International pregnancy help affiliates share triumphs and challenges at Heartbeat Conference

International pregnancy help affiliates share triumphs and challenges at Heartbeat ConferenceInternational affiliates from 20 countries gathered at Heartbeat International's 2023 Annual Pregnancy Help Conference (Lisa Bourne)

Stories from the front lines of pregnancy help beyond the United States kicked off the first full day of Heartbeat International’s 52nd Annual Pregnancy Help Conference.

From Ukrainian war zones to sub-Saharan Africa to the streets of South Korea, international affiliates described their triumphs and challenges at a gathering during the Conference held in in Louisville, Ky. Heartbeat has affiliates in 90 countries and two territories. Thirty-five representatives of 20 countries were in attendance at the 2023 Conference in Louisville. 

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Winning battles

Nadia Gordynsky, founder of Save a Life International, established 10 pregnancy centers in Ukraine, Poland, and the U.S. Of the eight in Ukraine, one was recently bombed. 

“War brought a lot of challenges,” she said. “But God brought a lot of blessings, and more babies were saved.”

Others described a subtler war.

Jungjoo Kim, the first Korean president of Women’s Health Center in South Korea, said he battles the settled cultural mindset—even among Christians—that abortion supports economic prosperity. 

With the world’s lowest birth rate, Kim told Pregnancy Help News later, “my country is committing suicide.”

Svetlana Jovanova, CEO of Lydia: A Beating Heart in Macedonia, said she was amazed that her center had survived multiple setbacks to reach its 10th anniversary. 

In her culture, where women are scorned for not using abortion to control the size of their families, “every third pregnancy or later is in danger.”

In Serbia, according to Vesna Radeka, executive director of A Place for Me, abortion is so entrenched that “we don’t have pro-life/pro-choice polarization. We need to come to that point.” 

She hopes offering maternity housing will help open eyes. “It is such a loving thing when a woman comes and we can say, ‘There’s a home for you,’ so she chooses life,” Radeka said.

Poverty deeply impacts pregnancy help in nations as diverse as Cuba and Ghana. 

Doris Adom Asanta, executive director of Birthright-Ghana, said, “There are no social services, no Medicaid, no government insurance, no housing. It’s so difficult.” 

In response, her Courageous Living program equips young mothers with the skills to provide for their families. Similarly, Xavier Calderon, a Cuban representative from Light, Life, and Love International, reported that despite “terrible” living conditions and food scarcity, his 25 volunteer doctors, teachers, and other helpers provide mothers in crisis with Christian counseling and the love of Christ.

Gaining after Covid

When the pandemic compelled centers to move their counseling services online, several speakers noted, client numbers soared. 

Anja Bogdanic from Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Voice for Life said, “Women are much more responsive to the online approach. In the past couple of years, we have saved many babies, thanks to God.”

Maggie Nambela, of Uganda’s Hope Silent Voices, said, “During Covid, schools closed, so our number of young mothers is the highest in Africa.” 

For now, she uses a one-room structure adjacent to newly gifted land to “give skills to our girls who are pregnant and have been abandoned by the boys or their parents when they conceived.”

During the pandemic, Colombia’s 33-year-old Fundacion Amor y Vida opened a new center in a smaller city. 

“There have already been 18 babies born,” AnaMaria Vargas said. “As a first-time Heartbeat conference attendee, Vargas added, “It is good to see there is hope all around the world.”

Redeeming women’s futures

In Uganda, where “at least 1 in 4 girls [under 18] are already pregnant or married off,” Annabelle Nakabiri of Remnant Generation said, her organization “works to rescue and empower victims of sexual abuse and teenage mothers.” 

They serve nearly 1000 girls in remote villages each quarter with health care services and mobile ultrasound.

“Tanzania is not left behind on things that trouble the rest of the world: things like early marriage and early pregnancy,” Elizabeth Massaba from Life Seed of Tanzania said. “Female genital mutilation is also a very real trouble. So, our ministry is focusing on educating youth in school programs and sexual risk avoidance programs so we can build better families.”

Sandy Shoshani of Be’ad Chaim in Israel described a unique piece of their reproductive loss healing service: “We have a place called the Gardens of Life, where trees are planted in memory of babies that died—whether by miscarriage, abortion, or still birth—so the mother can find new hope and new care.”

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Networking for strength

Several international attendees expressed gratitude for their regional networks and the worldwide network of Heartbeat International. 

“For five years before I joined [South Africa’s] Pregnancy Help Network, I was doing it on my own and it was really difficult,” Melissa Hertz said. “Pregnancy Help Network offers support—emotional support as well as resources and training that equips us to do the work we do so much better and reach more people.”

Italy’s Movimento per la Vida, a network of 323 pregnancy centers and 64 maternity homes run by over 10,000 volunteers, launched a phone/chat hotline called SOS VIDA in 2019, according to Dr. Giuseppe Grande, the group’s secretary general. The network also provides training and equipping for associates, while raising a new generation of leaders.

New young leaders top the prayer requests of Anthony Moore from Genesis Pregnancy Support in Australia. 

“I’m excited to come be part of a conference and see what God is doing around the world and be encouraged by stories of other centers that have flourished,” Moore said.

Barbra Mwansa, president of Association for Life of Africa (AFLA) brought several teammates who have recently seen 317 pregnancy centers established in Africa, saving 18,000 babies from abortion. 

“A crisis pregnancy center here [in America] is very different from one on the continent of Africa,” she said. “But we’ve been trying as Africans to help people do it in their own context, so that lives can continue being saved.”

“I’m very excited about affiliation with AFLA,” Uganda’s Nakabiri said. “That’s how we got to Heartbeat, and through Heartbeat we have been able to get the resources and the skills that we have duplicated and implemented back home in our pregnancy centers. Let us continue learning and cheering one another on.”

Laura Lewis, of Pregnancy Care Center, Canada, said her network strives to establish, train, and stand up for local pregnancy care centers despite governmental efforts to strip charitable status from them. 

“There is a huge spiritual revelation that’s required to awaken people and also heal the many who’ve been hurt by abortion,” Lewis said. “That’s my hope and my dream, and why I’ll continue to be in this work and to help all of you across the globe. It’s a beautiful network. Thank you, Heartbeat, and all of you doing this work.”

Editor's note: Heartbeat International manages Pregnancy Help News.

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