Bridgehaven Pregnancy Support Center - Cedar Rapids, Iowa Blog

Teen Conversation

As the clients who walk through the doors of Bridgehaven get younger and my son gets older, I feel like my worlds will soon collide. Wait…that doesn’t sound right. What I mean is I have to start looking at my son, my baby, as a potential client. He hates when I call him my baby. I do it all the time on social media and he is like, “Stop, mom. I am not your baby.” Ah, buddy, you are absolutely wrong. Despite the fact that you grow taller than me daily, you will always be my baby…the one your dad and I prayed to God for for years and years. But you are right. You aren’t a baby. You are a young man. And that scares the crap out of me.

Parenting a teenager is not for the faint of heart. I say this like I know even though mine has only been an actual teenager for a few months. The facts are not pleasant to look at. According to the most recent CDC findings ( reported in the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance 2015 report, nearly 10 million new STDs reported each year were among young people between the ages of 15-24; nearly 230,000 babies were born to teen girls aged 15-19 in 2015; 20% of surveyed students nationwide had ridden in a car or other vehicle one or more times with a driver who had been drinking alcohol; 41% of surveyed students had texted or emailed while driving a car; 22% of students surveyed had been in a physical fight one or more times; over 20% of students had been bullied on school property and 15.5% electronically bullied (email, chat rooms, social media); 14.6% of students nationwide had made a plan about how they would attempt suicide; 63% have tried alcohol and 44% had usually obtained the alcohol they drank by someone giving it to them; 21% were offered, sold or given an illegal drug. Kinda makes you feel sick, doesn’t it?

I think there are lots of practical things to do as parents. One of my main things is to have a strong village. Be friends with the parents of your kid’s friends. That way, you can call them and check out their stories. You can check Instagrams. The more eyes and ears on your kid, the better. Check their phones! Do it. You won’t be popular. They will hate it. Will they probably still be able to hide stuff from you? Yep. Will you still cuss Snapchat because you can’t see what is being discussed in a group chat involving way too many girls? Yep. And will you question why they don’t just text each other like normal people? Yes. But I am still a proponent of checking your kid’s phone. Do all the stuff they tell you to. Know where your kid is. Have rules and curfews. It is totally cool to not be cool with your kid. You are the parent. Don’t forget that. Repeat it to yourself. You are the parent.

Another neat thing I saw in a blog is to sit down with your child and review your parenting. It sounds super scary. It is kind of like having a performance evaluation with your kid. The only way to improve is to know how you are actually doing. Now, I imagine some of the feedback you get will be actual crap. I am pretty sure Kinnick will let me know I am overprotective and I need to let him stay out later and keep his phone in his room overnight. No chance, buddy. But, I bet there are things I do that bother him that I could change. Either way, the list I came across could start some pretty cool discussions.

  1. What have been some of the best times you’ve had with your dad/mom this past year?
  2. If you had to give me some advice on how to be a better dad/mom, what would it be? Why?
  3. If you and I could sit down and talk about anything, what would it be?
  4. What are some of the things that are making you anxious, fearful, or discouraged right now so I can pray for you?
  5. What’s something you would like to do with me?
  6. How can I help you grow in your love for God and in your ability to serve and live faithfully for Him?
  7. What has been the best thing I’ve done (or that we’ve done together as a family) this last year that has helped you most in your understanding of God and His love for you?
  8. What would you say has been the biggest area of growth for you in the last year?
  9. What have you learned about God/Christ/faith this last year that has blessed you?
  10. If you could grow in any area in the next 12 months, where would you want it to be?
  11. What do you think your dad/mom is most passionate about?

Ultimately, using a couple of these questions leads you to learning a whole bunch of things about your children you might not have otherwise known. Or it leads you to ask more questions. And I think the most important piece is just spending the time. Spend the time so your child knows you care. Spend the time so you know your child’s heart. Spend the time so your child knows your heart.

