By: Ann L. Coker
May 1993 marked my third year as a volunteer counselor at a pregnancy care center. My timeslot was Friday afternoons, but it was like any other day at the center when counselors struggled not only with the clients' needs but also with our own inadequacies.
The problems of sexual promiscuity and abortion are so massive that any effort one person makes to affront or disarm these offensives is often like shooting a pop gun at an armed battalion. I wanted to see results and mark personal progress. I desired to see God working through me to reach women for Him.
The task of listening and keying into each woman’s particular need is essential. It's not enough to know the ropes, to do the routine of record keeping automatically, even to attend in-service meetings, review videos, read and re-read brochures and books on counseling and abortion. These kept me informed, but I had to guard against being a copy-cat, repeating others' techniques, failing to be me. As I entered the counseling room, I wanted to be so in tune with life's message of truth that no part of me was a put-on.
Each woman is different, and an observation of that one day's clients would be evidence enough. That Friday in May I saw four girls. Two had positive tests, and two were negative. One was African American and three were white. Two attended college while the others had not completed high school. One of the women with positive tests was abortion-minded while the other expressed happiness at being pregnant. Three answered “yes’ to being a Christian. All were single and sexually active.
|Her response stabbed me: "That's not necessary. It's all taken care of."
To all four girls I gave a brief testimony, which included thankfulness for my happy marriage. At the end of the day I felt defeated, not satisfied with my witness or counseling, not sure I'd related to their individual personal needs.
So why did I continue to go to the center every week? Ever before me is the memory of my first client. Actually, I lost my first client before I even had the chance to meet her.
Her boyfriend had called to find out about an abortion. When told the center neither performs nor refers abortions, he still scheduled an appointment for his girlfriend to have a pregnancy test and obtain some information about abortions. The appointment was set for Friday and she was to be my first client. My supervisor prayed for her and for me. She did not show up.
I tried to reach her by phone that afternoon, but she was not home. The next week I talked to her roommate who told me she’d be in later. I got busy with other things and forgot to call. The next morning, I remembered and found her at home. Our phone conversation was brief and to the point.
I introduced myself and told her I regretted we didn't meet. When I asked if she would like to reschedule her appointment, she said she had gone elsewhere. Pressing the issue, I said we could still get together and talk. Her response stabbed me: "That's not necessary. It's all taken care of."
Hanging up the phone, I sat alone and cried. I could only assume she’d had an abortion. Sorrow enveloped me. I grieved for her unborn child, but also for this woman who seemed to take her decision so lightly. I thought, if only she'd kept her appointment. My negligence and inability brought my own guilt before me. Could I have done something to prevent this?
I continued to counsel at the center because I felt compelled. In many ways, my life is vastly different from the women who come to the center. I never had an abortion or miscarriage. My husband and I were virgins when we got married. We never struggled with infertility but had four children without complications. We have enjoyed some financial security and never had to apply for social services. My motivation is simply based on the truth that life begins at conception, and that abortion takes the life of an innocent human being.
What kept me going was my commitment to be involved with life for God's sake. As a volunteer counselor, I did my part, however faltering, to reach out to one small corner of this hurting, needy world.
My supervisors and co-workers continually offered support in meaningful ways, and the occasional clients who returned to see me responded with appreciation when I needed it most. My biggest encourager has been God himself who knows best my weaknesses and extends His strength and joy in the times of crisis and low places.
During my years of volunteer service I've learned much from clients and other volunteers, but unexpectedly I've learned more about myself. I discovered that counseling, relating, and witnessing were not easily accomplished.
"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us" (2 Corinthians 4:7, NIV). Yes, I'm a jar of clay, even a "cracked pot," but God's Spirit fills me and His light shines through the "cracks" of who I am.
Ann Coker volunteered at the center until 2000 when she joined the staff. Today, when COVID-19 restrictions are not in place, she serves as a volunteer receptionist at the Life Center in Indianapolis, Indiana. Ann has written 4 other articles for ATCmag.