Archives For sanctity of human life

Throwing out a lifeline

ib2newseditor —  January 26, 2017

Resource centers and clinics aid those facing difficult choices

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Snapshots from Tennessee and Illinois    
When a woman walks into the medical clinic operated by Agape House in northwest Tennessee, she won’t find evangelism tracts or Bibles in the waiting room. While she waits nervously to have an ultrasound to confirm her pregnancy, she won’t be judged regardless of her circumstances. And if she tells the clinic staff that she’s considering having an abortion, she will be given all the information she needs about her child, but won’t be pressured into a decision.

“If someone tries to talk a woman out of a decision to abort” before her heart is ready to accept it, “then someone else can easily talk her back into it after she leaves,” said Linda DeBoard, CEO of Agape House and a member of First Baptist Church in Martin, Tenn.

“When ladies come to our clinic, our mission is to empower them with the truth about life so that they can make the best choice for themselves. We know that’s a choice for life, but she has to come to that realization after she has been given all the truth.”

Agape House is one of thousands of pro-life organizations throughout the country on the front lines of elevating the sanctity of human life. Pregnancy resource centers and medical clinics such as the one operated by Agape House offer various services to support women and men faced with pregnancy decisions.

Some centers minister to those who need assistance throughout a pregnancy in the form of training classes, counseling, or material goods such as diapers. Others, like Agape House’s clinic, focus on reaching women who are at risk for abortion, offering medical services and informing them of their pregnancy options. Illinois Right to Life reports there are around 100 pregnancy resource centers in Illinois.

Angels’ Cove Maternity Center, an arm of Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services, offers expectant and new mothers a place to live, as well as life and parenting skills, individual and group therapy, and adoption services for those who choose that option.

Doug Devore, who retired this month after almost 44 years at BCHFS, said it’s a joy to see a mother hold her child after making the decision to choose life. “Whether she is 12 or 40, she may not be prepared for that child,” he said. “We have the responsibility to help get her prepared and to help her be the very best mother that she can be. That could be teaching her parenting skills, it might mean helping her get a job, helping her find housing. Whatever it’s gonna take for her to provide the best environment for that child.”

Care at every stage
Our culture has lied to women about abortion, telling them that it is a “quick fix” and that their lives will return to normal afterward, DeBoard said. Agape House is committed to providing truthful information about all pregnancy options—including parenting, adoption, and what abortion is and how the procedures work—and offering a safe space where women can process the information, she said.

DeBoard said that by offering their services this way, they have the opportunity to reach women who would never go to a church for help.

“A woman in our area who is wanting to have an abortion, and has already made the decision to have an abortion, is not going to church to tell you that she wants an abortion. She’s not,” DeBoard said. “She’s running from the church.”

A 2015 study from LifeWay Research supports that assertion. In a survey of women who have had abortions, 59% of respondents said they received or expected to receive a judgmental or condemning attitude from a local church as they considered their decision to abort, while 29% said they received or expected to receive a loving or caring response. And 54% of women would not recommend to someone close to them that they discuss their decision regarding an unplanned pregnancy with someone at a local church, while only 25% would recommend it.

Agape staff and volunteers may ask clients whether they have a faith that might influence their pregnancy decision. This often leads to opportunities to share the gospel or to encourage women in their relationship with Jesus. They also offer a Bible study program for women who have previously had abortions.

DeBoard reminds pastors that their pews may be filled with women who have abortions in their past. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization with ties to Planned Parenthood, approximately 30% of women will have had an abortion by age 45. “What abortion is and does needs to be told and spoken and preached,” DeBoard said, but with sensitivity to the women who are hurting from their own abortion experiences.

“There’s no sin too great that God won’t forgive us and set us free and use our mistakes for his glory.”

Excerpted in part from an article in SBC LIFE, newsjournal of the Southern Baptist Convention. Used by permission.

For more information about services offered through Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services, go to BCHFS.com.

