I Choose Joy

I know something about you.  Yes, you.

Regardless of your marital status, age, ethnicity, gender, income, beliefs, height, or weight– I can tell you with certainty we have something big in common.  We both want to be happy. I know this because it is a basic human desire to yearn for significance, security, and pleasure. Read More

He Equips the Called

“The Lord doesn’t call the equipped – He equips the called.”

Jacob was a liar, David was a murderer, Elijah was suicidal, Rahab was a prostitute, and Peter denied Christ. Despite their failures, wrongdoings, and flaws, they all aided God in different ways. So the question stands: Do you really think God can’t use you?

I have felt useless before – as if I have nothing to possibly contribute to a greater cause. But I continuously find fulfillment from serving God and His people, regardless of my doubts in the skills I have to offer.

We are all created in the image of God, and He truly does work Himself into each of our lives if we allow Him to. In my experience, God has always taken who He has created me to be and matched me to help those in need. Read More

Push back with hope!

I consider myself a glass-half-full kind of gal. But I will tell ya’, there are things of this world that really get me down or bring me to a dark place of discouragement and hopelessness. As I write this, I am attending the MLK50 Conference streaming live from Memphis, TN. The event is not only a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death but a call to action for the church. That racial unity is a Gospel issue and is all the more urgent for us to act upon today.

It could be easy to feel discouraged by what I’ve heard over the last day or so. It could be easy to look at this and on the surface see that at Bridgehaven we’re doing okay. It could be easy to say this is not part of our focus or our issue, and we need to stay focused. Yes, that would be easy, but untrue. The truth is, that I feel this deep discouragement because I know, in my heart, that we are not there yet. That at Bridgeheaven, God is calling us to understand and unify in a way that is different than we do today.

But, I chose to push back on my feelings of discouragement with hope.

I believe God is calling us, Bridgehaven, to look honestly at this issue within our ministry. We serve people from many nations, ethnic backgrounds, and cultures. We love and embrace all people that God sends our way, but I have been challenged recently to really think and pray about this from outside my own perspective. To seek counsel and wisdom from others that don’t look like me, act like me, or think like me. I have found, unsurprisingly, that we have some room to grow. Praise God!

“In his name the nations will put their hope.” Matthew 12:21

I don’t have the answers as to how God will help us. I just know that he will. My hope is in knowing that God desires unity of his people. He desires all his people, not just the ones that look like us and think like us, to work with one another in unity and harmony. My hope is in knowing that God has a great work in me to be done, a learning of something new. Something better to embrace and to see Him through a lens I’ve yet to look through.

One of Dr. King’s quotes deeply resonates with me and the mission of Bridgehaven: “Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.” If we, as an organization that is life-affirming, do not learn from the mistakes of the past and affirm, embrace, evolve and work alongside all of God-created human life, then we are blinded. So I state a commitment to my brothers and sisters of all races and ethnicities – I can do better. We can do better and we will.

Almighty Father of Nations, heal us. Bring us together through the bonds of hope and peace. Help us to learn from one another and soften our hearts toward the things that hold us back from one another. I pray for Bridgehaven, the staff, volunteers, and clients, may you continue your mighty life affirming work in us and through us to benefit all people. In your name…Amen.

Chelsey McDill

Executive Director


Optimal Health Clinic: STI Testing

This past quarter, Bridgehaven began offering an Optimal Health Clinic with limited STI testing to clients and their partners through a partnership with the Iowa Department of Health.

Who? We are offering the testing to current Earn While You Learn and pregnancy test clients, as well as their partners.

What? There are four possible tests. The Department of Health advises each client on which to take based on their individual risk factors. Details of the four tests are listed in the graph below.

Test Type of Test Results
HIV Finger Poke If finger poke (results in 20 mins) is positive, will draw blood (results in 1 week).
Hepatitis C Finger Poke If finger poke (results in 20 mins) is positive, will draw blood (results in 1 week).
Gonorrhea Urine Results in 3-5 days.
Chlamydia Urine Results in 3-5 days.