Being the mom is scary. It isn’t all glamorous and wonderful like people make it look on Facebook. It is hard work. And it requires time. I pray that Kinnick knows he is loved by God and so many people and that his decisions matter. I pray that he takes care of both his heart and his body. I just keep repeating Proverbs 23:15 in my head, “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad.” It’s absolutely the best we can do. Teach them, love them, pray for them and send them out into the world.

kylee pusteoska

Kylee Pusteoska

Director of Development

Back to School

“Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire.” — W.B. Yeats

For the past decade, a rich practical way of sharing the gospel has been available for families through the Back to School Supply Distribution program. This annual event offers support, encouragement and provision in the lives of parents and children in the Earn While You Learn program at Bridgehaven. Client Support will be accepting school supplies that will support our active clients in the Earn While You Learn program for this coming school year.

The goal and prayer for the Back to School Distribution is to ease the financial burden and stress for families, especially single-parent households, to promote community connectedness and establish Kingdom demonstrations of God’s goodness.

The Earn While You Learn program is a transformational model that promotes growth, learning, healthy relationships and accountable support. Clients earn material assistance and yearly benefits, such as school supplies by attending empowerment-focused classes (i.e. life skills, parenting, relationship, and Bible studies).

Our desire is for all families to be burden free and at peace knowing their needs will be met! As a local body of Christ, we have the opportunity to fulfill this need and be a part of the solution. This is an element of establishing Kingdom demonstrations of God’s goodness and promises. God values education and people. Let’s be the people that put the gospel into action by practical means of meeting the needs of families.

If you feel called to contribute to Bridgehaven’s back to school supply distribution for the 2017-2018 school year please bring donations to Client Support at Bridgehaven by 6:30 p.m. on Monday, July 31st. Our distribution for our clients will be held Wednesday August 2nd.

Below is a list of basic school supplies we are in need of this year:

  • School bags for boys and girls, kindergarten through high school (Important need)
  • Copy paper (Important need)
  • Loose leaf lined paper
  • Notebooks – wide and college ruled
  • 1, 1 ½, and 2 inch binders
  • Folders – all colors, with and without holes
  • Plastic pocket folders
  • Markers – skinny and fat
  • 24 packaged crayons
  • Colored pencils
  • Pens – red, black, blue
  • Pencil boxes
  • Dry erase markers
  • Highlighters – variety of colors
  • Pink erasers
  • Glue sticks
  • Blunt and non-blunt scissors
  • Glue
  • Rulers
  • Kleenex
  • Purell hand sanitizer, individual size
  • Clorox Wipes
  • #2 pencils

Dawn Michaels

Dawn Michael

Director of Client Support


Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. –James 1: 2-4

Have you, or someone you love, been experiencing sadness, disappointment, anger, frustration, fear, loss, or heartache, recently? For me, I can clearly point out to you the areas of my life that these have been evident for me lately, and unfortunately, some of those I love, have been going through every single one of these trials listed, as well. Broken relationships, loss of a loved one, fear of what steps to take next, or the heartbreaking news that just feels too much to bear. These are real trials. They come with real emotion. And they require real effort to keep inching forward.

Perseverance, according to Merriam Webster, is the continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition.

Gosh. This whole perseverance idea just seems too tough sometimes. And the truth of it is, it’s not easy all the time. God knows this, too. He knows this idea of continued effort despite difficulties, failure, or opposition is really going to challenge us sometimes. But guess what? He’s not going to ever stop calling us to it. This is because He knows perseverance is the fruit produced by having your faith tested. And by having perseverance, you will lack in nothing because you will be putting your trust and dependence on the One who deserves every ounce of the glory that comes from the fruit on the other side of your trials.

Let’s take the passage from James 1 listed above, and substitute the word perseverance, for the definition itself according to Merriam Webster.

Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition. And let continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition, be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

That’s pretty powerful stuff right there. I’m not sure what each of your lives look like right now. I’m not sure what trials you are facing. I’m not sure how these trials are impacting each of you in deep ways. But I do know there is a God who doesn’t want you to give up, because He is there every step of the way. I pray each of you, despite the difficulties, failure, or opposition, will trust in the breakthrough God has up ahead for you. A breakthrough which will lack in nothing. A breakthrough that surpasses our human understanding. A breakthrough that will produce fruit beyond what we can comprehend.

