Southern Baptist churches will observe Sanctity of Human Life Sunday Jan. 22
By Connie Davis Bushey
News Editor, Baptist and Reflector
BRENTWOOD — Baptists and Christians are still uncomfortable talking about sex, sexual issues, and abortion but that should change to protect unborn babies and to be involved in ministry and missions in today’s world, said three Tennessee Baptist women who are directors of pregnancy crisis centers.
For instance, many of their clients are also active church members. The center directors wish the girls and women who come to them as well as their families would have received more education and more help from their churches. Guilt and shame over a pregnancy if unmarried is proper up to a point, they pointed out.
Sexual issues and abortions are real concerns for people, the long-time directors said. This is confirmed by statistics though abortions are down some the past several years.
In Tennessee, 34 babies were killed by abortion every day in 2014 according to the Tennessee Department of Health, reported Abort73.com. A total of 12,373 abortions were performed in 2014.
Cheryl Conner, director, Tomorrow’s Hope Pregnancy Medical Clinic, Paris, said about half of the women she ministers to are part of the Christian community and half are outside the community. Many are attending a Christian college.
Families expect the church to educate young people about sexual issues and abortion and the church expects families to do it, said Conner.
Crisis pregnancies are com-
mon and even occurred in her family, she added.
All Christians “are to protect the innocent; we’re to speak up for them. If we don’t, we’re going to be held accountable,” said Conner.
Like Conner, Nancy Knowlton, director of the Cookeville Pregnancy Clinic, can personally relate to many of the clients who come through its doors or into its mobile clinic. She didn’t tell anyone about her abortion decisions for many years and has found that to be true for many women. She sinned and has to live with that but “the blood of Jesus is good enough to forgive us and cleanse us,” she noted.
Lanette Breeden, director of the Pregnancy Crisis Clinic, Morristown, said her ministry has “the highest of highs to the lowest of lows.” Sometimes she feels like she is alone “on the front lines” dealing with life and death and eternal issues, she noted.
Christians have many decisions to make during their lives, said Breeden, “but as far as defending life, being a life-defender, that’s a call that we all know that we have; you don’t have to pray about that; that is definitely a call that God’s put on all of us.”
All three directors said that their ministries are worthwhile because they see many transformed lives and babies saved. Last year the Paris clinic saw 28 women make professions of faith and 14 rededicate their lives. The Morristown center saw three women make commitments to Christ last year and and about 150 in the 17 years of Breeden’s ministry there. Knowlton has seen many make the decision.
Though she was “raised in a Christian home,” Knowlton said, she became pregnant twice while a college student.
“I listened to all of the voices around me … that said it (abortion) was a simple medical procedure; nobody ever has to know.”
Despite the guilt and shame she felt over her abortions, she came to really know and accept Jesus and became involved in the pregnancy center in Cookeville but only the business side.
Janice Allen, founding director of the center which was started by First Baptist Church, Cookeville, and the first person Knowlton told about her abortion decisions, convinced her to participate in a Bible study for post abortion women at the pregnancy center. Then she became more involved as a volunteer at the center and finally agreed to counsel a client.
That client was planning to have an abortion because her husband told her if she didn’t he would leave her. Knowlton showed the woman love and told her “the truth about the humanity” of her unborn child. Nine months later Knowlton held that baby in her arms. The husband did leave but returned and asked his wife to forgive him for asking her to have an abortion.
During that experience the Lord spoke to Knowlton. “He turned my bad choices and sin into good for this young woman,” she noted. She’s had the privilege of doing that hundreds of times since, she added. Knowlton, a member of Covenant Church of Cookeville which was started by First Baptist, Cookeville, has served the clinic for 28 years.
Partly because Breeden ministers in a rural area, she often runs into ladies in the community who have been clients of the Morristown center. Some are thrilled to see her and others avoid her, said Breeden, who is a member of First Baptist Church, Morristown. She always wonders if she could have said something else to convince some of them not to have an abortion.
One lady Breeden met at the center came in for a pregnancy test.
After taking the test and finding she was pregnant, Breeden counseled her. Then Breeden didn’t see her again for about nine months, which was unusual because of the many programs the center offers to help pregnant women.
But about nine months later the lady came in to show Breeden her baby, named Angelica, and to tell Breeden that she had decided against an abortion after talking with her.
Breeden said since then she has met the lady several times out in the community and was acknowledged by her. Breeden waits for a client or former client to initiate contact because of the sensitivity of the center’s ministry.
The lady not only spoke to Breeden but introduced her to Angelica and told the person she was with that Breeden influenced her to keep Angelica. The last time they met, the lady told her teenage daughter, Angelica, the complete story.
That experience is not unusual, added Breeden, as former clients will bring their children to see her after the children have, for instance, graduated from high school.
Those are the highs. Some of the lows are when clients tell of abortions they have had, speaking of it for the very first time.
She is greatly helped in the ministry by the local Department of Health, which conducts classes at the center. The center also is supported by many Woman’s Missionary Union groups and Sunday School classes of Baptist churches, said Breeden.
Conner never thought she would be personally involved with a crisis pregnancy but she was.
Her daughter was living in another state and engaged to a young man. When she learned she was pregnant, he pressured her to undergo an abortion and when she didn’t, he left the relationship.
Thankfully she called her mother, who was traveling nearby. Later she told her mother that if it wasn’t for her work at Tomorrow’s Hope Pregnancy Medical Clinic she probably would have had an abortion.
“That day I knew why I was exactly where I was,” stated Conner, who is a member of Point Pleasant Baptist Church, Buchanan, and a former nurse. She also is a Mission Service Corps missionary of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board who said she is finally responding to God’s call to missions when she was a child.
The ministry of Tomorrow’s Hope is “definitely a missions field,” she explained.
Like Knowlton and Breeden, Conner said many women even in churches have had abortions but feel it is a sin which God will not forgive.
Her ministry takes her into hospitals, even in the middle of the night, who call her after women have miscarriages or other pregnancy crises and into the jail. Conner, who is a Sheriff’s Department deputy, also transports the inmates to the clinic and rehab centers. Many of the inmates place their babies for adoption because of the ministry of Conner and volunteers of Tomorrow’s Hope, she reported. Finally she works with judges, lawyers, and the court system.
“We’ve had some wonderful stories that have come out of it,” said Conner, who has served the clinic for 14 years.
David Hawkins, director of missions of Nolachucky Baptist Association, said, “God’s really blessing as lives of women are changed and babies are saved” at the Pregnancy Crisis Center in Morristown.
The center, which shares space with the association office, is funded by the association through its budget as well as its churches. The center was started by long-time Director of Missions James Williams 28 years ago.
The center “is one of the pillars of the associational work here,” added Hawkins.
Jim Twilbeck, DOM, Western District Baptist Association, based in Paris, said the association as well as many of its churches financially support Tomorrow’s Hope Pregnancy Medical Clinic. He also regularly accepts prayer requests from Conner for clients.
“Life was given to us from God. … We’re not to throw away any life, be it the unborn or be it the elderly. … When people are at a crisis in their life, [with] this child that for some reason or another they weren’t expecting, we need to be able to help direct them to make the right choice. … Centers like Tomorrow’s Hope … actually give people hope in the midst of a crisis in their life,” said Twilbeck.