A member of the Bridgehaven team will also offer client counseling and prayer.

When? The STI clinics began on February 1, 2018 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and they will continue every other Thursday until further notice.

Why? Statistics:

  • Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are the most common STIs in Linn County
  • Linn County has the second highest STI rate in the state of Iowa
  • 90 percent of the population that is STI-positive experiences no signs or symptoms
  • Bridgehaven served 507 women with pregnancy tests in 2017. We know these women and their partners are sexually active, and they have already approached us for our services. We can do more to give them the information they need to be a healthy family.

Clients who participate in STI testing are 60 to 70 percent more likely to choose abstinence*. If they simply take the one-time pregnancy test, only 15 to 20 percent choose abstinence*. By offering STI testing, we now have more opportunities to water the seeds that have been planted, reach abortion-vulnerable clients, and share the Gospel.

We know STI testing is somewhere on Bridgehaven’s roadmap for the future. We are going to learn a lot from this opportunity. When the time comes, Bridgehaven will be more equipped to provide these services through our own resources.

*Statistics from CareNet; Bridgehaven’s National Affiliate

Have Mercy on Me

“What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” (Matthew 26:15)

For the times I handed You over, Lord, for popularity and acceptance, have mercy on me.

For the times I handed You over, Lord, for comfort and ease, have mercy on me.

For the times I handed You over, Lord, for my own desires over yours, have mercy on me.

For the times I handed You over, Lord, for time to idly waste, have mercy on me.

For the times I handed You over, Lord, for not rocking the boat and looking the other way when wrong was done, have mercy on me.

For the times I handed You over, Lord, for saying what I thought even when my words cut other’s hearts, have mercy on me.

For the times I handed You over, Lord, for a hard heart when I refused to forgive, have mercy on me.

For the times I handed You over, Lord, for doing nothing in times when love was demanded, have mercy on me.

For the times I handed You over, Lord, for the convenience of using people, have mercy on me.

For the times I handed You over, Lord, for so much less than thirty pieces of silver, have mercy on me.

-Christy Isinger, Blessed Is She devotional

When this devotional came through to my email yesterday morning, I sat there for a little bit just rereading all of these statements. At first, I didn’t want to admit I could think of a scenario in which each of these played out in my own life, some of them even being recent circumstances. It was almost painful to think of the ways in which I so willingly put my own selfish desires or wants above Christ. Despite it being challenging to reflect on all of this, it was convicting.

We are all sinners, and these statements above reflect just that. The world tells us, in more ways than one, we should put ourselves first, and our own interests should be top priority above all else. This was depicted in the scripture above where Judas, Jesus’ betrayer, was talking with the chief priests before he handed Jesus over. Judas wanted to know what good could come out of this opportunity for himself, without even considering the magnitude of his decision.

How often do we find ourselves putting our own desires, wants, interests above all else? What do we do about it when we find ourselves in this situation? Are we allowing God to enter into these moments to help guide us back to Him?

I’m not going to lie. This wasn’t easy to talk about or reflect on because I consider myself more of an optimist. With the joy of Easter coming this weekend, I wanted to focus on something that felt a little more uplifting. And then I saw this reminder from Christy Isinger, who wrote the devotional above:

“As we journey through this most Holy Week of the year, let’s do the difficult work of looking at ourselves and what our sin contributes to Christ’s suffering. We are part of the story, we are part of His pain just as we are part of His Resurrection.”

Heavenly Father, thank you that we are a part of the story. We admire you for showing us the truth that we are a part of His pain, but we are also a part of His Resurrection. We await in great and joyful anticipation for Easter Sunday, and we praise You for the hope You have given to us by sending us Your Son, and raising Him up to new life. In your name, we pray.