Heavenly Father, I can’t wait to see what you have up ahead for each of these men and women reading this right now. Show us the way, Lord.

Haley Brimmer, Director of Client Advocacy

Haley Brimmer

Director of Client Advocacy


Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38

Donor relations. Doesn’t it sound fancy and complicated? If you google it, there are books and seminars and discussion boards. It must be difficult. It must be impossible to make all your donors happy. Lucky for me, I had good teachers in my previous job (Huge thank you to Jean Johnson and Kelly Allen!). The key to having good donor relations is simply honoring those people who give to your organization. It isn’t rocket science to understand people want to feel valued. They want to feel like their gifts were important and that the organization appreciates what they have given.

Last week, we received a generous donation from a long-time supporter in memory of his wife and I noticed his address had changed to a care center in the area. It made me wonder how he was doing and if he would appreciate some visitors. In my past life as an assistant in the alumni relations department at Coe College, a wise woman showed me how to truly care for the people who are connected to your organization. She would take flowers to those with special birthdays and visit sick alums in the hospital. And it seemed like she was never too busy to attend a funeral of someone close to Coe. She instilled in me a belief that without loyal supporters, your organization will not thrive. People have chosen to support what you do when you work in a non-profit and they certainly don’t have to. They could easily donate to a different group or not at all. The love they have for what you do should be honored and celebrated. My passion for non-profit work started with Jean and I hope I am able to pass it on to someone else someday.

Back to Harold…I had this big idea that we could visit Harold. We could go to the care center and have a nice chat. Wouldn’t Harold be blessed by us coming to say thanks? Wouldn’t he appreciate that we drove over to thank him? I was feeling pretty proud of my idea. And I still think it was a good idea and it was the right thing to do. Harold had supported us for many, many years and his wife had been a volunteer for us. We were thankful for all they had done with their time and treasure and especially that they still gave all these years later.

I contacted the care center and asked if there was a way we could visit. I received an email from Harold’s daughter that was so nice. She was delighted that we wanted to visit but let me know Harold is suffering from dementia and she wasn’t sure how much of our visit he would understand. I let her know we were up for it anyway if he liked having visitors. Her response was that he loves to chat and muffins and cornbread were treats he might enjoy. The visit was set and five staff members were excited to show our appreciation for all that the family had done for Bridgehaven.

We walked in with homemade blueberry muffins and a brightly colored Thank You balloon and found Harold in the activity room visiting with his friends. As we were led to a smaller lobby area that would be quieter so we could visit, I noticed that Harold’s eyes lit up with excitement. He remembered Leanne and seemed to connect that we were from Bridgehaven/Aid to Women. Harold loved the muffin and was happy to tell us about all the activity at the center. He has the cutest smile and his daughter was right, Harold loved to chat. After a bit, he asked if we would like to see his home and the photos his daughter had put up for him. We graciously followed him to his room and walked into a hallway filled with photos. There was Harold at age…probably 4 or so…sepia-toned photo with a smart bow tie and pink cheeks. There were photos of him in the military, with his young bride and the other side of the hallway featured colored photos of grandchildren and newspaper clippings of a 65th anniversary and an 85th birthday.

As Harold talked about who was in the photos and of fishing trips and vacations to the beach, it was clear that his family meant so much to him. He spoke of his three daughters and his eyes sparkled. And he talked about his wife…”She was the president and she got things done!” Working gals, we all loved that and it was clear he was so very proud of her. A few stories later, his eyes filled with tears and he spoke of his love for her. How he missed her. The five of us were looking at each other and smiling with tears in our eyes. What a blessing to be there with him in that moment. How powerful to hear about a love so strong that death didn’t matter. It was such a cool moment.

