Apr 202015
 

It is actually crazy to think that it has taken me this long to write a Mission Monday on a ministry that is such a huge part of my life. When the thought first crossed my mind the other day I was frustrated with myself that I hadn’t done one yet, but later the very same day I felt like Christ showed me why He hadn’t brought it to mind until now. His timing is perfect, as He constantly shows me and yet I have to constantly remind myself.

Just over one year ago, God placed in the position of being the Executive Director of Alpha Pregnancy Resource Center. Alpha has been serving its community since 1992, offering healthy relationships education, free pregnancy tests, pregnancy options information, parenting education & support, and post abortion help. As I prepared for last year’s annual fundraising banquet, which was themed around the history of Alpha, I was in awe of all Christ has accomplished through this ministry since the very beginning. It is an amazing ministry, and it is humbling to step back and see that He placed me here “for such a time as this”.

While I was previously aware of Alpha through my church, I had mentally boxed in what the ministry did in a small, neat package. But it is so much more than I could have ever realized without experiencing it firsthand. Even writing that statement brings tears to my eyes. I have seen how whether someone believes in Alpha’s ministry or is against Alpha’s ministry, it is easy to box in what we do. We try to encompass it all by saying “We not only serve and care for those that come in for pregnancy options information, but we continue to serve and care for them as they continue through their pregnancy and parent their child. It is important to us that we not only speak life in regards to the baby she is carrying, but also to the mother as we foster hope and support her.”

So what does this mean? It means that every person who walks through our doors, or calls on the phone, is viewed as priceless and we want to serve them as Christ would. Christ saw each person as an individual, unique and beautiful. He served and ministered to people on a personal level, he didn’t categorize people and lump them all together. He truly saw each person for who they are, and treated them as the priceless gem that they are (whether they realized they were priceless or not).

“When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”  (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?  Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband.  The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet.  Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”

“Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?” Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people,  “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”  John 4:7-29 (NIV)

So yes, while it is easy to list the services that Alpha offers (as I did above) and try to put the ministry in a neat, little box, it is so much more than that. I wish I could even vaguely list some of the things I have seen Christ accomplish through Alpha, but truthfully in such a small community the chances are too great that part of the story (even vaguely) could point to a specific client and we love our clients too greatly to risk that. What I can tell you is that I have lost count of the number of times that after a client leaves my eyes fill with tears and I am thanking God for how He is working in that client’s life and thanking Him that He allows us to be a part of that.

There is not a short supply of those that do not believe in what Alpha does, and recently it seems Christ has been showing me more and more of the firestorm against ministries such as Alpha. I knew that Alpha is not one of those ministries where a majority of people, Christians or not, agree that it is a great outreach and much needed. Instead, there is a defining line when it comes to the sanctity of human life and therefore there are those that vehemently believe that what we do is wrong. It is not difficult to come across biased blogs and articles about pregnancy centers in general, and see the comments of hatred that not only attack pregnancy centers, but also personally attack those of us involved in the work. Sometimes I have a hard time understanding it, but then I have to remind myself that it goes back to not being able to truly see what we do and that they also have mentally placed what we do in a tiny box and they have decided that it is evil. And honestly I don’t believe there is any point to commenting the truth, because until someone is willing to take a step back and be open to researching it for themselves from a neutral perspective then they are not going to hear anything that goes against what they have chosen to believe as truth. While it is difficult to read the comments and articles, it is a good reminder that this is a spiritual battle.

