Ten years ago, a small group of Americans began looking into starting a pregnancy resource organization (PRO) in eastern Europe. The idea had sprouted when a couple of men in the group had been on a business-as-missions tour to the area the previous year.
They brought me into the loop to see if I could help them find US-based PRO leaders that had experience launching or supporting a ministry outside the country. We met a few times with the few people I could find and put together a list of things to do and not do if the project was to move ahead.
About 8 months later, I was surprised to learn there'd been progress. The group had secured initial funding, leased a building, and hired a director. “All we need now is someone who knows how to start and operate one of these centers.” They wanted to know if I would travel to Macedonia, meet the team, and help them get started.
My answer was, “Sure, I’d be happy to!” and so two of us set off on a journey to Macedonia that has profoundly impacted my life.
That may sound like an exaggeration, but I can assure you it’s not. I’ve spent the last 32 years of my life in pregnancy center ministry, as well as in Christian broadcasting and as a senior pastor of a local congregation. I’m familiar with the ups and downs, pros and cons, and good and bad of the pro-life movement in general, and with pregnancy resource and medical center ministry specifically. I have a keen awareness of the struggles all such centers face today, regardless of where a ministry is located. And I believe God has shown us answers and solutions to many of those problems and struggles through our involvement in Macedonia and beyond.
This article is the first in a series that will attempt to answer the question of whether our movement is still relevant. I posted two articles about our effectiveness on LinkedIn here and here. But we first need to back up to my experiences in Macedonia so those answers will make sense.
As I was preparing for that first trip to Macedonia, I did a little research on the country, its demographics, its history with abortion, and on international abortion statistics. I was shocked to learn that 73 million abortions occur worldwide every year. That means 72 million occur outside the U.S. annually.
Now these aren’t just anyone’s numbers. They come from the Alan Guttmacher institute, Planned Parenthood’s research arm. Guttmacher says the numbers reported for China and India are probably much higher since those countries don’t publish comprehensive statistics.
Think about that for a minute. In the last 21 years, over 1.5 billion lives have been lost to abortion. That’s nearly 20 percent of the world’s population!
It is regularly touted that the abortion industry in the U.S. is a billion dollar a year business. I’m not sure how accurate that is but internationally it’s a multi-billion-dollar industry, if the statistics reported are accurate.
A little under two percent of worldwide abortions occur here in the U.S., while over 98 percent occur outside the U.S. If two percent of abortion revenues yields $1 billion, does 98% of abortion revenues yield $98 billion? I don’t know, but it sure opens my eyes to the possibility.
Thank God for the generosity of the pro-life community internationally and here in the U.S. Because of the independence of most PROs it’s hard to know what kind of operating income is generated through support every year. But based on the number of pregnancy-related ministries in the U.S., estimating an average annual operating cost to be roughly $200,000 per center, approximately half a billion dollars is raised in support.
We estimate that less than $50 million are raised and available in support of similar ministries outside the U.S. Therefore, of the $550 million available worldwide, just over 90% of those resources are used here in the U.S. while less than 10% is left for international efforts.
In summary, only two percent of worldwide abortion occur in the U.S. while 90% of the resources available for supporting and funding pregnancy resource efforts everywhere are used here. My conclusion was and is, that this disparity will never be addressed or solved without all of us looking at the problem and formulating a way to help the rest of the world.
How do you eat an elephant? One fork-full at a time.
As a pregnancy center CEO, I got a glimpse of the immensity of the problem. But I also knew I couldn’t be the sole solution to the problem. My fork-full had to be something I could accomplish with the resources at my disposal.
If you are intrigued or motivated by what I have shared so far, you’ll have to look at it the same way. Your fork-full will have to be something you can accomplish with the resources at your disposal as well.
The first resource at my disposal was my time and my experience. I offered to be available to the Macedonian director as well as to any future staff and board members whenever they had a question, concern, or decision to make. From the start I made it clear that any decisions were theirs to make. I was only a resource.
For the last 10 years I have Skyped with that team on a weekly basis. We have prayed together, cried together, rejoiced together, and encouraged one another.
The second resource I had available was a little financial support. The leadership team at my home center had embraced the need to strengthen, encourage, and equip other pregnancy centers, and in particular, missional centers that would be unable to raise their entire support from their own communities. We had designated $2,500 of our annual budget toward that support, so I was able to designate that money to the center in Macedonia.
The third resource at my disposal were the connections I had in the broader pregnancy center sphere. Our gift of $2,500 being equal to one month of the Macedonian center’s overhead, I committed to help them find eleven other partners willing to make the same commitment. Doing so funded the Macedonian center the first few years of its existence.
As you know, running a pregnancy center is time consuming and resource depleting. My initial weekly commitment required about two hours for our Skype call and another half-hour talking to others about what we were doing in Macedonia.
If you decided to get similarly engaged with a pro-life ministry overseas, your fork-full could probably take less than one hour per week of your time. It’s arguably a small price to pay for a significant impact.
In future articles in this series, I'll talk about that specific impact locally as well as internationally. I’ll share some stories that will sound familiar, and the lessons we’ve learned along the way. I can’t wait!
Phil Holsinger is the long-time CEO of the Blue Ridge Women's Center in Roanoke, Virginia. He was honored at Heartbeat International's 2016 conference as a recipient of their Servant Leader award.
Learn more about Mission PRO and the Macedonia center or shoot Phil an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about mentoring an international center at How do we become a Big Sister PRO partner.