So, I set out today to bless a sweet, generous man who has been giving to Bridgehaven for decades and I left a care center feeling like he did more for me today than I could ever do for him. I was honored to witness his love for his family and the passion he still has for a wife who is gone. To know that, while he might get lost in a story or forget certain words to complete a thought, the love he felt for the four ladies in his life could never be lost. It was powerful. And so while I thought my morning was going to be about thanking a donor, it was really about being a witness to a man’s heart. It is a blessing I won’t forget. Thank you, Harold.

kylee pusteoska

Kylee Pusteoska

Director of Development

The Ticket

I love to share the story of me and my husband’s very first Valentine’s Day as a couple. When Don and I were first dating, country music was a big part of who we were. We’d spend time in the car singing our hearts out to Rascal Flatts or dancing in the park to My Maria by Brooks & Dunn. Just thinking about those days make my heart happy. So, on our first Valentine’s Day, I was giddy at the thought of surprising him with tickets to the Brooks & Dunn Red Dirt Road Concert and the memories we’d have of the evening together.

When the day of the concert finally arrived, we were both so excited. Not once did we consider where our seats might be. But when we got there and the usher stopped at the steep staircase directing, “All the way up,” I looked up and realized the limitations of my checkbook. The only seats I could afford were a trek up to the second to last row of the stadium. I felt bad, my special gift felt minimized and not so special anymore. However, Don was encouraging and joyful. Just happy to be with me.

So as we sat there chatting and snacking, watching and waiting for the stadium to fill up, we noticed a young man coming up the stairs. He was looking at us. He finally reached us, and sat down on the stairs next to Don. He breathlessly exclaimed, “Boy, we are quite a ways up, aren’t we?!” We both smiled and engaged in conversation about the nosebleed section we now found ourselves at home in. The man then paused and looked at us. He introduced himself as a local country music radio announcer and said, “How would you two like to go from the worst seats in the house to the best seats in the house?” He immediately handed us two front row, center tickets! Seriously, one of the coolest moments. The promise of what awaited us was more than we could contain. We were giddy, joyful, exuberant and expectant.

This story, for me, runs parallel with God’s promises.

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.” Nahum 1:7

“Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:20-21

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…” Isaiah 55:8a, 9

“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy sage pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desire of your heart.” Psalm 37: 3-4

“He gives strength to the weary and increases power to the weak.” Isaiah 40:29

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

These are just a few of the many promises made to us by God. You might be feeling disappointment, frustration, loss, brokenness, hurt, sadness or anger. But God promises He has a plan for good. His ways are not our ways. He cares for you. He will give you the desire of your heart. His strength increases our power. He will fight for you. He will create a path. Believing in his promises IS the ticket to that front row seat. When we believe and begin to live by his promises and precepts the world around us changes. When our heart knows these promises are true, we are giddy, joyful, exuberant, expectant and hopeful, even in times of great sorrow, pain and loss.

Here’s the kicker…everyone has a ticket! He’s offering it to everyone, not just me and not just that lady over there. YOU get one, too. You may not have planned to be where you are and maybe you’ve made yourself comfortable there, but what if someone said, “How would you like to go from the worst seats in the house, to the best seats in the house?” Jesus, that’s your ticket.

Father, my gratefulness for your promises overflow. You have surely taken me from the worst seat in the house to the best seat in the house. Even when I didn’t deserve it. Lord, I pray today that anyone reading this feels your love for them deeply and is convicted to pick up a Bible, reach out to a friend, or make plans to attend church on Sunday. Whatever they do, may it bring them closer to you. More accepting of your love, mercy and grace.

Bridgehaven: Chelsey

Chelsey McDill

Executive Director

But God

I used to think Christians were the weirdest people on the planet. I couldn’t trust their joy—why were they smiling all the time? Their willingness to help was disturbing—why did these total strangers want to help furnish my apartment? I was annoyed with the way they remembered my name and spelled it correctly. Attention to every detail. What do these polished smiling people want from someone like me? They’ve obviously never experienced pain like I have. They’ve had it easy their entire lives.

But God.

Well, I’m one of those weird Christians now. God came into my life and interrupted my judgmental assessments of his people. And recently he’s been showing me some truths about fighting for joy.

