Barbara Porter

Youth for Christ

International Pregnancy Center Ministry
Continent of Africa

How did you initially get involved in Pregnancy Center work in Africa?

While I served as Director of CPC Ministries at the CAC (now CareNet) several magazines and Christian radio programs did interviews. The articles and programs made it overseas and requests for help started pouring in from Africa. In one year we got 40 letters from eight different African countries. Pastors, youth pastors, and women who had had abortions wrote and said that even though abortion was illegal in their countries, it was still being done. We sent materials, but often they never reached the people. So I began praying about going to Africa to help. I figured there were lots of people who would do my job in the USA, but very few who would do it in Africa. It was difficult to find a mission organization that would consider starting Pregnancy Centers, but finally a good friend told me to contact Youth for Christ International, and the next thing I knew I was flying to London to meet with the Area Director of YFCI/Africa. He told me later he thought I was some pro-life fanatic who imagined abortion was a problem in Africa. When he went back to Kenya, he met with a member of the International board of YFCI, a nurse who had served as head matron of the largest public hospital in Kenya. She told him abortion was a horrible problem and the next thing I knew, I was raising support to go to Nairobi and start a pilot Center.

 How long have you been working in Africa? What countries have you worked and lived in?

I went to Nairobi, Kenya in July 1988, thinking that I was giving up all chance of ever getting married. Six months later I moved next door to a British guy named Shane (pictured above with Barbara). Our first date was to celebrate his new job in Kampala, Uganda. Little did I know I would be moving there with him! The Lord worked in wonderful ways to raise up leaders for Crisis Pregnancy Ministries/Kenya in Nairobi so that I could get married and move to Kampala with Shane in 1990. We spent five years in Kampala helping to start a Center there. It was hard going, because Uganda was just coming out of years of oppression and war. Also there was no Youth for Christ in Uganda, so we founded YFC as well!

In 1995 we moved to Lusaka, Zambia and worked with Youth for Christ Zambia to begin a Center in Ndola.  From there, too, we were able to drive to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and South Africa, to network with those who were trying to develop Pregnancy Centers there. Then in 1999 we moved to Windhoek, Namibia, where we lived until 2005. We worked withYouth for Christ Namibia and other organizations interested in starting Pregnancy Centers. We also travelled to Botswana and Lesotho to consult and/or train people in how to do CPC ministry. Conferences were held in South Africa for Youth for Christ staff and volunteers from all over Africa, so I was able to hold meetings and trainings with interested people from East, West and Southern Africa. It was during this time I asked Cyndi to come over and teach Equipped to Serve, which began her love affair with Africa.

In 2005 we moved back to Kenya, to a small town called Turi, so that Shane could teach at a Christian boarding school and our boys could attend the school. Grace Ojiambo, who was the Executive Director of Crisis Pregnancy Ministries/Kenya, asked me to start a branch of CPM/K in Nakuru. So I began a Center there with the help of some wonderful young leaders in YFC.

In 2007 we moved to England to establish residency so that our two boys are eligible to attend university in the UK. But I am still involved in helping Youth for Christ programmes begin pregnancy Centers, as well as helping with training and development at existing Centers. In March I visited Burundi and Rwanda for the first time. I am hoping to return and provide
training and help as they seek to develop Centers in Bujumbura and Kigali. There are eight other national YFC programmes that want to start Centers. I am planning to visit West Africa and Southern Africa to meet with them in the next six months.

What  is the main focus of your job description as you begin to develop Pregnancy Centers in these nations?

My job is to serve national leaders and empower them to do the ministry as it is culturally appropriate in their countries. We try to identify a national to head up the ministry as early as possible, so that I can train and mentor her as she does the work. I train staff and volunteers, consult with the board, and raise seed money for the new Centers to get off the ground. I also try to find Centers in the States or Canada who would like to partner with a Center in Africa.

 What are the joys of the work you do?

  • Working with the wonderful, godly leaders of Youth for Christ in Africa
  • Empowering concerned Christians to help abortion vulnerable women in their countries
  • Seeing African staff and volunteers transformed by the Equipped to Serve training
  • Seeing pregnant girls and women who have no hope, suddenly find hope, and seeing some of them come to Jesus
  • Seeing incredibly down and out girls, who don’t even own undergarments, given housing and care and job skills to help them through their pregnancies
  • And, of course, seeing the precious newborn babies who wouldn’t have been born if we hadn’t been there to help!

What has been some of the more difficult aspects of your work?

  • Living in countries where there were frequent attempts to break into our house, where car hijackings and shootings and even an attempted military coup were threats we had to face
  • Dealing with the heartbreaking problems that occurred in a few cases when Christian leaders failed to lead in a godly way
  • Hearing heartbreaking stories of young women who were left sterile and emotionally scarred by backstreet abortionists
  • Being so far from old friends and pastors and people who could support me when I was going through a hard time. Even though we now have the internet, it can still be very slow and unreliable in Africa.

How has the Lord sustained and supported you to allow you to remain in this work for all these years?