The tiny box that those who are against ministries like Alpha have placed us in is one of being an agenda-driven, pro-life manipulator and the service that they have an issue with is providing pregnancy options information. The truth is, whether you agree that it should be or not, abortion is as much of a legal option as adoption and parenting. That means that every pregnant woman that walks through our doors has three options- abortion, adoption, and parenting, none of which are easy. The truth, that those who oppose pregnancy centers do not see, is that we recognize that she has three options and that she still has three options when she leaves. She is going to choose one of the three options, and she is going to choose the one that she feels is best in her opinion. Right or wrong, we make decisions from our limited point of view at the time. It is easy to look back and think that we should have handled a particular situation differently, and often we can regret decisions we make. I can’t tell you the number of times I have read or been told that those on the opposing side do not want to talk about all three options, they want to talk about abortion which makes sense from the standpoint that is the only service of the three that they offer.  But women are smart and there is no reason why they should not be encouraged to take a step back from the crisis they are in, examine their lives outside of just this moment in time, look at all of the facts, and make an educated decision. That is what we help each woman to do with offering pregnancy options information. This life or death decision is too important to not offer each woman all of the facts. She can still choose any one of the three options legally, but it will be a decision that she didn’t take lightly and will know all of the potential risks. I understand that both sides of the abortion issue see the “facts” differently and disagree on what is true, but I pray that those against pregnancy centers will begin to see us by our love. It is out of love for each client that walks through the door that we offer help and education before they are in the situation of having an unplanned pregnancy. Out of love that we want to help each individual client take a step back and look at the big picture of her life and situation and make an educated decision taking into account all of the facts and risks. Out of love that we stand by her through her pregnancy and through parenting with education and support. And out of love that we offer support and help to heal if she chooses abortion and finds that she regrets that decision and is hurting.

You see, “pro-life” isn’t about being against abortion. It is about being for love. It translates into how we view every facet of life. From serving as a foster parent, to orphan care, to adoption. From how we view and treat someone who is homeless to how we view and treat a troubled teenager or someone society views as inferior. From speaking life to someone contemplating suicide to fostering hope in a hurting child. It is being for someone, not against something. It is about seeing every person, no matter how small or vulnerable, how Jesus sees them. Priceless, deserving of love, and worthy of His death on the cross.

“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20 (NIV)

“Babies aren’t constructed in the womb like a Chevy on an assembly line.  They develop more like a Polaroid picture.  Indeed, until a Chevy gets all the parts attached, it’s really not a car and can easily be scrapped to make something else.  However, like a developing Polaroid picture whose image is hidden for a time, a baby has all of its humanity at conception even though you can’t see it until it’s fully developed.” -Roland Warren

May 062013
 

Today’s Mission Monday is one that is close to my heart. For those of you who do not know, I am the Area Coordinator for Safe Families for Children in southern and central Maine. Safe Families for Children is presently in 27 states plus Canada and United Kingdom.

Safe Families for Children (SFFC) is a movement of compassion, grounded in relationship, through the Church. Hundreds of families of faith have opened their homes to children and demonstrate biblical hospitality to families who are struggling. Many parents experiencing a life crisis do not have a grandmother, sister, friend, or neighbor to call for help….they have no safety-net or healthy support network.  These parents can voluntarily seek the help of SFFC in their community – they can have their children temporarily stay with a SFFC volunteer host family, knowing they are safe and being loved on, while they address their situation. The parents can breathe and have space to collect their thoughts and plan a course of action with the help of a SFFC volunteer Family Coach or Family Friend.  SFFC is an invitation to support relationships for parents who otherwise may end up being involved with the Child welfare system because stress and isolation becomes too great – harm can come to kids when their parents are maxed-out and alone. Safe Families for Children is there – as the Church is called to be – opening hearts and homes for those vulnerable and in need.

Specifically, my role is to work with local churches to establish both a network of churches, and of families within the churches, to support families in crisis. Safe families are identified, have full background screenings and are approved to host children in their homes temporarily.  When crises strike, calls are made to us from DHHS, churches, pediatrician, or even the parents themselves to help find a temporary home for a child(ren) if abuse has not occurred.

I absolutely love this video testimony:

Safe Families 00 from Safe Families on Vimeo.

 

If you would like more information about Safe Families for Children, or how you can serve, please contact me at [email protected]

 

 

 

Review of 2012 [in books]

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Jan 022013
 
bookreview2

I read a blog post by someone else where they suggested books to read in the upcoming year and I loved the idea. But I also wanted to personalize it by suggesting some of the books I read in 2012 and explain how they spoke to me. I also wanted to reveal some of the books that I will be reading in 2013, in case anyone wanted to join in. I love this idea and I think I am going to keep this as a New Year’s tradition on my blog (which means next year it will be better because I will be planning ahead of time and collecting information and thoughts as I read them). You can also connect with me on Goodreads (http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/9326025-tina) and see what I am currentlly reading. Goodreads also has a 2013 reading challenge, therefore I have challenged myself to read 24 books in 2013 (I am really hoping to read more, but felt I should start with a reasonable goal the first time, especially with resolving to blog on a regular basis).

