If you’ve served at a pregnancy help center for any length of time, you’re already aware of some of the challenges we face in our work.
This mission is not exactly without controversy. The powerful pro-choice shadow looms over us like Goliath loomed over David. Like David, we put our confidence in God. Like David, we will win the battle.
Meanwhile, we encounter challenges like fake clients, bad press, and false accusations. Maybe we’ve even put up with protests outside our doors. We face the ire of those in our communities who view abortion as a woman’s right. We are not popular with everyone.
On the other side of things, we work to gather funds so that the work can move forward. Sometimes we rejoice after a fund-raising event; sometimes we are disappointed. We try to help our donors understand the importance of the mission, knowing they don’t always understand the kinds of issues our clients face.
We attempt to bridge the gap.
We face deadlines and pressure and stress. Our plates can seem overloaded, and the work often goes home with us at night. We pray earnestly, both for the clients we are trying to help, and for the mission itself.
We work hard. We get weary.
All of these kinds of challenges are fodder for character development. They force us to face our limitations and to depend on God. We recognize this work is too big for us. It’s a job we can only do with the supernatural strength He provides.
But there’s another kind of trial that sneaks into our lives, too. It’s far less dramatic on the surface, yet no less painful and difficult.
It’s the trial of waiting.
Some days at our centers are upbeat and exciting. A pregnant teen sees her baby on the ultrasound screen and decides against abortion. A young father hears the gospel for the first time in a Life Skills class, and comes to faith in Christ. A couple who is being mentored decides to get married.
Not every day is like that, but wonderful moments like these sustain us through times of hardship. Sometimes hardship comes in the form of something called the doldrums.
Here’s how I put it in Unleashing Your Courageous Compassion:
Imagine you’re a sailor on a ship two hundred years ago. You just survived a storm on the open seas. The howling winds, mountainous waves, and darkened skies are behind you. But now you face an entirely different danger.
You’re stuck in the doldrums.
No wind at all. The ship sways listless on a flat sea, sails hanging limp, sun beating down. Day after day, you hear the creak and groan of the ship rocking side to side, going nowhere. Precious provisions are running low. Everyone is slowly going mad with the wait.
Waiting is a common trial in ministry. The missionary spends precious years in the jungle learning the customs of villagers before they’re open to his message. The urban outreach team member must earn the trust of the inner-city people he is trying to reach.
Likewise, we must endure waiting in pregnancy center ministry. Days or weeks may go by without much opportunity to witness significant moments. Volunteers are especially vulnerable to discouragement when it comes to the trial of waiting.
When I started as a volunteer years ago at our clinic, I eagerly devoured training materials and took brochures home to read throughout the week. I couldn’t wait to get into the client room to talk to distressed young women.
However, like most volunteers, I only came in for a half day each week. This meant I had only a small window of opportunity to actually minister to a client. Many times, my shift came and went without a single client visit.
One thing I learned during that season was to pray. I asked God to bring people in specifically during the hours I was at the clinic. As a result, I started to see more clients, but still not every week.
In addition to praying, I also learned to endure. Endurance is not only important during dramatically difficult times—it’s also the only way to get through the doldrums.
In order to help your volunteers or staff get through slow days at the clinic, you might employ the helpful analogy of being on a fire crew.
Firefighters constantly prepare themselves for the eventuality of an emergency. However, they don’t spend the majority of their time fighting fires. There are vehicles to polish and maintain, meals to prepare, drills to practice. Many days are pretty uneventful.
However, when a fire does happen, the firefighters are prepared. They’ve taken care of all the maintenance, and they’ve faithfully made sure they’re ready for an emergency.
They’ve waited actively.
This is very much like pregnancy center work. We aren’t saving a life every single moment, but we are positioning ourselves for when that moment comes. Even when we are engaged in menial tasks, we’re being faithful. We are doing our part.
We wait actively. And God is pleased.
“So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised.” (Hebrews 10:35-36)
Sticking out the slow, uneventful times in our ministry is an act of faith. We demonstrate our belief that God is sovereign and we can trust Him. We show our willingness to put up with not only the wild, exciting trials of life, but the boring ones as well.
One day, may you hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” for your endurance through the doldrums of ministry.
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