I was looking forward to going home for Spring Break. College was treating me well, but I really did miss being home. Virginia was calling me with all its familiarity, and it seemed much less intimidating than the foreignness of the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, or Arizona. With only a few months of college under my belt, I worried that I had nothing to offer on a mission trip. I am fortunate to have a chiefly care-free life. How could I relate to any of these communities? Have any impact?
Operating on the motto of you-never-know-unless-you-try, I hopped on my computer and started researching the programs that my university offered. While all trips were grounded in service to those in need, the Arizona mission stood out to me in particular. The second I realized serving in Arizona involved working with mothers and their children, my pro-life identity was sold. After going to college, I became increasingly invested in the pro-life movement. However, I started to notice activist’s lack of continued investment in the mother’s life. I believed that providing non-judgmental, empathetic, and comprehensive resources was a better solution. One that Arizona seemed to be offering. Feeling extremely underqualified, I completed an application and ran it over to the campus ministry office.
My heart was tired after a long winter, but it soon threatened to burst with joy. In Arizona, I served alongside 14 beautiful souls at Maggie’s Place: hospitality homes for pregnant and parenting mothers in need. And while there are a lot of moments I cannot disclose out of respect for the privacy of the mothers, I can say that my encounters—among the mothers, babies, and my fellow classmates—are to this day the most strikingly beautiful moments I have ever experienced.
My extroverted self soon realized that my presence and my ears were just as impactful as my actions and my words. As I observed the brave women around me choosing life in the face of uncertainty, one omnipresent theme blanketed my completely overwhelmed mind—comprehensive community.
It is because of this comprehensive community, that these women safely deliver the life inside them. The array of resources Maggie’s Place provided to the mothers constantly amazed me. The amount of support Maggie’s Place received from the surrounding community constantly humbled me. It seemed as if around every corner in Phoenix, someone was ready and willing to help Maggie’s Place. For women who had experienced such a devastating poverty of love, this incredible show of solidarity often brought me to tears.
In the pro-life movement, we focus heavily on the life inside the mother. I am not writing to discount this fundamental tenet. But I am here to challenge pro-lifers to really consider their treatment of the mother. Are you referring the mother to a pre-natal clinic but dismissing her need for continuous psychiatric help or emotional support? Think, are you somehow treating the mother differently just because she’s single? Do you favor retribution over rehabilitation? Are your actions reminiscent of acceptance and accessibility or isolation and exclusivity? Does her relationship status somehow make her less worthy of your continuous time, love, and attention? Does her past abortion history somehow warrant a dismissal of her current needs? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, I urge you to refocus your pro-life lifestyle on empathy and love. Results will follow.
If we treat these women as simply means to an end —just another outreach opportunity to check off our pro-life-good-deed-list—we will never make progress. Maggie’s Place taught me that comprehensive community— a support network beyond an ultrasound technician—fosters an environment that enables women to see their pregnancy as an opportunity rather than a barrier, a fragile gift rather than a cursed inconvenience, and as a human being worth choosing rather than a threat in need of aborting.
I didn’t expect to, but I walked right through the doors and into the culture of life that pro-lifers are always searching for. Life was a giant celebration, no matter the circumstance. Colorful papers were plastered all over the walls, celebrating birth, adoption, job promotions, and educational milestones. This support network was solid, interwoven, and loving. I quickly came to realize that their impact on me would always be greater than any impact I could ever have on their community.
My uncertainty surrounding the trip was quickly overshadowed by a new sense of purpose. Everyone has different skillsets and interests that help to determine their integral role within the increasingly dynamic pro-life movement. It took 2,274 miles and a lot of prayer, but I found my role. It is time to humanize these women. If the pro-life movement prioritizes comprehensive communities like this one, I believe that more people will learn to love the child and the mother as equals. An empathetic community is an effective one. Love both and the results will follow.
To learn more about Maggie’s Place and explore your role within the pro-life movement, visit http://www.maggiesplace.org/