Haley Brimmer, Director of Client Advocacy

Haley Brimmer

Director of Client Advocacy

Come to the Table

Easter is such an amazing and anointed time to testify the goodness and consuming love of Jesus, the victory of the cross, the gift of forgiveness, the tearing of the veil, and friendship accessibility we have with our Redeemer!

May we make and take opportunities to uplift others who may not know Jesus, His Resurrection Life that is still powerful and alive today, and those who simply need fresh encouragement.
May we take this opportunity to demonstrate Christ’s love by welcoming others into the hope we have in Jesus!

This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It is adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who He is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what’s coming to us- an unbelievable inheritance! Romans 8:15-17

He is worthy of celebrating!

On Thursday, March 22nd, Bridgehaven’s Earn While You Learn program is hosting our “Come to the Table – Easter” food distribution. This event is made possible by volunteers, donors and our partnerships with HACAP and Hy Vee. Canned food was donated from Target and a grant covers a $10 voucher to Hy Vee towards the purchase of a ham, turkey or chicken. Clients are invited to shop for food for their families and also receive a voucher.

The purpose and heart of this event is to offer support and means for families so that they may enjoy and celebrate an Easter meal with their family. I love the value and importance of eating together in the Christian faith; such an act of covenant and community. The breaking of bread, the celebration and proclamation of blessings, and the sense of unity.


There is so much to celebrate and reflect upon in this season, may there be such a demonstration of Resurrection Life and Love!

And He took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and saif, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

This year, we had 70 clients sign up to participate in the event. Volunteers serve in a variety of ways in this event – whether it is organizing set-up, supporting clients during their shopping experience, or taking care of the clean up process, all phases of serving are important and valuable! We are thankful for those who labor, give, support, and champion the wide displays of love for people through events like this.

Additionally, we created brochures of local churches and times of worship so clients are equipped with church information and able to join in the Resurrection Season with the body of Christ. What a beautiful season to hear the word of God and allow His grace to impact our lives.

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through him to reconcile everything to himself, whether things on Earth or things in Heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

May you enjoy the song “To the Table” by Zach Williams.

Lord, we bring ourselves to your banqueting table of grace, love, and forgiveness!  Thank you for making your table available to us, may we all accept this grand invitation!  Thank you that we may be filled with You and Your Food at your table! We celebrate Your Fellowship and Presence!

Dawn Michaels

Dawn Michael

Director of Client Support

Peer-to-Peer Mentors: Where Are They Now

…That time when I took eight high school students to Washington, D.C. for a week to lobby for sexual health education on Capitol Hill!

This little gem popped up on my Facebook memories feed and brought back some great memories.  In 2009, I was privileged to take a group of eight high school students who were serving Bridgehaven as peer-to-peer mentors to Washington DC where we mingled and lobbied our legislators about the importance of sexual risk avoidance (SRA) education. I decided to attempt a “WHERE ARE THEY NOW” coup with some of our peer-to-peer mentors of yesteryear. I was excited to hear from a few of them…so international!!

  • Kelli: “I’m living in Los Angeles, working as a freelance social media manager. I’m moving to Nairobi, Kenya in June for a yearlong internship with a child sponsorship organization out there!😁 God is soo good, Jesus is ever faithful.   Hope everyone is doing well!”
  • Adrienne: “Got married in October, met my husband when I lived in India for a year. Living in Cedar Rapids for now. Currently looking at schools to apply for my masters in social work to be a mental health therapist.”
  • Caleb: “I got married about 2.5 years ago, and I am living in Lynchburg, VA. I work at Liberty University where I am currently working on my MBA.”
  • Tiffany: “I live in Seattle as a marketing coordinator for City University of Seattle! I’m married to a wonderful man and we have a puppy named Rogue.  Hope all is well!
  • Melanie: “I’m living in Omaha, NE! I’m a deaconess at my church, Citylight Benson and helped plant this church! I own my own business, The Experience Company, geared toward managing and building successful corporate and fundraising events. I also serve on the Young Professionals Council for the city chamber along with various other boards. And I still go to Malawi, Africa every summer to help run our kids camp, Camp Chisomo!!”
  • Marie: “Hey everybody. I sure do love us in our professional clothes. 🙂 I’m doing well! I’m getting my Masters in Theology from Union School of Theology near Cardiff, Wales. It’s modular, so I spend some time out there and then do most of the research and writing from home. I live in CR, do a little hosting with Safe Families when I can, and make money by substitute teaching and waiting tables at Cobble Hill. Still single, send dates.”
  • Sarah: “I live in NYC and I’m a lawyer! Nothing else new or exciting with me.  I hope all is well for you!”

