancy care center or to Planned Parenthood? To her church or to the abortion clinic?

Let's not abandon teenagers (or anyone) to abortion through thoughtless comments, becoming unwitting accomplices in their decisions. Let's choose our messages wisely.

1. "Characteristics of U.S. Abortion Patients, 2008," Guttmacher Institute, May 2010, page 9; note that this would be 15 percent of the total number obtaining an abortion (20 percent of the 75 percent who report a religious affiliation). An earlier study found that 13 percent of women obtaining abortions call themselves 'born-again' or 'evangelical' (Jones et al., "Patterns in the Socioeconomic Characteristics of Women Obtaining Abortions in 2000-2001," Perspectives on Sexual & Reproductive Health, 34:5, September/October 2002).

I love getting newsletters from our partner centers because it makes writing this weekly blog post easier. They give me fresh news, and sometimes a compelling message to pass along. 

This week, Mari Bowers, executive director of Compassion Pregnancy Centers in Angola and Lagrange, Indiana, filled the bill. Her newsletter started out with one of my favorite pro-life verses and then illumined it in a fresh way. I'll let her finish this post:

"Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed." --Proverbs 31:8

What does it look like to "speak up" for those that cannot speak up for themselves? It is definitely a position that takes getting involved, doesn't it? 

As I was thinking about what this looks like, the first picture that came to my mind was a crowd of people carrying pickets that said something like, "Honk if you agree that we should speak up for those that can't speak up for themselves." The next picture that came to me was a man standing on a platform shaking his fist before a crowd as he stirred them to act. The longer I meditated on this; I realized that there are so many different ways of "speaking up." Some of these include:

  • Men and women on their knees petitioning before God
  • Missionaries, all around the world, making others aware of the needs of those they serve
  • Soldiers fighting for the oppressed

As I type this I am seeing each of you speaking in the way that God has called you to do. You are being a voice for the unborn -- one of the most overlooked audiences that cannot speak up for themselves. Every hour served, every dollar donated and every prayer lifted up for Compassion Pregnancy Centers of Northeast IN [or any pro-life ministry] is a voice -- a loud voice, a voice that is heard. Together, we are making a difference. Without support there would be no CPCNI. Without CPCNI, the 6 moms expecting in March in LaGrange and Steuben counties would have to find alternatives.

THANK YOU FOR SPEAKING UP!

Amen, Mari!

Here are some good reminders from our board member Bob Foust, who directs Choose Life Alabama. Through Bob Foust & Friends, he regularly consults with pregnancy care center directors. He knows how stressful their job is. He offered us all sound advice in two recent newsletters:

A Waste of Time

All across America I hear pregnancy center Directors lament that there is not enough time to accomplish the needs of the center and meet Board expectations.

I have some humble thoughts for your consideration:

1. Are you doing what you are supposed to be doing? Many directors counsel clients hours each day because they believe, "If I do not spend time counseling, clients will be underserved." My thought is to follow the words of Eph. 4:11-12, "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints for the work of the ministry." Directors are in place to equip and motivate volunteers to do the work of the ministry.

2. Do you prioritize your work day, week, month? I found it helpful to begin time at the end of each month to look ahead to the month following. Also to spend 30 minutes every Friday to scan the following week's activities. I found that 20 minutes at the end of each day to pray and think through the following day was helpful. Every time I follow this formula, I move at a relaxed and productive pace. Every time I abandon this practice, I find myself scurrying from one crisis to another.

3. Do you take time to relax and have fun? Countless studies have shown that taking time for lunch increases productivity. Also, taking time to attend conferences will help.

What are some of the methods you use to steward time wisely? Send them to us and we will share them with others. Don't take too much time doing that though!! :) 


Choosing the Best Over the Good

An Executive Director must serve in six vital areas to see growth and reach in a local pregnancy center.

1. First and foremost the Executive Director is the spiritual leader of the ministry. She/he must spend time each day with the Lord to seek His person in fellowship and guidance. Investing that time with Him will increase productivity and provide peace in the midst of any storm. Martin Luther's words ring true in the 21st century: "I have so much to do today, I must begin with two hours of prayer." 

2. Closely related to Spiritual Leadership, actually a major component of Spiritual Leadership, is evangelism leadership. Christians must be constantly reminded and encouraged to share their faith. The people who serve with you at the Pregnancy Center are no exception. I just returned from a center where 25% of clients pray to receive Christ. The key: the Executive Director constantly reminds peer counselors the importance of sharing Christ and asking clients to make that decision.

3. Relate to the community outside the center. Purpose to schedule meetings with donors, community leaders, and other ministry leaders. One key to remember is to schedule meetings in advance. If a director waits until Monday morning to begin arranging visits for that week, no visits will be made. I don't have time, you say. My thought: pace yourself. Even one outside visit a week is far more productive than waiting three or four weeks and then trying to visit several people in one day.