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Who will help the elderly live abundantly and finish faithfully?

Editor’s note: On January 22, many Southern Baptist churches will mark “Sanctity of Human Life Sunday,” a day for considering the sacred nature of God-given life.

Springfield | For Ruth McGlennon, one of the most challenging parts about her new life in a nursing home was getting used to the sound of her roommate crying. Although the woman wasn’t physically able to speak, McGlennon was able to guess right away the source of her sorrow.

“Her family never came to see her,” said McGlennon, a former kindergarten teacher and the eldest of 10 siblings. “She had sons, and I used to be very mad at them. She could have been the worst mother in the world, but she was still their mother, and they should have been there to see her.”

The story McGlennon shared is sadly common, said Joyce Mancke, leader of SonShine Ministries, which she and her husband started 12 years ago when they lived in Joliet. The ministry, which sends teams to visit local nursing homes, now has local expressions in communities across Illinois. The Manckes are members of Eastview Baptist Church in Springfield.

“Many times, we have the elderly who never get any attention at all, or family visits. Sometimes we are all they have,” said Mancke. “Too many times, they’re just put away. Viewed as a burden.”

In Illinois, 1.8 million people are over the age of 60, according to the U.S. Census Bureau projections for 2015. That means one in seven people in this state are seniors. And about 100,000 people live in nursing homes, according to the Department of Health. Mancke said the hardest thing for many of them is the loneliness, “feeling that nobody cares.”

But the church can help, said Andrew Walker, director of policy studies for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. It’s vital for the church to be “at the vanguard of witnessing to the sacredness of life at all stages—from womb to tomb,” Walker said.

“The Scriptures speak clearly of the wisdom that comes with age, and younger generations should actively seek out wisdom.”

“We need to see seniors as important contributors within the life of the church. The Scriptures speak clearly of the wisdom that comes with age, and younger generations should actively seek out wisdom.”

Place of honor
Scott Foshie, pastor at Steeleville Baptist Church, said many seniors—whether they are in nursing homes, assisted living or homebound situations—feel as though “life’s passing them by.”

“It’s tragic, but sometimes people are so career-oriented—and people can be caught up in their own plans—that there’s that temptation to kind of neglect [seniors] and maybe kind of pretend that they’re not there,” he said.

Foshie said that kind of attitude undervalues the gift they bring to the body of believers. “None of us ever retire from ministry,” said Foshie, who mentioned many seniors in his church are phenomenal prayer warriors. “They should have a place of honor in our church. We should cherish their wisdom and honor their faithfulness. I think God blesses churches when we take the time to do that and give them that special place.”

One way Christians can honor older people actually hits very close to home, Walker said. “One of the most important things the church can do to witness to its pro-life convictions at all stages is to invite elderly parents, where it is medically possible, into the home to live with adult children.

“I am concerned that the default assumption in America and within the church is to offload care of parents to outside institutions.”

While Walker said nothing is inherently wrong with nursing homes or other similar institutions, he disagrees with the attitude society has about the elderly.

“They are not society’s burden,” said Walker, who plans to take in his parents someday. “They aren’t my burden. They are my parents and I owe them this honor.”

“They aren’t my burden. They are my parents and I owe them this honor.”

Joyce Mancke’s team of 8-10 people from Springfield churches, including Eastview Baptist, visits local nursing homes weekly. “I personally think you should have a [seniors’] ministry team for the church,” she said, adding that the size of the team isn’t important; it’s a person’s heart for the elderly that counts.

“If you’ve got two or three with the heart, God will multiply that,” she said. “It’s like the bread and the fishes. When you see the heartbeat and when you see the Lord directing their life, people want that. You’ve got to be willing to commit, and it’s a big commitment, but you’ve got to be willing to say, ‘Yes, Lord. I’ll go.’ And that’s contagious.”