Our current Veracity program consists of high school and college students who love to mentor their younger peers by joining us as a panel in our classrooms for a day of Q & A about life, dating, stress, pressure, and their commitment to avoiding sexual risk.  If you know of any students who would appreciate the opportunity to promote sexual integrity through mentoring and education of their peers, we would love to talk to them!  We have several Veracity presentations coming up including Central City High School and Prairie Middle School.

Trisha Sellers, Director of Prevention

Trisha Sellers

Director of Prevention



I called her Pants.  She called herself Cool Aunt Nancy.  Others called her sister, friend and mom.  She was a wife and a grandma.  She was one of the most awesome people I have ever met, and I was so blessed to have her in my life.  As she was leaving this earth, a doctor posed a question about what kind of life she had and her husband, my dear Uncle Rip responded, “She was kind of a party.”  And that was really all there was to say.

One of the clearest images I have of my aunt was from the 4th of July last year.  She showed up on the deck in the morning sporting a perfectly made-up face, stylish haircut, black shorts, cute flip flops and a simple white t-shirt with the word “AWESOME” in huge black letters.  As she strutted in front of the gathered family members, she pointed to her shirt and exclaimed, “Awesome has arrived!”  Pants admitted she only bought the shirt because when she pulled it off the sale rack at Von Maur, Andi, her oldest daughter, told her there was no way she was going to get the shirt.  Per usual, Nancy met the challenge, purchased the shirt and made sure every guest noticed it during the busiest time at the lake.

On Easter earlier that same year, she and my son were preparing cocktail wieners with barbeque sauce and Kinnick didn’t know what they were called.  Someone shouted out that they were Little Smokies, and Nancy smirked at Kinnick.  She got a wicked grin on her face, and she leaned her head toward Kinnick, acting like she had a special secret to share with him.  He leaned down to make sure and catch whatever nugget she was going to share, and she said, “You know, Kinnick…they used to call me Lil’ Smokey.”  She then erupted in laughter and the whole family was once again amazed that this tiny woman could make us all laugh so big.

Besides wanting to be the life of the party and being known for leaving half cans of beer in fridges across family houses, Nancy also had a huge heart.  Her grandchildren meant the world to her, and she was known to do her granddaughter’s laundry well after she should have.  She was a legend because she was the woman who could make more things with cheese and butter than any human being should.  Her hosting of Christmas celebrations was legendary…the peanut butter balls were always just the right size.  She decorated her house with flair and welcomed the family whenever they needed lodging or a pit stop in Cedar Falls.  She travelled to basketball and football and softball to cheer on her grandchildren.  Her friends loved her wacky sense of humor and use of emojis and the sweet Bitmoji she loved to text with.

I will miss her more than I can express, holidays won’t be the same, and I’m not sure who will make the mashed potatoes for events.  Pants has just always been a part of my world.  As a young girl, she was the fun aunt who spent summers with my parents at Clear Lake.  Lately, we were able to talk about divorce and what it is like raising kids.  She was a constant support and praised me for how I was raising my son.  Her encouragement meant so much.  I hope she knew how much she meant to me.

