Prevention

A Great Light

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” Isaiah 9:2 NASB

I was invited to attend the Care Net conference this month in Washington DC. with several other staff members at Bridgehaven. Care Net is the umbrella organization that supports one of the largest networks of pregnancy centers in North America, including Bridgehaven. We soaked up four days of engrossing keynote speakers (like David Nasser and Andi Andrews), current knowledge and instruction from amazing workshop leaders (like Kathy Koch), rich networking fellowship with others from all across the nation, and powerful times of holy worship after each morning devotional.

I have many, many take-aways (I am still deciphering and organizing my notes). But, what has traveled home with me, and what I have found myself talking about more than anything else is a session with Lisa Hosler, President of Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services in southeastern Pennsylvania. Her session was called Leading in the Secret of the Productive Pause.
Read More

Noah

For many Cedar Rapidians, the images of a flooded Houston bring back painful memories of 2008 in Iowa. Or even 2016 as the city braced again for possible flooding. As we reflect on how the city really came together during those times and we saw love demonstrated beyond what we could imagine, we spent some time in prayer today as a staff looking at the story of Noah and his famous ark. And while I’m not sure we can even conjure up an idea of how horrible the smell must have been on that boat after being shut up for about a year, I think there are even more important things to consider.

As Beth, our prayer leader for the day, led us through the scripture, I wondered about how the family got along during that time…shut up with no sun, no fresh air for so long. I mean, I love my siblings and their spouses but that was waaaay longer than a holiday weekend. It is only through the grace of God all the humans survived the trip, let alone the animals. But then Beth read us a devotional which pointed out maybe Noah’s response to God wasn’t as radical as we imagine it to be. Wait, what? Did she really just say building a huge ship on dry land and trying to convince people there would be a huge flood and the world would be wiped clean was not radical? Now, Beth is typically the voice of reason in the Development area but I was worried she might have hit her head or something. How could the idea of going against all his neighbors and convincing his sons to gather the animals of the Earth to get on a huge boat not crazy? Why did she think this was just a normal day for Noah?
Read More

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 (cdc.gov) 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?
Read More

Loving the Fatherless

If we want to know more about our Creator, the best place we can look is in his Word. Reading through Scripture is a surefire way to decipher what God loves, what he cares about, and what he wants from us. When I read through my Bible, something jumps out at me very clearly: God has a special place in His heart for the fatherless. It is evident he places special focus on children who are not loved well by their earthly parents. Here are just a few examples:

  • “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” (Psalm 82:3-4)
  • “But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless.” (Psalm 10:14)
  • “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)

Read More

Holding Your Position

1800s Fire TruckIn the 1800s, back before fire engines made their debut in America, firefighters relied on horses for transportation in emergency situations. But not just any horse could serve as a fire horse. They needed to be resilient, agile, obedient and courageous. At the scene of the fire, they needed to stand patiently while embers and flames surrounded them. It was imperative for them to be still in the midst of distractions, holding their positions while the fire was being fought.

Doesn’t it feel like our world is set ablaze with misinformation, broken promises, and distraction? In this sex-saturated culture, promoting sexual risk avoidance can feel like fighting a fire much bigger than we are.

The good news is that we don’t have to fight alone. We have the Truth on our side. Saving sex for marriage is God’s plan for our bodies but it’s also the safest, healthiest lifestyle choice for our youth. Research shows that saving sex for marriage means enhanced emotional support, vastly lower poverty rates, better academic success, and fewer incidents of crime, child abuse, and domestic violence.

We are living in a culture that screams to our youth that premarital sex is inevitable and STDs are no big deal. Sometimes it can feel like the flames are burning out of control. Sometimes the heat feels like more than we can take, like we might just become enveloped in the blaze. But like the fire horse, we need only to stand firm and strong while the fire is being fought by the Truth.