I know a girl with rosy cheeks and eyes that shine like a doll you get at Christmas. She laughs so easily at my jokes that I leave most of our conversations convinced I could do stand-up. She’s the type of listener who locks eyes with you and draws you out of yourself. You have coffee with her and end up sharing every detail of your thought life, your dreams when you were in 6th grade, your deepest regrets. Being in her warm presence, you would never guess this girl endured the nightmare of abuse for several years of her life.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20)

I know a woman with ageless wisdom in her eyes. She is one of those people you just want to sit with for hours, soaking up her words. She wears her hair in a bun, is ten minutes late for everything–smiling, steady and soft. Two months ago she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She wasn’t ready for it (who is ever ready for a diagnosis like that?) but she is not crushed. She is using her time in sterile, intimidating waiting rooms to pray with other patients and talk to the hospital staff about Jesus.

But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:27)

I’ve had a strained relationship with my Dad for a number of years. Many things infected our relationship: addiction, pride, bitterness, deceit. After my conversion, I was fearful we would never see eye-to-eye about spiritual things. A few months ago, I sat at my kitchen table across from him and we prayed together for the very first time. With tears in our eyes, we thanked God for restoring the years that the locusts had eaten. (Joel 2:25)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)

I know a guy who finally accomplished his lifelong goal of starting his own business. He proved his doubters wrong; he rose to the top. He “made it.” And you know what? If you look past all the new office space purchases, love interests, and national attention, he is lonelier than he has ever been. He can’t trust if the people in his life are his true friends or just seeking his status. Between the foggy nights of drinking and jam-packed days of endless meetings, he is left with the feeling that something just isn’t right. This life feels empty…it just isn’t what he thought it would be. When asked what brings him joy, he is unable to give an answer.

You don’t need me to tell you this, but our world is full of hurting people. The difference in these stories isn’t the amount of pain experienced. The difference is Christ.

It’s not that Christians don’t experience pain; it’s that Christians do not see their own suffering as senseless. It’s not that Christians are stronger people with more resolve; it’s that Christ’s power is made perfect in our weakness. Our affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory. (2 Corinthians 4:17). Christ in us provides the possibility of suffering and peace happening simultaneously. Affliction can exist alongside the real true soul rest that comes from carrying one another’s burdens to the foot of the cross.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Christ died for me when I was still in sin. That means before my conversion, while I was a homeless meth addict, Jesus was pursuing me with grace. His grace is the reason I’ve not been consumed by my regrets, nightmares, dental problems, and tarnished credit score. Because he lives in me, I am able to wake up to fresh mercies every morning and point people to the One whose yoke is easy and burden is light. Nothing can compare to that. And if you’re reading this, it’s not too late for you to turn to him. Everything he promises is true. It’s more real to me than anything. I’d stake my life on it.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)

Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen

Prevention Assistant

A Mind to Work and the Call to Fish for Men

Earlier this week, Bridgehaven hosted its Fundraising Gala and I want to share the heart message of the event and trumpet call to be fishers of men.

The Gala was an amazing night of inspiration, praise, focus, and clarity of what our work is in the pro-abundant life, pro-family, pro-marriage realm and the fruit of our labor thus far.

Our Gala theme was “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Mark 1:17

Our theme was so appropriate for the conversations and messages shared from the various speakers. It also reminded me of a past blog I wrote in 2015: A Mind and Heart to Work. I was inspired to write that blog after attending Care Net’s (our center’s national affiliate) annual conference. That year, Care Net launched a vision of restoring fatherhood and the design of family God intended through the means of evangelism and discipleship; truly, being fishers and equippers of men. That vision of being fishers of men continues to stir and build into 2017, establishing momentum and clearer directives for Bridgehaven.

Chelsey McDill, our Executive Director, presented a message at the Gala of immense hope, unity, and a call to action and work coupled with prayer, obedience, and boldness to be about the business of being fishers of men for God. This will be walked out and demonstrated through discipleship, empowering fatherhood and men, educating and modeling the design of family with evangelism with love and the Holy Spirit.