Although it’s tempting to place all the responsibility of starting a seniors’ ministry onto the pastor, Foshie said the key is actually to mobilize members of the church.

“If I tried to do it all, it would actually limit what God wants to do,” the pastor said. “I think God is a God of relationships, and I think the relationships we enjoy between our generations in the church is a reflection of God’s unconditional love for us.

“If we do not do this, if we do not get involved in ministry on a cross-generational level, then we are really missing out on God’s plan for us.”

Elise Dismer is a freelance writer living in Springfield.

6 ideas for nursing home outreach

1. Sing hymns. Joyce Mancke of SonShine Ministries enlisted the aid of her husband’s quartet when she first started visiting nursing homes. She said that music, especially hymns, seemed to touch the seniors there in a powerful way.

Pastor Scott Foshie of Steeleville Baptist Church agrees that music is “absolutely effective” in seniors’ ministry and draws in a crowd at a nursing home quite quickly, even if it’s just two people singing.

2. Make phone calls and regular visits. Connecting and spending time with seniors is important, especially in cases where a senior can no longer drive. Foshie took his youth group to the nursing home every month or so to mingle and play games with seniors there. “They love it when teenagers come, and young people,” he said. “They love the energy and to interact with them, and I think the teenagers grew to love it. They would tell me if it had been a bit too long since we’d gone to see them.”

3. Study the Bible. Digging into the Word will not only encourage believers, it also acts as an outreach to those who may not know the Lord, Mancke said. She shared that while holding a Bible study with one man, his roommate, who overheard the studies, came to know the Lord.

4. Celebrate birthdays. Whether it’s with birthday cards, flowers, and balloons, Foshie said the gesture of celebrating a person’s life can go a long way in showing that you care.

Likewise, Mancke makes a point to ask if anyone has had a birthday on her visits to nursing homes so that the whole choir—and consequently the whole room—can sing “Happy Birthday” to him or her.

5. Give hugs. Mancke hugs everyone at the nursing homes she visits. She said it’s a good way to combat the feeling of loneliness that many people experience there. “The challenge is just knowing that people care about them,” she said. “You’ve got to make them feel like they’re part of the family.”

6. Make donations. Nursing homes often have a need for clothing like socks, underwear, T-shirts, and sweaters, Mancke said, as well as practical items like lotions, shampoos, combs, hair curlers, blankets, and stationery. Since each nursing home has its own policy on donations, it’s best to call the one near you to find out the most in-demand items or any restrictions that are in place.

In whatever way you reach out to seniors, Mancke said, the impact of the outreach is often surprising. “We go to be a blessing to these people,” she said, “but the funny thing is, we’re the ones who always come back on a mountaintop.”

The BriefingIllinois House urged to reject taxpayer-funded abortions
SpeakOut Illinois, a coalition of pro-life and pro-family organizations across the state,  urged lawmakers in the Illinois House to reject legislation allowing taxpayer money to be used for abortions. House Bill 4013 lifts the current prohibition on state workers’ health insurance plans from paying for elective abortions, as well as the prohibition on using public money to pay for elective abortions for Medicaid patients. The piece of legislation could be called up for a vote as early as this week.

How many Christians are in the new Congress?
Pew’s Religion & Public Life found that 90.7% of the 115th Congress identify as Christian, a statistic that has changed little in over a half century of keeping record. “The share of U.S. adults who describe themselves as Christians has been declining for decades, but the U.S. Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s,” noted Pew. Of the 91% Christian majority, 31.4% are Catholic, 13.5% are Baptist, 8.5% are Methodist, 6.5% are Anglican or Episcopal, and another 6.5% are Presbyterian.

Multi-faith network rescuing women from Isis
A secret underground network operating in Iraq and Syria has reportedly freed more than 3,000 Yazidi women held captive in sexual slavery by Isis. Kurdish and Christian civilians make up the group, along with other ethnic minorities and families of the victims, NGO Yazda has claimed. Rescues are carried out through word of mouth, driven by Yazidis who have escaped capture or whose loved ones are still being held in Isis territory.

