Ministry

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.

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.

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

This week on the prayer calendar we prayed for three partner pregnancy care centers located in the Lone Star State:

Even though all three are associates, we have more of a relationship with the one in Seabrook. The other two came to us fully formed, but Seabrook is a work in progress. They've made great strides recently, under the leadership of Paula Lilja, and plan to open in 6 months. 

Please pray for Paula, the volunteers who've already been trained, and the ones currently undergoing training. 

I've been "chatting" via Facebook with a friend in Kenya this morning. He opened the conversation thanking me for my posts, and said he enjoys emailing them to others. He wishes he could share them with even more people, but faces some limitations that are almost unimaginable to Americans.

In my musing yesterday I listed four challenges that overseas pro-life ministry must overcome in comparison to what we face. Here's a fifth: lack of electricity. 

Most people in places like Kenya don't have consistent, available electric power. Many also lack computers, cell phones, and Internet access. If they were able to download pro-life resources, they might lack the laser printers and paper to print them off, or the money to have copies made.

I asked what communication methods are available to him and he replied, "holding workshops."

When you think about it, that isn't a bad method. It's similar to the way the Gospel spread in the 1st century. Even here in the States, where everybody has multiple means of communication, one-on-one conversation is still the best way to share compassion and attempt to persuade. 

Please pray for Stephen, and others like him, who urgently desire to spread the message about the sanctity of human life and the dangers of abortion, but lack even the most basic resources that we take for granted.

Follow-up 8/8/14: We're highlighting this post from over a year ago as a response to columnist Ann Coulter's diatribe against American missionaries going to other lands (see Ebola Doc's Condition Downgraded to 'Idiotic' c/o Townhall.com). All the points we made then apply now.

Indeed, would any of us have heard the Gospel if it weren't for the missionary journeys of Paul, Dr. Luke, Silas, Timothy, Titus, etc.? Were they wrong to risk their lives in the cause of Christ? Did they "waste" resources, or was the salvation of souls worth it? Didn't Christ say, "whoever loses his life for My sake will save it?" (Luke 9:24)

Another worthy response: Are Christian Missionaries Narcissistic Idiots? by Albert Mohler

This week Tom Lothamer, president of Life Matters Worldwide, will fly to the Philippines with Ray Paget, our former executive director, and John McCastle, a new board member and the president of Ultrasounds for Life.

They'll be meeting with our partners in pro-life ministry, including Melisa Serata (who does abstinence education in schools) and Dr. Mae Corvera (who leads LIFT ministries at her church and others in Manila).

The trip will be costly -- both in terms of time and money. Some might wonder, why not concentrate on needs here in the U.S. Aren't they pressing enough? Why be "worldwide"?

Indeed the need for pro-life ministry in the U.S. is great, and we must continue to develop and promote alternatives to abortion and euthanasia. Many resources are already devoted to this cause.

In fact, Kurt Dillinger of LIFE International has said that something like 90 percent of U.S. pro-life dollars are spent in this country while 90 percent of the world's abortions occur elsewhere.

That's a sobering thought. Even more difficult to swallow is the responsibility America bears, because we have exported abortion to the world.


How is that possible? Consider two countries: Romania and South Africa. They both achieved new levels of democratic freedoms in the 1990s, and both looked to the U.S. for a model to follow. What did they see? Among other things, legalized abortion on demand. Sadly, as they threw off an old bondage they replaced it with a new one. Today Romania has one of the world's highest rates of abortion.

Life Matters Worldwide has been to both countries to help missionaries and nationals respond to the crises created by sexual immorality and its consequences: abortion and sexually transmitted diseases. In Romania, we helped establish the Clinica ProVita group of pregnancy care centers; in South Africa we trained church members to offer LIFT services to people dying of AIDS.

If you think passing pro-life laws is an uphill battle in the U.S., consider that the task of pro-life ministry in other countries is even more Sisyphean. Depending on the administration in power, the U.S. often ties foreign aid to a recipient country's liberalization of abortion laws. We Christians, therefore, owe an even greater debt to Christians in other countries to help them fight abortion.

Pro-lifers in other countries face added challenges, such as:

  • A lack of biblical teaching on the sanctity of human life, even in churches
  • A lack of understanding about human development and what abortion does to the unborn
  • A lack of respect for women
  • A lack of resources*

Life Matters Worldwide is positioned to help people overseas overcome the first three hurdles, but the last is most difficult. We want to avoid making Third World ministries dependent on the so-called First World for support. Nevertheless, many people in other parts of the world who have a great desire to do pro-life ministry must spend a good share of their day simply surviving.

I think of Bentina Alusi who runs the Kibera Community Counselling and Pregnancy Crisis Centre in the world's largest slum (outside Nairobi, Kenya). By our standards she has very little but, like the poor woman of Luke 21:1-4, she gives all she has.

At one point soon after the center opened in 2009, Bentina was counseling with 15 girls a day, two days a week. Missionaries reported that the church that her husband pastors grew because of her ministry through the center. From a small seed comes great harvest! Similar results have been had through PCC ministry in Lima, Peru.

Volunteering at a pregnancy center or AIDS hospice is a luxury that few in developing nations can afford, therefore ministries in these parts of the world are well served if we help them devise strategies for sustaining pro-life work. A few years ago, for instance, we were blessed to be able to give one center in South Asia a grant toward the establishment of a pharmacy to generate income.

God has given Life Matters both the desire and the opportunity to join with others in pro-life ministry overseas. So far He's also supplied resources to enable us to help in small but significant ways. Please pray for Tom, Ray, and John as they make this trip, for Mae and Melisa as they organize the visit, and for the people in the Philippines who will be trained.

We receive new requests every week. Today there was one from a person in Kenya. Ask God to give us wisdom and grace as we steward both funds and opportunities, and as we respond to people.

Truly, life matters worldwide.

*Read about a fifth challenge here.

Related:

Hospice for dogs?

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