I want to share some of Chelsey’s remarks from the Gala that are so timely and activating to this next level of ministry.

“There is perhaps no greater experience that we are offered than to allow the Holy Spirit to do and complete His transformative work inside the hearts of those that come to us.”

“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 and be rooted in the Truth of God’s love and sovereignty over it all.

“To be a good fisherman, you must be intentional, it must be on purpose. Bridgehaven has been assigned a God-sized vision, one in which more is required. More prayer, more intentionality, more reach, more obedience and more courage.”

“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.”

“We are answering the call to this God-sized vision and couldn’t be more excited! 2017 is a start of something new, something life changing…community changing. It starts with a bigger sweep and broader reach to 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?

“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 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?”

“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 are encouraged to attend.”

Care Net has developed a one-of-its-kind curriculum called Making Life Disciples (MLD). MLD will equip the Church to provide compassion, hope, help, and discipleship to women and men considering abortion.

Father, you see the unborn, you see the lost, you see the broken, and you see the body of Christ. May the equippers and fishers of men be equipped to disciple, reach out, be intentional in working and being the Kingdom of God. May we work with compassion, focus, excellence of spirit, with purity of heart in total abandonment to You, Your purpose and Will for those in need of You. May we see in this generation, the restoration of the design of family with life-affirming decisions and mindsets. In Jesus name, we boldly say Yes to you and your call for this community and nation!

Dawn Michaels

Dawn Michael

Director of Client Support

Ministry Update

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:

  1. Prayer
  2. Grants for ultrasound machines & nurse training
  3. 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.

Bridgehaven: Chelsey

Chelsey McDill

Executive Director

Fishers of Men

Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men…Mark 1:17

Jesus commanded the disciples to drop everything and go out into the world…out into the big, scary world and fish for men. Wait, what? What does that even mean? I have tried online dating to “catch” a man but this message must mean something very different since it comes to us from the gospel of Mark. I have had some time to really sit with this verse for the last 9 months since I came to work at Bridgehaven. I swear that the 9 month thing is just a very cool coincidence…

As it turns out, this seemingly simple verse has such rich depth. When you really think about it, fishing is an act of faith. You throw your baited hook out into the water and hope for the best. You can’t see the fish but you hope they are there. Your success is dependent on so many things, most of which are outside of your control. So, you must believe.

To be a good fisherman or fisherwoman, you must be diligent and persevering. You have to know what you are trying to catch and use the correct equipment. Sometimes, you have to wait a very long time before anything will bite. Patience is definitely a key and you must learn to wait. There might be times of no fish and you have to hang in there.

If you manage to be loyal in your fishing, you must also be smart and willing to work hard. You have to pay attention to the ever changing weather conditions and listen to other people who have experienced success. The sun might be hot or the winds might be strong but you have to have the fortitude to continue on if you hope to catch a fish.

All that being said, fishing sounds pretty daunting from a faith perspective. And when we consider that the verse is asking us to fish for men, for souls, it is darn right scary. And it surely is if we think that we can do any of it on our own. But look at the verse again. Jesus said, “I will make you…” He doesn’t say follow me and make the world better by yourself. He says He is going to make you a fisher of men. Your success will come because you are fishing with God’s strength. He will enable you to catch the fish. He will provide the bait and all the equipment and you just have to do. Go. Fish.

When we look at fishing from that perspective, it makes perfect sense that we chose it as the theme for this year’s Bridgehaven fundraising gala. I would guess that most of our staff would not know how to clean a fish but with God’s strength, they are loving on our clients every day. Our volunteers probably don’t know how to cast correctly, but they are sharing Jesus with clients in the counseling rooms on Center Point Road. And most of our donors have never been out on a boat in the middle of the ocean but their contributions allow God to work at Bridgehaven.

