Heartbeat International’s Life Launch Grant program supports new pregnancy help center start-ups, focusing on under-served communities. The program was established in 2018, assisting six centers to open their doors in its first year, and currently has 26 recipients with 17 U.S. states represented.
Twelve new centers were accepted into the Life Launch grant program in 2020. The program and its participants showed particular strength and courage last year with seven of 12 Life Launch Grant recipients opening their doors for the first time to serve women during the coronavirus pandemic, an extraordinary accomplishment given the economic climate. Furthermore, seven Life Launch centers whose doors had already been opened kept their doors open to serve clients during the pandemic.
And while the program has seen continued growth and resilience, its success in the human component is unmistakable.
“It is a privilege to be able to witness the seeds of faith being planted deep within the hearts of these start-up organizations and springing forth,” said Grant Program Specialist Sara Littlefield, “bearing the fruit of love, preserving families, and renewing communities for life.”
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Life Launch centers, like all pregnancy help organizations, serve clients on the front lines, impacting the lives of women and families in concrete ways. Three centers shared individual examples with Pregnancy Help News.
The Moreno Valley Women’s Health Center in Moreno Valley, CA, joined the Life Launch program in 2019 and opened in October of that year.
Executive Director Kianna Power shared the powerful story of how the center was able to serve one woman in need:
In April 2021 a women named Sophia* came into our center for pregnancy test.
Upon arriving for her appointment, she seemed in good spirits and indicated she was planning to parent. During her session the counselor began asking about spiritual health and indicated we are a Christian ministry and would love to offer guidance. Sophia began to cry, and her demeanor changed. Sophia stated that she had recently contemplating suicide. She had been struggling with depression and feeling helpless.
Upon discovering she might be pregnant she became even more depressed and began telling God if He did not help her and show He was with her, she was going to abort her baby and end her own life. Sophia stated that shortly after deciding this, she googled pregnancy and found our center.
She believes God lead her straight to us. We prayed with Sophia and read some scriptures. She was given resources to local doctors and churches for continued spiritual growth. Sophia has chosen to carry to term and has since been referred for further prenatal care and remains in contact with her client advocate at the center.
* Sophia is a pseudonym.
The Pregnancy Help Center of Galveston in Galveston, TX, joined Life Launch in 2018, opening in March of that year.
Executive Director Julie Johnson shared the poignant story of serving one couple in need:
I will never forget the moment and the privilege we had to care for this couple in their time of need. I couldn’t speak their language, but we communicated on a heart level. It was Thursday, April 22, 2021, and the reason I know the exact date is because it was the day of our annual fundraiser, and our clinic was closed.
I happened to be at the clinic by myself preparing for our event. When they walked in the door, my first thought was frustration that I didn’t lock the door since we were closed, and I didn’t think I had time to help anyone. I could see by the look on their faces that they needed help, so I quickly changed my thoughts and asked how I could help them.
The man asked if anyone spoke Spanish, but there wasn’t anyone available, and he proceeded to try to tell me about their situation with his limited English. After what seemed like an eternity for him to search for words and try to maintain his composure, I began to recognize that he was about to tell me something major.
He pulled out a little card with a picture of a baby, and I saw at the top it said, “In Memory of.” He went on to explain to me that his son had passed away on Tuesday morning (two days prior), and they wanted to come to us and see if they could put his picture on the wall next to his very first picture on the wall in the sonogram room.
Of course, tears started flowing by all of us, and I realized that we knew this woman well. She had been coming to our center for over a year, but we always struggled to communicate with her because none of us spoke Spanish and so we used the language line.
Her husband began to explain to me that this was their first baby, and we had been so kind to them since the moment they found out they were pregnant.
I was able to give them our miscarriage ministry gift, which is a necklace that has an infinity symbol, with baby feet and angel wings. On the top of the jewelry box, we have a sticker that says, “I held you for every second of your life, and I will love you for every second of mine.” Inside there is some seed paper that says “In Memory of” in the shape of a heart, that they can plant in remembrance of their son.
We started the miscarriage ministry at the center shortly after we began offering ultrasounds.
I will never forget the first time we were unable to find a heartbeat on twin babies and the grief that overcame that mama who was excited to be pregnant. We have found that since we are doing ultrasounds so early, this is not entirely uncommon.
We heard stories of our clients being seen in the ER and being told that they were miscarrying and sent home to pass the baby on their own. We’ve received calls from women in tears afraid and alone.
In those moments we felt so unequipped to know what to do or say to comfort these families. We thought - we are a pregnancy help center; we must help them with this loss too.
