Debbie was a sidewalk counselor before Cities4Life merged with Love Life. Three years ago, I contacted her when a mom chose life who lived in her area and asked if she would consider mentoring the mom. I knew Debbie was connected with a great church and thought they would be perfect to help this struggling woman. Debbie agreed. Her church, First ARP in Gastonia, would become one of Love Life’s House of Refuge churches, committed to helping women and children in crisis.
Intense Struggle to Connect
Debbie immediately called the mom, and reached out many times. For six months, the mom (who I will call Laura) ghosted Debbie. No response. Then out of the blue, Laura called and asked if she could get the free 3D ultrasound we offer here in Charlotte to moms who choose life. The baby was 19½ weeks old by then. Laura’s mom, who had a terminal illness, was able to attend that beautiful 3D ultrasound. She died before the baby was born, thus the free ultrasound was the only time she would ever see her grandchild.
That began a near three-year relationship between Debbie and Laura. Laura began attending Debbie’s church, but contact with Laura was on again/off again for several months. When the Gospel was shared fully at the baby shower hosted by Sheryl Chandler of Truth and Mercy Prolife Ministries, a seed was planted that took many months to sprout.
Seeds of Faith Slowly Sprout
Laura began attending classes in church that were to help new believers and seekers understand the Gospel. While Laura believed in God, she did not seem to have a clear understanding of what true lordship of Jesus Christ in her life meant. There was no clear “lightbulb moment” but her salvation was a process, a building of that understanding.
Debbie knew Jesus was transforming Laura as the baby was born and the months of discipleship progressed. Laura began trying harder to respond when Debbie contacted her. She showed a greater peace, maturity, and self-responsibility as the months marched on. She began asking about the scriptures she wrestled with.
Love of the Church was Catalyst for Change
Debbie believes that it was the incredible love and help of the church that brought Laura finally to joining the church and embracing the Lord. When Laura had no transportation, six church ladies took turns driving her to and from work, about a half hour away! The church closet to help the needs for foster families was open to Debbie to help with Laura and other moms Love Life mentors were working with. When money was tight and food was expensive, the church members bought Laura groceries and meals. Sheryl gave a lavish baby shower that provided two years of baby needs.
The Critical Role of Sidewalk Outreach
Laura thanks Debbie often now. She tells her that she is so thankful for the day the sidewalk outreach team stopped her. She said she was actually hoping someone would say something to talk her out of abortion. The sidewalk team did just that.
Guidance from Scripture
The obstacles for Debbie to help Laura were many. The months of no response and then the lack of follow through was enough to make Debbie want to give up. Debbie wondered how much and how long should she continue to pursue Laura with so little effort to reciprocate from Laura.
Through those hard times, Debbie would revisit the scripture that helped her persevere.
“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:12-14).
Debbie knew God was telling her “don’t give up. Pursue that lost sheep. Do not let this one perish.”
Advice to Sidewalk Outreach Teams (and Mentors)
Debbie learned a great deal as she mentored Laura; however, now that Love Life is helping churches to train mentors, she advises that sidewalk outreach members not be the mentors.
Both roles are exhausting and intense. It is near impossible to do both well.
- Always mentors should pull in the church to help. The job is too much for one person.
- Sidewalk people should know the resources as well as possible to help moms choose life.
- However, mentors are responsible for the resource linking to the mom, not the sidewalk folks.
- Persevere! Be the pursuer. It is common for moms to drop the ball. Expect it and do not give up.
- Be careful to give moms responsibility. For example, you may provide a resource phone number but they are responsible for calling.
- The demonstrable love of the church in helping the mom tangibly paves the way for a willingness to be discipled in Jesus.
“It was very hard,” Debbie told me, “but both my husband and I love Laura to pieces. It was not easy but the extreme joy and blessing was worth it.”