Tuesday, 4 June 2013

the vision

Getting this "Support-A-Mom"/Servants of Dignity project off the ground is taking a little longer than I had expected, so I'm just going to share where I'm hoping that it may be headed.

After contacting a lot of agencies that I thought might be somehow involved in the life of women and children who are in a stage of life that comes a few years after the crisis pregnancy has been "resolved" (at least in the eyes of the pro-life movement), I was not really any closer to finding a way to connect with said women. I got the furthest with a shelter for victims of domestic violence. We even had a great face-to-face meeting and bounced ideas back and forth. Although ultimately it came to nothing (more on that in a moment), the conversation was actually really fruitful for me in refining this vision and setting both scope and boundaries for it. I learned that some women will not take their children and leave an abusive man because pets are not welcome at domestic violence shelters and many women are afraid of how a violent partner might visit his rage upon their pet. Although I found that astounding, I was intrigued by the need the shelter coordinators had for temporary pet foster homes. Another very simple need they have is for someone to meet the children of an abused woman for a few hours in a public place (let's say a park or a children's museum) and supervise them while mom goes to court to sort out restraining orders, etc... I was also surprised by how emphatically the shelter coordinators did NOT want regular free childcare offered to the women they help. They had many good and persuasive reasons for this stipulation and I was fully convinced of their wisdom. However, in a practical sense, it all came to nothing for this reason: any involvement in this particular ministry meant real potential danger to the children of any women helpers involved. The shelter directors were concerned about my children and the children of any who might join me in this ministry. They themselves live in real and constant threat of danger from violent men who seek retaliation. By the end of the meeting, it was apparent that this might not be the best angle to pursue.

I felt frustrated and at a loss of where to go from there. Having no other ideas at all, I did the least imaginative thing I could think of: I called the local crisis pregnancy center. Afterwards, I could not recall why that had not been the very first thing I thought of doing. I delivered my spiel to the woman who answered the phone. She was really receptive. She promised to have someone higher up in the pecking order call me soon, but told me it might take a week or more. After I'd nearly given up on hearing back, I did get a phone call. This woman was even more excited than the first woman, but said that the director would have to be involved in something this huge. Naturally, the director was not going to be in the office for some time. So I'm waiting. In the meantime, I'm praying a lot and trying to get a more concrete idea of what it is that I even want to try to communicate.

At this point, my (still foggy) goal is to match up ONE woman interested in the ministry with ONE mother in need of support. To keep things clear, I will refer to the supporting woman as the "Servant" (of Dignity) and the mother in need as the "Mom". So my hope is that the Servant will make a real and long-term commitment in her heart to the persons in this relationship: the Mom and her child/children. Since I'd like this "Adopt a Mom" project to foster long term and authentic friendships, I'd like the pairing up process to be as natural and attractive as possible for both the Servant and the Mom (thereby increasing the chance that the relationship "works" and thrives in the long-term). I'm wondering if we could do sort of a little soiree where potential Servants and potential Moms mingle freely for an hour or two, getting to know each other. At the end, the Moms could possibly indicate on a slip of paper the Servant(s) with whom they felt most comfortable. From there, one Servant and one Mom would be connected. Prior to the "Pairing Up Soiree", there would need to be some kind of presentation made to the interested Moms, sharing about what this project is about and what the scope and boundaries of the relationship would be. I've heard no end of warnings about the essential importance of setting clear and firm boundaries right from the start. The Servants would also attend gatherings (more than one) for formation and direction in this new kind of ministry.  Once the pair was arranged, the possibilities are wide and varied. Because the goal is a real friendship, I think the Mom and the Servant would aim to check in via internet/text/phone once or twice a month and get together for a face-to-face hang out maybe once a month. Perhaps the Servant could accompany Mom and her young ones to a park and the adults could chat while the kids play. If Mom just has a young baby, perhaps Mom and the Servant could go for coffee. As the Servant gets to know Mom and what her unique needs are, the Servant could find small practical ways to be of genuine help: Pray for and/or with Mom. Be a listening ear. Give her an occasional child-free break. Pass on some clothing, books or toys (either gently used or out of the superabundance of brand-new stock many kids receive regularly for birthdays and Christmas). Maybe give a special annual birthday gift to the baby bravely borne. I can't really make a great list of possibilities because each Mom's needs will be different and each Servant's abilities and circumstances will vary greatly. I do see the Servant needing ongoing support and formation in this ministry (because it could get really messy or confusing!), but I really feel hope that there is tremendous potential here as well.

Most crisis pregnancy centers only help out with the practical things (like clothes and diapers) for the first 2 years of the baby's life. In my parenting experience, age 2 is just where the need for practical help begins in earnest! So I'm hoping that this idea can step in to a woman's life just when the pregnancy centers are stepping out. I mean no criticism of the pregnancy centers - they aim to meet a woman's needs for a specific period (the pregnancy and infancy years) and they do so very well!!!  Many babies and women have been dramatically blessed by these ministries. I bet so many more could be if there were other ministries that specifically existed for the post-pregnancy/infancy stages.

I keep praying about this - and praying that if the whole idea is stupid that the Lord will just smash it to bits. But the idea isn't "going away" despite the agonizingly slow pace at which the process drags along. I appreciate prayers - and, if any feel so moved to attempt to contact their own local crisis pregnancy centers with a similar pitch - my desire is for this to be a widespread movement and I'd love to hear from others!

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