So here is my review of 2012 in books:

 

 

From Fear to Freedom: Living as Sons and Daughters of God by Rose Marie Miller

This was an amazing book from a personal standpoint. It was a book that God very clearly had brought to my attention, and after reading it I knew what He wanted to teach me through it. Rose Marie Miller is poignantly honest as she speaks through her own testimony, but it was so often like I was reading about myself. She speaks of the characteristics of an orphan mindset as opposed to living as a child of God, such as living in our own strength instead of in Christ’s transforming power. I read this book on my flight home from Nicaragua, after living there for six and a half weeks with friends there adopting a sibling group of four children. So many times the children would handle a situation as an orphan would and I would feel God whispering to my heart of times I act like that towards Him.

 

Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis

“People who really want to make a difference in the world usually do it, in one way or another. And I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world.” – Beth Clark (Author of the Introduction)

This book was referred to me by the same friend who is adopting the sibling group of four (we share a heart for orphans and therefore she knew upon reading this book that I would love it). It is one of those books that I know I will read again, probably many times, which my friend already has done. There are so many things in this book that are both convicting and inspiring.

 Katie Davis writes, “People from my first home say I’m brave. They tell me I’m strong. They pat me on the back and say, ‘Way to go. Good job.’ But the truth is, I am not really very brave; I am not really very strong; and I am not doing anything spectacular. I am simply doing what God has called me to do as a person who follows Him. He said to feed His sheep and He said to care for ‘the least of these,’ so that’s what I’m doing, with the help of a lot people who make it possible and in the company of those who make my life worth living”

To read this story of an ordinary girl doing something extraordinary through Christ, as a response to Christ’s love, spurs me on to live boldly for Christ in His transforming power. I cannot live boldly for Him in my own strength, but I can “do all things in Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13)

Real Life Discipleship: Building Churches that Make Disciples by Jim Putnam

I read this book as part of a small group as my church moves towards being more intentional about making disciples, but it was very informative even in my own walk with Christ. As it teaches through spiritual maturity from a standpoint of training up disciples, it is also revealing about your own spiritual maturity and areas where you need to grow. I also found this understanding of spiritual maturity has helped my relationships as I can see the role spiritual maturity plays within the relationship.

 

The Fitting Room: Putting on the Character of Christ by Kelly Minter

My finding this book was unintentional and ironically after beginning the book recognized Kelly Minter’s name as the author of a study that my small group was going to begin upon my returning home from Nicaragua. What I love about Kelly Minter is her realness. She is funny and uses daily life illustrations. It appears that she also has a heart for foreign missions, is also a single woman of God (like myself), and clearly we both love to write and study God’s Word, therefore I related well with her and saw similarities to my own life.

Kelly Minter writes, “For it is out of the unfathomable riches of Christ’s love for us that all these characteristics become attainable virtues: First, because His love gives us a new life, literally allowing us to cast off our selfish natures and clothe ourselves in the character of Christ. Second, because knowing we’re loved gives us the confidence and freedom to live in this new way. When we know and believe God loves us, the biblical virtues are no longer like school uniforms we begrudgingly put on but exquisite clothing we are eager to slip into. When we are confident we are loved, Paul’s list of Christlike characteristics become less chores and more delights we are eager to embody, because we trust the ways in which God has called us to live. We understand that these characteristics will not only bless those around us but will be beneficial for us as well. This is all a distant cry from moralism or behavior management.”

 

Fearless by Max Lucado

Oh where to begin. I had seen this book in a catalog and made a mental note that I wanted to read it, but had done nothing to pursue reading it. While at a friend’s house, I was asked if I wanted to borrow any books, I took a look at her bookshelf as I thought about how many books I was already in the process of reading and therefore how I really shouldn’t start another one. Then I saw Fearless on her shelf and immediately picked it up. Then it was a done deal and I had to borrow it. I read the book that week and loved it. I struggle with fear and tend to live according to my fear, so it was not hard to figure out that Christ wanted to teach me a few things before I left for Nicaragua. Many of the areas in this book were areas where I struggle with fear. I would definitely suggest this book to anyone else who struggles with fear.

What I am planning to read in 2013:

 

Nothing is Impossible with God: Reflections on Weakness, Faith, and Power by Rose Marie Miller

 

Love Does by Bob Goff

 

Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples by Francis Chan

 

Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City by Timothy Keller

 

Don’t waste your life by John Piper

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