A legendary parable goes something like this:
A small village of people once lived along the edge of a fast-flowing river. Several people of the village were fishing along the river’s edge when one noticed a baby being washed downstream. Shortly after rescuing, drying and warming the baby, another baby came downstream. Sometime later, another, followed by more and more babies were being washed downstream. By the early afternoon, the entire village was involved in frantically rescuing as many babies as fast as they could.
When three villagers began running upstream, the village elders asked, “Where are you going?” We need your help here. There are too many babies to rescue.” The three villages said, “We are going upstream to try to prevent these babies from falling into the river.”
How many women seek the same support from a life ministry over and over again, but with different baby-daddies each time? Recidivism rates have doubled during the three decades we have served life ministry. Some life ministries report recidivism rates as high as 60%. A case study from one Florida center illustrates the problem and solution:
In 1991, already 8 weeks pregnant, April [not her real name] was desperate and wanted an abortion. The father of April’s unborn child was dangerous and unsupportive. God used a Florida pregnancy resource center to preserve the threatened life of April’s unborn child; a daughter who is 27 years old now.
The story doesn’t end there though. Just eighteen months later, April returned to the same pregnancy center, desperate and vulnerable to abortion for many of the same reasons. Her new boyfriend demanded April abort their child, another little girl. But again, through life affirming ministry, God preserved her unborn daughter’s life.
How many times did this happen? In the four years that followed, April visited the same pregnancy center two more times in similar dire circumstances. Four times, the threatened lives of her unborn children were preserved!
- How many times do we want April to seek life ministry when she feels vulnerable to abortion? Every time, of course!
- How many of April’s unborn children do we want saved? All of them, of course!
- How many times did April feel vulnerable to abortion? She says, “Six.”
- How many times had April sought life ministry when she felt vulnerable to abortion? Four.
- How many times do we want April to feel like her pregnancies are a crisis? Never.
How many times have our relationships been the root cause of our most complex problems? How many of April’s pregnancies were the root cause of her problems?
In 1998, with four young daughters, April had no time for intimate relationships. She noticed that her once routine visits to the pregnancy center had stopped. Having no time for intimate relationships had reduced her risk of another “crisis” pregnancy. April’s pregnancies were not the root cause of her problems. Her intimate relationships were.
How many men and women lack good role modeling regarding their intimate relationships? In life ministry circles, two-thirds (65%) experience father absence. Most have little, if any, positive role modeling regarding the formation and endurance of biblical relationships.
April always spoke of how much she loved her “daddy.” She said this even though he had been abusive, neglectful, and eventually disappeared. This was exactly the pattern of April’s intimate relationships that resulted in her first six pregnancies. Her first two pregnancies were terminated by abortion. Although threatened by abortion, God used life ministry to preserve the lives of her next four pre-born children.
How many people will seek intimate companionship? Virtually every person does. Virtually all people will seek to share their lives with someone special all their adult lives. It’s a given.
After April’s youngest daughter started pre-school in 2002, she had more time. She met Jason while he was dropping his son off at school one morning. After a few coffee shop meetings, a relationship quickly developed. The temptation of intimacy was offset by the terrifying reality of past relationships.
April wanted a family complete with a loving husband and father. But, after many failed attempts and a lot of pain and suffering, she felt hopeless. She had no idea how to get into right relationships. That had been her problem all along.
How many people are struggling with this same issue?
In the US, at least a third of life ministry clients are caught in cycles of unhealthy relationships. When that is true for women like April, it is also true for men like Jason. Many men do not know how to form and sustain right relationships either.
In one of their coffee shop conversations, April learned that Jason’s story was much like hers. He had never experienced a whole family either. His father was absent too. Jason had experienced numerous unhealthy relationships and he had also lost children to abortion. Both of them wanted a healthy relationship. Neither of them knew how.
How many people need role modeling and support to cultivate biblical relationships? Everyone does. Cultivating biblical relationships is learned, disciplined behavior. In other words, it doesn’t just come naturally. If people don’t see and learn about building good family relationships, they won’t know.
|When those relationships were wrong, the pre-born lives of their children were always threatened. But, when their intimate relationships were right, there was no threat of abortion to begin with.
Up to this point in their lives, Jason and April had not seen or learned about building good family relationships. They wanted it, but their attempts had repeatedly resulted in unhealthy relationships and risk to pre-born life. Intervention was needed.
How often are people like April and Jason getting the personalized attention they need to cultivate biblical relationships where unborn life is not threatened to begin with? We believe the answer is less than two percent. Out of the one million clients served by US life affirming ministry in 2019, less than 2% appear to have been intentionally engaged in relational discipleship for the purpose of helping them cultivate biblical relationships.
In 2002, Jason and April became a part of that small percentage. After meeting Jason, April reached out to the pregnancy center that had served her in the past. She remembered that they did offer opportunities to learn more about building family relationships. She and Jason participated in the activities. It was the game-changer they needed. With guidance and support from mentors and new friends, Jason and April got what they needed and deserved to know about biblical relationships.
In 2004 Jason and April married and in 2005, at the age of thirty-four, April delivered their daughter Emily. Emily was a first―the first child Jason or April had ever conceived who was never vulnerable to abortion.
Jason and April came to realize that the root cause of vulnerability to abortion was the context of their intimate relationships. When those relationships were wrong, the pre-born lives of their children were always threatened. But, when their intimate relationships were right, there was no threat of abortion to begin with. How many times would you like to see people you serve experience this kind of change?
How many pre-born lives can we keep from becoming threatened by abortion to begin with? That could be the question of the century for life affirming ministry. Not just, “How many pre-born children we can save after the fact,” but, “How many pre-born children can we prevent from being vulnerable to abortion to begin with?”
How many pre-born children would you like to prevent from being vulnerable to abortion to begin with? A hundred? A thousand? How about 2.5 million?
Our experience suggests that, during the next decade (2021-2030), in the US alone, helping fathers and mothers cultivate biblical relationships could reduce the number of pre-born lives that are ever threatened by abortion to begin with by at least 25%.
How can we prevent pre-born lives form becoming threatened by abortion to begin with? The same way the pregnancy center in Florida did. Innovate. Offer opportunities that engage life ministry clients in on-going relational discipleship for the purpose of cultivating biblical relationships. That was the game-changer for Jason and April, and it can be the game-changer for many of the clients you serve. We believe, at least a quarter of them.
How many life ministries are innovating their ministry models in this way? More and more, but still relatively few. Intentionally incorporating on-going relational discipleship for the purpose of cultivating biblical relationships is cutting edge innovation in life ministry that effectively:
- Reaches the root of the real problem threatening pre-born life.
- Introduces a culture of life at the systemic level of family structures.
- Reduces the incidence of poverty and makes families safer. (See the CDC’s webpage on Adverse Childhood Experiences).
©2020 Stuart Carver. Stuart serves the Family God’s Way movement where people connect with people in relational discipleship. Stuart’s role in the movement includes: finding opportunities to connect people in relational discipleship, creating innovative relational discipleship resources, and connecting the Body of Christ to life affirming ministry.
Photo credit: Nick Hillier on Unsplash.com