Miriam Wheeler is a medical missionary in Odessa, Ukraine. As a doctor eliciting medical histories from patients, it was rare for her to find a woman who had never aborted. Most would have already had several – an average of seven, and as many as 18 during Soviet times!
Responding to the need, Miriam began praying about whether some sort of pro-life ministry would fit into ongoing evangelism, discipleship, and church planting efforts. It turns out to be a very good fit, giving the churches in Odessa a connection with people in the community.
But it took almost 13 years for her vision to become reality. She, her coworker Holly Friesen (at left; Miriam is on the right), and their Ukrainian partners started in a logical place – implementing ministry to post-abortive women in 2011. Many women found forgiveness and healing in Christ through the post-abortion Bible study and, in 2014, became the first mentors for the Choose Life Women’s Center.
Life Matters Worldwide helped facilitate the training of volunteers (pictured here) in February of 2014. The center opened later that year.
The work proceeds with a team approach. Holly is the center director and Luba Abramova is the Ukrainian assistant director. Miriam leads the Forgiven & Set Free (FSF) Bible studies, but this fall Ukrainian Ira Lupanova began directing it when Miriam left for furlough.
Post-abortion ministry remains an important aspect of the ministry, as Miriam and Holly (who is a nurse practitioner) continue to meet women in their village medical clinics with histories of five, ten, or 15 abortions. In 2015, 82 women completed FSF, with two trusting Christ as a result! The challenge now is to arrange FSF Bible studies “on the road” in remote rural areas.
As most centers do, Choose Life seeks to maintain contact with clients beyond the initial visit. They offer parenting classes and The Story of Hope evangelistic Bible study. This tool was developed to help people with little background in the Bible understand the Good News of Jesus Christ. As of September this year, four clients were studying The Story of Hope, and five were involved in parenting classes.