Gay couple to pastor historic DC Baptist church
Calvary Baptist Church, a progressive Baptist landmark in the heart of downtown Washington, has named a gay couple as co-pastors. Sally Sarratt and Maria Swearingen were presented to the congregation during worship services Jan. 8 and will begin their new jobs on Feb. 26. The 150-year-old church severed ties with the Southern Baptist Convention in 2012.

S. Baptists lead Congressional Prayer Caucus
Rep. Mark Walker, R.-N.C., will be the new House of Representatives co-chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, it was announced Jan. 9. Sen. James Lankford, R.-Okla., the other co-chairman of the prayer caucus, and former Rep. Randy Forbes, R.-Va., made the announcement. All three are members of Southern Baptist churches.

Sources: Illinois Family Institute, Christian Post, Independent, Religion News Service, Baptist Press

61226bigtaskDoug Devore didn’t grow up in a Christian home.

“I never knew my father, and I had three stepfathers,” Devore told the Illinois Baptist. Maybe that’s why family is so important to the long-time executive director of Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services. Devore will retire January 15 after nearly 44 years at the agency, including 21 years as executive director.

BCHFS has four residential cottages for children and teens in Carmi, and also operates Angels’ Cove Maternity Center in Mt. Vernon for expectant and new moms and their children. The agency has 11 counseling centers around central and southern Illinois, assists with adoptions, and partners with an orphanage in Uganda, among other initiatives.

The IB recently sat down with Devore to talk about his extensive ministry, the challenges of ministering to families in a shifting culture, and the success stories of children who have benefited from the care they received through BCHFS.

Illinois Baptist: Tell us how you got your start at BCHFS.

Doug Devore: I was working at Campbell Funeral Home here in Carmi. Gordon Lanthrup, who was the director of residential care at the Children’s Home, was there at the funeral home one day, and he just started to talk to me. He asked me if I would do some volunteer work at Baptist Children’s Home. I didn’t know it even existed.

I came out here and I met the kids and staff and I just fell in love with the place. God began to say, This is what I want for you. It makes me very emotional now to talk about something that happened 44 years ago, but it just began to click with me that there was a place for me to minister here and to be involved.

Illinois Baptist: When you retire January 15, your tenure at BCHFS will be just shy of 44 years. Wow.

Devore: I owe a lot to Gordon Lanthrup and (former BCHFS Executive Director) Leon Tally. To Gordon who saw something in me as a 21- or 22-year-old that I didn’t know was there. Why he ever asked me to do that is a mystery.

IB: It was a God thing.

Devore: I can’t explain it any other way. I always question, Why me?

IB: When you consider all that you have done and seen in your four decades at BCFHS, what touches your heart or brings a tear to your eye?

Devore: Well, you can see that I cry a lot, and the older I get, the more I cry.
(Devore shared an e-mail he received the day before from a young man who lived at the Children’s Home in 1982. He wrote, “I just wanted to say thank you again for being part of my life and helping me grow physically and mentally and emotionally and most of all SPIRITUALLY.” )

He now sings in a gospel quartet and travels the country; married and a faithful Christian, and sends me a little note like that. You can’t beat that.

IB: You can’t.

Devore: There was another man who is now 57 or maybe older. He has been in and out of prison all his life. But he calls me at least every six months to check in. Sometimes he is calling from prison or he’s out on parole. He calls me just to check in and let me know that he loves me and how he is doing. I try to give him my best advice while we are on the phone, but we are his connection, his touchstone. We are his family and I have been here long enough that I’m the only one around that was here when he was.

IB: Even with so many wonderful stories from your years at BCHFS, there have been challenges. What are some of the biggest?

Devore: The kids I saw in the 70s were coming out of situations when mom and dad couldn’t take care of them, so they ended up with us. They couldn’t take care of them because one parent died, or maybe they were orphans. Not so much behavior issues.

