LAKELAND, Fla. – A young woman got out of a van in the parking lot and began a slow but determined walk to the doors of the Planned Parenthood clinic in East Orlando. She already had two small children, and her husband had just lost his job. In light of their circumstances, they felt there was no other option except to terminate the pregnancy.
Counselors with the Orlando First Life Center for Pregnancy and the Florida Baptist Children’s Homes greeted her on the sidewalk and gently asked if she would be willing to receive a free ultrasound screening. She and her husband discussed it. Although they were unsure at first, they agreed to visit the Children’s Homes’ mobile pregnancy resource unit that was parked in the adjacent lot.
This intervention took place during one of the Children’s Homes’ “going out events,” which was done in partnership with the First Baptist Church of Orlando’s First Life Center for Pregnancy. The mobile pregnancy unit was equipped with a portable ultrasound machine that was donated to them last year by the Southern Baptists’ Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission’s Psalm 139 Project.
The Children’s Homes’ “going out events” are designed to reach out to underserved communities where young women facing a crisis pregnancy have the opportunity to receive a free ultrasound screening , which allows them to view pictures of their unborn child. Their next community outreach event is being planned for January 21st in Opa-locka, which is located in the North Miami area.
Mary Lou Hendry, director of the Children’s Homes’ Sanctity of Human Life program said that more than 80 percent of the women who intended to have an abortion chose life after viewing their unborn child with the aid of an ultrasound.
“The ultrasound machine helps women facing a crisis pregnancy to truly make an informed decision regarding their unborn child,” Hendry said.
Hendry said that, in addition to their community outreach events, they also conduct numerous training programs for volunteers and staff of pregnancy resource centers to help them strengthen their capabilities in working with young women facing a crisis pregnancy.
“Every October we conduct our annual Sound the Call conference at Lake Yale. This three day conference is designed for pregnancy care center staff and volunteers along with others who are involved in working to preserve the Sanctity of Human Life. It is a weekend of worship, education, and fellowship,” Hendry said.
Hendry also meets regularly with volunteers and staff of pregnancy resource centers across the state to provide training and encouragement in their daily work of ministering to women facing a crisis pregnancy.
“Central to all of our training is focusing on the hearts of the young women in need by being intentional with the purpose of sharing the love and truth of Jesus with them as we counsel them about the life of their unborn child,” Hendry said.
Debra DeWitt, executive director of the Tri County Pregnancy Center in Williston, FL, said that the training was a blessing to the volunteers and staff at their center.
“The training provided our volunteers with the tools and techniques they need in order to be effective counselors. Our volunteers need to be confident in their abilities when working with a young woman facing a crisis pregnancy,” DeWitt said.
Back at the Orlando outreach event, the young woman lays quietly in the mobile pregnancy unit. Tears come to her eyes as she watches the subtle movements of her unborn child on the ultrasound monitor. She reaches for her husband’s hand as he quietly nods his approval of not aborting their child.
“We prayed with them and shared the gospel. Although they did not make a personal decision for Christ that day, we know that God’s word will not return void. We rejoiced that one of God’s precious children was given life that day,” Hendry said.
“People need to understand that when we counsel with a young woman facing a crisis pregnancy, we don’t judge them. We encourage them, pray with them, and help them to see the options they have for their unborn child, and to understand that our choices have consequences.”
According to Hendry more than 20 percent of all U.S. pregnancies end in abortion and nearly 90,000 abortions occur in Florida every year.
“We are literally in a battle for life and death. We live in a world corrupted by sin, and only God can give us the strength and victory with each child we are able to save. I believe that each child rescue is ordained by God,” Hendry said.
Contact Mary Lou Hendry at (863) 687-8811 or MaryLou.Hendry@FBCHomes.org to volunteer with the Sanctity of Human Life program or to learn about how to get involved in assisting your local pregnancy resource center or other related ministry activities.