A program to encourage and disciple single, pregnant women partners pro-life pregnancy centers and churches, supporting the clients outside the center’s walls yet within the community in which they all reside.
“We’re planting seeds,” said Jennifer Steffenhagen, member of Paradise Valley Christian Church in Casper, Wyoming. “They need to know Jesus. We can’t solve their problems for them, but we can introduce them to the One who can.”
In March, Steffenhagen and two other women from her church started Embrace Grace in partnership with True Care Women’s Resource Center, a life-affirming center that has existed for 32 years. This is the second Wyoming start-up for Embrace Grace.
Start of a New Endeavor
Embrace Grace was founded more than a decade ago by Amy Ford, who experienced an unplanned pregnancy at a young age and the loneliness that many single moms feel, said Alyssa Morgan, director of group development for the national Embrace Grace program in Texas.
“The Lord gave her a vision…the program started with a small group,” Morgan said.
With more than 500 churches participating in the United States, the organization’s mission to inspire and equip the church to love on single, pregnant women and their families is being fulfilled. The program has reached international status, and a Spanish leader’s guide will be released this summer.
“It’s exciting to see what God is doing,” said Morgan, whose job is to help churches start a program.
An emotional moment between a church member who "adopted" a single & pregnant mom and provided all of her brand new gifts at an Embrace Grace church-wide baby shower. | Photo Courtesy: Embrace Grace
Back in Wyoming, another Embrace Grace program may be established soon in Sheridan, about 140 miles north of Casper, Morgan said. The first program in Wyoming started in Gillette, 130 miles northeast of Casper, during the fall of 2015, said Sawyer Portia, CEO of Women’s Resource Center of Northeast Wyoming and co-leader of that community’s endeavor.
“It’s important for the church to be a safe place for these women to go, to feel loved and not judged,” she said.
Tweet This: “It’s important for the church to be a safe place for these women to go, to feel loved and not judged.” @EmbraceGraceInc
The Gillette and Casper programs see an average of five young women at the weekly gatherings. Both communities are running the 10-to-12-week program this spring and will finish this month. Nearly all the girls attending the Gillette Embrace Grace are due to have their babies this month, as well, Portia said. A new semester will begin in the fall.
Dinner is provided for attendees and leaders; one week the Paradise Valley Church youth group made the meal. The program begins 30 minutes later, with a video and discussion. The national office provides the curriculum, with topics such as forgiveness, salvation, negative perceptions, expectations, and transformation.
“The curriculum is beautifully done,” said Steffenhagen. “We as leaders don’t have to reinvent the wheel. These women are at a pivotal point in their lives, a fork in the road. It takes bravery to make that change, and sometimes you need someone to travel that road with you.”
“It’s not a parenting class; the focus is on the woman and her heart,” said Morgan. “She’s looking for something to believe in, and we get to introduce her to Jesus.”
“We’ve seen a lot of heart transformations over the years,” said Portia. “Some have been angry at God, others didn’t believe in Him when they first started.”
Between 35 and 40 women have completed the program in Gillette since it began, she added.
The partnership between a pregnancy center and a church comes in the form of a Love Box. The pregnant woman is given this specialty-wrapped box before she leaves the center. Inside, she finds notes of encouragement with headings such as, “Dear Brave Woman,” as well as a onesie for her baby, a book written by Ford called, “A Bump in Life,” and information on how to contact the national Embrace Grace program for another free gift—a piece of jewelry. She is then put in touch with a local Embrace Grace leader who invites the woman to join the program at the local church.
The Love Boxes are free to pregnancy centers.
“We’ve given out 15,000 boxes since November 2016 when the project started,” Morgan said. “We want these women to feel welcomed, excited and invited. We’re creating a place for them at the table. We are pro-life and we are pro-love.”
Many single, pregnant women feel un-welcomed and judged by the church, she said. Embrace Grace seeks to change that.
“We cheer these moms on and love on them,” Morgan said. “Through that encouragement and love, these women find empowerment when she’s walking through this unplanned pregnancy. She feels less alone.”
During the program, the women who attend are provided with a baby shower given by the church.
“It’s like being the hands and feet of Jesus,” Morgan said. “These showers are such a blessing to the moms.”
Tweet This: #Prolife is pro-love: @EmbraceGraceInc has given out 15,000 Love Boxes since November 2016.
The ladies are also given a “Princess Day.”
“This is a time to focus on the mom, getting her hair and nails done, being pampered,” Morgan said. “This helps the women feel loved. Each girl gets a tiara and is told, ‘You are a daughter of the Most High King.’ How often do they hear those words? It’s a powerful, sweet moment.”
An individual photo shoot during Princess Day, right after the Crowning Ceremony, where the leaders crown each support group attendee with a tiara | Photo Courtesy: Embrace Grace
Partnership Promotes Life in Various Ways
Steffenhagen and her co-leaders and attendees are approaching that moment. For now, she said, “The girls are warming up to each other and are starting to talk to each other more, opening up more. They are starting to trust each other, and us. It’s great!”
A staff member and patient advocate at True Care, Steffenhagen approached her church with the idea of starting the Embrace Grace program, solidifying a stronger partnership between her church and the center.
“I’m passionate about what True Care does,” she said. “I see this as a wonderful opportunity for my church to become more involved with the pro-life ministry of True Care. What we’re doing is important. I’m enjoying getting to know the girls and my co-leaders better.”
The growing relationship between the women and the church group is crucial for the long-term vision of Embrace Grace.
“A church can be there for a lifetime for these clients—pregnancy centers can’t do everything,” Morgan said. “We get to be part of them choosing life. We’re all on the same team, so let’s be kingdom-minded together. We’re able to speak life over these women, to love and disciple them.”
“I recommend pregnancy centers get an Embrace Grace program started with a local church—it’s a great way to get women plugged into and involved with church, to introduce them to Jesus,” she said.
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