4. Relate to the Board. Have you prepared for Board meeting during the day and realized that you had not interfaced with any of them since last meeting? Take a few minutes each week to send a personal e-mail. It should be short and to the point. And send personal notes, not a bulk blast. Do you send them a birthday card?

5. Fund raising is a necessity for the growth and life of a pregnancy center. I am often asked "Is the board responsible for fund raising, or is the director?" My answer is yes. It is a dance. It is a concert that both parties must engage in. The director must communicate with the donor base. He/she will use the newsletter. Whether the newsletter is distributed via ground or e-mail, the director is responsible for the content of the news. Events must have the "buy in" of the director even there is an event planner responsible. And major donors require the director to interface with them. The bottom line is that a good leader provides time to make fund raising a priority.

6. Program Development will demand a large portion of a director's time and energy. Staff, Board members, volunteers and donors will approach leadership with many different ideas for programs. Some will conform to the center's mission, most will not. An effective director will choose the best and supervise the formation and foundation of programs.

A pregnancy center director must choose each day what area to invest time developing, and which area is to be left to another day. God bless you!


Bob will be at our upcoming Summit, leading a workshop on excellence for the rural center.

Continuing in the train of thought from last Monday's musing ("Will God forgive me if I have an abortion?"), this is republished with a few refinements from one of our past bulletin inserts. 

What do you think? Is an unplanned pregnancy a mistake or a miracle? A punishment or a promise? An obstacle or an opportunity?

Consider Hagar. Pregnant out of wedlock. Abandoned by the baby's father. Abused by her employer. A runaway. Poor and on her own. This pregnancy sounds like a mistake. It looks like it might be a punishment for bad choices -- her own as well as Abram and Sarai's. On the surface, it appears to be an obstacle to God doing anything good with her life.

It's a situation similar to the one in which many women find themselves today, but it's worth another look.

If you read the account in Genesis 16, you'll see that God knew where she was and sent an angel to meet her. Neither distance nor recalcitrance formed a barrier to His grace, as we shall see.

God called her by name. God even knew her unborn baby and revealed specific information to her: that he was a boy and what his personality would be like. Like other children of promise, God gave her baby a name -- Ishmael -- which would constantly remind her that "God hears." Clearly, God had plans for both mother and child. They mattered to God.

The record of this "unplanned" pregnancy shows God miraculously at work in a woman's life . . . a woman who may never have given Him a thought before He called her. He not only saw her need, but also cared for her and gave her a promise concerning her future. Truly, this pregnancy was an opportunity for her faith in God to grow.

The story of Hagar neatly foreshadows Jesus' meeting with another woman at another well in John 4. God continues to be patiently concerned about women like Hagar. Today, He's dealing with them through His servants in pregnancy care centers throughout the U.S. and around the world.

Consider this woman. Pregnant out of wedlock and estranged from the baby's father, she considered having an abortion, but first visited Metro Women's Center (a long-time partner of Life Matters in the Minneapolis area). 

There she learned about her unborn baby and met people who didn't treat this pregnancy as a "mistake." She heard about God's love, proven by sending His Son Jesus to pay the penalty for all her sin. She began to understand this pregnancy was not without hope, and eventually chose a family who would adopt the child she'd come to love and give her daughter a stable home.

What about you? Have you made choices that led to a "problem" pregnancy? Are you convinced God doesn't care about you? Could we, or one of our partner centers, help you? 

No matter the circumstances of a baby's conception, no matter the mother's situation, in the sight of God every pregnancy is a miracle. It holds promise. It is an opportunity for the Gospel.

This musing is a reprint of a Life Matters bulletin insert which appeared in April of 2006 (vol. 6, no. 1). It continues a train of thought begun two weeks ago with Variations on a post-abortion theme, and helps lighten the workload of banquet week.

The email read, "I am scheduled for an abortion tomorrow. I am a Baptist follower of God and want to know if I will be forgiven for this."

We were relieved to learn the next day she had taken more time to think. "I did go to my appointment today," she wrote, "but I could not do it. . . . I was in the operating room in the abortion [clinic] and they were about ready to do the procedure, but I just could not bear it, at least at the moment." She requested information about alternatives to abortion in her city, which we were happy to give.

But what about her original question? How would a wise counselor respond to a woman's plan to abort and then seek forgiveness later?

Christians do sin, and God does forgive (1 John 1:9). Countless women testify of finding forgiveness in Christ after an abortion. That doesn't mean, however, that our assurances concerning God's mercy and grace should ever appear to advise or condone a course of action involving willful, premeditated sin or presumptuousness.

