When my group of Tuesday Bible Study mommy friends and I decided to ‘adopt’ a single, pregnant young girl for the Embrace Grace baby shower, I was excited to become part of something beyond ourselves and thankful (again) for such generous ladies with whom I have had the sweet opportunity to share life with for going on two years. There’s something special about the blessing of friends with similar values tackling many of the same obstacles day after day on this road we call motherhood, friends that I can text details to about the most unglamorous happenings of my days as a mother of a toddler and know that they will ‘get it’. And there’s also something uniquely special about not only living life together, but stepping out of our own [pretty comfortable] world into another, if even for just an evening, and that’s what I want to share with you now.
As my friends and I carried in arms full of gifts (fulfilled from a list of our girl’s specific needs for her upcoming arrival), we were blown away by the sheer extent of love and thoughtfulness that had transformed the sanctuary of Gateway’s NRH campus into a gorgeous baby shower; a beautiful sign welcomed the attendees, banquet tables were filled with perfectly frosted cupcakes, chocolate-dipped shortbread, biscotti, cream puffs, chips and salsa, mini croissants, fruit, punch, coffee and cream, people were mingling and hugging and greeting each other, and there were 25 large, round tables nicely dressed in crisp white tablecloths and bright bouquets of flowers. Each of these tables were assigned to one mommy-to-be and were topped with quite an array of gifts, both large and small, all prettily packaged.
We made our way to our girl’s table, arranged our gifts and waited expectantly for our girl to show up. She was a beauty! Her smile literally lit up the room and her dark eyes sparkled; she spoke with us like we were old friends and by the end of the night, we knew much of her heart-rending story. I imagine many of these 25 girls have lived through circumstances I’ve never been faced with. As I sat there and listened to our girl tell us about her life and witnessed her courage and resilience, I was hit with the magnitude of what my friends and I were experiencing: we were trying to bless someone else, but in turn she was blessing us! That’s often how it is, isn’t it?
And then as I listened to the founders of Embrace Grace share from their hearts about the ministry, I found it difficult to hold back tears. One of them made a statement that rocked me and now, several days later, I’ve thought about it more times than I can say. She said something like this: “Churches should be the first place people run to in crises, but they’re often the last. We have to ask ourselves why that is… See, we can’t expect girls to have babies completely on their own with no outside help; that’s not pro-life, that’s just pro-birth.” She went on to elaborate about their mission and my mind was reeling.
I pray that more Christians begin to show their love more and politicize less. And that includes myself. Our life mission is to imitate Christ, no? I am a complete advocate for the pro-life movement, no question. But really, if the church isn’t doing more to meet people where they’re at…such as girls who find themselves pregnant at 15…how can we expect them to follow Jesus from our example? If judgment and condemnation is their experience with us, there’s a deeper problem we need to address.
Embrace Grace is not a ministry of baby showers, by the way. That’s just a practical way to meet some very real needs and show a bit of tangible love. It is a ministry of care, discipleship and help for the babies and the mommas. Every Monday night, the young girl’s of Embrace Grace attend a class where they learn more about the Lord and His Word as they develop friendships with others. As of this year, a class for the guys (if they’re even in the picture) has begun, as well, and it is geared towards developing and leading them for the good of themselves and their potential families.
When Embrace Grace started, there was no curriculum to use in such a ministry, but now they have written material that other churches have begun using in similar ministries; they are revolutionizing the way the Church supports girls dealing with crisis pregnancies. This ministry supports girls who want to give their babies up for adoption, as well. Another thing I find interesting is that there are practically no advertisements for this ministry. The leaders and volunteers put themselves in places where they are sure to meet pregnant girls, like at pregnancy centers, the girls who are already in the program tell others about it and church members who know about Embrace Grace share about it.
I left that baby shower with a new perspective and fresh appreciation for my church’s heart for people. I’ve been wrestling with this overriding question for several months now: do I really love people like Jesus loves them? Of course I love my husband, my son, my family and friends. But what about the people I simply cross paths with, the ones with whom I don’t connect as easily, and even the ones I really disagree with on the deepest levels?
I think it comes down to really seeing people. Each time I get to know someone new, no matter how different I think we may be upon first impression, I seem to come to this unanimous conclusion: we are not all that different, no matter how the details contrast. We’re all people with pain and hopes and dreams and questions to ponder about life and the world we live in. And I’m pretty sure just listening and getting to know each other is a great start to loving each other.
Our night with our ‘adopted’ girl changed my heart in more ways than I can express. She is an example of bravery and strength in the toughest of circumstances. I’m humbled to have shared those few hours with her and to have seen what can happen when people invest time and love into others; they may soar to heights you never imagined.