The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still. Exodus 14:14

Kelli Hansen

Kelli Hansen

Prevention Assistant

Dear Mom

Dear MomDear Mom,

I get it. You were hurt by Dad. You are hurt and angry and wounded. I don’t like what he did…to you…or to our family. It’s confusing. I’m trying to sort all of this out, too. But…he’s my Dad. I need him in my life, like I need you in my life. But you need to know, when you confide in me about your broken relationship with him, I feel expected to take “sides”—I don’t always know if I am your daughter or your friend. When you degrade him to me, I feel guilty for not standing up for him, and guilty for wanting to. When you are jealous of how and where he spends time, or who he spends it with, it confuses me, because you focus all of your energy on this person you say you don’t like. And sometimes, when you criticize him, it spills and splatters onto me, because I am part of him. Do you hate me too?

There’s a guy, at school. His parents are getting a divorce too. We started talking when I asked him why he was in such a bad mood one day. We found out that we were feeling all of the same feelings about family and love and marriage: betrayed. Like, how we thought our parents would be together. Like, how chaotic it feels at home. Like, how it feels as if we are walking on egg shells if we ever talk about one parent to another. How it was easier to drop out of school stuff than to suffer through the two of them having to attend at the same event at the same time.

The more we talk, the closer we get. And the closer we become, the easier it is to insulate against the rest of our “worlds.” He says that we will never be apart, and he likes to know where I am all the time. He says this way he knows I’m being faithful. He says that he will always love me, and that I can show him that same love by choosing him over my friends. He says that our relationship will be perfect because we share everything, even our bodies. That making love is a way to keep us together. I wanted to ask you if this is true, but I’ve been watching you with your new boyfriend since he moved in and I guess you’re cool with it…


This is an all too familiar scenario of many of the teens we come in contact with, and representative of how culture is trending toward the “unformed family.” We came across an interesting perspective article by David Blankenhorn* who defined, the 50’s as an era that represented the “married family.” In the 80’s, it became the “divorced family.”

“…The 2010’s may represent movement toward a peak period for the unformed family. It would be an era of lots of families never forming at all…A child in an unformed family can and likely will experience family life over time in a variety of living arrangements. For example, she could live alone with her mother, with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend or partner, or with her mother and father for a short period of time…”

Empowering choices for life through Christ-centered education and support

Our mission at Bridgehaven continues to be one that is impacting Cedar Rapids families. Having the privilege and the presence in schools, intercepting distorted impressions about love and relationships, educating both teens and parents, creating opportunities to change the course of even one life, is leading them to the Most Formed Family: a Kingdom Family, the Family of God.

Trisha Sellers, Director of Prevention
Kelli Hansen-Edwards, Prevention Assistant

*Are We Still Married? Family Structure and Family Policy in the Emerging Age of the Unformed Family by David Blankenhorn.

Children of the Most High King

This week, after my time working with a group of students at a treatment center, I noticed a beautiful young girl from the group, lingering just outside our room looking troubled. Just barely beginning her sixteenth year, “Callie” was quick to acknowledge that it was a difficult day. Her parents were coming for a visit this evening and she was feeling nervous.

“Both of my parents are addicts, and I never really know how it’s going to go. My mom is in recovery, but not my Dad. My mom’s doing better, but DHS has already taken us from her twice before.”

“Callie” went on to tell me about her five year old and twelve year old brothers, and how worried and scared she is for them. I asked her what her drug of choice (D.O.C.) has been and how she was first introduced.

“My D.O.C. is meth and marijuana. My mom taught me everything about it and showed me how to use it. We would use together. Yeah, she said that she would rather me know the safe way to use it and do it at home rather than out with friends where I could get in trouble or get caught with it.

I was up for 28 days straight with no sleep. I lost over 80 pounds in one month. After I finally came down, I slept for two days. When I woke up I was so sick and ended up in the hospital, where I detoxed and went through withdrawals. I self-committed and now all I want to do is get better so I can be there for my brothers.”

She and her mom will be working on a recovery plan that they can do together, which will include going to Narcotics Anonymous meetings, a relapse response plan, and holding each other accountable. At sixteen, she is not only struggling against her own demons, but now co-responsible for her own mother’s success or failure!

As you can imagine, my heart was breaking. I wanted to take her home with me. I wanted to show her, immerse her, in “normal” family dynamics. I wanted to scoop her up in my arms and carry her right up to the throne of God and lay her in Jesus’ arms.