The kids today are coming to us because they are out of control and mom and dad can’t take care of them. Schools have thrown up their hands. We see kids today that have a lot more trauma in their lives.

IB: What about shifts in our culture? How have those affected BCHFS?

Devore: Most of the children we serve are growing up in single-parent families because the concept of marriage and staying together has changed over the years. Or, they’re growing up in blended families. With that comes lots of stress. There’s nothing wrong with a blended family, but it brings additional stress to kids than if mom and dad had stayed married and had a happy relationship.

A lot of our kids have been exposed to violence, abused and traumatized, and have post-traumatic stress disorder issues. We see kids coming out of inner cities that have gang involvement. They have seen people killed in front of them. They have had family members killed. It’s a bad situation for them. They are exposed to things that even I wasn’t exposed to in my wild upbringing.

IB: The concept of “residential care” has changed too.

Devore: Very few kids come here and grow up. Our average length of stay is eight months, something like that. When I came, there were kids who had been here for years. This was home for them. It happens a few times today, but generally, if that happens, we move those kids into foster care. If they don’t have a home to go back to, we are looking for them a more permanent situation.

IB: The need for residential facilities has changed in recent years because of expansion of the foster care system.

Devore: Residential care for kids is not a preferred placement today. There is federal legislation preferring foster care over residential care because some think being in residential care is a bad thing. I don’t think so. I think this is a great place for every kid that’s here. When it becomes not the most appropriate, then we will either move them back home or into foster care or some less restrictive care.

That’s always one of our issues: How do we stay relevant to the needs of society? How do we stay relevant now with the changing values? I guess on top of that, how do we stay relevant and still operate within our own values, without sacrificing what we believe in?

IB: What do you think about the movement urging Christians to
become foster parents through the state system?

Devore: I think that is excellent. If kids are going to live in foster care, my goodness, let them live in a Christian foster home. I think that is a tremendous idea and I would love to see more Christian families get involved in that.

IB: You became executive director at BCHFS in 1995. Did you set any goals for yourself?

Devore: The first thing I did when I became the executive director is that we did strategic planning for the agency. In that first strategic plan, one of the biggest things was to get our own board of trustees. The other big part was to hire a development person.

We worked through those goals and in 1999 we did another strategic plan. Every three years since that time, we have done another strategic plan. We have looked ahead to the future: Where do we want to be? How do we want to get there? How do we better minister to children and families? All that has happened—whether it be the international ministry or the Pathways Counseling ministry or the expansion of Angels’ Cove—has come out of those strategic plans.

IB: Are there things you planned to do that haven’t happened?

Devore: Yes. We didn’t become an international placing agency for adoption. It was very frustrating for me for quite a long time until it finally just sunk in that this just wasn’t what God wanted us to do. I think it was what Doug Devore wanted to do.

We talked about trying to have an on-ground school for some of our kids that have a difficult time making it in the public school, but there has always been something that prevented that from happening.

IB: As a leader, what has been your most difficult task?

Devore: How we find the resources to do what we need to do. I don’t want to say it’s about the money, but that’s been a challenge. When I became the director, our budget was $1 million and we were serving 160 children and adults. Today, our budget is approximately $2 million and we are serving over 1,300. The ministry has grown and developed, and the challenge has been how to find the resources to serve more people and how to develop programs to serve more people.

IB: You and your staff experience a lot of things most people don’t. What do you think to yourself when you see a young mom holding a baby she chose not to abort?

Devore: What a joy to see that baby born. To know that baby could have been aborted and not be here. To see that young mother hold that child and be happy they have made this decision to choose life. What a great thing that is, and now it is our responsibility to enable that mother to be the best mother that she can. Whether she is 12 or 40, she may not be prepared for that child. We have the responsibility to help get her prepared and to help her be the very best mother that she can be.

