Many years ago I heard that pregnancy care centers were places where the pieces were compassionately put back together when people's lives fell apart. But there was another option -- one that just might hold a young person back before he or she tumbled off that precipice in the first place (Proverbs 24:11). That option was abstinence training in local schools. So as we planned for the opening of a PCC in Chile we made reaching young people in our local schools a priority.
The seeds for its abstinence education component were sown nine years ago, when our family was newly arrived as missionaries to Chile. At that time, we were working alongside Pastor Cristian in the Iglesia Bautista Esperanza Viva church in San Bernardo. He also worked as a religion teacher in an at-risk public school.
His school allowed him to bring in an outside speaker to give an abstinence talk to six different classes of 100-120 students each. He brought in Evelyn Stone, who is a fellow missionary based in Lima, Peru. She had started several PCCs there, and was helping us prepare to open our center.
It was an incredible opportunity, and over the years Pastor Cristian continued to share the pro-life message with each group of students that came through his classroom. For Cristian, pictured below, the message was intensely personal because of his own life story.
He and his sweetheart Betsy were newly married when they learned they were expecting twins. Their doctor asked about a family history of multiples, and to their knowledge there was none. But after announcing the pregnancy to Cristian's parents, a long-kept secret was revealed.
At 21 years old, his mother was married and expecting her third child when she discovered her husband had been unfaithful and impregnated another woman. Hurt and angry, and not knowing the Lord, she decided to have an abortion and her husband agreed. They went to the woman known in the neighborhood for offering clandestine abortions, and when it was all over she placed a tiny baby into their hands. They promised never to speak of what they had done. Yet her belly continued to grow and the twin of the aborted child was born. That child was Cristian.
When Cristian and Betsy shared the news of their own twin pregnancy, his parents wept. By then his mother was a believer in Jesus Christ and knew God had forgiven all her sins, including her abortion. But not a day went by when she did not grieve that decision. To her, these twin granddaughters became an expression of God's amazing grace and forgiveness.
This personal aspect of Pastor Cristian's presentation is very powerful as he speaks to young people. He offered to make the 24-hour trip to Iquique to give school presentations for us now that our PCC is open. He did so this past April.
As we have repeatedly observed, teens base their arguments in favor or against abortion largely on personal experience. In the second school we visited with Pastor Cristian, one girl was vocally pro-abortion. A friend of hers with a toddler became pregnant after being diagnosed with a serious heart disorder. This pregnancy would risk her life and possibly leave her toddler without a mother, and so she chose abortion.
Pastor Cristian suggested I talk with her. I’m not a medical professional, but have had a high-risk pregnancy. My doctor performed an early cesarean section to protect me and my baby. With me was Maria, a volunteer at our center who nearly lost her life in pregnancy, yet both she and her son were saved when he was delivered at just 26 weeks' gestation. We emphasized that doctors can go to great lengths to protect the lives of both mother and unborn child.
During the presentation we handed out fetal models at 12 weeks' gestation. Holding the tiny model in their hands made an impression on the young people. Most held them carefully, as though they were fragile. The girl who spoke to me reacted differently, tossing the model callously in the air. She repeatedly interrupted the presentation to give an opinion, and only when her classmates applauded at the end did we realize they felt the tension as much as we did. It was the only session in which students clapped, as if to wordlessly indicate their support.)
So far we’ve participated in seven sessions at four schools and most students are respectful and positive. We’ve noticed that each group has asked similar questions, which indicates the Chilean government has successfully indoctrinated this generation concerning the proposed legalization of abortion.
Yet it’s encouraging to find some who’ve given serious thought to the issue and chosen to stand for life. Two men -- one a high school student and the other an adult father of college-aged sons -- said their position on abortion had changed as a result of what they heard. Neither could any longer agree with abortion for any reason. Praise the Lord!
The presentations not only address abortion, but also encourage students to make responsible sexual choices and protect their hearts as God designed through abstinence before marriage. Pastor Cristian introduces a long list of sexual transmitted diseases and identifies their risks, in contrast to the Chilean government's campaign encouraging people to "Live how we want to live. Use a condom."
During the week of our school presentations, the paper ran a front-page article confirming that our region has the second-highest number of confirmed cases of HIV and that the number has increased by 58% in just five years. The very same government poster that Pastor Cristian had mentioned to the students was displayed in full color alongside the troubling statistics, ironically proving its failure.
May God multiply our efforts through these school presentations. We gave each student a flyer about our center and an eye-catching brochure entitled "Sex: It’s Never Meant to Kill You." We invite them to visit the center in the hope that God will allow searching students to hear the Gospel. God's Word never returns void, and so we continue to prepare ourselves to serve each person He sends our way!
Stephanie Garcia is a missionary and director of FLORECE Prenatal & Family Counseling Center in Iquique, Chile, which opened its doors on October 1, 2016. “After many years of praying, preparing and pursuing the dream of a pregnancy center in Iquique, God allowed this desire to come to fruition last year. Already many lives have been touched by the hope of the Gospel through this ministry and we look forward to continued involvement and growth in the years to come!” This article was adapted from a post on her blog, Garcias2Chile. Follow FLORECE's progress on Facebook.