This is the text for a speech given at the 2017 Bridgehaven Fundraising Gala.
Let us open with the scripture from Mark 1 16-18:
Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Imagine for me if you will…a sweet young girl who lives next door. You’ve known her for years; her parents moved to the neighborhood when she was three. You’ve seen her grow and blossom into a young woman. But recently you’ve noticed a change. She walks, head down, just wandering. The sparkle in her eye and the spring in her step is gone. You wonder, for a moment, ‘What’s going on?’ You’ve seen a young man coming and going from the house and again you say to yourself, “Mind your own business.” This morning you’re headed out to run an errand, you’re rushing out the door but notice someone sitting on the stoop next door. It’s her. You wonder, “Is she crying?” You are torn. “Do I mind my own business or go to her.” The Lord prompts you, “Go to her, she needs someone.” As you walk up, she notices you and begins to dry and hide her eyes from view. But you know and she knows…everything is NOT ok.
Last week, a woman came in with a young girl. The relationship these two shared was unique, it was dear, protective and supportive. The woman was the young girl’s neighbor and wanted to help her in any way that she could. This neighbor was a fisher of men. This woman was a believer and answered the call of Jesus to walk alongside her young neighbor, who had recently had an abortion; sharing grace, understanding and most importantly Jesus.
“Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” Romans 5:5
There is perhaps no greater experience that we are offered than to see the Holy Spirit do and complete His transformative work inside the hearts of those that come to us with broken hearts. Bridgehaven launched it’s very first-ever Rachel’s Vineyard Retreat last summer and just completed its second retreat this spring. Rachel’s Vineyard is a post-abortion recovery retreat that is founded in living out the Gospel messages, seeking healing and forgiveness for its participants. This life-changing experience can best be described through the words of the men and women…
“Rachel’s Vineyard has helped me to move on with hope. When I met other women who had abortions and had suffered just the same as I had, I didn’t feel so alone anymore. The healing I experienced on the weekend was amazing and is still ongoing.”
“The environment was completely free of condemnation and judgment…I have never felt such acceptance, understanding, and grace. It was incredibly powerful to just be accepted and, for once, be unashamed of who I am.”
Rachel’s Vineyard is now an ongoing program offered through our ministry, and an important step for women who’ve walked the path of regret and shame to healing and grace. Additionally, the Rachel’s Vineyard experience encourages these women, men and families to find their voices and speak out about their experiences in hopes of preventing others from having the same regrets and pain.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18
In order to do what we do each and every day, we must love fearlessly! We must see beyond the circumstances in front of us be rooted in the Truth of God’s love and sovereignty over it all. When our Prevention Team tells us that a young man in one of their 8th grade classes talked with his girlfriend about the boundaries of their relationship…we praise Him and say yes, Lord bring us another one. Or when we experience weeks like the last few where an influx of young, very young women, came to us for help and support; 14, 15, 16 and 17, we say, “Lord, go before us, go around us, pace our steps; so that your love is all they see.” Just last week we received an email from the mother of a 13-year-old girl, reaching out for help. Immediately, prayer for this family began. Our hearts are connected to these young people, their families and all those involved in the pregnancy decision at hand.
It’s circumstances like these that God has created Bridgehaven for…God is continuing to guide, mold and shape Bridgehaven to become stronger, bolder and more courageous fishers of men.
Now, I admittedly know close to nothing about fishing. I know…Shocker! I am as girly as they come, but I do know and acknowledge that to be a good fisherman, you must be intentional. Your efforts to fish must be ON PURPOSE. On purpose to increase. On purpose to grow the kingdom of God. Bridgehaven has been assigned a God-sized vision, one in which more is required. More prayer, more intentionality, more reach, more resources, more obedience and more courage. In the past, the pregnancy center movement has been fraught with a caution and fear. Centers were targeted and persecuted, they were forced to pull back in what they said and how they said it. Honestly, in many ways this was a good thing to have happen. We now know exactly what God expects from us as a ministry. It’s helped us to understand the difference between ministry and manipulation and the true meaning of ‘no condemnation, no shame and no judgment.’
