Exciting, powerful conference a welcome means to celebrate pregnancy help together

Exciting, powerful conference a welcome means to celebrate pregnancy help togetherThe 2022 Heartbeat International Pregnancy Help Conference took place in Jacksonville, Fla. (Becky Scasta, Nurse Manager, FirstLook Sexual Health & Pregnancy Center, Waxahachie, Texas)

The 2022 Heartbeat International Annual Pregnancy Help Conference was a record-breaker for attendance, as pregnancy help personnel from across the world gathered for scores of ground-breaking educational offerings, hearing from up-and-coming leaders in the movement, experiencing fellowship, prayer, and unity.

International affiliates pray with local affiliates before the
 2022 Heartbeat International Annual Pregnancy Help Conference/Lisa Bourne

The Conference took place Mar. 30-Apr. 1 in Jacksonville, Fla., with the theme of Onward, honoring the last 50+ years of pregnancy help while looking ahead to the future. Heartbeat International is celebrating its 51st year this year.

The 2022 in-person gathering saw Heartbeat’s highest Conference numbers to date as the first restriction-free Conference since 2019, and a concurrent virtual 2022 Conference had record numbers as well.

“What an exciting week!” Heartbeat President Jor-El Godsey said. “We had 1,500 people in person and another 400 attending our virtual conference.”

Godsey noted the pregnancy help community’s state of mind as displayed at the Conference.

“Our pregnancy help movement is hopeful, energized, and ready for an exciting 2022,” he said.

Tweet This: “What an exciting week! Our pregnancy help movement is hopeful, energized, and ready for an exciting 2022."

New friends Cindy Ragland and Iness Simwawa/Lisa Bourne


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In addition to record numbers overall, individual pregnancy help organizations that came to the in-person conference brought markedly more people this year than is typically done. Where one or two staff or board members attending from a center is the norm, some centers brought twice that and more, as high as 12 and 20 people.

Heartbeat’s Annual Conference is a staple of the pregnancy help movement; held in the spring each year, it is the largest pregnancy help gathering in the world. 

The 2020 the Conference, scheduled for Seattle, was converted from the traditional in-person format to entirely virtual on short notice due to coronavirus lockdowns – no small feat, given that preparation occurs throughout the year leading up to the Conference and initial plans are laid well in advance of even a year out.

The 2021 Conference was held in Columbus, Ohio, with an in-person and virtual hybrid format. While the 2021 attendance was also strong, remaining virus restrictions affected the event logistically, and with masks and distancing impacting full human interaction.

The 2022 event was restriction-free, allowing for attendees, presenters, exhibitors, and Heartbeat staff to fully engage. Networking opportunities allowed attendees -both in-person and virtual - to connect and converse.

As per usual, the Conference was plentiful with diverse workshops, exhibits, and inspirational keynote presentations, including a pre-Conference In-Depth Day that offered 14 intensive programs and saw record attendance as well.

Godsey's keynote/Lisa Bourne

Godsey offered a look back over the history of the pregnancy help movement in his keynote address, followed by encouragement and a call to action for the future. 

Stephanie Gray Connors/Lisa Bourne

Additional keynotes included Hope Resource Center Executive Director Andrew Wood, pro-life speaker and author Stephanie Gray Connors, Students for Life of America’s Camille Cisneros, author and commentator Danielle D’Souza Gill, HOPE International President Peter Greer, Sidewalk Advocates for Life President Lauren Muzyka, and singer/songwriter Rebecca St. James. 

Rebecca St. James/Lisa Bourne

Education to equip pregnancy help personnel is a key component of the Conference. Adding the In-Depth Day sessions, the in-person Conference and virtual workshops, the sum total was 134 sessions for the 2022 Conference. This includes over 4,000 hours of LAS (Heartbeat’s Life Affirming Specialist certification) credit claimed so far, with the tabulation still in progress as of press time.

“With our Conference program this year we aimed to celebrate the leaders, ideas, and core values of the last 50 years,” said Dawn Lunsford, director of Heartbeat’s Academy, “while putting a spotlight on the innovative concepts and emerging leaders who will carry our movement into the next 50 years.” 

