Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:18
It had already been a heated conversation around the kitchen table as we discussed the recent ban on abortion passed by our state’s legislators. But my daughters wouldn’t budge on why they were concerned. Then my second oldest made it plain: “Christians may say they care about life, and they want to stop abortions from happening. But they only care about the baby. What happens to the poor mothers?” Good question, I thought. “I don’t know what our church is doing to help, but I’ll find out,” I assured them.
So later, I emailed my church leadership, and I discovered that our very large and outreach-oriented church, in fact, had no team or even individual identified as a point person to help these troubled women and men. So I met with our Outreach Director about it and he slid a binder toward me labeled, “Making Life Disciples.” He explained, “Someone from Care-Net came to our church a year ago telling us about this great DVD-based curriculum that could train our members on how to care for abortion-vulnerable people, but I had to tell him that I didn’t have any leaders to lead it. And I’m too busy to take it on myself. So it has sat on my desk for a year...until now,” he said smiling. He suggested I just take the curriculum home to review it. I agreed.
I spent one week watching the DVDs on my laptop and taking notes. It rocked my world. Not only was it well done and grace-filled, but each presenter also drove home the great need that these vulnerable moms and dads have and the vital role the church needs to play in embracing and supporting them through ongoing discipleship. After learning that 2 out of every 5 women who choose abortion are regularly attending church at the time of their decision, I realized the problem wasn’t just “out there” somewhere. The need for help was both an outreach and in-reach opportunity for our church. But to begin the healing network, we’d need to work together. So I invited some of my friends, called our local Christian pregnancy center (Sav-A-Life), and arranged our first meeting.
I decided then that I would do whatever the next step the Lord required to get the church talking about life issues and to prepare us to retrieve and receive any at-risk parent God would bring our way, partnering with our local pregnancy centers to do it.
That next step was to lead a small group in my church through the same Making Life Disciples curriculum that had made such an impact on me. And I have to admit, it was strange recruiting people to join a small group where the topic was abortion-related. I had some people I invited decline. But the ones whose hearts the Lord had already prepared were eager. They had always wanted to get involved in the advancement of life, but they didn’t know how to do it outside of political lines. Making Life Disciples was the perfect non-political, non-judgmental, practical way to become the hands and feet of Jesus to those considering abortion or who were suffering from post-abortion trauma.
We met each week at my house, prayed and ate dinner together, then watched an MLD video and discussed what we learned. We kept in touch with our local pregnancy center leaders and took them out to lunch to encourage them. By Christmas, we had two couples and two ladies complete the training, ready to respond to needs as they came. While we waited, we made appointments with our campus pastors and small group directors to let them know we were ready to receive referrals from our church and the pregnancy center.
In March, Sav-A-Life connected us with a young, abortion-minded client who was interested in talking with us about whatever support we could provide. Her story was heartbreaking and her living situation difficult. But my interaction with her fueled prayer and creativity and drove us to make more connections with our church so that others could help. Car mechanics, construction workers, transportation providers, even child-care assistants could all play a part in helping this young woman discover that she was not alone. But it was my interaction with her that let me know our small group couldn’t do it alone, either. We needed to keep talking, networking, and connecting with other church members to meet the need.
Then we began to get calls from the church. During the COVID-19 crisis, our Health Center was encountering many more clients needing pregnancy and new parent counseling and support. We began connecting each new referral with a trained MLD mentor, and weekly phone and Zoom-based discipleship groups began.
We are still in the very beginning stages. Our church is large, and many people don’t yet know about the need or the opportunity through Making Life Disciples. But we are praying and we are working. And we are expecting to see God do great things on behalf of the people—the unborn and parents alike—who have His attention and His heart.
Jennifer Gerelds and her husband, Todd, have been married for twenty-five years and live in the Birmingham area with three of their daughters, the fourth living nearby with her husband. Jennifer serves as one of Care Net’s Making Life Disciples Specialists, and is also a devotional writer having written devotionals and impulse books for major publishers, including some that have been published in many languages and are sold all over the world. Todd and Jennifer are active members of Church of the Highlands at their Grants Mill campus.