Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Beacon of Hope

Here's my most recent ministry article:

Sussan Ponton admits from the get-go that when she discovered she was pregnant, she felt like a child herself. In her naïve youth, she never considered the possibility that she could get pregnant. In fact, to the contrary, she thought she would never become pregnant at her young age.

She also admits that believing she could never experience an unplanned pregnancy was simply an act of lying to herself.

Any girl, regardless of age, who is post-puberty can get pregnant, it turns out.

Sussan’s story plays poignantly in black and white in a video clip featured on the website of A Beacon of Hope, a Pregnancy Resource Center in Alpharetta.

Unnerving statistics about sexual activity among teens, teen pregnancy and the frequency of abortion in Georgia weave in between frames of Sussan’s words and pensive expression. Those statistics pale in comparison to what Sussan says next, however.

“Overwhelmed, terrified and alone, I decided to get an abortion, but when I began to call the clinics, I found that they were all booked full. I couldn’t get an appointment.”

According to the A Beacon of Hope website, over 30,000 abortions are performed annually in Georgia; 75% of those are in Fulton and DeKalb.

It was then, during those dark, seemingly hopeless moments when she felt trapped by her circumstances, that Sussan became aware of A Beacon of Hope. “It was like a light of hope being shined into my life; I discovered I had other choices available to me,” she says.

Over a dozen years ago an individual walked into Mount Pisgah Church with an idea for launching a pregnancy resource center. She wanted to give women with unplanned or crisis pregnancies an alternative to abortion if they had elected not to keep their child. Beginning humbly in an unassuming little brick house, A Beacon of Hope served sixty-four women within its first year of existence. The first baby born under its care was eventually adopted. This year there will be twelve candles on his birthday cake.

A Beacon of Hope has grown steadily since that first adoption. Now over 3,500 individuals are served annually, without regard to age, race, income, nationality, religious affiliation, disability or other arbitrary circumstances.

“We are very grounded in our spiritual beginnings and want very much to be the hands and feet of Jesus Christ,” explains Talli Moellering, Executive Director, “but we do not achieve that by forcing morals on our mothers. Our method is to come alongside them, love them and provide the information and resources they need, hoping to let them see who Jesus Christ is in the midst of their situation.”

Yet, while pregnancy prevention and intervention are the center’s primary objectives, evangelism is equally important, Moellering added. “In fact, we begin every morning with our staff in a devotional gathering.”

Beacon’s website affirms Moellering’s assertion. “God has invited us to become a part of building a culture of love and life for the men and women we serve, ultimately providing them with comprehensive care that empowers them to choose life,” it says.

And that is what A Beacon of Hope is really all about, encouraging and helping expectant parents to choose life when they may be considering the alternative. To that end Beacon offers its target audience of women ages 15-26 a comfortable, confidential and caring environment where they can receive pregnancy testing, limited ultrasound, counseling, adoption referrals, and pre-natal and post-natal educational programs, all free of charge and delivered in a loving, life affirming manner by Christian staff.

Of its wide range of service offerings, one of the most impressive and touching aspects of Beacon is its Hope Store. Expectant mothers who choose life and participate in the Beacon programs earn points that can be redeemed for new and gently used baby goods and supplies. A look inside reveals a store filled with clothing, diapers, food, toys, and many other new mom necessities.

In 2008, Beacon served 286 women, 206 of whom were determined to be pregnant. Of those, more than a third chose life.

In other words, through the efforts of A Beacon of Hope, last year over seventy babies were born who may not otherwise have seen the light of day.

Beacon relies entirely on donations to operate, and its current capital need is $10,000. That money, once obtained, will be used to upgrade Beacon’s DeKalb site, The College Women’s Center, to a fully equipped medical site. As a medical site it will be able to provide limited ultrasound services, a very important factor in Beacon’s mission. “We’ve found that approximately seventy-percent of the women who see their child in an ultrasound will chose life instead of an abortion,” Moellering explained. But obtaining the ultrasound equipment is just one step toward upgrading the College Women’s Center. It also needs volunteer counselors, nurses, and a radiologist in order to complete its offerings.

So whatever became of Sussan Ponton? Near the end of her video a shy young girl appears in her lap. Sussan smiles as her face presses against her child’s and their arms interlock. Sussan’s voice lifts when she tells us she’s learned from the people at A Beacon of Hope that when things get tough, “God is there holding my hand.”

A Beacon of Hope has two websites; one for pregnant women, the other for volunteers and donors.

For pregnant women: www.abeaconofhope.com
For volunteers and donors: www.friendsofbeacon.com

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