Leona Bicknese and Valerie Humes present on
 maternity housing and trauma-informed care /Lisa Bourne

Lunsford noted how the virtual element remains crucial to make Conference offerings available to those who can’t attend in person, while recognizing the embrace by attendees in Jacksonville of an in-person experience. 

“Though we continue to recognize the value a virtual conference offers to attendees internationally and those who cannot travel to be a part of our in-person Conference, this year we celebrated 75% of our total conference attendance being with us in Jacksonville,” Lunsford told Pregnancy Help News, “and what a joy it was to be together!”

Heartbeat Director of Affiliate Services Beth Diemert shared attendee feedback she’d received repeatedly about the Conference:

“Just what I needed!” “Exactly what I needed to hear!” “The very thing I wanted to know.” 

“These phrases, heard consistently at the end of sessions over our days in Jacksonville, are such an affirmation and encouragement to us at Heartbeat!” Diemert said. “They confirm that we have kept our finger on the pulse of the movement and hit the target on providing the right content and speakers to equip and empower the pregnancy help community.” 

“Nothing makes us happier than to know we hit the mark to advance us onward!” she said.

Heartbeat's Danielle White with
 NIFLA President Thomas Glessner/ Lisa Bourne

Heartbeat International General Counsel Danielle White presented at the In-Depth Day Executive Round Table, which in part helped to prepare leaders for the upcoming Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Supreme Court ruling, expected to upend Roe v. Wade.

“As we await the Supreme Court’s decision in the most important case in 30 years, there was excitement for what a post-Roe world might look like for women and their babies,” White said. “This conference was a powerful representation of the size, dedication and care of the pregnancy help movement that stands ready to walk with women, whatever the outcome at the Supreme Court.”

The Parade of Nations/Lisa Bourne

A poignant mainstay of the event is the Parade of Nations, illustrating the international reach of Heartbeat, along with uniting affiliates from across the world, specifically recognizing the internationals. In the Parade, any international attendees present carry their countries' flags in a parade on the first evening of the Conference. Volunteers carry flags for countries that do not have anyone attending. 

Heartbeat recently reached a new record of 83 countries in its network. The return of international affiliate in-person attendance at the Conference made the Parade of Nations especially touching. 

A number of international affiliates had visited a local pregnancy help center in Jacksonville prior to the Conference convening, connecting, sharing ideas and resources.

Four Servant Leaders were honored at the Conference for their Christ-like example of leading and serving simultaneously, and the Heart of the Future Award recognized up-and-coming leadership.

Pregnancy help centers observing 25 and 50 years of service were recognized, and pregnancy help leaders in the areas of maternity housing and adoption received scholarship awards to attend the Conference.

Pregnancy center recipients of Heartbeat’s Life Launch Grant gathered to network and lift one-another up, as did the Maternity Housing Coalition.

Pam Tebow speaks with Conference attendees/Lisa Bourne

Pro-life advocate and speaker Pam Tebow paid a visit to the Conference for a meet-and-greet, and the 2022 Conference saw its first Writers Row, where authors who serve in pregnancy help showcased their written work for Conference attendees.

Amid all of the educational Conference offerings, togetherness and human connection were obvious, with new and old friends connecting, and occasions of spontaneous prayer. 

Prayer at the Heartbeat Annual Conference/Lisa Bourne

“If I could add a second word to our conference theme, I would add the word – ‘together,’” said Betty McDowell, vice president of Ministry Services. “Onward Together!”  

McDowell noted that it is common practice for Heartbeat to acknowledge the success of national organizations and individuals at its conference, and rightfully so. But the personal connection and prayer among Conference attendees was really remarkable, she said.

“I noticed more gatherings and circles of prayer throughout the week than I have at any other Conference, and I’ve been to many,” she told Pregnancy Help News.

“This touched my heart every time I witnessed a gathering,” McDowell said. “Not only was there learning and laughter this week but a clear demonstration of love. Attendees caring for attendees AND caring for anyone who crossed their path, including hotel staff and strangers on the street.”

“Seems we are moving Onward Together,” McDowell added, “with even more awareness, knowledge, joy, and unity.”


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