But God is on the move in a big way and the time is NOW! There are countless circumstances and scenarios where God has proven his hand on this ministry in big ways. Now is when we must continue our discipline of prayer and draw nearer to Him.
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” Ephesians 3:20
We are answering the call to this God-sized vision and couldn’t be more excited! 2017 is the start of something new, something life changing…community changing. It starts with a bigger sweep and broader reach of our ministry in all aspects. The question we ask ourselves is…What if the transformational love and power that exists within Bridgehaven were to explode into our community? What if what we’ve seen, experienced and know to be true about what God can and has done within our walls started happening outside our walls? More love, less judgment. More healing and repentance, less shame and condemnation. More talking about and being the hands and feet of Jesus.
For Bridgehaven, this means that we must begin to connect into and reach across the table with people and organizations that think and believe differently than we do. We must not fear working alongside secular or government organizations. God is calling Bridgehaven to come out of its shelter of protection and become a beacon of light within this community; sharing its message of hope to families in our community. To fish with bigger nets and tastier more satisfying bait. What is more satisfying than the promise of God’s love for His children?
Intentional and purposeful partnerships are one way of we have begun to broaden our reach into this community. Tonight we are honored to have representation from our local government in attendance. Their support shows the type of collaboration it will take to begin a transformation of hearts in our community. It starts with the leaders coming together and acknowledging, respecting and honoring one another for the mission and call upon their lives. I want to thank you both for being here this evening; Representative Ashley Hinson and City Council Member Susie Weinacht, would you please stand to be recognized? Thank you for your service to this community.
Another partnership we launched this year is one with HACAP Food Reservoir. This enables us to continue receiving from various organizations in the community, but in addition, provide more quality food items to clients than we’ve ever done before, on a consistent basis. Things like milk, cheese, and a variety of meats. Partnering with another organization took wisdom and intention. Linda Gorkow and her team at HACAP walked us through the decision making process with patience and encouragement for our program. We see a number of possibilities with this partnership and we are excited by what God has and is providing.
So, we have this broader net we are casting with community relationships and partnerships, but we CANNOT forget the daily struggles countless women and families are experiencing. With the annual abortion rate holding steady at approximately 1 million a year, we know there’s more to be done. So, what if more people were equipped to do what we do within the walls of Bridgehaven? What if churches and individuals were prepared and confident in their ability to walk with men, women and families facing a pregnancy decision? What if these women sought refuge and hope in the power of the church.
“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1:27
God’s Word makes it clear that saving the unborn and caring for their mothers is a central role of the church. When this scripture was written, orphans were children without fathers and widows were mothers without husbands. Today we have cultural orphans and widows. Nearly 9 out of 10 women who have abortions are unmarried. Additionally, recent research has revealed a sad reality about abortion in the church. Our national affiliate CareNet, in partnership with LifeWay, commissioned their own research to check the accuracy of recent data reporting this problem. They found that 4 out of 10 women were regularly attending church at the time of their abortion. In the pews on Sunday and in the abortion clinic on Monday. Furthermore, the research shows that the majority of these women viewed the church as a place they could not even talk about their pregnancy or seek help. They have an abortion, then continue to attend church without anyone knowing.
So what would happen if WE came alongside the church, instead of what it’s looked like for years, the church coming alongside pregnancy centers? This summer Bridgehaven will be launching a new curriculum, a tool to equip people and train first responders within churches to be ready and available to respond to women & men facing a pregnancy decision. Life decisions need life support and who better than the church to use its power to do this work.
This is just the beginning, because from this Church Initiative comes the ability for Bridgehaven to develop a ministry of transformation, not a series of transactions. We do not want to ever become church for our clients and therefore we need to work on this issue in a different way and come alongside the church on their issue rather than the church coming alongside our issue.
Our official launch of the Making Life Disciples curriculum will be held in June and more information will be on our website. Pastors are receiving the information but anyone who is interested in being a part of this ministry within their churches is encouraged to attend.
Finally, in February of this year, Bridgehaven participated in a site study that was conducted by an organization called Pre-born. Pre-Born is a national organization that equips pregnancy centers through three initiatives:
- Grants for ultrasound machines & nurse training
- Onsite Evangelism Training called The Invitation.
