I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
but now my eye sees you.
Job 42:5 ESV
Jennifer Shelton stared into the empty office spaces across the hall, her mind spinning with the possibilities. “Lord, what do You want me to do with this?” she whispered, even as her heart thanked Him for the new and larger building He had provided Real Options, the pregnancy center where she served as director. She was also thankful for the 40+ churches whose financial contributions and support had helped make this move possible in the first place. But how could they maximize the new space? And that’s when a Holy-Spirit-inspired moment of clarity came that cleared the clutter of other possibilities from her thoughts. Soon, she presented the revelation to her staff and board.
“What if we use this extra space to invite the pastors into the clinic?” she queried. “We could turn this into an office for them to work out of for the day. That way, they will be available for any fathers of the baby who need pastoral support, but they can also get their regular work done in the downtimes.” They readily agreed, designed the pastoral office space, and began inviting pastors to come once a month, biweekly, or even weekly for some.
The results have been life-changing, and not just for the clients. “You know, compassion fatigue is real, and working on the front lines as we do at the pregnancy center is really tough work,” Jennifer admitted. “Most PCs have a pretty high turnover rate because of it. But having a pastor on hand has breathed new life into our staff. Each pastor who comes offers great insight and encouragement. You have no idea just how refreshing it is to have a pastor come to your office and pray for you and your day. It’s amazing!” she exclaimed. And the blessing goes both ways. Many of the pastors find that the change of scenery from the usual church office and the opportunity to get their boots on the ground of the mission field of a pregnancy center energizes their faith, too.
Just last year, one of their adopting pastors took his post at the center’s pastoral office and welcomed in an abortion-vulnerable couple who had come to Real Options for help. The pastor took the young man aside and spoke the truth in love, man-to-man. At first, the father of the baby tried to dodge the issue with the usual, “It’s her body, her choice, you know? I can’t really do anything about it one way or another.” But the pastor gently pushed back, “Isn’t this your child? Don’t you think it would make an impact on her if you stood up and said, ‘I will stand by you and help you raise this child’?” A deeper conversation ensued, and the young man left with a new perspective. A week later, the mom returned—this time excited about her baby. “I don’t know what that man said to my boyfriend in that room, but it changed his life! He has been so supportive ever since, and that’s all I needed to hear.”
Another time, a practicing Muslim couple entered the clinic, determined to abort their baby. Using the specialized training Jennifer developed to help build trust between the staff and Muslim clients, they presented the gospel to Ahmad* and his wife. He asked a lot of great questions, so Jennifer had an idea, “Pastor Rohann* is a former Muslim. Want to talk to him?” she asked. “Yes, I would!” came his immediate reply. So the pastor met with Ahmad, and a unique relationship formed. Pastor Rohann developed a deep relationship with Ahmad, teaching him the differences between the Quran and Christianity. In time and through personal discipleship, Ahmad prayed to receive Christ. He and his wife chose life for their baby. She remained undecided about Christianity, however.
“But the story’s not over there, either,” Jennifer brimmed with enthusiasm. Each year Real Options holds a Family Fall Festival, where all of their participating churches host a booth. Clients and their families come to enjoy a time of fellowship and fun while meeting people from local churches who spend the time loving on them and making lasting connections. “At our last festival, Ahmad’s wife came to enjoy the festivities,” Jennifer grinned. “At the end, she was so touched by the relationships and laughter she experienced that she remarked, ‘You people are just so different from everyone else. You care!’ And that, of course, is exactly what we want our clients and their families to see.”
What had started as a challenge—finding a good use for empty office spaces—became a life-changing decision for clients, staff, and even the pastors themselves when they were welcomed into the pregnancy center. More than that, the impact overflowed into the church, bonding church members with the clients to form lifelong, discipleship connections. And it all happened by inviting pastors into the PC mission field to rediscover the joy of faith in action on the front lines. With boots on the ground, pastors and their churches are poised to make an eternal difference in the lives of all who walk through the doors.
*Names changed to protect the confidentiality of center clients.