By Ama Richardson, Executive Director, HOPE
I’ve been privileged to work at HOPE in Northern Virginia, Inc. — a crisis pregnancy center in Falls Church, Virginia—for almost three years now. Falls Church has one of the highest abortion rates in the state with thousands of abortions performed at the local abortion clinic each year. Prior to stepping into the role of Executive Director, I was blessed to serve as a Saturday volunteer for over three years. Despite seeing over 100 clients each month our organization only has 1.5 staff members. The rest of the work is done by a team of selfless volunteers.
Pregnancy centers exist to reach women facing unplanned pregnancies and empower them to choose life. Pregnancy center work can be hectic, unpredictable and at times, emotional—more so for the servant, than those being served. Working with vulnerable mothers—single or married; abandoned or supported; young or older—inevitably reminds one of the sacrifices our own mother and grandmothers must have quietly made to give us life and raise us.
Serving our center’s clients reminds me that all women are valued, precious , and vulnerable, especially those facing an unplanned pregnancy. A typical shift at a center like HOPE involves: greeting and working with community donors; welcoming and chatting with returning client moms to hear about their pregnancy, babies, relationship/family life or personal goals; and bustling about the center with energetic and jovial fellow volunteers who are always more than happy to serve our client families and their little ones.
Of course the most challenging aspect of the work is when a vulnerable girl or woman comes in for a pregnancy test and is terrified at the positive result. But it is why we exist, to give these women maybe their only chance to hear all the reasons they are capable of having a baby, as opposed to all the reasons they can’t.
Pregnancy centers like HOPE contribute to the pro-life movement by providing a bridge between the vast network of individuals and resources who want to help and the at-risk populations desperately in need of them. It is a privilege to meet the generous people who come to aid these struggling and often isolated women with donations of time and treasure. In addition to donations of material items such as car seats, clothes, and diapers, HOPE offers emotional support such as free mentoring programs, relationship and parenting classes. The free services provided by such centers create a welcoming and judgment-free atmosphere for skeptical prospective clients. The love we offer these women does not stop once they have their babies. We help these women apply for jobs, invite them to our churches, visit them at hospitals and share meals, heartache and burdens together. We are not pro-birth. We are pro-life.
In my personal opinion, the greatest asset of a pregnancy center lies in its provision of a free and confidential space for a woman to talk through all of her pregnancy options with a compassionate listener. The greatest needs of a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy are privacy and a listening ear. Such a woman is already overwhelmed, confused and stressed about her situation; and all she seeks is a place of solace and understanding while she tries to breathe and figure out who will unconditionally love her and her unborn child. Pregnancy centers are privileged to be the foot soldiers and hands and feet of pro-life legislators on Capitol Hill and that of pro-life donors and advocators around the world.
Contrary to critics, centers like HOPE weren’t created to project a political agenda, deceive women, or foster a spirit of condemnation towards women considering abortion. After spending a few minutes with a woman considering abortion, one quickly realizes that her circumstantial concerns are valid and her fears are very real. We can’t tell someone how to feel—especially when we haven’t taken a moment to walk in their shoes. But we can be maybe the only person who will encourage a spirit of hope, rather than fear, in their hearts.
One of the greatest gifts we can give another person is the gift of empathy. In a world that is often dark and quickly condemning, pregnancy centers should be beacons of hope: centers of solace where those serving are “quick to listen [and] slow to speak,” James 1:19 NIV. It is only by loving the mom that we can truly love her child.
To learn more about HOPE in Northern Virginia and our vision where “every mother chooses life,” please visit our donor website at friendsofhopeinnova.org, or follow us on social media at facebook.com/hopeinnova and Instagram.com/hopeinnova