By Sharon Mager
COLUMBIA, MD—Pregnancy Clinic on West Street in Annapolis is a faith based crisis center located directly across the street from an abortion clinic.
“It’s painful to see the women as they enter. If only they would just cross the street, to change their path,” Angela Murray, outreach and volunteer manager of Pregnancy Clinic said wistfully.
At Pregnancy Clinics in their locations of Annapolis, Severna Park and Bowie, life and death decisions with eternal consequences are made on a daily basis. Staff and volunteers of Pregnancy Clinic and other similar faith centered Christian pregnancy centers want to see women make decisions to keep their babies, but they also desire to see them and their families choose to follow Jesus. They strive to spiritually and emotionally support women who have their babies and they want to supply them with material donations such as diapers, clothes and formula.
They also open their arms to women who are emotionally and spiritually broken from abortions, regardless of whether the procedures were performed the same day or 30 years later.
Christian pregnancy centers depend on volunteers and on financial contributions. Many Mid-Atlantic Network churches are carrying some that load, usually behind the scenes.
Angela Murray said Pregnancy Clinic offers 3D ultrasounds to all of their clients. Volunteer ultrasound technicians and nurse-sonographers perform the scans.
“Offering our clients the opportunity to see the life growing in their womb is a game-changer. Statistics prove that a woman who has an ultrasound along with counseling is much more likely to decide to carry her baby to term,” Murray explained
Murray said funding for the ultrasound machine came from funds provided by supporting churches.
Church members at Calvary Baptist Church, Bel Air, eagerly participate in an unattended baby shower every February. They purchase items such as diapers, wipes, formula and clothing and place them in a playpen set up in the church foyer. These items are then given to Alpha’s Glory Crisis Pregnancy Center located in Aberdeen.
Pat Roush, Calvary Missions Committee Chairman, has served as a volunteer counselor at Alpha’s Glory for three years and during that time has watched women turn away from the clinic to have abortions, she’s watched women set on the decision to end their pregnancy choose life and she’s prayed with women leading them to Jesus.
“We share the Gospel,” Roush said. As part of an intake interview, counselors ask women if they attend church, if they consider themselves Christians. If they answer yes, then counselors gently ask the women what that means to them, to discern if they understand the concept of a relationship with Jesus. That often opens doors to share the Good News. Roush said counselors use salvation bracelets with beads to explain salvation. They also use EvangeCube. They share as the Holy Spirit leads, Roush said.
One goal that Alpha’s Glory is focusing on is securing a sonogram machine for the center and enough funding to support the everyday use of it. Often women choose to parent their baby after actually seeing their babies through a sonogram. However, it is not just about getting the machine, but also having the funds to implement and continue the program. Roush said that while the funds are necessary, many other pieces have to also be in place before they can offer sonograms in the facility. “We are required to have a lawyer and physician, licensed in Maryland, on the board of Alpha’s Glory. So, we are praying that God would provide these individuals and the funding so that we might be able to move forward to reach this goal.”
Nikki Barnes, a member of Kettering Baptist Church, volunteers at all three locations of Pregnancy Clinic. Her home clinic is in Bowie. She too shares Christ and has led women to a relationship with Jesus.
In addition to helping women deal with their pregnancies, Barnes provides support, encouragement and friendship to women distraught from the remorse and guilt over past abortions.
“They’re so heartbroken—broken in general. Many have not healed,” Barnes said.
There are also Christians who come to the clinic dealing with the guilt from having sex outside of marriage and feel the baby is a consequence or punishment, she explained.
“I tell them that God forgives them for all they have done.” Barnes said she offers hope through Jesus.
Both Barnes and Roush said they were surprised at the ages of the women seeking help. Some are as young as 13 and others in their late 40’s.
Barnes was especially surprised that women in Maryland can have abortions without restriction easily through 6 months. Later abortions may also be performed for medical reasons. *
In addition to counseling, Barnes is passionate about preventing crisis pregnancy by sharing abstinence education. She regularly represents the center at various community events, distributing information to people about abstinence, as well as information about sexually transmitted diseases.
“She is very bold and does amazing work,” said Angela Murray. Barnes does not shy away from telling people the truth. Recently at a community fair, she gently corrected an older woman’s claim that seniors at least don’t have to worry about sexually transmitted disease, telling the woman that there has actually been an increase in STD’s in seniors.
Roush, as a Sunday School teacher also shares with her youth students the Biblical basis for the Sanctity of Human Life.
Murray said church’s financial donations and volunteers are the backbone of most pregnancy centers that usually operate with a few paid employees working with a volunteer staff. Volunteers provide counseling, provide office support, lend a hand in sorting clothing and other supplies, monitor young children and help maintain the facilities.
Some churches actually have had small groups in pregnancy centers, allowing their members to get a firsthand look at the operation. Awareness is a big factor in opening people’s eyes to the scope of the problem, and the possibilities of ministry.
Karen Wilson, director of Alpha’s Glory Pregnancy Center, said, “I always say, ‘come in and see.” Wilson said when people visit the center they see for themselves the incredible ministry that happens at the center and they become aware of the needs.
One of the most common, and incredibly helpful program a church can participate in is the baby bottle campaign. Churches receive baby bottles from pregnancy centers for their members to fill with change. Often the campaign runs from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day.
“The baby bottles are a real tangible way to get families involved,” said Murray. Even children enjoy putting coins in the bottles. Murray said kids may not understand what the bottles are for, but they know that they are helping babies and children love babies.
Filling bottles with change may seem small, but it’s a huge help said Karen Wilson. “It’s our biggest fundraiser. We raise over $10,500 each year.”
Many network churches send regular financial donations or baby supplies to crisis pregnancy centers. Others have fundraisers, participate in special events such as 5K races, and they invite speakers from the pregnancy centers to share about the successes and needs.
Karen Wilson said she is extremely thankful for the 38 churches, form a variety of denominations that support Alpha’s Glory. She suggests that churches appoint who want to partner with a pregnancy center select a Sanctity of Life liaison, someone who will keep the issue a priority with the church and coordinate activities.
Christian pregnancy centers above all need prayer, Karen Wilson and Angela Murray agreed.
“Along with prayer, our biggest need is definitely for volunteers—men and women who are being called to this mission field, where lives are changed and saved every day through the work of His faithful people,” Murray said.