Here we are in Charleston!
The staff at Centro Tepeyac and I are in Charleston, South Carolina for the Heartbeat International Conference, a gathering of hundreds from across the nation and the world to receive updated training, resources, and vision in our united pro-life ministries at our pregnancy centers and clinics.
I met a lot of awesome people today and put their photos below. It reminded me over and over again of something I've been reflecting on the past several weeks: everyone has their own personal pro-life story.
Below are just some of the people I got to meet today:
One of the first people I met was a man named Randy James (forgot to take his picture), co-founder with his wife Evelyn of the Paul Stefan Foundation, named after their sixth child Paul who died after 41 minutes of life. What's amazing about their story to me is that after Paul's death, Randy had coincidentally (or really, with God, there are no coincidences) found this image of Our Lady of Guadalupe holding a child up. It just so happens there are five children around her, the sixth being a baby--- which exactly represents Randy and his wife's family and children. Wow. The foundation today helps pregnant women in Virginia.
One of the first women I met was a women named Anne Pierson who had a great book collection ran by Love and Caring Resource Catalog.
I'm particularly excited about reading this book I bought.
It's written by one of my favorite authors John Eldredge who wrote Wild at Heart, a true life changing book for me in my search for authentic masculinity.
When we got into talking about my passion for reaching men and what I do as a men's counselor, she gave this:
When her husband John died, he wanted everyone to have this stone at his funeral. It was her reminder to me that men really can be the anchor hold in the family, and she gave me a couple more to give to guys I counsel to. I was really touched by this gift, as I want to be the anchor in my family with Mimi, and want to guide as many men as I can to be the anchor in their families, too. I plan on keeping this stone on the corner of the desk where I can see it when I counsel men at Centro Tepeyac.
Later I walked by this booth, and it caught my attention:
And it's where I met Traci Lester, and their clever ministry that distributes decals for cars that say "Let it Develop" ClingtoLife.com. A lovely woman working in my home state North Carolina, she said I remind her of her son. She wrote a book called The Birds and the Bees (without the butterflies) that walks through with parents how they can have that important (and awkward) talk with their children. Check her out!
Later at lunch, I found my staff. I was so proud that the Vice-President of Heartbeat singled out Centro Tepeyac to stand in front of the thousand people who were there to acknowledge our break-through win in state court to keep the rights of pregnancy centers and the ones across America. I found my director Mariana and her daughter Sara to celebrate. "I'm pro-life too!" she said in her babble.
At lunch I met a woman named Lourdes who had an awesome story. In casual conversation I asked her, "Do you have any children?" And she said yes and began to say that her oldest was in their 30s and I interjected and joked "Wait, you must have had them at 15" because she looked so young, but she replied simply, "Yes, actually, at the age of 16."
Wow, so here's a woman who really knows what it means to have a teen pregnancy, and through the support of her family and loving (eventual) husband, she kept her children and is leading a happy life now talking to teenagers and young women in crisis pregnancies. God really works through our experiences, huh?
Finally, at dinner I met a woman named Rhonda Barnes who had an abortion at the age of 19, but in 1986 found the beginning of her healing which lead her to write about her story and other men and women's journeys of suffering and hope in her book coming out From a Mess to a Message: The Aftermath of Abortion.
Long story short, it's been a blessing and so much fun to be here at Heartbeat Conference. Although I'm one of the few guys here, and maybe the only men's counselor I've seen so far, I definitely see a responsibility for us at Tepeyac to do what we do well (especially in our building of our men's program) so we can spread this model to centers across the nation. God be with all of us as we not only fight for the lives of the unborn, but for the best possible lives of the men and women we encounter every day at our centers.