Thankfully, God had the perfect person in mind to spearhead this new ministry for us and she worked with our nurse and medical director to come up with some resources, information, and comforting scriptures, as well as counselors who could meet with them and understand what they were going through.
I was so thankful on this day to have something tangible to offer this family that showed that we cared.
I was able to get in touch with one of our Spanish-speaking client advocates and she called them back and spoke to them further and connected them to a Spanish speaking pastor who was also able to comfort them. Their son was eight months old and passed away in his sleep from unknown causes and they were devastated.
As hard as that moment was, I was grateful to have the opportunity to share God’s love with them and be a friend to them when they needed it. I did not care about our banquet, or the fact that my face was a mess and I had already put my makeup on and had been ready to go for our big event. This is what it is all about.
I promised this family that we would never take their baby’s picture down from our wall. Pregnancy centers offer so much more than what we are known for by many who fight against us.
Our number-one new goal since last year has been to be able to provide services to a large part of our community, the Spanish-speaking population. We have been praying about it for a year and seeking employees who can help us.
I am thankful to say that God knows exactly what we need, and he is so faithful to provide. We have just hired a bilingual nurse manager as well as a Bilingual Client Services Director. We are looking forward to the opportunity to provide complete care to everyone in need.
UPDATE: Since this story published the Pregnancy Help Center of Galveston (PHCG) offered an update on the couple, Arturo and Elizabeth.
But God also had more plans in store- the next time Elizabeth and Arturo came in to sign a consent to share their story, we asked if there was anything they needed that day, and Elizabeth explained that she had missed her period, and was wondering if we could do a pregnancy test. She was conflicted, because she was still mourning over the loss of her son, so felt bad about celebrating the possibility of another child.
We did a pregnancy test- it was positive, and we got to help her celebrate a new life and the gift God was giving her. It was another precious moment! But God always has more in store. We have been doing ultrasound training with our new nurse manager and so we scheduled Elizabeth as an ultrasound model, and not on purpose- it happened to be Arturo’s birthday, so we were able to show him God’s gift to them in the midst of their sadness. A few weeks later, we were completing our second week of ultrasound training, and needed models, so we called Elizabeth on a whim and asked if she would come in again as a model. She scheduled her appointment and when she came back in with Arturo, we found out it was her birthday.
Through the love and care they have received at PHCG, we have been able to show them God’s love, we have witnessed Gods outpouring in the midst of their heartache, in the littlest things letting them know that He knows and sees them, and still has great plans for them.
This is not an ordinary story of the girls we see on a daily basis, and there are countless stories of girls that we have been able to provide hope to in the midst of crisis and chaos, and watch God move in mighty ways to change the direction of their paths in the way only He can. But this story is a representation of the unique ways God is using PHCG to help and walk beside these families, beyond choosing life for their child, that we are here for whoever walks through our doors, and His love is limitless.
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The Juneau Pregnancy Resource Center in Juneau, AK, joined the Life Launch Grant program in 2019 and opened in January of that year.
Executive Director Becky Carter shared how her center had a hand in changing the life of one young mom, and by extension, the lives of her new family, forever:
We had a 17-year-old girl call to set up an appointment to come in. She thought she was pregnant and didn't know what to do. We talked for about 30 minutes that day and made an appointment for her to come in the next day. When she got there with her boyfriend, they had already decided to keep the baby.
The girl was kicked out of her house; she and her boyfriend had both been doing meth since they were 12 or 13 years old. They both quit on that day.
The 17-year-old father got a job, and the mother came to the center every week to take classes. Sometimes she would spend most of her day at our center, as she waited for her boyfriend to get off work. She watched every class on Pregnancy, birth, and Infant care.
We were able to provide her with a crib, car seat, clothes, diapers, a baby swing and more.
She wrote to us after she had the baby that when she saw the baby doing something, it would remind her of something she learned here. She said that she had no knowledge of babies and what a huge help being able to come into the center and learn was.
One of our volunteers called her once a week for a couple months and it was a great relief to this mother as she was able to ask questions and get advice. She is so grateful.
While Life Launch Grant recipients are among the many pregnancy help organizations that serve millions of people in the U.S. each year and provide hundreds of millions of dollars in essential medical, education and support services, and those services benefit communities fiscally, it is the human beings on the receiving end of those services that matter most.
"Each of these stories is a snapshot of the life-affirming work that is being done in pregnancy help centers across the globe including our very own Life Launch centers,” Littlefield said. “These are the stories that remind us that every life is precious!"
Editor's note: Heartbeat International manages Pregnancy Help News.