When did you first start in the Pregnancy Center ministry?
I first started as an advocate when the center opened in 1985.
How were you drawn into the ministry?
I remember when the Supreme Court made abortion legal and my very first thought was “this can’t be and what can I do?” I was in disbelief that in the United States we could kill the unborn. My husband was on the steering committee that started the Pregnancy Center in Muskegon. I went through the initial volunteer training and became a volunteer counselor/client advocate. About a year or so later the Executive Director resigned and the Board of directors started looking for a new director. Someone initially encouraged me to apply for the position and I said, “No way!” I did not have a college degree or any of the qualifications I felt were necessary to be the Center Director.
About that same time, the Pastor at the church I was attending gave a series of three sermons about Jesus and his disciples. Week after week the Pastor pointed out that the disciples were ordinary people who were called by God. They were people who stepped up to the call and were equipped as they moved in their calling. As a result of their obedience they began to change the world. Between the sermons and the sleepless nights during which the Lord kept calling me over and over, I finally put in my resume for the job just minutes before the deadline.
During my 24 years of service to the ministry I have been an advocate for one year, Executive Director for seven years and now hold the position of Client Service Director.
It has been said that the average tenure for Executive Directors in the Pregnancy Center ministry is three years. What has contributed to your longevity in the ministry?
I attribute my longevity not only to my husband and family but most important to the clear calling of God.
How has your longevity made a difference at your Center?
I think my longevity has created an opportunity to maintain the vision and integrity of our ministry to the women we serve. The consistency of training, supervising and envisioning volunteers has created a community at the Center that fosters long-term commitments and involvement of our volunteers. We have many volunteers and staff who have been at the Center for many, many years. There is not as much volunteer turn over. The staff and volunteers have built unique friendships and have been a support system for each other over the years. The consistency of our vision and volunteer training creates a higher quality of service to the women we serve. We have built many long-term relationships with women in our community.
What have been your greatest struggles in leading and directing over the years?
As a Client Services Director it is hard to deal with the Lone Ranger volunteer, the volunteer who does not want to take direction or constructive criticism.
Who have been your mentors? What have been your sources of inspiration and help over the years?
My mentors and sources of encouragement have been my lifelong friends, both involved and not involved in the ministry. Seeing women respond positively and seeing their lives change is inspiration for me to continue in my work.
When we train volunteers, we tell them the call to this ministry is bigger than ministering to women and their unborn children. We remind them the Lord has called them, for such a time as this, to transform them more into the image of Christ. How has the Lord transformed you more into the image of Christ through the Pregnancy Center ministry?
God has given me self-confidence, taught me to be myself and developed the gifts he gave to me. The first day as director I sat at the desk and sobbed, I cried out to him and said, “What have you done? I can’t do this.” His reply was, “Be still and let me do the work through you. I love you and will be with you always. Lean on me I will give you the strength you need, the words to speak and the direction to go.”
If you could change one thing about the Pregnancy Center ministry (past or present) what would that be?
I would hope that people would realize it’s more than saving babies. It is ministering to the heart of a young woman.
What would you hope/envision for the future of the Pregnancy Center ministry?
That it would continue to evolve and change with the culture without changing the message. The clients we see today are much different than the clients we first saw. We need to keep in step with the women we are seeing and understand their specific needs and perspectives. We need to update how we attract clients and how we serve them. The internet and social media are such a big part of the lives of young women today. I would like to see us be able to have more of a presence and use those mediums to interact with our clients and market our services to potential clients.
What pieces of wisdom might you pass on to those who are just entering the ministry?
Let God do the work. Leave work at work. Pray and pray some more. Remember not everyone is going to change their lives in a minute but at least you can till the ground or plant a seed. In the training it says if a client leaves thinking about one thing you discussed you have accomplished much. It is up to God to change a person, not you. Don’t put God in a box.
When all is said and done, what legacy would you like to leave at your Pregnancy Center?
I would like people to know that I gave my heart to the ministry and my clients. I would like to leave a legacy of showing my volunteers how to love on the women God sends us. A legacy that sees women we serve not just as problems to be solved but women to be heard and cared for and understood in the midst of their unexpected pregnancy. I believe that it is serving women with your heart that makes all the difference. It has made all the difference in my life and hopefully in the lives of the women I have had the privilege to listen to and serve.
How long have you been using Equipped to Serve Training?
I think we started using Equipped to Serve back when the manual first came out, probably around 1995 or 1996?
Why is it your training material of choice?
There are so many reasons. The volunteers love the training. They use the skills they have learned outside the Center and tell me how much it has helped them in their own personal lives. The training is easy to use and utilizes a variety of training tools and methods which keep it interesting and engaging for the volunteers. The training also helps volunteers get in touch with their own unresolved issues and how they might get in the way as they seek to listen and care for clients. It is a joy for me to help them work through their own issues as part of my job and relationship with the volunteers. I love watching the volunteers come to their “Ah Ha!” moments during the training when they begin to see how all the skills fit together and how they can minister to clients without manipulating them.
I know that you are mainly using the ETS Self Study program to train your volunteers. Why?
Over the years it has become harder and harder to get enough women together at the same time to conduct a classroom training. Everyone seems so busy and trying to schedule classroom training was both frustrating and almost impossible. We were having women who wanted to become volunteers and did not want to lose them so we decided to make the transition to using the ETS Self Study. I still prefer classroom training but we have had to adapt to the needs of our volunteers.