God calls us to “fish for men” and I think that can look a lot of different ways depending on who you are and what your gifts are. God takes each one of us and says, “Do your thing. Do what you are good at and do it for the good of my kingdom. Use your talents for not only yourself but for all my children.” He doesn’t expect us all to preach the gospel or speak from a pulpit. Some of us are called to do things like be moms. Some of us are called to raise funds for a ministry that empowers choices for life and encourages all children to be born into healthy families. But he calls us all to do good for his kingdom. We are all responsible for doing what we can to make the world better. So I encourage you to Go. Fish. Do your thing! And do it with God’s strength.

kylee pusteoska

Kylee Pusteoska

Director of Development

Lay Down Your Burdens, Love Awaits

Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2

I’ve recently been embraced by a wonderful community of Jesus-loving women. These women come to my house every week. We enjoy scripture together, sharing our lives together and growing in Christ’s love together. We have quickly created a bond of safety, trust and sisterhood.

This year, during Lent, we decided to journey together through a release of baggage or burdens that we are carrying. Each of us were given a rock to carry with us throughout the 40 days of Lent. The rock represented the weight, obstruction, accommodation and presence of the burdens in our everyday lives. The idea is to be able to name your burden, identify how it affects your life, your relationships with those around you and ultimately your relationship with Jesus. For me, I had done this powerful activity during a retreat a few years ago and laid a very heavy burden at the cross. It was freeing and allowed me to fall deeper into God’s perfect love for me. This time, however, I wasn’t sure. There was no one big, heavy burden taunting me or holding back; or so I thought.

The assignment was to carry this rock everywhere, yes, everywhere. To work, to events, sitting there at the table while you’re eating, in the bathroom while you’re getting ready…everywhere. While carrying this rock, this burden, we were to meditate on what we were learning about carrying this around. Well, by the end of week one I had already failed. My rock remained perched where I had left it that Sunday afternoon; on the side table next to my comfy chair. Throughout the week I would glance at it, knowing exactly where I left it. Seeing it there reminded me of the assignment and how clueless I was to what God was calling me to let go of during this time. It wasn’t until about two and half weeks in that I realized how God was weaving a beautiful message for me.

It has been a desire of my heart and prayer that the Lord would take me deeper and into purer relationship with Him. That he would reveal to me anything and everything that was holding me back from a pureness of heart that only comes from His love. Day after day, as I glanced over at my rock sitting on that side table, I began to see it. That little rock started to blend into the décor of my household, no would know its significance but me, and the Lord. People may not even notice it sitting there or feel its presence; but I did. No matter how small it was I knew it was there, nagging at me to pick it up. Sometimes, I would; it felt smooth in my hand and I found it kinda pretty. But as I set it down that final time it hit me…I knew what burden my rock represented. I suddenly knew why I had not felt an urge to ‘follow the rules’ and carry it every day. Why it sat there inconspicuously taking up space in my home.

This little rock represented the hardness and ungodliness that still took up space in my heart and was keeping me from the deeper, purer relationship I desired with God. You know, the prideful things or judgmental things you may not say out loud but are thinking, before you say what you’re supposed to say or feel, before you ask God to change your heart. Those things are always there, taking up space in your heart. No one would know but you, and the Lord. Oh, how hard it is for me to admit that my first mental responses are not appropriate for public ears. But God has always known what’s in my heart and what I’m thinking or feeling, He’s always loved me despite this ugliness.

After I was able to get over my initial disappointment in myself, I thought I had come so far, He asked me to lay down the hidden burdens of pride, judgment and control. He promised to replace them with true humility, authentic understanding and a kind of peace that only He can bless us with. Yes Lord, that is what I know you are calling me to but I do not know how. His grace showered over me as I sat in this truth and prayed for mercy to help me let go of these ungodly things.

I admitted my sin to the godly women of my weekly study, and they listened and loved me anyway. They loved me the way Jesus would. And on that last day, before Easter, as we released our burdens and prayed over one another in my front yard, I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit bringing us comfort and peace; His presence never failing to lift us up, sustains us for our journey. Thank you, Lord.

Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken. Psalm 55:22

Live Loved,
Bridgehaven: Chelsey

Chelsey McDill

Executive Director