By Jenn Nolen
Imagine sharing Christ without mentioning him, church, or the Bible. There would be no Christian radio playing in the background, no cross or Scripture verses on the wall. Could you convincingly communicate hope, love, and acceptance with your actions and attitude alone?
This is precisely the challenge MyLife Medical and Resource Center undertakes on a daily basis both in their office and on location in schoolrooms throughout the community. Their services include abstinence talks, pregnancy, and STI testing, ultrasounds, post-abortion counseling, resource referrals, and parenting classes, all served with a heart of connection and compassion.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Karen Ludwig, Executive Director of Mylife since 2006. Karen is a mother of three with a Bachelor’s in education and prior experience working in the food industry. She volunteered for a few years before taking a leap of faith in accepting her current position. We settled into one of the cozy counseling rooms and chatted about the challenges clients face, services provided, and how the community can participate.
Jenn: Who’s your average client?
Karen: Our typical pregnancy client is in their mid-twenties. We see a lot who are lower on the socioeconomic scale. Many are in poor living conditions or even homeless, have very little positive family support and have no religious background. There’s a big range of education. Some still live at home, some have tried living on their own.
The main reason they give for seeking an abortion is financial. When they come in, they’re thinking that their only option is abortion. They’re thinking, “There’s no way I can do this.” Or they have somebody pressuring them to do this – a boyfriend or parents. There’s this blinder in front of her when she comes in and all she sees is abortion and all we want to do is move that back just a little so that she can see the other things.
She feels like abortion is a quick, easy option that she can do in secret and can do tomorrow and never has to think about it again. Sadly, it’s all too easy to “take care of” in that way. Statistically speaking, at that first appointment she’s not even thinking about adoption or parenting, she’s thinking about life or death.
Jenn: What does a typical visit look like?
Karen: For our pregnancy visits, we try and get them back into a room with someone as soon as possible. The first conversation is with the woman alone where we ask some really personal questions and get an idea of the situation. Sometimes the person in the waiting room is the one pressuring them to have an abortion so we want to connect with the woman first.
Then we have a conversation where we discuss her options. We do talk about abortion, very medically, what the procedure is. We don’t use graphic pictures or anything but we do want to make sure she knows. We have a booklet that we use that talks about the possible psychological and physical complications that could happen following an abortion.
We then go on to talk about adoption and parenting and we have them rate each option on a scale of 1 to 10 and discuss why they chose those ratings. We try to understand what they’re thinking and what their hesitations are.
Only then do we go into an exam room for a pregnancy test. We feel that even if she’s not pregnant today, she might be next week and we want that connection to have been made to make a difference whether now or later.
If they’re far enough along, at least seven weeks, we’ll get them in for an ultrasound. We have seen the most amazing transformations in that ultrasound room. According to the national average, 89% of mothers who see an ultrasound will decide against abortion, but in this clinic, that figure is closer to 98%. It is amazing because you can no longer deny life. It may still look like a peanut or an alien, but there’s a heartbeat.
We’ve had guys who sat here and said, “We’re not even talking about anything else. We’re having an abortion,” until he sees his baby. We have a big monitor on the wall. We point out everything that we can, let them hear a heartbeat, and send them home with pictures. If the baby is very young we have fetal models that we can show them. At seven weeks the baby already has everything, it just has to grow and mature. So we make sure they know that.
The final step is to connect the client with whatever resources they may need. There are various programs that we can help get them signed up for and referrals that can be made: anything from housing to clothing to food to parenting classes and so much more. Sometimes it’s just more listening and counseling them on how to break the news to family and what their next steps are.
We also use this time to try to understand where they are regarding their faith or religious background. We don’t really push our faith on this side of the building because so many abortion-minded clients have no religious background at all or are even anti-religion. We open the door and listen to her about her beliefs. If they’re interested then we’ll share what we believe, but it’s never pushed. Their openness to faith typically happens after we’ve had many contacts with them.
Jenn: How can we help?
Karen: Well, we always need volunteers and we especially need volunteers who are willing to explore becoming a client advocate. A client advocate is someone who meets with the clients on that first day and talks through all of those options. We do all of the training here. We also need people to do events with us such as our banquet – both planning and silent auction items. We definitely need medical people. The more medical staff we have, the more services we can provide. And there are other needs, too, such as babysitting, maintenance, parenting class leaders, and processing donations. There’s a wide variety and we can use a wide variety of talents. Help can be ongoing or can be occasional. If you would like to give directly to MyLife, click here.
In 2006, MyLife, then under a different name and part of a larger organization, was slated to close due to a lack of funding. Determined not to let this community resource fall aside, Karen and her team appealed to the churches in the community, including Faith Community, and were able to continue offering services without missing a beat. In fact, they expanded and even went on to purchase their current building in 2016. MyLife Medical Resource Center is a wonderful example of the body of believers banding together in time, talent, and resources in order to serve the community at large.
During my visit, I was impressed by the organization’s focus on serving and loving their clients well. Care, compassion, and respect are emphasized in big and small ways and the focus on building meaningful connections is evident in everything they do. As Karen says, “We want to make sure we’ve earned the right to be heard.” The high level of professionalism and emphasis on relationship builds a foundation of trust that has a lasting impact that can reach beyond just the initial decision-making processes. This is accomplished, not by Bible quotes and pressure, but by being the hands and feet of Jesus.
For more information go to mylifemrc.com or call 636-495-6566 for volunteer opportunities.
MyLife Medical & Resource Center is located in High Ridge, MO and is one of our Giving Hope Partners! When you partner financially with Giving Hope, you are supporting the clients and programs of this incredible organization. Your generosity is making a difference right in our own community!