Ardy Berens is the Volunteer Coordinator for a maternity home. She wrote a moving and insightful Facebook post about the typical resident that would also resonate with anyone involved with other pregnancy-related ministries.
I want to tell you about a "typical resident" at the Family Life Center of West Michigan (FLC). Our residents have some things in common.
Number one, inside of them they are carrying a child for whom they’ve chosen life. For many this child is a form of hope: hope for a future, hope for finally having a family, hope for someone to love.
Most of these mothers have grown up in situations where they have not been loved and cherished as a child should be. They may have been abused.
Each one of them is reaching out for help—for themselves and their child. Many are not even sure what that help may look like. They are taking a first step by reaching out.
They move into the FLC Home feeling many mixed emotions: fear, anger at having to ask for help, and depression are among others.
Some have never had their own room or eaten a meal around a table with a family. It’s a big adjustment for them. Some wonder when they’ll be asked to leave this home as they have been asked before. Deep down, many of them are not sure they’re worthy of what the Center is giving them. (Have you ever felt unworthy of the love God gives you when you feel you’ve failed Him yet again?)
Each woman struggles with the adjustments they are asked to make. They wonder "why"?
Finally, each woman will someday leave the FLC. Some after completing the program, some after having their babies, some after feeling the adjustments are too much, and some just lose hope.
Each woman will take a little bit of the hearts of everyone that has reached out to her. She will remember a kind touch, a listening ear, a moment when someone understood her just a little bit more than she understood herself.
She will take with her a seed. A seed that God has used all of us to plant into her heart, a seed of His love for her. Like the Bible says, that seed may fall on rocky ground, among thorns, or on fertile soil. We’re not in control of the seed, but it is our job to plant it, nurture it, and pray for it.
When women leave before we believe they’re ready, we struggle with feelings of disappointment.
I learned this week that the average person tries to move out of negative lives seven times.1 This person could be trying to get out of an abusive home, out of a seemingly never-ending cycle of poverty, out of being homeless and hungry, out of addictions, among many other situations.
When each woman stays with us for a week, a month, or a year, they’ve made one more step towards a life that God wants for them. We don't know how many more steps it will take each woman to reach that life or even if they will. We do know that we’ve given them a memory, a moment, a helping hand and, most of all, planted a seed.
View from the other side
Arby also provided us with a testimony from one of her “typical” residents, to give us the other side of the story:
Please hear me.
I was a resident of the Family Life Center. I was given the support and encouragement to earn my high school diploma. Yes, I was 24 years old. Please take the time to hear my story.
I was raised by my mom who never had a job or a driver's license. No one ever really cared if I went to school or not. When I turned 16 I didn't care about school but I wanted independence so I got my driver's license and worked to buy a beater car. I did my best to parent myself. I wanted a better life than what I saw the members of my family had. I struggled but I survived.
I reached out to the Family Life Center when I found out I was pregnant. While the program was not exactly what I needed I was supported throughout my determination to earn a high school diploma. Only one other member of my family has earned their high school diploma but at the Family Life Center they encouraged me, and I ran with it.
Sadly, I experienced a miscarriage and lost my son. I am struggling but I am determined to survive. Even though I have left the actual program, the Family Life Center has supported me.
I have learned when I reach bottom to reach up for help. I know when I am on more solid ground, I will reach down and help someone else up.
Please don't judge other residents for where they are in life. You don't know where they have been or what they have experienced.
Please say a prayer for me and for the other residents—past, present, and future.
1. “50 Obstacles to Leaving,” National Domestic Violence Hotline https://www.thehotline.org/resources/get-help-50-obstacles-to-leaving/
Photo credits: Jacob Townsend and Joshua Fuller on Unsplash.com.
Ardy Berens is Volunteer Coordinator for the Family Life Center of West Michigan but does a little of everything. A volunteer for 5 years, she’s also their technical support, fills in by doing respite in the home, and has had women stay in her own home when necessary.
She started out by fulfilling a request in our church newsletter for someone to hold a baby for 3 hours on Wednesdays. She then became the house mom on Wednesdays to give the regular mom a break. Eventually she took her current role about 4 years ago. “I fill in whenever there’s a spot that can’t be filled by our volunteers.”