Evangelism in the Pregnancy
Help Medical Clinic Setting
By Thomas A. Glessner and Audrey Stout, RN
The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) strongly believes that sharing the Gospel is an essential part of counseling women in pregnancy help medical clinics. The Gospel is the Truth, and, combined with the truth about unborn life and visual truth from an ultrasound exam, it is truth that empowers abortion at-risk patients to choose life.
Audrey Stout, national nurse manager for NIFLA and a pastor's wife, offers these insights as to the role of evangelism in the pregnancy help medical clinic setting:
I was born into a Christian home. At the age of 12 I received Jesus Christ as my personal Savior based on my understanding of the verse John 3:16: God so loved the world (that is people like me) that He sent His one and only Son to die to pay the debt that sin created, and that in believing in His Son, Jesus, I would not have to pay the eternal cost of my sin, but could have life eternal with Him. This simple decision changed my eternal destiny, placed me in God's family, and started His "good work" in me that has continued to this day.
In the 1970s God did a major act of mercy in my heart and showed me His heart regarding the sanctity of life in the womb. I realized that women in unplanned pregnancies needed to know about the life and value of the unborn so they could avoid making the wrong "choice" of ending the little life within them.
I waited several years, praying and hoping to become involved directly in a pro-life ministry, but there were no crisis pregnancy centers near where I lived. In 1987 we moved to Marietta, Georgia. There I eagerly got involved with Cobb Pregnancy Services. God led me to the ideal setting for a mother of school-aged children. It was the perfect opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the pro-life message to women who might be pregnant.
Working over 15 years at Cobb Pregnancy Services, I indeed did find that many women facing an unplanned pregnancy were receptive to hearing the Gospel. During those years, I saw many pray to receive Jesus Christ.
When CPS decided to convert to a medical clinic in 1997, with the encouragement of NIFLA, I was excited to be able to use my nursing skills in combination with my faith. In my years of teaching at NIFLA's Nurses' Institute in Limited Obstetrical Ultrasound, other nurses have expressed this same sentiment to me numerous times. They have told me of their years of frustration at not being able to share their faith in Jesus Christ to their patients in secular settings. However, there is no such frustration or impediment to sharing the Gospel in a Christian ministry like a pregnancy help medical clinic.
Applied medical science and nursing skills help patients to achieve physical well-being and healing. However, such skills by themselves cannot bring about spiritual healing. In a medical clinic setting, crisis situations make it obvious that medical help is limited and temporary. Nurses are taught to excel at professional assessment skills at NIFLA's Nurses' Institute in Limited Obstetrical Ultrasound. However, this course also encourages the assessment of the patient as a whole person, both physically and spiritually, and makes clear that spiritual factors are involved in a woman's decision whether to continue her pregnancy or abort.
We offer a message of lifeboth spiritual and physical. We attempt to connect the patient to both her Creator and Savior and to her unborn child by giving her truth. God has placed in women a natural instinct to love, nurture, and protect their unborn children. We must spiritually minister to these women and let them know that God loves them and has a plan for their lives. The image of her child on an ultrasound screen can be a concrete memory for the rest of a woman's life. Planting the seed of God's love into that memory can be the exact thing that will bring her God's saving grace in the future.
Most often, the counseling room (before an ultrasound is performed) is the best place to present the Gospel message in a setting that is private and quiet. During the ultrasound, others (including boyfriends, friends, family members, and small children) are often allowed to be present. So sharing the Gospel at such a time is not always ideal.
I have made it my practice to speak during the ultrasound exam of God's formation of the little life the woman is carrying. I mention that the yolk sac seen in the earliest of visible pregnancies is part of God's provision for that baby. The little round halo-looking structure actually gives nourishment and makes red blood cells for the early embryo until the placenta takes over. Such information can be reassuring to an anxious young woman who has had a great deal of morning sickness in her pregnancy and has wondered if her unborn child was suffering from lack of nutrition. The beating heart's motion almost always elicits a response of awe and awareness of the presence of life. If it is visible, I often mention that the placenta is an amazing organ created by God to connect the woman's blood supply, oxygen, and nourishment to her unborn as well as to remove waste products in perfect proportions. All of these kinds of communications with the patient soften her and make her more receptive to the Gospel message of salvation.
Upon completing the ultrasound, I offer to pray with the woman. Rarely has a woman refused my offer. Without praying coercively, I ask God to show the patient His love and guidance for her. After we pray, most patients will grab and hug me in gratitude, knowing that we have looked to the One who is big enough to handle the crisis. It is a holy moment. Before she leaves, I offer her a Bible (usually the one formatted for pregnancy centers) if she does not have one.
In Matthew 13, Jesus speaks of spreading the Gospel as sowing seeds in the hearts of people. Sowing such seeds is our privilege and responsibility in the pregnancy help medical clinic setting. Some hearts are more receptive than others, and we should never attempt to force the message upon them. Instead, we simply offer to share with our patients the good news. Some patients will not want to hear it. We must respect their position. However, for these patients we pray that as Christ reveals His love and kindness through us that they will begin a journey that will lead them to faith. So often they return to us (sometimes even after aborting) because they sense that they are loved and accepted at the clinic.
It is a God-given and unique privilege to be instruments used by God in a pregnancy help medical clinic setting. It is the hope of NIFLA that pregnancy help medical clinics will never abandon their biblical foundations and the centrality of the Gospel to their operations, as many hospitals and educational institutions have done over the years. NIFLA strongly encourages pregnancy help medical clinics to promote evangelism and the sharing of the healing power of the Gospel to all patients to whom they minister.
|Thomas A. Glessner is president of the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) and can be contacted at NIFLA@aol.com. Audrey Stout is the national NIFLA nurse manager.|