Desperately, silently pleading for heaven’s wisdom, for careful, loving truths to share as a response to her story, God began to put words in my mouth…

“Do you ever think about one day when you might have a little girl of your own? Do you think you will parent differently? Anything you see yourself doing different?”

“Oh yeah, all the time!
I would definitely do a lot different.
I would take care of her and just love her and protect her from all the bad stuff.”

And then again, the God who never disappoints, whispers through me: “Well, Callie. From now on, until the time that you have a daughter of your own: YOU. BE. HER. Let yourself be that cherished little girl, deserving of love and protection. Can you do that? It is not fair that you have to be both the mom and the daughter, but you know how you would treasure and take care of your little girl. Allow yourself the same.”

The biggest smile began to grow on her face, and her eyes brightened and she said, “I’ve never thought of it that way before!”

“Can you do that?” I asked, willing every ounce of love and compassion to move from my eyes to her heart.

“Yeah, I think I can!”

She gave me permission to pray for her and she took down my number to call when she needed a hug. We both agreed that we would look forward to my next visit.

If only we could all be “the child” even as we are mistreated or experiencing those “unfair” moments, for we truly are children of the Most High King. A Father who desires to keep us safe, protect us from the bad stuff, and wants more than ever, to love and cherish us all of our lives.

Trisha Sellers, Director of Prevention

Trisha Sellers

Director of Prevention

Unpregnant

For my daughter and her husband, this was a devastating word uttered after seven weeks of hopeful ultrasounds. There was no longer a heartbeat.

Unpregnant.

For those contemplating abortion, this word “unpregnant” deceptively promises to undo what has been done; “freedom” to move on.

For still others, after choosing to terminate their pregnancy, this word brings momentary relief until the crushing reality of a desperate decision comes crashing down, weeks and often years, later.

It is hard to say what happens between seventh grade, when classrooms full of students are appalled by abortion (and even more so by adoption), and tenth grade, when casual sex and all of its consequences are so…well…casual?

Girls on the popular reality show, “The Bachelor,” are often afraid to confess that they are still “virgins” because they will likely be rejected for not having enough experience. When did the pendulum swing from the other side when people were more afraid to admit that they are NOT virgins for fear of rejection?

It remains true that “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

In this great battle for purity, I am privileged to be a part of, there are some dark days. When I hear middle school students proclaim with such authority and assurance, “My mom says when I’m 13, me and my boyfriend can start getting tested (for STIs).” Or as a 12 year old girl asked aloud in her 7th grade classroom, “What do you do if you’re always horny?” On those days, I have to admit that I wonder if I’m making a difference. Indeed, can a difference be made?

Then there are other days, like this past Friday, when a middle school teacher shared how important it is that Bridgehaven comes into his school each year to explain to the students the benefits of delaying sexual activity and the consequences of being sexually involved too soon. He sees that the students need to understand the decisions they make today will have consequences beyond this brief moment in their life, but he doesn’t know how to do this or feel comfortable explaining that to them. And there is further encouragement from his 8th grade students who said that Bridgehaven’s Prevention program has made them more determined to save sex for their future marriage partner. Yes, a difference can be made.

Of course, only God knows for sure what inroads are being forged. Only He knows where the enemy has been foiled, a heart has been pricked, a mind has been changed. It may be a seed that sits underground until the proper season. The ideas of purity, integrity, self-respect and honor are continuously distorted and misunderstood. After all, there are entire industries that make millions of dollars as they seek to corrupt, deceive, disrespect and dishonor.

None of this is surprising or new to our Creator. He alone can manage the outcomes. Our responsibility is to…”not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)

So, we will not become weary. There is a harvest. We will not give up.

Just keep planting. Just keep planting…

Trisha Sellers, Director of Prevention

Trisha Sellers

Director of Prevention

Not an outsider

“Do you ever feel like an outsider?”

I often ask our new peer educators about their experience in high school in light of their choices to avoid drugs and alcohol and to reserve sex for marriage. With high school over a decade behind me, I can still remember that unvoiced question in the back of my mind, “Am I missing out on something that everyone else is doing?”

This fall I was surprised by the answer of one of our seniors, Daniel. Thinking it over, he turned his head to the side and said, “I guess you could see it that way, but I see it the opposite. The way I see it, I am the one ‘on the inside!’”