IB: What about those who choose adoption?

Devore: It’s hard to see any mother give up her child for adoption. Often it is the very best decision they can make and I admire their courage to make that decision. But it breaks your heart to see the pain they go through. Then you see the family who is taking that child, and you see the delight in their eyes that their dream has now come true. What a blessing.

IB: Does a specific story come to mind, something you’ve seen God do recently through BCHFS?

Devore: We had a 15-year-old girl come to our maternity center who had been adopted from Guatemala. She was pregnant and had decided to keep her baby. Her parents placed her at Angels’ Cove and said she and the baby couldn’t come back to live with them.

We just began to pray for her and Carla (Donoho, Angels’ Cove director) shared in a WMU meeting over at Woodlawn about this girl and that we were praying for a family for her. Carla finishes speaking, and a woman comes up and says, “I think my husband and I can take her.”

Really?! God does so many amazing things. The woman, who’s one of our board members, goes home and tells her husband. He says, “I don’t know why we couldn’t.” They had already adopted two kids. So they took the mother and her baby, and since then, they have officially adopted the mom.

IB: That’s an amazing story.

Devore: It was just miraculous. How does God find a family? It’s amazing. There have been hundreds and hundreds of those types of stories where God has worked in the lives of people, kids, and families, and made a difference. It has been very rewarding.

IB: What does the future of Baptist ministry to kids and their families look like, especially in Chicago where the need is so great but Southern Baptist presence is relatively small?

Devore: Baptist Children’s Home needs a presence in northern Illinois. We’ve just not had the resources to be able to do it and to make it work. We tried in 1999 when we opened a Pathways Counseling office but had to close it because it wasn’t financially feasible. I think the future for us would be that we would get a Pathways Counseling office open again in northern Illinois and to be able to provide Christian counseling.

We serve a lot of kids from that area and a lot of young mothers, but still we are out of sight, out of mind. We need a greater presence, a greater awareness of the ministry of the Children’s Home in northern Illinois.

IB: What advice would you give to Denny Hydrick as he takes over the executive director role at BCHFS?

Devore: The ministry faces many challenges in the coming years: competition for philanthropic dollars, managed care uncertainties, staff shortages, changing values regarding marriage, family and group care, and more complex behavior and mental health issues.

Denny Hydrick comes with great experience from working in child care agencies in both Mississippi and Florida. He understands the issues we are facing and I’m confident that he will provide the needed leadership for the days ahead. My advice to him is to trust God, who has maintained this ministry for 98 years, and to trust the people who work here. They have proven their faithfulness to children and families over and over.

The BriefingSanctity of life argued after gorilla killing
The protests after Cincinnati Zoo officials killed a gorilla to protect the life of a young boy reveals a modern confusion over the dignity and sanctity of human life. Al Mohler says this confusion is not only a matter concern, but one of deadly significance as some call the endangered animal’s death “worse than murder.”

Pro-abortion bill on governor’s desk
Last week, the Illinois House passed SB 1564 by a vote of 61-54 — a bill that would force doctors, nurses, and pharmacists to distribute information to help patients find morally objectionable medical services such as abortion, sterilization, and certain end-of-life care. This proposal was passed by the Illinois Senate in 2015 by a vote of 34-19. The bill now awaits Governor Bruce Rauner’s signature.

Methodists reverse abortion support
The UMC held its quadrennial General Conference (GC) and considered more than a thousand resolutions. LGBTQ activists, anti-Israel advocates, and pro-choice “reproductive rights” feminists all lobbied to liberalize the denomination. Instead, the denomination moved in the opposite direction, making substantive progress toward a biblically-founded social witness.

States sue over Obama restroom rules
Eleven states and two school districts filed a lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s directive demanding all federally funded schools apply a controversial interpretation of Title IX requiring schools to define a student’s sexual identity based not on biological traits, but on feelings. Declaring the federal demands are “unlawful” and “capricious and arbitrary,” the lawsuit calls for a permanent injunction preventing the administration from implementing and enforcing its rules.