Her death has been a shock, but her life has been a lesson.  It’s totally okay to make people laugh, even if it is because you are silly.  It’s cool to be the cool aunt.  Her love and laughter are the things that will define her.  Her family is a testament to a bold love that fights and goes through ups and downs but always keeps the first thing first.  Family is everything.  Her death leaves a hole in our family, but the memories we have of her make us stronger.  I’ll miss you, Pants, aka Cool Aunt Nancy, aka Lil’ Smokey.

Kylee Pusteoska

Development Director

What’s Your Wilderness?

As the Israelites journeyed through the wilderness in the book of Exodus, there’s this constant cycle and theme of God’s provision, a restlessness from the Israelites leading to grumbling, fear, and self-reliance. God hears their grumbling and again provides, but again and again the Israelites fall into the same trap of grumbling fear and self-reliance as they focus on their pain and suffering.

I find it hypocritical that I laugh at the Israelites’ craziness because I can so relate to it. My current wilderness has me lost and tormented in my own moments of grumbling, fear, and self-reliance. I’ve suffered from chronic migraines most of my adult life. Over the last four years they’ve gotten worse. I can go days and weeks with the pain. I have learned to function to a point with pain, holding my head high and ‘just getting through it’, until my body cannot take it any longer. They can go from annoying to debilitating within just a few hours. The darkest times are when the fear sets in, my body is weak, my head is pounding, and nausea and dizziness sets in. I lie in bed holding my head, praying for the pain to subside, and concentrating on trying not to throw up. Read More

Learning To Be Vulnerable

“Every time we are introduced to someone new, try to be creative or start a difficult conversation, we take a risk. We feel uncertain and exposed. We feel vulnerable. Most of us try to fight those feelings – we strive to appear perfect…when we shut ourselves off from revealing our true selves we grow distanced from the things that bring purpose and meaning to our lives”. –Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, Brene Brown

I don’t know about you, but I’m a HUGE chicken when it comes to taking risks. I’m that person who would rather cheer on my friends from the ground as they ride rollercoasters. Or the person who would rather be in the passenger’s seat rather than in the driver’s seat on a road trip to Chicago. Or even the person who would rather sit back and wait for that cute boy to approach me for conversation rather than be bold enough to go up to him and start talking (or even just email first). Risk-taking isn’t really in my vocabulary all that often – or hardly at all.

Some loved ones in my life have challenged me recently to take more risks. I can’t say it feels all that comfortable to consider, but it sure has had me thinking! What is it that makes me feel so uncomfortable about risk-taking? What are those things holding me back from taking a risk? What do I need to work on in my own heart and mind to overcome the fear in taking even the slightest risk? Well, in the simplest terms, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to be more vulnerable.

Brene Brown was so on point in that quote I shared about how we fight those feelings that come with vulnerability and strive to appear perfect. I felt convicted as I read that we grow distant from the things that bring purpose and meaning to our lives when we shut ourselves off from revealing our true selves. I’m not sure what that looks like or means to you, but I know when I fail to be vulnerable, I am going against who God has created me to be and the roles He has planned for my life.

Sometimes I just want to be the person who just gets to sit back and take it all in without having to take the slightest risk. But God has much bigger plans for you and for me, and they require allowing ourselves to be seen and heard. Ultimately we need to be vulnerable because He has created us with a purpose and for a purpose. He has created us in His image, and therefore He is the One who is working through us to be seen and heard. With that in mind, how could I not want to be more vulnerable so that others might know Him more?

Heavenly Father, I pray for all of us taking in this message right now. I pray we learn how to fully trust in You when it comes to being vulnerable. I ask that You give us courage in those moments when fear or anxiety take over our minds or hearts, and that You remind us of the abundant blessings which come from being more vulnerable. Help us to take even the smallest step towards being more vulnerable so You are able to shine even more visibly and even brighter than ever before. In your name we pray. Amen.

Haley Brimmer, Director of Client Advocacy

Haley Brimmer

Director of Client Advocacy