But for many students, the feeling of being an outsider is too much. Recent studies in social psychology have shown it’s not actual peer pressure that has the strongest influence on adolescent sexual activity.  It is the child’s own perception of what is normal among their peers that has the strongest influence.  But there are many misperceptions about what is normal sexual activity for teenagers.

Would you be surprised to know that less than half of teenagers today are sexually active?

Bridgehaven: veracity educatesOur Veracity peer educators are among those teenagers that are not sexually active. They challenge misperceptions about teenage sexuality by speaking in Linn County area middle schools about sexual risk avoidance.

In September, Veracity presented in 14 middle school classes, and had some very positive feedback! Several students contacted us wanting to join Veracity. A teacher commented on the response of a particular student. “He rarely participates in class discussion, but he interacted with your presenters and even volunteered for an activity!” And a 7th grade girl said, “”I wasn’t sure whether I should save sex until marriage, but now I am completely sure that that’s what I’m going to do.”

The National Campaign reports that 66% of young adults agree with the following statement:“If teenagers knew that less than half of teens are sexually active, it would help them wait longer to have sex.”

But no matter what is perceived as “normal” in his high school, Daniel doesn’t see himself as an outsider; his confidence doesn’t depend on belonging with his peers, but on belonging to Christ. Ephesians 2:19 reminds Christians, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…”

For every person, there is a universal need to belong, and for our peer educators pictured above, that need has been met. They are care free and confident in their decisions no matter what is thought to be “normal” among their peers.
– –

Andrea

Andrea Reinert

Prevention Coordinator

Get goin’ on the learning

It seems like school was letting out for summer break just last week, but in reality these beautiful summer months have flown by and it is back to school time again. This week my son started kindergarten. He was so excited to walk into school with his backpack and to “get goin’ on the learning” (his words).

caleb kindergarten

Caleb on his first day of kindergarten.

A month or so ago when we received his school supply list, I let him stay up late one night and we went out to purchase all the items he needed. He was so excited! He kept picking up complex calculators and protractors and asking, “Do I need one of these?” He wanted to make sure that if it was on his list, it was going in our cart. If all his classmates were going to have these supplies and his teacher wanted him to bring them, then he wanted to do his part and come prepared.

I was excited right alongside of him while preparing for this new milestone, but a little part of me could not help but think of those families for which school supply shopping is a financial strain. Every parent wants to send their children to school with the things they need, but for some, purchasing school supplies would mean being late with the rent or going without food.

That is why Bridgehaven does a back to school giveaway each year for clients who have committed to our class program. Since our supplies are donated, we cannot guarantee we will have everything on their lists, but we can still help lessen the financial pressure that schools supply shopping can cause.

In the past, we have given away prepacked bags according to grade levels, however we were concerned that some items might end up going to waste. Some schools are now asking for very specific colors and items, plus families may have some materials left over from last year. So instead of prepackaging the bags, this year we set up our first “school supply store.” This allowed parents to select the items they specifically needed. For instance, if the school wanted purple folders, then they could get that color instead of prepacked bags that might have orange folders inside. Or if they still had scissors from last year, they could get an extra glue stick instead. We asked parents to bring supply lists along and about 90 percent of them did!

The only drawback was that it took much more time to send parents through than it did in the past. We had a line at our door when we opened at 10 a.m., and one client told me she arrived at 10:05 and didn’t get called to shop until noon. Thankfully, our clients responded to the back-up with a lot of patience. And I got to witness kids excitedly looking through their supplies on the way out the door. By the end of the day, 116 children had received supplies they needed to start the school year. Each family received a backpack as well.

Thank you to all those who made that possible! To the churches and individual donors who provided the supplies. To the volunteers who helped set up the room and distribute the items. To our front desk staff and Children’s Ministry Coordinator who were more than gracious with the clients and children that filled their rooms. And to our clients who had grateful hearts and positive attitudes during an unexpectedly long wait.

I already have a plan to help next year run more smoothly, but in the meantime, I can look back on this year’s distribution and think of all the children who have the supplies needed to start a successful school year!

– –

Amy, Director of Client Support

Amy DeLay

Director of Client Support