Christians lead NBA teams to finals
NBA watchers called the Western Conference finals one of the most exciting playoff series ever, with two excellent teams led by two men known for their basketball prowess and outspoken Christian witness: Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant. It’s Curry’s team that will now take on the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers.

 

Sources: AlbertMohler.com, Illinois Family Institute, ERLC.com, Baptist Press, WORLD Magazine

The BriefingWho’s next for National WMU?
Wanda Lee, National WMU Executive Director, announced her retirement Monday (Jan. 11) at the annual January Board Meeting of the Woman’s Missionary Union. Lee has been at the helm of the National WMU since 2000 when she replaced Dellana O’Brien. Among those speculated on as her possible replacement is Sandy Wisdom-Martin, former Illinois WMU Executive Director and current Executive Director of Texas WMU. http://www.sbcthisweek.com/national-wmu-facing-pivotal-moment-with-lees-retirement/


SBC President on the ‘spiritual’ state of the union
As President Obama prepares to give his final State of the Union address tonight (Jan. 12), the President of the Southern Baptist Convention issued his own spiritual state of our union. Floyd shared on his blog, “What’s especially alarming to me, serving as the President of the Southern Baptist Convention, is that we fail to realize how the spiritual health of our nation affects the state of our union. As our spiritual lives go, so goes the nation.” http://www.ronniefloyd.com/blog/10027/


Over 5,000 to join Chicago’s March for Life
Pro-lifers in Illinois are expecting over 5,000 people to join the annual Chicago March for Life event ahead of the national march in Washington D.C. A local version of the march held every year in the nation’s capital on the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, the Chicago march on Jan. 17 is expected to be the largest held in the entire Midwest. http://www.christianpost.com/news/chicago-march-for-life-5000-pro-lifers-attend-illinois-abortion-declining-parental-notification-154282/#CSgVFLGvvAWl5t93.99


Process begins to remove prof over ‘same God’ comments
A panel of Wheaton College faculty will meet within the next 30 days to consider whether to recommend termination for political science professor Larycia Hawkins. Administrators placed Hawkins on paid leave in December after she made comments on social media about Muslims and Christians worshipping the same God. http://bpnews.net/46121/first-steps-taken-to-fire-prof-over-muslim-comments


Churches see need to screen volunteers
Almost half of the background checks requested by churches through LifeWay’s program with backgroundchecks.com reveal some type of criminal offense. Most of those are minor incidents such as speeding tickets, but 21 percent of inquiries discovered misdemeanors or more serious crimes. http://factsandtrends.net/2016/01/07/more-churches-recognizing-need-for-volunteer-screening/#.VpQoi3mhqUn

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, Facts and Trends, RonnieFloyd.com, SBC this Week

January 17 is Sanctity of Life Sunday

Schumacher

At just over one-and-a  half pounds. baby Grace was born a micro-preemie.

When Grace Schumacher turned one last October, it was a milestone that once seemed impossible. Her story of survival against the odds has reminded a church and a community about the sanctity of human life.

When Grace’s mom, Mindy, was pregnant, a blood-screening test indicated possible problems. More testing revealed a high likelihood of Down Syndrome. At only 29 weeks, Mindy’s doctor wanted to monitor her because baby Grace was “off-the-charts too small,” said Grace’s grandmother, Charmel Jacobs.

This routine procedure became a two-day hospital stay, which then became an emergency C-section as Grace’s heart rate continued to drop much too frequently. The baby needed to be delivered, despite the chance she might not survive. Charmel’s husband, Jerry, started praying out loud as this decision was made.

He said, “Lord, we just need your grace.”

And Grace the Lord gave, literally. Born October 24 at 5:44 a.m., weighing only 1 lb. 9 oz., she was considered a micro-preemie. The family was warned she probably wouldn’t cry. But she gave a little squeak, and then started wailing away.

