Friday, April 24, 2009

A New Era

I am feeling sentimental today. For six years I have volunteered as a counselor at the Hope Clinic for Women. Today was my last day.

The Hope Clinic began as a Crisis Pregnancy Center, and over the years the ministry has grown to include post-abortion ministry, abstinence training in schools and churches, medical services like ultrasounds and STD testing, counseling for guys and parents, and now even a maternity home for girls who have nowhere else to go during their pregnancies. I have seen such changes and growth in the ministry during the years that I have volunteered there. The Hope Clinic has touched the lives of thousands of women and their unborn children.

This is a photo that the Hope Clinic uses on their website and brochure of ME when I was pregnant with M

The first time I walked into the counseling room, I was scared to death. I got to sit-in with experienced counselors for months until I had witnessed lots of counseling sessions. But still, I was scared stiff the first time that I walked in there by myself. I was terrified that I would say or do the wrong thing. But over time, I learned that success in the counseling room was not about what I said. It was dependent on how I loved. Did I listen with empathy and truly love the client with the love of the Lord? Did I offer her forgiveness, compassion, and an opportunity to learn about Jesus if she didn’t know him already? Did I offer her reassurance and resources that would help her to make it through a difficult time in her life?

Oh, the things that I have seen as a counselor… I quickly learned to expect the unexpected in the counseling room. There is no such thing as a “typical” client. I have talked to girls who come from Christian families and private Christian schools and girls who moved out to live with their boyfriend and depend on welfare when they turned eighteen. I have had a client as young as thirteen and as old as forty. I have spoken with a young woman from Ireland and a lady from Iraq. One girl was on cocaine and another had been raped by her father.

I have been stretched in so many ways: to not judge, to offer unconditional love, and to remember that each girl that I met is loved tremendously by our Savior. Through volunteering at the Hope Clinic, I have learned how to speak my faith more boldly and accurately. I have seen lots of tears and had the opportunity to pray with many young women at an extremely vulnerable time in their lives. I have had the opportunity to love Jesus by loving these broken girls that he loves.

The Hope Clinic administration has made the decision to begin using master’s level interns as the counselors instead of lay volunteers like me. I understand and support the change, and I believe that overall it will help to offer a more professional level of ministry to the girls who come to us for help. Other volunteer opportunities are open to me, of course; however, since Madeline was born it has become difficult for me to be a regular volunteer. As she grows and we continue to enlarge our family, I want to focus my ministry efforts on things that I can involve my children in. I want them to see me serving and loving the needy, and I want them to be personally engaged as much as possible. I’ve been praying about this for a while, and I feel like it’s clear that the time is right to make the transition. But still I am sad.

Volunteering at the Hope Clinic has given me the gift of pouring myself out in love and receiving the joy and peace that result. I have stretched myself to do things I was afraid to do, and I have been incredibly blessed. I thank God for my time at the Hope Clinic.

So what’s next?.... Daniel and I are drawn to people who come from other cultures. We love to spend time with people who have backgrounds and experiences different from ours and to learn from them. Ever since our term studying overseas in college, we also have had an appreciation for how difficult and lonely it can be to live in a culture that is not your own. Our hearts have desired for a while now to become involved with a ministry to refugees. We know that God calls us to love the orphan, the widow, and the ALIEN – basically all of the most needy and vulnerable groups among us. Over and over in the Old Testament he told the Israelites to welcome the stranger in their midst and treat them with kindness. We have made a contact with World Relief, a ministry that reaches out to refugees, and we have a meeting with someone there next week!

I am so excited about this new opportunity to reach out to refugees in our city. I am also thankful that through it we will be exposing our children to people from many different cultures and backgrounds, all of whom are dear to the heart of God.

1 comment:

Gillian said...

Oh, Sarah, what a beautiful post. Praise God for this past season to have Him shine through you in that incredible ministry. OUr family can not wait to meet yours--we are close friends of the Mihnovich's and were also sorry to have missed you at African Fellowship group. We love the tee shirts!! Thank you!! You have sisters who share your heart also for refugees. We too have made contact with the Somali Bantu refugees in Nashville--you are in for such a treat!! I am hoping to connect African refugees with our African Adoptive Fellowship group in some way. So glad to know of your heart for Him. What a Life this is to live in Jesus!! Love, Gillian Tucker