During this two day visit, my staff and I were encouraged and affirmed that what God is doing in this place is of Him and for Him. Jan Wright, our Pre-Born representative, was impressed by how much we were able to do and still keep the number one thing the number one thing…Jesus.
With that we are thrilled to announce that Bridgehaven has been approved for a grant with Pre-Born and will receive a newly refurbished Ultrasound Machine this year! This ultrasound machine will replace the used one we acquired when we launched our Ultrasound Services in 2011. Our current machine is completely outdated. We can no longer get replacement parts or maintain the machine. It will provide clearer images and detail for our clients and will include Doppler ability to hear the sound of their little one’s heartbeat.
In addition, we were blessed to host Pre- Born’s Evangelism Training entitled, The Invitation. This training helps pregnancy centers equip their Client Advocates through prayer and process to invite clients into discussions about the Gospel and to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. The Bridgehaven way is God’s, it’s a way that is led by the Holy Spirit and not our own desires or agenda.
Since our training in February the Holy Spirit has sparked countless conversations that are planting seeds and allowing the spirit to move in the way of transformation, but we have also been able to walk with four individuals as they accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. Two of those four happened in the past week. I would like to share with you the story from one of our client advocates as she describes her experience.
Yesterday a return client came to Bridgehaven for a pregnancy test. She was extremely anxious. Throughout the almost two hours of pouring out her story, I heard pain and shame along with embarrassment for hurtful choices, leading to a sense of entrapment. As I reflected what I sensed her feelings to be, she sighed and smiled as she said “exactly!” She seemed to relax a little, just from being heard and understood.
Her situation is complicated but I heard honesty, taking responsibility for choices she now needs to make, humility in not blaming others for her current situation, and a longing to have a stable and loving home.
With her permission, we looked at several scriptures together from Jeremiah and Romans. After discussing her reactions to these, she was open to praying together, “But I don’t know how to pray,” she said. I assured her that I would be glad to help if she wanted me to. She nodded, “Yes.” After we prayed together, she surrendered her life to Jesus, asking Him into her heart to lead her and teach her how to live for Him by the power of His Holy Spirit, she gave me the biggest smile and accepted a warm hug, thanking me. I told her, “Now you just watch how the Lord is going to work in your life!”
I think it’s the most humbling opportunity to become a fisher of men for Jesus. It is the most important thing that we do, but must be done with pureness of heart; we must keep the goal of continuing to be ministers and NOT manipulators at the forefront of our minds. We anticipate and know that God’s timing is unique for everyone we meet and the conversations or experiences will look different with each client He places before us, so we move forward with complete trust and obedience in the Lord.
So, I want to fill your hearts with one last story of the cutest couple that came through our doors a few weeks ago. I don’t know much about them, other than what I heard and saw for myself. I was holding a meeting in my office when I heard this hootin’ and holleran’ outside my office window. I did my best to discreetly sneak a peek through my blinds and saw a young man and young woman headed to their car. The young man had his arms raised to the heavens and with all this energy exclaimed to the entire neighborhood, “Whoooooooo! I am so happy!!!” As he continued over and over again, he ran around to the passenger side of the car and wrapped his arms around the mama, making her break out into a huge smile. It was terrific, so heartwarming to see and hear!
Let me tell ya, the fish are really bitin’ right now. God is bringing them to the surface and we are prepared, equipped and connected to him like never before. So, come along with us…bring your resources, share your time, share your love, share Jesus.
I want to close tonight with a few words our current VP Mike Pence shared with the crowd at the 2017 March for Life: “Let this movement be known for love, not anger. Let this movement be known for compassion, not confrontation. When it comes to matters of the heart, there is nothing stronger than gentleness.” I’m going to pray this over each of you tonight…because we cannot miss this!
Father, you have brought each person here for this moment, this message; this opportunity. Thank you for the hearts you’ve united and call you have upon Bridgehaven, its staff, volunteers and supporters. Let US be known for love not anger, compassion not confrontation. For nothing is stronger than gentleness. In your Holy name. Amen.