Grace was in the hospital for three months after that, “an emotional roller coaster for everyone,” her grandmother said. She faced a host of medical complications, and family and friends weren’t even allowed to visit. But finally, one week after her original due date, Grace’s parents took their daughter home.

Charmel wanted to thank Rockford Memorial Hospital for everything they did for their family during that difficult time. So she got the idea (which she credits to the Lord) to write a letter to the editor in their local paper. This was also around the time that she was wrestling with how to influence the culture and put a positive pro-life message into the community.

She enlisted prayer from her pastor that the Lord would give her the ability to construct this letter concisely and positively. Jacobs awoke one morning at five o’clock and started writing. “It was done within an hour,” she said.

In the editorial she expressed her gratitude to everyone in the neo-natal intensive care unit that had been Grace’s first home. She concluded by giving ultimate thanks to her Heavenly Father, praising him for gifting the family with the care the hospital gave them and their vulnerable, yet extremely valuable treasure, Grace. She then wrote, “I wish everyone could peek inside those cribs and understand that each one is a precious soul created by God—no matter how tiny.”

Within days, the letter was in print and on Facebook. It was taped to every monitor at the hospital, and the newspaper later published an article celebrating Grace and the hospital’s acclaimed NICU department. “Over and over, God has confirmed that he wants this story told,” the grateful grandmother said.

‘It’s not up to us’

In the same church in Machesney Park, another young girl’s life—once in question—now stands as a testimony to the goodness of God.

Michael and Jessica Miller were encouraged to terminate a pregnancy because of complications, but they chose not to. Now nine years later, Machesney Park’s former associate pastor, Larry Wells, says, “Riley is an inspiration to all of us.”

At 20 weeks into the pregnancy, the Millers were asked if they wanted to find out the baby’s gender. From the images, they could tell they were having a girl, but also that something was definitely not right. “She had a tumor at the base of her tailbone,” Jessica said. A specialist came in soon after they got the news and told them the child had almost no chance of survival and would need to be monitored very closely.

“That same day, they sent us to a genetic counselor who said we should have an abortion,” Jessica said. The baby would have a host of mental, physical, and developmental problems, and in the eyes of the doctors, the cost of the complications outweighed the value of her life.

The Millers made it very clear that wasn’t an option and never would be. “We told them that doesn’t need to be suggested again. It’s not happening,” Jessica recalled.

But the tumor continued to grow, quickly. By 27½ weeks, it was affecting everything and causing Riley’s heart to fail. It was also starting to affect Jessica. The doctor said they would perform one last ultrasound, and if Riley’s heart was still beating, they would deliver her. The Millers were warned, though, that even then she would have only a 50% chance of survival.

“But I had confidence,” said Jessica. “We had been praying about it.”

The test revealed that somehow, against all medical odds, her heart was beating. So they delivered Riley—not breathing at first, blue and swollen, but alive.

She initially weighed just over four pounds. Riley immediately underwent surgery to remove the tumor, a genetic anomaly that affects only one in 40,000 babies. After the procedure, she weighed 1 lb. 5 oz. She remained in intensive care for two months.

Although Riley is small for her age and some scars remain from her multiple surgeries, her mother says, “She’s nine years old now. She has no learning disabilities. Looking at her you would never know!”

When questioned how her daughter’s story has impacted other people over the years, Jessica talked about how opening up about their experiences has been a real encouragement to the people in her church, bolstering their faith as they hear about and witness what amazing things God can do.

About two years ago, she was also able to talk to another mother who was faced with the decision either to terminate the pregnancy or trust their baby into God’s hands. Although they lost their child, they chose the latter.

“The main thing I’ve learned,” Jessica said, “is that you never know what’s going to happen. It’s not up to us to make that choice.”

– Morgan Jackson is a freelance writer living in Bloomington, Illinois.