  • He has given me wonderful brothers and sisters in Africa who have taught me such deep and precious things about depending upon Him. I have worked with people who have faced poverty, wars, genocide – people who have lost half their families because of HIV/AIDS – and have learned to depend on the Lord for His provision and protection. It has been an amazing privilege to learn from them.
  • Many, many people – many of them staff members and volunteers at pregnancy Centers in the States, have upheld me in prayer over the years. I have been amazed by the power of prayer and know that I have only succeeded because of the faithfulness of so many intercessors.

What  issues do women in Africa face concerning unplanned pregnancy that are different than women in the US?

  • The obvious issue is poverty. Annual earnings are a small fraction of what they are in the US and many women have no resources – no money, no food, no extra clothing, no bedding, very inadequate housing, etc. Their families have no resources. Some Centers have Rehab programmes, where they teach job skills and life skills so that single mums can feed themselves and their children. Sometimes we help them set up a small business, selling tomatoes by the side of the road so that they can support themselves to an extent.
  • Education is also an issue. In some African countries it is still impossible for a girl to return to school after a crisis pregnancy. It is always difficult. Some Centers have developed programmes to get funding so that girls who are capable can return to school with sponsorship.
  • Being stigmatized is also a problem. In many African countries single mums are looked down upon and chances of getting married are reduced. In Muslim countries the girls are completely disowned by their entire family, so have nowhere to go but to the streets and prostitution. YFC in The Gambia has started housing them in their offices!
  • Rape and HIV/AIDS are much more prevalent. A high percentage of girls are raped or forced in some way. They have a higher chance of having HIV. And a YFC staff person told me that many young Ugandan girls are becoming promiscuous to get basic needs met (for food and clothing, not for sexual satisfaction). They will give sex for a meal or a blouse. They know they will get HIV/AIDS, but they see that with retro-viral medication it takes years to make you sick. And they would rather face AIDS later than face hunger and poverty now.

What do you want Pregnancy Centers here in the U.S. to know about Pregnancy Center work in Africa?

In every country in Africa there are thousands upon thousands of women who are in desperate circumstances because of crisis pregnancies. Our culture, our music and films and TV programmes have promoted promiscuity to young people around the world, and we have also exported abortion as a solution to crisis pregnancy. But they don’t have legal, comparatively safe clinics to turn to. They go to backstreet abortionists who may kill them or leave them sterile. And if we don’t help Christians sustain pregnancy Centers in their countries, women are going to continue to suffer horribly. I was heartbroken by the number of Christian young women who came for help because they had been raped and were now pregnant. They would have had no where to go for help if we hadn’t been there.

How can Pregnancy Centers here in America help and support Pregnancy Centers in Africa? Are there ways to help beyond sending financial donations?

Right now I am tryng to recruit people with experience working at pregnancy Centers who would be willing to raise their support and spend several years in one African country to help them get a pregnancy Center opened.  They would be sent and supported by Youth for Christ/USA as a World Outreach missionary. And I would help with development, training and mentoring of a national who could head up the ministry. The countries where YFC leaders wish to start Centers are Benin, Botswana, Burundi, Burkino Faso, The Gambia, Ghana, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Swaziland.Also there are two countries, Mozambique and Zambia, where centers were opened but have since closed down. They even own a building in Zambia for the Center! And it would be great if someone was able to help YFC start a Center in Okahandja, Namibia. So if anyone feels called to spend a few years in any of these countries, please email me at barbara.porter@sky.com!

Short term missions can also be a tremendous help. Teams can go out to do training at existing Centers, to provide a retreat for staff or even to paint and redecorate the Center. You can “adopt” an African Center and pray for the staff and clients and ask them to pray for you.

 How can Pregnancy Centers support you and your work with Youth For Christ?

Please pray! If you would like to receive the prayer letter I send out, you can email me at barbara.porter@sky.com and I can include you on the email mailing list we are in the process of setting up. You can also give monthly or annually, or make a gift for a special project, if your Center has a policy of giving to other ministries.

Where are the Centers in Africa and how can we specifically pray for each of these Centers?

  • Kenya: Pray that they would be able to start more branches in Nairobi and other parts of Kenya. Pray that the Lord would provide a new space for the Center in Nakuru and funds to pay staff.
  • Uganda: Pray for their new branch in Eastern Uganda. Pray that they will be able to open a branch in Northern Uganda in spite of the security problems there.
  • Namibia: Pray for YFC to be able to open a Center in Okahandja, 50 minutes north of Windhoek.
  • Lesotho: Pray for the ministry to be seen as indigenous, not something brought in by foreigners. And pray that the people of Lesotho will support the Center financially
  • Zimbabwe: Pray that they can get food to feed the girls and women at their home for unwed mums and victims of sexual abuse. Basic foodstuff is hard to get in Zimbabwe as the dictatorship there has destroyed the economy. Pray that their garden will flourish!
  • And please pray for the countries listed above that are praying and hoping to start pregnancy Centers! Ask the Lord to provide the leadership and the funds that they need to begin ministering to abortion minded women.