First of all, no one contemplating murder should presume she possesses eternal life (1 John 3:15). Furthermore, the lifestyle that brought our correspondent to the brink of abortion caused us to question whether she was indeed a "follower of God" because those who are born of God do not continue in sin (1 John 3:9 and Romans 6:1-2). Such a one should be urged to examine herself, clarify her understanding of the Gospel, and consider the danger she's in (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Aside from presuming upon God's forgiveness, if she persists in her abortion plan she may be presuming upon herself. She should be warned she may not be the same person after an abortion, that she will be ready and willing to seek God's grace. She may be so overcome by guilt that she turns from God, or so hardened that she doesn't even think to ask for mercy. She may also become so preoccupied with the consequences of her sin that her life spirals viciously downward.

What advice can be given a Christian who is tempted by abortion? First, she should be exhorted to consider her actions in light of God's holiness. Then she should be challenged to turn her thoughts from "Will God forgive me if I abort?" to "How will God help me avoid the sin of abortion?"

Don't 'dis' God

God is completely holy. He cannot ignore sin. His holiness demanded justice and was only satisfied when His perfect Son Jesus died on the cross. Grace and mercy came at a terrible cost. It is, therefore, no joking matter to succumb to the spirit of our age that says, "It's better to ask forgiveness than seek permission." Therefore...

  • DON'T DISBELIEVE GOD by thinking, "God can't or won't help me avoid the sin of abortion."
  • DON'T DISOBEY GOD by refusing to follow His commands concerning the life of your unborn child.
  • DON'T DISHONOR GOD by continuing in your plan to sin while bearing His name.


Explore God's goodness

As dark and desperate as a woman's situation may be, she can be encouraged by the story of Hagar in Genesis 16. Hagar grew in her understanding of a gracious God during a difficult pregnancy. God saw her distress, made a plan for her and her baby, and provided for all their needs. A woman tempted by abortion can...

  • THANK GOD for placing in her heart the conviction that abortion is wrong.
  • TRUST GOD to reveal the escape from temptation that he has promised to provide. Jesus invites her to come boldly before His Throne in her time of need. His mercy and grace are available to strengthen her for overcoming temptation (Psalm 19:13, 1 Corinthians 10:13, and Hebrews 4:15-16).
  • SEEK GOD'S GUIDANCE and accept the help of others to discover alternatives to abortion that may have been overlooked.

Abortion is never a solution to problems. If God is great enough to forgive abortions, isn't He also great enough to help women avoid them? They can trust Him with their lives and with the lives of their babies.

On Sunday of the prayer calendar this week we prayed for LIFT at Jenison Bible Church in Jenison, Michigan. Karen has been the coordinator of that ministry, but she's stepping down because she and her husband are facing their own medical challenges. She's asked prayer for more volunteers and for someone to fill her role.

It's fitting to focus on this at-home ministry today since we made a pretty big splash a few days ago reporting on the LIFT trainings that occurred in the Philippines over the past week. Dr. Mae Corvera and her team have developed a thriving ministry that is bearing fruit and serving as a model for ministry in other parts of that country.

Life Matters would like to see more churches in the U.S. develop LIFT programs. For that to happen, we'd probably need to devote a staff person to to the tasks of contacting pastors, recruiting, training, and consulting with coordinators, and hosting LIFT conferences like the one at which we met Karen several years ago. Will you pray with us toward that end?

I just returned from a visit to the Philippines, February 24 through March 3. I traveled with our former director, Ray Paget, and our new board member, John McCastle. John runs Ultrasounds for Life, and Ray has a special interest in grief counseling and hospice care. Together our visit spanned the gamut of pro-life ministry.

Here are some highlights from the trip:

·  We provided LIFT training to three groups in Manila and Iloilo, totaling over 150 people.  Dr. Mae Corvera, an expert on palliative care and hospice, and other Filipino teachers joined us.

·  We met with youth and young adult leaders of Greenhills Christian Fellowhip in Manila the last day of our stay to discuss pregnancy care center ministry outreach. The team is praying and strategically thinking about possibly starting a PCC in Manila. Please pray for them.

·  Ray and I each spoke to about 200 young adults in chapel at Doane Baptist Seminary. What an amazing opportunity to bring the Word of God to these young Christian leaders in the Philippines!

·  We visited a hospice center with Dr. Corvera and had the chance to minister to families there.

·  We also presented the ministry of Life Matters Worldwide to pastors and a church leadership group of 50 people. 

One of the participants, Marie Bacaling, said, "Thank you so much for sharing with us your knowledge and time! Now it's like an awakening for me to pursue this ministry!"

Prayer requests:

1.   Please pray with our Philippine partners as they consider undertaking further ministry through pregnancy care center ministry and LIFT.

2.   Specifically, pray that we’ll be able to bring abstinence educator Melisa Serata over for our June 20-21 Summit, where she can learn more about starting a PCC. We need roughly $2,000 to do that.

View more photos here.

-- Tom Lothamer, president

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